What is personality?
Personality is usually defined as the set of inborn traits and acquired characteristics that make you unique. Many people think this is something that stays with you for life but recent research shows that it does, in fact, evolve over time. This is shown by the fact that scores on personality tests can change significantly as the person ages.
Since personality isn’t fixed changing your personality (or at least the way you appear to others) is easier than you might think.
For the most part, what you and others see as your ‘personality’ relates largely to the way you present yourself and the feedback you get. So, if I go around without washing the response I get will generally be avoidance. In that way I will become ‘a disgusting person’ although I can easily change that by using some hygiene.
The way you project yourself on to others is also related to your confidence in your own abilities. If you regularly practice speaking to strangers you will gain confidence in your conversational skills. You will therefore be less likely to be labelled as having a ‘shy’ personality, and more likely to be labelled as an extrovert.
Ways to change personality
Here are some tried and tested ways of changing the way you present to others.
1. Change your job.
The most dramatic example of this was when I gave up my banking career in 1990 and became a therapist. I stopped wearing suits, working from 8-6 pm, and thinking about financial services. Instead I focused on listening to people and helping them to heal. The resulting change in ‘personality’ was inevitable.
2. Do something that is ‘just not like you’.
This is about dropping habitual ways of being and experimenting with alternative behaviours. So if you never dance, then do just that. If you are ‘impatient’, slow down. If you find it hard to show love to others, then practice kindness.
3. Give up your parents.
To some extent your parents establish and reconfirm your false personality. If they thought you were the ‘sporty’ type, or ‘the reliable one’, or ‘the quiet one’ then chances are that that is what you became. These labels can become a self-imposed limitation.
The same applies to the perceptions you accept from your partners, your friends, and your children. There’s a great Bette Davis movie about this called Now Voyager, in which she transforms from a mother-dominated frump to a sex siren!
4. Learn a new language.
Because each language carries a different way of thinking (based on the words and grammar unique to that language), the use of the mouth and vocal chords, and the expressions that go with it, this is one of the fastest ways to change that I know. Works still better if you live and work there. I discovered this when I moved to New York for six months a while ago. Although the words were similar – the differences in grammar, intonation and meaning were very powerful. With resulting impacts on the way I saw myself, and others saw me.
5. Change the way you dress
That includes the way you dress when you are by yourself and the way you dress outdoors. Remember, what you see in the mirror subtly changes the way you project yourself to others.
6. Acquire new skills
The list could run from assertiveness training through to art, car mechanics, poetry, cooking and mindfulness. Different skills entail different behaviors….which lead to new experiences and new kinds of feedback from others. They will also raise your so-called ‘self-esteem’ – which is just another way of describing the way you present (with confidence) to others.
7. Develop your personal ‘genius‘
Developing your personal genius has to do with making the most of your unique gifts, skills and talents – and the individual mission you were born to accomplish in life. When you practice self-actualisation you become a different person – someone far more unique and individualised..
8. Have a nervous breakdown
This solution is a little drastic but it could be the most effective of the lot if you can stand the temporary disorientation.
All that is really meant by having a nervous breakdown is that you have lost your ego – the scripted, routine personality you have over-identified with. It typically happens when your deepest feelings and desires are completely out of sync with the life others expect you to live, so that you end up de-pressing who you really are. The resulting crisis leads to an uprush of powerful emotions which sweep away the false self and enable you to be born anew