The quirks of humanity are truly intriguing. Day by day we are met by different characters who hold contrasting views and morals to our own, and in turn we are continually learning about others as well as ourselves. We may experience conflict with a fellow peer and wonder to ourselves how another human could think a certain way, when we ourselves, are not that way inclined. A central question in the field of personality psychology today is the remarkable question: To what extent is our personality given to us, and to what extent do we build personality ourselves?
It seems pretty solid that certain features of the human personality feel as though they have been ‘given’ to us, such as our basic dispositional traits. An introverted person for example, may describe themselves as a nervous person without the ability to help their anxiousness. Contrastingly an extroverted person may exclaim “this is just how I am”, regarding their tendency to be outgoing and confident. Whether by genes, past experiences or luck, people tend to feel that they have been handed certain traits, and research supports the claim.
But as life goes on, things happen. Situations, traumas, perhaps the greeting of another human that you feel detrimental to your life; happenings that prove poignant enough to change certain aspects of your character. I like to think of this concept as a person’s life narrative; a story that provides a person with a subjective account, told to others and to the self, of how they came to the person they are becoming. Whilst admittedly I have not totally mastered the art of understanding oneself, I am a believer that strength comes to those who are truly honest and open with their own character. Someone who takes time to understand their traits and most importantly their inner story, is at advantage of grasping the aspects that provide meaning to their life. If we trace our minds back to our childhoods, our high school experiences, our loved ones; we can build an understanding of why we are the way we are today, and what we should improve on to ensure we are the best we can be. By internalising our ever-evolving narrative instead of facing it head first, we are at risk of becoming ignorant to our own character and holding ourselves back in terms of growing as a person.
I may have begun life as a timid, sweet young girl with shy tendencies and a love for home, comfort and security, but as time progresses I experience life lessons that mould me in to a stronger character. I am building confidence with time and I’d like to think that I have experienced a few personalities and situations that have taught me to not always be so sweet and smiley; but to look out for myself and become more resilient. Traits are given, it seems; but stories are there to be made. We are merely social actors whose behaviour is shaped by accustomed traits, but we are also authors who make meaning out of our lives through our own narratives.