PERSONALITY: FIXED OR MALLEABLE?

Posted on  February 13, 2018

 

There is a common assumption that our personalities are some aspect of ourselves that is as much out of our control as our race or blood type. We like to believe that our personality comes as part of a fixed package that is the totality of ourselves. Such things as honesty, extroversion, and a short temper are all fixed parts of us that will remain so over the course of our lives, but is this true? Can one person have a fixed personality throughout his/her life?

If this were absolutely true, it would mean that a grumpy old man had been grumpy right from the time he came out of his mother’s womb. He was grumpy at 10, 20, and 50; just as grumpy as he is now. It might also mean that people who were rather selfish and conceited as children can be expected to remain so even after they have children of their own.

Despite these deep-seated assumptions, however, our personalities are actually quite malleable, and can easily be reconfigured. In fact, a single person may have over a dozen personalities throughout the course of his/her life. These changes, interestingly enough, span the entire spectrum from abrupt to gradually changing over the course of an entire lifetime.

Drastic personality changes are often the result of some kind of traumatic event in the subject’s life. It could be a terrible illness, an accident, or a deep loss. These types of personality changes, however, are fairly rare. Most personality changes are gradual and either come about as part of a person’s growth or as an intentional process toward an ideal personality for which he or she is striving.
One of the things that might lead to a personality change is a changing social role that the person in question is required to occupy. It might be starting a new job. The job might require someone to exhibit leadership qualities and show a greater sense of maturity. The person will often rise to the occasion by making small changes in his/her habits and routines. Over time, these small changes add up and become personality changes.

One of the most obvious causes of personality changes is the process of starting a family. Having children marks a clear boundary for us, indicating a transition from the rebellion and carefree attitude of youth to the maturity and conscientiousness of parenthood. We no longer come first in our own minds; our children have now occupied that place. This type of change is most significant in mothers. They become more honest and self-aware about how their behavior affects their children and work to change and develop habits that offer the best example for these children. Over time, these habits become the building blocks of an entirely new personality.

Whatever personality change you’re going through, it takes a lot of motivation and willingness on your part for it to be successful. Perhaps the reason why people assume personalities are fixed aspects of us is that, even when personality changes do occur, they are rarely intentional. Intentional personality changes take both time and dedication. We are quite capable, however, of sculpting ourselves into whatever kind of person we want to be.
What is your opinion on the matter?

 
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