I'm not artistic.
I was never a science person.
I just can't listen long enough to learn.
I wasn't born with drawing skills.
These are negative identities. Things we are not. Many at their core rely on the dichotomy of natural versus learned abilities. The framing of almost anything we discuss related to talent has the assumption built in that some of what you are capable of is tied to your genetic code, locked in the vault of your chemical makeup, and other parts can be improved through study, practice, repetition, or enlightenment. The human mind is a duality of the acquired and the earned.
I am highly skeptical of this framing, and furthermore I think it's a common example of human pattern matching gone wrong. Certainly we know some other physiological parts of ourselves that are naturally defined. Our adult height, our bodybuilding capabilities, our proclivity to certain diseases, these are universally understood to be a combination of genetics and environment. I cannot be 6 foot 6 no matter what my diet is, if my genetics say I'm probably going to be around 5'10". The dichotomy is well-founded with these respects.
However, the brain is quite different. The brain is a soup of neurons that adapt and change to stimuli, the formulas by which this occurs not even our best scientists understand. What we do know is that the connections between neurons define at least to a large extent our knowledge and thinking. The malleability of these connections is uncertain.
I'd like to point out that this is highly in contrast to the organization of a computer. A computer is designed in silos, connected together by many orders of magnitude less paths than the brain. Everything in a computer is neat, you have various levels of memory, a processing unit, input and output interfaces, and everything is physically separated such that you can look at the physical layout of a computer and see it. Furthermore, at the software level things are even more siloed, to the point where the operating system separates programs memory by their instructions and execution data. Many operating systems actually don't allow a program to change its instruction memory as its running as a security precaution.
The brain processes information in a distributed way, and memories, algorithms, and our "processing" infrastructure all uses the same underlying, general purpose neurons. I know of no permission system in the brain for reading and writing to these neurons; at any point any connection may be modified, regardless of what we conceive it as representing. Could we "flash" information into the brain instantaneously if we had a mechanism to modify neurons precisely, and an understanding of the brain's format to know which to modify in what way? Could we learn kung-fu as fast as Neo from The Matrix? It seems like we could.
But is our brain limited by genetics? Both in terms of overall potential, which we try to quantify as IQ, and in terms of natural proclivities, like being good at a particular subject or skill. This is unknown to me, and I haven't heard any conclusive science on it. So it may well be possible that we can instantaneously cure mental disabilities or psychological anomalies through stimuli. We do have mountains of evidence that we can make slow, sometimes inconsistent progress through our environment to alleviate issues.
The most compelling evidence I see is with psychological trauma. Trauma seems to do the opposite effect of what I describe, where a single event over a very short period of time can create massive changes in how a human processes information for the worse. Many learnings down to fundamental human actions can be erased, lost, or fundamentally disrupted by a traumatic event. At the same time, we have also had success in rehabilitation of this and more long term psychological disabilities. We have proven that at a limited scale, it is possible for us to target and modify portions of the brain through environmental forces.
It seems if we understood the brain's workings well enough, the sky is the limit in terms of what we could accomplish through focused environmental stimulus. This could be far more powerful than simply fixing malfunctions, we could rewrite how we process information entirely. In the computer analogy, we wouldn't simply modify the software, we could rewrite the processor hardware in real-time.
Back to our negative identities, I think the power in these exciting observations about the brain is that we don't have to wait for the future where we download kung-fu into our brain, we can stimulate it right now. It brings up many questions, like can you train your brain to be as smart as Albert Einstein? Did his brain just start up in a great processing state that we could adjust our mind to emulate? Maybe genius isn't natural, maybe genius simply means that it would take us more than a lifetime to stimulate our brain such that its processing converged to that same state. In other words, your brain is malleable enough to become genius, we just don't know how to coerce it there. But that would mean that you can achieve some subset of genius in your lifetime.
There is another common rationalization I hear, that your learning is limited by time. Sure, there are only so many hours a day, but the minimum quantity of time to learn something is not known. Who says that you need 10 hours to study enough to pass some exam? It might take 5 minutes given the right mental training and the right study pattern. Our ability to learn is so poorly understood that such statements fall into speculative absurdity similar to the question of whether you are naturally talented. There's no doubt that time investment is a core component of learning and especially long term recollection, but the efficiency of learning with respect to how the brain works must be factored in.
My argument is this. There is no well-understood science that should make us cynical about coercing our brain to any potential state. We just don't know if it's possible or not. So saying "I'm not a math person" is a ridiculous statement from a scientific perspective. People may pick up algorithms quickly because of their brain, but why can't you coerce your own brain's very processing? It might take years, but with the right stimuli you can bend your mind to do what you please.
My own anecdotal experience supports this claim and I think most people can at least consider this perspective from their own experiences. We are able to overcome incredible things and our brain seems to adjust in surprising ways over time. It's not as quick as forming a memory but we all have examples of changing our outlook on life or dreading a subject in school and now enjoying it as our favorite topic. I used to hate math and now I'm fascinated by it, and while I still have trouble getting some concepts into my brain, there are other areas that come to me now so easily. I see the transformation in myself, and I know better than anyone the environmental stimuli that I struggled so much to produce to make my brain do what I wanted.
It takes effort, and we may never find the right stimuli to manipulate our brain like a musician with her instrument, but I absolutely believe that there's huge potential we as individuals are able to discover about how our own minds work. In the future, I think our science will allow us to play our brains like instruments, and manipulate it in inconceivably profound ways. Today, we are in the dark but we aren't senseless. We have some capabilities worth exercising.
My conclusion is, don't artificially limit yourself. Who you are today is only the right stimuli away from being who you want to be, and the time or the level of effort that it will take is unknown. It might be less time than you think.