There are really two questions implied in the statement “does your personality change?”
It also implies the question “Should you change your personality?”
I recently landed in the hospital for some minor surgery, the result of which was that I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t even whisper or mouth the words.
For a week or more I have been struck silent.
Now if you have seen any of the videos I do, you will know that I am what’s known in Scotland as a “blether”.
I can talk. I could talk for Scotland. I have too many words and a compulsion to share them.
However, as a result of my operation, I went from being a “blether” to being the strong silent type, overnight. So the question is, how does this affect my personality? Did my personality change just because I could no longer speak?
I am not the only person in the world that is affected in this way.
I had a friend Willy Owens who was an artist. Willy died a few years ago. Despite having severe cerebral palsy, Willy was a gifted artist. To explain the physical challenges, Willy could not feed himself. If he tried to put a fork near his head he was likely to stick it in his eye.
. . .and yet he could paint.
More than that Willy never doubted he was an artist. He never saw himself as anything other than an artist. Just because his disability made that inconvenient and challenging, did not mean that he was not able to be an artist.
Should you change your personality?
Let’s look at this question first.
What if your personality is getting in the way of your career? Let’s say you find yourself with a career in forensic accountancy but have a personality type that likes a lot of interaction with people. You have a personality that likes to meet people. Let’s also say that your personality hates to get bogged down in the details, preferring to work on the big picture.
Should you change your personality? After all, this doesn’t appear to be a personality type that is compatible with forensic accountancy; a role that is all about details and involves very little as regards human interaction.
Well here’s the rub. Even though it may be inconvenient, you should never try to change your personality. To change your personality means to reject your very “self”. I’m not sure many of us would be able to withstand that amount of rejection. It’s bad enough being rejected by strangers but to be rejected by your self would just be too much.
So although it was very inconvenient for Willy to be an artist, it was in his very nature. He was an artist with a disabled body but no less an artist for all that.
Instead of trying to change your personality, try to modify the environments you place it in.
Looking again at the example we gave of the forensic accountant. What were the true motivators to do forensic accountancy? Surely there are more suitable choices?
I use the example of Willy Owens because “being an artist” was not a career choice, it was Willy’s very nature. It was his personality. So despite it being inconvenient, Willy found a way and served his nature first.
It is easier to change your environment than it is to change your personality. I would start with that.
What you can do with personality is to learn how to manage it and service it better. Learn how to make it work for you, instead of fighting against it.
Does your personality change?
Your personality changes very little, even over your lifetime.
We have our preferred way of behaving and our preferred environments and these change little over our lifetime. Don’t get me wrong, you may adapt it for a while to suit a specific situation – me being quiet for a week because I can’t speak for instance – but my desire to blether will not go away.
So in short. You shouldn’t want to change your personality. There is no such thing as a bad personality type. You should learn to love it if you don’t already and learn how to master it, not change it.
The 2nd Law of Personality states;
“Personality is perfect. Personality is neither good nor bad. Personality just is.
There is no one personality type better than another.”
There is no improvement to be made in your personality type. All you should focus on is in developing your understanding of it and your management of it.
What if your personality doesn’t suit other people?
You are not here to please others. You are not here to be good. You are not here to comply.
You cannot satisfy others at your own expense. It’s like they say on the aeroplane “Fit your own oxygen mask before you see to anyone else“. This is not selfishness, although you may be accused of that. When you are true to yourself you will eventually draw into your life people who love and appreciate you for who you are.
Humans demand integrity and the bedrock of integrity is the being true to yourself.
“Without a good relationship with “self”, we cannot hope to enjoy a good relationship with others.”
As soon as you pretend to be someone else in order to suit other people, you lose your integrity and people will sense this.
Personality Type and Environmental Stimulus
You are born with your personality type intact and complete. Your personality type is not shaped or formed by your environment. Your parents do not create your personality type, nor do your teachers. Your personality type is all yours and you owe nobody for it.
Environmental stimulus sits on top of your personality type. It is no more your personality than your shirt is your skin. Life happens to us and we adapt; we modify our behaviour. However, this is not the same as changing our personality type. This more akin to changing your shirt. We choose to modify our behaviour. We do not choose our personality type.
One of the biggest challenges you face (and coaches face) is determining the difference between personality type and the effects of the environmental stimulus. The key to this is to work at understanding your personality type. Strengths Challenges and Motivations is a good report to get started with.