Shaping our Personality Traits
Today, I want to address a topic that I find crucial to spread: 'we are not condemned to always be the same.' We can learn to moderate our personality traits through a deep and conscious 'Self-Work.'
First, we need to dispel three misconceptions that sometimes cause us to lose sight of this precious opportunity to be diligent workers of our personal renewal.
1- Childhood is Destiny
The first ingrained belief, which has also been reinforced by traditional psychology, could be stated as: 'What we experience in childhood marks us like a fire that never stops burning.' I am a staunch advocate of the statement: 'childhood is not destiny.' However, I would add a caveat: in those who assume the role of protagonists and abandon the victim's position.
Without a doubt, we might have been victims of the ignorance of many, but as adults, we can embrace that wounded child and offer what was lacking. It's possible to heal our childhood wounds through the kindness we show ourselves as responsible adults in our self-nurturing. We can become the caregivers we didn't have and show compassion to our most sensitive childlike parts. The wounds may still be there, but like a scar that reminds us of the lived story, they won't necessarily continue burning like a fire that scorches us from within.
2- I am as I am, and I cannot be otherwise
The second belief is founded on the painful and lazy assertion held high like a mast by those who proclaim, 'I am as I am' This narrow mindset, at any age, denies every possibility of expanding one's own identity to incorporate new attributes, new qualities, updating beliefs, softening a trait, or moderating excessiveness. No one, even if they want to, remains the same way throughout their existence. A person can evolve or devolve, but they can never stay in the same place. Personality is a constantly moving process; we are dynamic beings, not static objects. What we can choose, however, is the direction in which we want to go: to unfold or to diminish.
3- If I try and fail, I won't be able to change
The third erroneous assertion could be formulated as 'Others can, but I cannot.' In this case, unlike the previous rigidity, there is an intention to change, to evolve, but there's quick frustration and a feeling of powerlessness when faced with the evidence that change is not happening. These individuals, before attempting to improve themselves, have skipped the fundamental step of 'accepting' themselves as they are, of developing patience towards their own progress processes.
When one becomes 'aware' of what they wish to modify, at the same time, they must 'give themselves time' for the new seeds sown to sprout as nascent shoots. There are changes that are not yet visible, but they 'exist' because consciousness has been stirred, like the soil before planting. Life might put us in a situation where we now do what we didn't before, and we realize that the previously invisible suddenly becomes manifest through a new action, a new behavior, or a new way of responding. Every transformation process requires time for consolidation. Patience is a virtue that needs to be cultivated, especially by those who wish to modify deeply ingrained aspects of their personality.
Character and Temperament: What Can We Change?
Character and temperament are two distinct aspects of our personality. Let's explore each of them and understand their differences to develop realistic expectations regarding our changes
Temperament encompasses our innate and deeply ingrained tendencies. Comparable to what genes are to the body, temperament is the raw material we are born with. This is why we can refer to individuals with a melancholic tendency, those who manifest a choleric temperament, or those who are intensely sanguine, and so on.
On the other hand, character is molded by the environment in which we are raised. It encompasses our beliefs, our mandates, and all the cultural baggage we absorb from a young age. Because it's learned, it can be unlearned and reactualized through diligent personal work.
If temperament is the raw material, character is the mold that shapes it and gets baked in the oven of life.
The word 'carácter' (character) comes from Greek origin and means 'to engrave.' Thus, our experiences and life events 'imprint' and shape our personality. Now, the question is: are we mere passive receptors of the characters imprinted on us, like branded cattle? Our evolution hinges on the answer we provide.
As children, we don't have much choice. However, as we grow, we can become the printers of ourselves. If we desire to imprint a trait, we must acquire the habit of practicing it, becoming skillful in its management until we embody it. Over time, what once seemed foreign takes shape and transforms into a personal resource that we can rely on. We have imprinted 'a character' more in our personal script.
The philosophy of Taoism offers us an expression that I truly appreciate: 'Self-Forged Character.' This means taking the raw material that we are into our own hands and activating the 'genes' that haven't been awakened. At various points in our lives, we may need the genes of boldness, initiative, tolerance, serenity, courage, or decisiveness. Alternatively, we may need to soften certain genes that exhibit hyperactivity, such as impulsiveness, aggressiveness, apathy, or indifference.
The monastery for learning to tame the traits we wish to work on within ourselves is everyday life, and especially our interactions with others. We will be strong in what we choose to exercise. In every situation that presents itself, in every challenge and interaction, we can choose to strengthen or soften certain traits that shape the script we imprint day by day.
The monastery for learning to tame the traits we want to work on within ourselves is everyday life, and especially our relationships with others.
Breaking the Mold
"Breaking the mold" in which we were conditioned is to expand ourselves to include what was not given to us, but can be worked on. Identity broadens, expands, every time we unfold our consciousness to ask ourselves, not "Who am I?" but "Who do I want to be?" Forging our own character is daring not to take ourselves for granted. First, knowing ourselves well enough, and then having the possibility to re-edit ourselves as many times as necessary to become the best version we can be.
Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.
The next time you find yourself saying 'I am as I am...' remember that within you lies the potential to forge your own character and become the person you want to be. The more multifaceted our personality, the broader and more flexible it is, the greater the possibility of developing a healthy relationship with ourselves and others. Our emotional intelligence shapes our life and makes a significant difference in the destinies of those who work on themselves and those who do not.