Psychology: 3 mistakes about your personality that prevent you from being yourself

For psychologists, human personality is one thing above all: mysterious. No wonder that there are some errors and misunderstandings circulating about a phenomenon that is so complex and difficult even for experts to understand.

People are different, in many ways. We feel differently, think differently, obviously look different, have different goals, opinions, values, priorities and and and and and. What defines us, let’s say, our individuality or personality, is so complex, multi-layered and enigmatic that experts such as psychologists, neurologists, philosophers and the like can certainly research and ponder for a long time before they do that would classify the topic as closed. When it comes to a phenomenon as complicated as human character, there is a very high chance that much of what we think we know about it is not 100% accurate. The same applies to the following assumptions, which seem to be present in many minds, but would ultimately only lead us astray – if we believed them.

3 mistakes about your personality that are holding you back unnecessarily

You are who you are

Scientists largely agree that our personality is at least partly genetic. For example, genetic researchers found sequences in our DNA that tend to correlate with a more introverted character, and certain indications of how impulsive or aggressive a particular person might be can apparently be seen in the genome. To a certain extent, chance seems to decide what type of person we are. However, the role that our genetic prerequisites play in the overall picture is relatively small, because our personality develops and changes over the course of our lives – sometimes even significantly.

Statistically speaking, in every third adult, at least one of the five personality traits that psychologists use to describe character, the Big Five, changes by a whole level over a period of six years, writes psychologist René Mottus in “Psychology Today”. So, for example, if you’re 30 and have a lot of schedules, are often late and miss four out of six appointments, you might be able to easily keep five of six appointments at 40 in an organized, relatively punctual and reliable manner. If you need a lot of time for yourself at 35 and don’t like being around people, you may be much more sociable at 45.

On the one hand, these changes occur by themselves, without us consciously controlling them, for example through the experiences we collect and through the cultural, social and other environmental influences to which we are exposed. On the other hand, we are also able to specifically direct and influence our personal development.

To a certain extent we can think about and decide for ourselves how we want to be. Thanks to our extraordinary, highly developed and very complex brains, we have the ability to observe and think about ourselves. We can question how we perceive, interpret and evaluate the world, we can choose how we classify and process experiences, we can control the influences we expose ourselves to. It can be incredibly difficult to change your own thought and behavior patterns, but in principle we have this opportunity.

But even if we don’t make use of it and let life and the passage of time determine how our personality develops, it will most likely change in some way. And not even the most brilliant genetic researcher could predict which one.

In extreme situations you show your true colors

It’s no secret that many people behave differently when faced with extraordinary, extreme circumstances. For example, if you put a gun to their forehead, some people are likely to be far more self-centered than if they were lying in the bathtub by candlelight and listening to the Moonlight Sonata. It was also observed in 2020 that some people’s shopping behavior changes when a pandemic threatens. But whether the core of the personality, the so-called true face, is more likely to emerge through an encounter with the muzzle of a pistol than through the sound of Beethoven is solely a question of interpretation. And the definition of personality and true self.

Anyone who assumes that one’s true character emerges in an extreme situation is essentially saying that the core of our personality lies in our instincts and emotions. Because they usually take over the steering in such circumstances, while our so-called mind allows itself to misfire. But isn’t what we are and can be when our consciousness is functioning just as much a part of our personality as what we are when it pauses? Doesn’t it say a lot about us how we respond to our feelings and instincts when we have the opportunity to consider and weigh them? In any case, using an extraordinary situation to judge a person’s character seems questionable. Especially since the same person could behave completely differently in the second extraordinary situation they find themselves in.

Your actions speak louder than your words

Most of the time, when we judge a person, we tend to give more weight to their actions than their words. This is all too understandable, after all, actions often have more serious consequences than words, tend to require more energy and commitment and so they simply seem more important. But our personality is revealed in what we do and say. And not only that, our thoughts, feelings, dreams, wishes and intentions, all of these are expressions of our personality. We are not only what we do, but also what we want and what we would like to do. For example, it makes a difference in terms of character whether a person hurts another person even though he didn’t want to and regrets it afterwards, or whether a person doesn’t even think about it when he hurts other people. To get to the point: two different people can behave identically but have completely different personalities. Of course, it is significant for character if there is always a large discrepancy between words and behavior. But we are not (only) what we do or what we see. But much, much more.

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