Personality… it’s one of those abstract psycho-things, but what exactly it it? For our purposes, it’s simply the whole package of your psyche – your experiences, good and bad; your goals and dreams; everything you picked up from your parents, teachers and peers; plus all that genetic luggage. And it covers what you show on the outside as well as what you don’t show. Yep, it’s you. The lot.
Most of us believe that our personality is a defining constant we’re saddled with for the rest of our lives. Whether we were born with it or developed our unique mind set over time doesn’t matter. Our personality is what we’re stuck with. Boom.
Case closed. Anyone for lunch? The spinach looks good.
Dead fucking wrong. We’ll see why in a moment.
Fiction And Reality
So how can that unique blend of you-ness possibly not be cast in stone?
Of course, there a a few major switches on your personal setup that’ll always be stuck. A few variables you’ll have to live with, just like there’s a definite limit to overcoming physical or mental shortcomings. Granted. But don’t mistake one or two broken levers for the whole goddamn machinery.
Truth be told, personalities are unwieldy bastards. Then, so are oil tankers, and yet they’re reasonably steerable.
With a bit of training, of course. Today’s captain of a tanker wasn’t let near the helm when he started out as a deck-scrubbing yeoman. Likewise, captain ain’t what we’re starting out as; it’s what we fight to become.
Earn your stars, kick some arse! Right, Popeye?
Buy my war stamps and help me fight the Inner Hitler!
But what about being yourself?
I know. Every other online profile, office wall poster or pop song is tainted by the tired cliché that is “just be yourself”. It’s ingrained into our lives pretty much from the start, and that’s why we don’t usually question it but accept it as a given.
Guess what I’m going to say next?
Dead fucking see above.
What if being yourself is part of the problem?
What does “being yourself” mean anyway? Were you formed of clay, baked and set out to harden by your parents? Are you a fucking garden gnome?
YOU define who you want to be. YOU get to pick which aspects of yourself you develop and which you neglect and thus – up to a point, mind you – YOU SHAPE WHO YOU ARE. If you want to be a villain, be one. If you want to be a saint, work towards that end. Neither the Mahatma nor Scarface were passively washed into their offices. They fought hard to get them.
Not in the market for fame? The same holds true for everything in between these extremes. You and me just want to live normal lives with no claim for immortal glory (right?) So stop making excuses by pointing out limits that may or may not be where you think they are.
Oh yeah, speaking of those limits…
Reality check: Know the limits. Own those limits.
The proof of the barrier lies in the… drowning, I guess?
Like I just said, a few constants just won’t be negotiable, and that’s where that “being true to yourself” stuff makes some kind of sense for once. I’ll never enjoy huge crowds or calling strangers on the phone; you may never be fond of travelling far from home or climbing bell towers, or whatever your pet weakness is; and that’s okay. We can often work out solutions to our flaws to a certain degree even though we may never quite get rid of them. Having fought to reach the hard limit – and not a moment sooner – is when we can accept these constants and own the shit out of that… shit.
This will open the way to loving yourself which in turn is fundamental if you ever want to love anyone else – this will be covered in-depth later.
Yes. Right. Accept yourself. Erm, what the hell does that mean?
Let me point out that your demons – enemies, inner swine, whatever – won’t take kindly to being exposed, ripped out and stomped on a few times. You don’t go yanking at malignant tumors unless you want to paint your apartment a nice shade of crimson. The same holds true for what I’ll call “personality cancer” just for its enormous descriptive power.
“So treat your demons with the respect they deserve.”(McSweeney)
Because they’re an integral part of you, however much you hate them; and your psyche won’t give them up without one hell of a fight. There’s a whole section of psychology devoted exclusively to becoming pals again with those unwanted parts of yourself – get your hand on this book for starters – because accepting them is the only way to deal with them. They’ll never be forced out.
Which can mean either of two things: learning to live with and control them (some things, like certain fetishes or addictions, may be held at bay while never quite going away) or committing yourself to driving them out. As stated above: Find out first which of the two kinds it is, then act.
Either way, acceptance always comes first. A good general doesn’t trash-talk his enemies, and neither should you.
No, not even the Inner Hitler.
Aaaand… here’s the catch. Guess what to look for?
That which you can’t see.
Seriously. Our psyche is like a car bumper bent out of shape by the things we hit on the way. If we’d seen them coming, we’d have swerved, but we didn’t, and now there’s an ugly dent and a simple paint job won’t do.
We’re shaped by what we fear, hate and repress (“choose” to forget), in other words: all the painful, traumatic stuff we’re trying so hard to blend out.
You know, like that time your parents pushed your stroller into the aquarium.
Not to cause you any troubles – just to see the funny bubbles.
The implications of this are far-reaching…
“College was the first time I realized that people were walking around with scars I knew nothing about. Injuries and illnesses that shaped everything they did. They weren’t making objective decisions of right and wrong as they went through their day. They were acting reflexively to prior pains and current neuroses.”(Gladstone)
…and, if you believe in “free will”, scary as hell, because you’ll quickly realize how much happens beyond your control. That’s the “hard limit” I mentioned earlier again.
So cut yourself some slack because, by definition, your psyche itches in the spots you can’t reach. Repressing stuff tends to make it invisible to yourself – talk of not seeing the roofbeam slammed across your own eyes.
Luckily, we also tend to project this stuff ontoother peoplewhere it’s much easier to see if we acknowledge it’s there. It’s the splinter in the other’s eye that complements the roofbeam.
So watch out for what you dislike or even hate in others. It’s a clue to something you most likely either envy or fear. Watching your emotional reactions to those “jerks”, “sluts” and “douchebags” is like a mirror that makes hidden stuff visible.
Hey, you know what those inner demons are? Fucking reverse vampires, that’s what.
Comfortingly, they’re in everyone’s hair, not just in yours.
“No matter how perfect someone else’s life looks, chances are they have endured at least one horrendous event/problem/loss in their life. If they haven’t yet, they will eventually. This goes along with life not being fair, but to be honest life is downright cruel at times.” (PWOT forums)
And we’ll all be shoveling shit at some point.
In all directions: shit awaits.
Check back in for Part II – the “just rewards” of awkwardness!
Last edited 10/2013