How Your Heritage Can Make You a Badass

Jerry Ochoa, MA, LPCC, BICBT-CC, BC-TMH, GCDF on Dec 03, 2022 in Mood and Feelings

We celebrate Black History Month in February, Asian American Heritage Month in May, Hispanic Heritage Month in October, and American Indian Heritage Month this month. But why do we even recognize heritage month? In the US, we celebrate various American cultural groups to recognize their contributions, achievements, and inspiration to us all. But more importantly, why should your heritage be important to you? And how can you use your heritage to improve your life?

When I think about my heritage, I almost immediately think about my parents. I think about how as very young 20-somethings, they immigrated to the US with only the clothes they were wearing, 2.7 small children, and their faith. They acted on the faith that with hard work, determination, and God's help, they could create the opportunity for a better life for themselves and their 2.7 small children. And they did. They succeeded.

With these qualities of faith, hard work, and determination, my parents provided my siblings and I the opportunity to make something of ourselves. Which we did, thankfully. In my immediate family alone, we are teachers, educators, business owners, entrepreneurs, realtors, licensed therapists, husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, class valedictorians, college graduates, university students, Marines, and even NCAA college athletes. 

So when I think about my heritage, I think about my parents and what they've been through and worked for these last five decades. They've had many ups and downs in life. And like most immigrants, they worked extremely hard and for as long as their health permitted. I am blessed to still have them and that from them I inherited a shot at a good life.

But even more than that, from my parents I inherited resilience and faith. These two inherited traits together have served as the foundation of my confidence in this unpredictable world — the confidence of knowing that no matter what happens or how hard life can get, I can handle it. I'll be okay. So for me, my heritage tells the story of my family’s rich history and plays an important part in who I am today. A cultural expression that my parents always used (and still use) before acting on a big decision was “Si Dios quiere” (God willing). I never clearly understood what they meant by that until I started building my own life as an adult. To make it in this world, I would need more than a plan and resources — I would need resilience and faith. And from that place, I live knowing that anything is possible.

As soon as I earned my license to practice clinical counseling, I already knew that working in an agency or a hospital setting was not the path I wanted to follow. I wanted to set up a private practice, but at the time, I didn’t know anyone or have any connections that could guide me through the process of building one. I didn’t have any prospective clients and had very little financial capital to play with. 

If I was going to build a private practice, I knew that I was going to have to build it from scratch and with limited financial investment. I struggled with imposter syndrome and my brain telling me things like, “You don’t have anyone to help you… No one is going to want to work with you… They’re not going to pay you what you want… It’s not going to work out for you. Save your money..." Still, I took a leap of faith and went for it anyway. The inner voice of calling and conviction in my heart to offer others hope and help (no matter where they're at in life) was too strong to be drowned out by my personal fears and insecurities. So I hired a business coach, and with her guidance and coaching, I built Elevate Life Counseling one step at a time, and to this day, it’s growing and profitable.

The next time you face a difficult decision or a challenging time in your life, use Gregor Mendel’s law of inheritance which proposes that traits and characteristics are passed on from generation to generation. These principles of inheritance don't only apply to physical traits and characteristics. Genetic inheritance also applies to personality traits and characteristics.

Here are three ways you can use the law of inheritance to improve your life:

1. Remember from whom you came… and from where you came. Think of someone in your family line that you can look up to. It can be your parents, an aunt/uncle, a grandparent, a great grandparent, etc. Research what they accomplished in their life and when and how. Your ancestors found ways to survive and thrive under times much more challenging and dangerous than our convenient modern living conditions. Through their hard work, sacrifices, accomplishments, and character, your ancestors not only built a life and a legacy for themselves, but they also made it possible for you to be here.

2. Reflect on the strengths, traits, and legacy that you inherited from those that came before you. It may not all be good, but focus on those parts that inspire you, and learn from your family’s “dark” past. Even if you don’t think there is anything positive to be proud of, your family history has played a significant role in who you are today. 

“Some family trees have beautiful leaves, and some have just a bunch of nuts. Remember, it is the nuts that make the tree worth shaking.” — Unknown

3. Reapply those strengths and traits to your situation or everyday living. Because of the law of inheritance, you already possess these strengths and character traits. Now ask yourself: “How can these qualities help me in my situation?” Or: “How can these qualities help me be the kind of person I want to be in this situation?” These qualities can help guide you through the decision-making process in difficult situations. They can coach you on how to respond to people or situations more effectively. They can keep you grounded and help you outlast the difficult times. Or they can motivate you to be the best version of yourself for that situation.

So think about what your ancestors went through and survived so that their genes and legacies can live on through you. You’re here because of those who came before you. Those who came before you paved the way for you. And they’ve left you with genetic gifts that you can use as tools for success. Now it's your turn to do something amazing.

— Jerry

Jerry Ochoa is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor in Turlock, CA.

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