Sunday, July 6, 2014

Prisoners of Personality II


Do you ever wish you were as mellow as your friend who never gets angry with others? Or as outgoing as your partner who always seems to be the heart of the party? Or maybe sometimes you wish you were a little more spontaneous so that you could enjoy your life as much as your colleague who just quit her job and left to travel for a year in South America? Perhaps, to the contrary, you wish you were much less spontaneous and more organized, so that you could get a steady job and start a family like your older brother. In this post I will continue discussing personality from the angle of specific traits that, to a large degree, constitute who we are. As mentioned in my previous post, understanding and accepting one's personality is the first step to positive change. Our personalities impact our lives and we cannot really reject them or completely change them. What we can do is better understand the aspects of our personalities that tend to bother us and get in the way of accomplishing our goals. Only after understanding our innate predispositions we can learn to control them and work with them.

OCEAN: The Big Five Personality Traits 

One of the most popular theories of personality in psychology is a trait theory popularized by psychologists Costa and McCrae that focuses on five major personality qualities, so called the Big Five. The five traits are briefly described below.
1. OPENNESS
"It really is a fact that liberals are much higher than conservatives on a major personality trait called 'openness to experience.' People who are high on openness to experience just crave novelty, variety, diversity, new ideas, travel. People low on it like things that are familiar, that are safe and dependable." - Jonathan Haidt 
"I don't want to be made pacified or made comfortable.  I like stuff that gets your adrenaline going." - Kathryn Bigelow
People with high openness are curious about both the external and internal world, are creative, have vivid imaginations and show intellectual curiosity and aesthetic sensitivity. They are nonconventional, and they tend to question authority. They are independent thinkers. People who are low on openness are conventional in their behavior and conservative in their views. They value traditional values, have pragmatic interests and prefer the socially approved ways of behaving.

2. CONSCIENTIOUSNESS: 
"I've been called many names like perfectionist, difficult and obsessive. I think it takes obsession, takes searching for the details for any artist to be good." - Barbra Streisand 
"I've never had a teenage rebellion; I'm not that type of person. I always work out my problems in a conscientious way. - Kirsten Dunst
People with high conscientiousness are strong willed, motivated to act, and persistent in working towards their goals. They are scrupulous, responsible, punctual, sensible and they tend to have good academic and professional accomplishments. High conscientiousness can be also associated to workaholism and perfectionism. People with low conscientiousness are not motivated, and tend to have hedonistic attitudes in life. They lack clear goals, are idle and spontaneous.

3. EXTRAVERSION: 
"I am quite loud and bolshie. I'm a big personality. I walk into a room, big and tall and loud."- Adele
People with high extraversion are friendly, outgoing, talkative and sincere. They enjoy parties, seek stimulation, tend to dominate in social situations, and are very active and full of vigor. They are optimistic and have a positive outlook on life.
"I am a bit of a solitude person - a solitary personality. I like being on my own. I don't have any major friendships or relationships with people."- Anthony Hopkins
People who are introvertive on the other hand, are reserved in social relationships, lack optimism and prefer alone time.

4. AGREEABLENESS:
"There is something in humility which strangely exalts the heart." - Saint Augustine
People with high agreeableness are kind and eager to help others. They believe that others have the same attitudes as them. They are straightforward, honest, altruistic, humble, meek and gentle. People who are low on agreeableness can be characterized as egocentric, skeptical about others' intentions and suspicious. They also tend to be more competitive than cooperative, aggressive and distant in relationships with others.

5. NEUROTICISM: 
"I am prone to despair. We are all born with a particular personality. I get afraid and then I don't want to leave the house." - Marian Keyes 
"Most of the time I don't have much fun. The rest of the time I don't have any fun at all." - Woody Allen
People with high neuroticism tend to experience anxiety, fear and worry a lot. They are also susceptible to irrational ideas, have difficulties controlling their impulses and controlling stress. They often experience hostility and anger and get discouraged easily in challenging situations. They tend to be shy around others and they have low self-esteem. The opposite of neuroticism is emotional stability that characterizes people who are stable, easy-going, relaxed and capable of coping with stress without feeling agitated and anxious.

Were you able to identify which traits seem to be dominant in your personality?

"Good" Personality, "Bad" Personality

I think that most of us would like to be appropriately extroversive, assertive and open, sufficiently conscientious (just enough to be successful, but certainly not rigid), and emotionally stable. It's hard to admit but for most of us the combination of personality traits is not that optimal...
There are certain traits that most people consider desirable, like extraversion or openness, and traits that are usually considered "negative", such as neuroticism. Certain traits can be culturally reinforced or stigmatized. For example, extraversion is rewarded in Western civilization and is considered an achiever trait. At the same time a trait associated to kindness and altruism- agreeableness, may be considered "cute" but not necessarily desired, as it doesn't help to achieve success and become a leader. Susan Cain, American writer who explores the subject of introversion said,
"All personality traits have their good side and their bad side.  But for a long time, we've seen introversion only through its negative side and extroversion mostly through its positive side." 
I agree that all personality traits have their positives and negatives, it's also important to remember that they are not categorical qualities (i.e. you either have it or you don't). Instead, we all fall on a spectrum for each trait. If a level of a certain trait is extremely high or low, it may become problematic for a person, but in most cases it is a matter of understanding one's predispositions and working with them.

We shouldn't look at our personalities in a qualifying manner.  Instead I recommend taking an honest look at your personality and embracing it. If you try to force yourself to be who you're not, that certainly will not make you happy. That's not to say that you should not leave your comfort zone and experiment with new behaviors. Don't use your personality as an excuse not to be better than you currently are, but at the same time try to be kind to yourself and don't condemn yourself for not being who you're expected to be. In the end, you should realize that you and your personality are one team. If you go against your team, you can't win. You can only succeed if you work together.
 "Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!" - Dr. Seuss


No comments:

Post a Comment