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We Are More Than Our Personality

by Mary DuParri, MA, LPC

Some people define themselves and others by what they call personality types.  “I am shy.  She is a type-A.  I’m a thinker; you’re a feeler.  He is a decision maker; his boss is a procrastinator.” Personality labels can be helpful as we negotiate relationships with others and try to understand what makes them tick.  However, some people defend their personality traits as if they are solid, unchangeable givens that everyone else should accommodate. 

Though true personality traits are not easily subject to change, we need to be careful about buying our own label as if it is an immutable truth.  Even things like introversion and extroversion are on a continuum.  We are not usually so inherently introverted that we cannot try out some new behavior.  It may be true that we do better one-on-one than in large groups, but if we climb over the hurdle of introverted shyness to enlarge our circle of acquaintances, we may find we are out there enjoying one-on-one time together with more people and feeling less isolated.  And, at the other end of the spectrum, extroverts do not always have to be the life of the party; they can find a quieter side of self to connect deeply and personally with others. 

What some people defend as their personality is really a way of defining themselves that allows them to get by with less than reasonable behavior.  Saying:  “Sorry, you know I’m impulsive.  That’s just the way I am,” does not help when you have spent the car insurance money on the artwork you both admired.  That is merely using a behavior trait as an excuse.  One person may truly be far more impulsive than another, and the impulsive person may have to engage in self-talk and conscious will to keep from spending the insurance money, but that is possible.  Perhaps not easy, but possible.   

We all have traits and tendencies that become our default style of relating in the world.  These traits usually make life interesting and create a diverse richness in our relationships.  However, we are not just stuck with the traits that seem to interfere with and perhaps, dominate in our relationships.  By doing our own emotional work, we can recognize our tendencies to be captured by parts of ourselves that want to control the way we interact.  We can heal parts that carry fear, shame or hurt so we become less reactive and more able to decide how to be with others.  We can explore parts of ourselves that may have been dormant, but that have the ability to bring forth our creativity and wisdom.  We are not just our personality.  We are much more than that.  Much, much more.

See Mary's Website at    

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