It is certainly true that the place we live in plays a huge role in determining how we become who we are. As in real estate, environment and location also matter in life as well, whether t hey change our core personality or just influence or attitude, behavior, beliefs, character, personality, and/or our values. We tend to think that people choose to behave the way they do, but the truth is that a critical role is played by the environment in which they grow up and continue to live. In the first few paragraphs of her article, “Believing in the True Self,” Gloria Steinem emphasizes on this fact that our behaviors and capabilities our influenced by the environment surrounding us in the place we live in, from birth till death. Similarly, Mark Salzman’s “True Notebooks” is somewhat of an allusion to how our environment dictates the type of life we eventually live down the line, and that a change in environment can have a profound change on our attitude and behavior. Our environment, the place we live in influences our attitude, behavior and our personality, sometimes the influence can be positive and sometimes negative, and a change in environment can alter the influence of the previous one.
In the very beginning of the article, Gloria Steinem raises an interesting question: “Why does on baby reach for certain toys, while another does?” (Steinem). Of course, the answer as the title suggests is their “True Self,” however, everyone’s true self is rooted in their environment. The physical environment not only affects a child’s wellbeing but also shapes their true self as well. The physical environment a child gets to grow up in definitely influences their development outcomes, such as academic achievement, cognitive, emotional and social development. Based on research, the quality of the place children are brought up in and the neighborhoods they grow up in are related to the sociological development of children. For instance, people living in single-family residences have loads of relationships with neighbors while those living in multi-story housing have fewer (Evans). According to studies, quality of housing and neighborhood play a role in a child’s home environment and the quality of social relationships or the lack thereof (Evans). If the quality of housing and the neighborhood, and the consequent environment that children are raised puts a psychological strain on them by presenting them with negative stimuli, this can impose a strong negative impact on them leading them to delinquent behavior (Hoffmann and Miller).
As mentioned, the environment plays a critical role in the way people behave. While their environment may have a negative influence on them, encouraging them to behave delinquently, but shifting to an environment that has a positive influence can have a profound effect on their behavior and change how they behave. When it comes to human beings, the environment is not only their physical surroundings but also the ideas and opinions surrounding them. Mark Salzman makes the discovery of the profound influence environment can have on an individual when he “was having problems with [his] novel about a cloistered nun” (Salzman 10). In Salzman’s book, the environment in question is the writing class in Las Angeles's Central Juvenile Hall, and through his book, Salzman reveals how this environment has helped its delinquent juvenile inmates to come to terms with their messy lives, and look towards a positive future. For instance, one of the juvenile inmate in the writing class writes that, “[He is] going to live happily ever after. [Go] to a community college  and not look back at the bad part of the past, but plan and work for [the] future instead” (Salzman 241). This is a perfect example of how a positive environment can change a person’s aspirations and hopes.
Salzman’s book shows us how a new environment, which grants the juvenile delinquents an opportunity to write, allows them to learn more about themselves, perhaps in mind the “True Self” that Gloria Steinem talks about in her article. As Sister Janet tells Salzman, the “writing program was designed to give young people like themselves a chance to discover their own voices, to be heard, and to develop the skills of communication they would need to rebuild their lives” (Salzman 33). However, it is not solely the ability to write but combined with the physical environment of writing in a group that has the above effects on the juveniles. It is their environment that gives them a chance to share their thoughts, “the opportunity to stare out the window facing the yard” (Salzman 222). In this new environment, these juvenile delinquents find joy and understand, while they also discover fear and pain, and eventually it transforms who they are. Even Salzman, who initially was prejudiced about his delinquent classmates, comes to like and understand, as he begins spending time with them in that same environment.
The human behavior is an important thing; it makes people who they are. The environment in which we develop and grow, and eventually continue to live in is a very important variable regard our overall social behavior and well-being. Our environment can have both a positive and negative impact on us, and a change in environment can transform us completely. Both Steinem and Salzman’s works reveal that environment impacts a person’s behavior and personality, and shapes up their “True Self.”
Evans, G. W. "Child development and the physical environment." Annual Review of Psychology. 57 (2006): 423-451. Print.
Hoffmann, John, and Alan Miller. "A latent variable analysis of general strain theory." Journal of quantitative criminology. 14.1 (1998): 83-110. Print.
Salzman, Mark. True Notebooks, A Writer's Year At Juvenile Hall. Vintage, 2006. Print.