How often do we hear someone explain that they can’t change because ‘that’s who they are’? How often do you feel that you cannot act otherwise because you have certain tendencies? In both cases we are talking about personality: the set of traits that define us and make us unique. But… to what extent can we change our personality?
Personality is not something that is completely defined by our genes. For that reason, we can intervene and make changes. Let’s do a little experiment and look back at your past. You will realize that you have kept parts of your personality and others have not. You may be kinder or more direct, more orderly or chaotic, more melancholy or lively, etc.
This is such an important concept in psychology. In this article we will talk about what personality is and how we can consciously influence changes in it.
What is personality?
There are different definitions of personality, too much in reality. Most agree, however, that personality is a psychological construct that refers to the group of traits (psychic characteristics) that an individual has that determine their tendencies of behavior, thought, and emotion.
Within all the personality traits that exist, we can find two types: temperament traits and character traits. Temperament is a form of behavior that carries a greater genetic and biological charge (we are born with these characteristics). Characteristics are the result of the interaction between the person and the environment.
In short, within the group of temperament traits we find some that are fundamental and universal, such as: seeking new things, avoiding pain, reward dependence, and persistence. And on the other hand, in the group of character traits are self-direction (trust and the ability to direct behavior towards goals that are valuable to us), cooperation and transcendence (the taste for the aesthetic and spiritual).
All these traits, both temperament and character, shape personality and set us apart from others. In other words, all humans have these traits, and we differentiate ourselves according to the degree to which we exhibit one trait over another. In psychology, we are not technically saying that a person is not impulsive or that they are persistent. Rather, we say that a person has very low impulsivity or very high persistence because these traits are on a scale.
Can we change our personality?
The answer is very clear: yes, we can change our personality. We can also influence the direction and extent to which we want the transformation to take place. Although part of our personality is inherited, it is not a definite part of our genes, as in the case of some syndromes (for example: fragile X syndrome or Down syndrome). And personality is one of the filters we use to relate to the world. The world is a changing environment, so a system that must have the capacity to change.
Reasons why it might be hard to change
Character traits are easier to change. They have less genetic influence and we develop them (mainly) through interaction with the environment. When looking for a change in temperament traits, such as impulsivity, the person is usually more resistant to change during therapy. However, with perseverance and dedication, we can achieve positive results in many cases.
Even older people can change their personality. What usually happens is that the older the person, the more resistance they have to change. This would mean a change in a way of being, the way we identify and recognize ourselves. This has been on the back burner for years.
For this reason , the person often avoids changing some characteristics of his personality. He also uses excuses like his age or says, “I am like that and I’ve been like that all my life.” But these are excuses! Changing our personality is possible regardless of our age, and we are the only ones who set limits on these changes. That said, now the big question is, how can we change our personality?
How can we change our personality?
To perceive changes in personality, deep and constant psychological work is necessary. In the first place, it is essential that the person really wants to change. And secondly, small daily changes must be established in the short term.
Changes that are permanent and positive are developments that have been evolving for years. If you’re planning on changing your personality overnight because your way of being is causing you trouble, I’m sorry to say your mission has already failed just because of your approach. You’re going to ‘fall on your face’. On the other hand, if you are able to change in such a short time (sometimes miracles happen), the most likely is that you will soon go back to the way you were.
Remember: you need time to restructure your psychological system and learn to function in a different way. You need to identify which traits you want to change and which day-to-day behaviors these traits reflect. We recommend that you make a list of everything you want to change and get started with those transformations that are less central to you or that you think will be less difficult for you. Usually one is associated with the other.
How can you measure the change?
To change our personality, we must objectively evaluate the change. That is, in addition to identifying the characteristics you want to change, it’s good to have some references for “measuring” those changes. For example, if the quality you want to change is impulsivity, you need to know how to realize that you are less impulsive. And a possible ‘measure’ of this is that when you get angry, you can count to 10 before reacting.
If we have personality traits that we don’t like or cause problems, it’s a good idea to talk to a psychologist or therapist. Even if you have any doubts about this article, it should be a therapist who can specifically explain how to change your personality, taking into account personal characteristics.