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Robert Tornambe, M.D. Headshot

Accepting Your Genetic Destiny

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What is Genetic Destiny and why can't we do anything about it? Essentially, that is a question that I hear on a daily basis from patients in one way or another. "I exercise like a maniac, but I still can't get rid of my mother's thighs!" Or, "I was born with my father's nose and it is so large that strangers seek shelter under it during rain storms!"

The traits that we inherit from our parents, physical and emotional, are derived from the genetic characteristics, or DNA, from both your mother and father. Simply stated, genes carry pieces of DNA found on chromosomes, which are located in the cells of your body. Genes can be dominant or recessive. Traits from dominant genes require only one copy (or one parent) for the trait to be inherited. Traits from recessive genes are rare because you require a recessive gene from both parents for that particular trait to be passed on. For example, free floating ear lobes (check yours out in the mirror!) are derived from a dominant gene and attached earlobes, from a recessive gene. Facial dimples from smiling are derived from a dominant gene, whereas no dimples is a recessive trait. Emotional or psychological traits that we inherit from our parents usually indicate a tendency towards a certain state of mind. What we do with those tendencies determine the actual outcome, or personality. Bottom line: the genes inherited from your parents determine your particular Genetic Destiny, and define who you are!

In the hereditary card game of life, each of us is dealt a genetic hand, and only YOU have YOUR combination of looks, personality and behavior. At the same time, you share those traits with some people on earth. You may look like your father but possess your mother's charm
and wit. We also share traits with everyone else, like possessing organs such as heart, liver and lungs. We all require oxygen to breathe and food and water to survive. Considering there are some six billion people on this planet, individuality is an enviable trait!

Acceptance of your Genetic Destiny is a healthy and realistic achievement that will allow you to be more confident and satisfied. This means that you acknowledge your body type and height, the intrinsic shape of your face, and your predisposition to have wide hips like your mother and broad shoulders like your father. If you are five-foot-two, you are never going to be five-foot-ten. If you have a delicate bone structure in your face, you are never going to look like Angelina Jolie (and getting your lips plumped will not make you look more like her!).

Let us examine those traits that we have inherited that we consider less than desirable. Why are they so bad? Could it be that we perceive them as a drawback because they do not fit the mold like everyone else? Perception is the key element. A large nose can be considered to be an ugly honker or a dramatic and forceful trait that defines a face. Many well-known personalities thrived with less than delicate noses. Barbra Streisand, Anjelica Huston and Sofia Coppola come to mind immediately. Take the actress Jennifer Grey, the star of Dirty Dancing. She was adorable in that film, with a large nose that gave her instant panache. Years later she had a nose job that turned out to be a huge mistake. The new nose was gorgeous, and she looked lovely, but she lost that essential element that made her so unique. Even though she was more classically beautiful with her new nose, she looked like a thousand other actresses.

We must stop obsessing about physical characteristics and consider all those other traits that we inherit -- wonderful attributes like compassion, empathy, intelligence, sense of humor, wit, charm, tenacity, sincerity and charisma. We can thank Mom and Dad for those overlooked gifts passed down from generation to generation. These are the traits that we should embrace and admire. We should look at the whole picture instead of beating ourselves up about not being as pretty as Jane or looking as young as Harriet! We must change our perception of beauty! It is the combination of physical, emotional and spiritual characteristics that blend in a special way to make each of us gorgeous in our own unique manner. Be proud of your roots and heritage because, like it or not, they distinguish you as an individual, and not a face in the crowd.

So let us learn to look at ourselves in a different light. Instead of searching for flaws, assess your strong points, identify your best features and be thrilled about them. Learn how to accentuate them and show them off in all their glory. Instead of wishing for someone else's nose, be happy being you!

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