Is Personality a Habit?
I love Halloween! I always have. I was still trick-or-treating even in college--I'm a shorty so with a mask on, I could totally pass for a legit kid.
Give me an opportunity to wear a costume and I will take it! There's something so liberating about becoming someone else for a bit. When I'm not *me* different aspects of my personality are invited to come out and play. In costume, my natural shyness and reserve tend to disappear and suddenly I am outgoing and chatty. It's like Kimberly 2.0. Here's the thing...sometimes what we think of as our *personality* is really just a habitual way of being that has been reinforced over time. Do you know what I mean by this? Say that in your family you were labelled early on as "the smart one" or "the difficult one", most of us internalize those labels and begin to see ourselves as "smart" or "difficult" then we go out into the world and act as that.
The more we act out that role, the more others see us that way. And so who we think we are and believe that we are gets reinforced over and over again.
What is the role that you were assigned in your family? Some common roles include caretaker, peacemaker, scapegoat, lost child, hero, and clown, but the options are pretty much endless.
My assigned role was "the good girl" and accepting that role as *me* meant that my personality, or at least the persona that I showed the world, was nice, agreeable, quiet, dutiful, responsible, and reliable.
How limiting! (How boring!) I had repressed all the parts of myself that weren't congruent with that one designated role. I believed in and acted that part until well into my 30's. And once I realized that I didn't have to be a good girl, well I embraced everything that my good girl self would never have allowed. This was temporarily disastrous, no doubt, but also the key to releasing myself from such a narrow range of expression.
If you saw your personality and your self-concept as being fluid rather than fixed, how would that change the way that you behave? What personality traits have you taken on that don't really serve you?
Something that I hear clients say a lot is "that's just the way I am". They may be referring to their short temper, procrastination, anal retentiveness, or flakiness. But the truth is that you can change these things. It takes a willingness to see yourself differently and challenge your own ideas of yourself...that can be scary, I know, because if you're not who you think you are then who are you??
One way to help yourself ease into this process is by catching yourself making generalizations or sweeping statements and amending them just ever so slightly. For instance, instead of saying "I am so impatient!" you could try "my first reaction may be impatience, but I can practice patience". And you can. And anything you practice with some degree of consistency will increase your skill in that behavior.
So next time you hear yourself say "that's just the way I am", I urge you to question that thought. Is that just the way you are? And more importantly, is that who you want to be? Because if not, you can change it.
Speaking of change...ReadySteadySWEATY group coaching starts next month. It's going to be all about change, but not in a painful or extreme way. I love to help people make small shifts in their routine/habits that lead to satisfying long-term results. How about it??