Can you change your personality? And if yes, how? Should we even bother working on ourselves? Or should we accept ourselves as we are?
Can We Change?
In a new study, participants could do one of the two following interventions: improving conscientiousness (such as self-discipline), or openness to new experiences. Results showed that those who opted for self-discipline were less self-disciplined before intervention compared to the results after the intervention. Also, those who chose to be more open to new experiences were less open before the intervention. For both groups, a two-week intervention was successful. Those who went through intervention experienced a persistent change in their personality after the intervention.
Most personality tests are categorical and based on types of personalities, which is an incorrect view of who we are as people. Personality is more complex and more contextual than one simple score.
Michael Wilmot, a researcher of the study said:
“The thing about personality types is that they’re very interesting to talk about and they have been an object of public fascination for ages. But with modern, more robust research methods, most of these older typological claims are turning out to be spurious.”
The main issues with personality tests are the structure, which is poorly constructed, especially psychometrically. Most questions in personality tests are type-based tests with multiple-choice questions, providing scenarios where maybe all options are not relevant for the person answering the questions.
Rather than viewing personality as type, we should see it as a spectrum. For example, the Big Five test gives rank on five traits: conscientiousness, agreeableness, openness, extraversion, and neuroticism. All these traits can show change over time. Furthermore, these traits can be specific to situations when they manifest, and when they do not, circumstances play a significant role. Meaning, the results on personality tests are not fixed and unchangeable. Longitudinal studies have shown that personality traits change over time.
How Do We Perceive Personality Traits?
We should never perceive ourselves having a certain type of personality or having a difficult time changing our personality traits. Through intentional interventions, insights, and learning, we all change with time.
Furthermore, we have to perceive personality traits as skills that can we can learn like any other skill. We are not fixed, and we can change. With the help of learning, education, experience, learning, and intervention, we can become less neurotic, more open to new experiences, and more conscientious. Deliberate practice can help us define a desired and ideal future self and help us create a clear path on how to develop those desired traits.
Some experts do believe that personality traits are like any other skill such as reading and writing that we can learn. We all have different experiences, maybe some traumatic experiences that shape our personality but that doesn’t mean that we can’t change. The environment is another factor that plays an important role in shaping our personality.
Self-expansion and growth desired by all people, but most are stuck in believing that there is not much they can do. One of the most important things in growth is surrounding yourself with people who are similar to where you want to be. From others (from your environment) you can get encouragement, knowledge, opportunities, and new ideas and beliefs of what is possible.
Most researchers focusing on personality change studied neuroticism. Now, with new studies and approaches, we are seeing that change is possible. You can change your personality traits and grow continually in the way you want if you choose so.