You are the Hero
There is Thomas Carlyle’s “Great Man” theory focusing on the individual as the hero. Our current culture and literature is dominated by putting the individual in the centre. It’s an attitude of ‘you want to change, change yourself’. Bookstores (where they still exist) are full of self-help literature. It’s one of the most growing online-markets.
By thinking this way it appears that it doesn’t matter what your circumstances are, you are responsible and able to change your life however you like to. If you fail, it’s your fault.
You are Your Environment
And there is the “Zeitgeist” theory, identified with Leo Tolstoy, where social circumstances are key and the individual simply a product of circumstances. The German philosopher Martin Heidegger argued that who you are is determined by the culture you live in; it comes from Being-in-the-world. Each person becomes whomever they are by learning from and existing within a culture. Recent psycho-social research, especially on depression, shows, that outside circumstances determine depression.
By taking on this approach, it’s easy to think that you are a victim to your circumstances and that there is nothing you can do about it.
Your outside circumstances make success or failure much more likely than you would like to think. Nonetheless, how you respond also determines the outcome. It’s not an either or, it’s an AND.