You Are Not Your Personality
After a long hot summer and much absenteeism on my part I’m glad you returned.
Today we take step one in our journey of personal growth together.
It is a small step yet profound.
We begin by contemplating that you are not your personality. Let me explain.
You were born with a certain temperament and formed your basic personality at an early age. In the process of growing up you developed certain traits, attitudes, behaviours and habitual responses. At the same time you identified with these characteristics. Your sense of self, your sense of being YOU was closely connected to these characteristics. Essentially what happened is that your sense of yourself and your sense of your personality became one and the same thing. Your family and others noticed your personality and reinforced this process by naming and labeling- John is quiet, Asha is demanding.
So you grew up the proud owner of a personality. You experienced yourself as having certain key qualities- you were strong, responsible, helpful, creative, smart, loyal, happy, calm. Other opposite qualities were not you. In my family I was easy going and my sister was sensitive. So far so good.
Now contemplate how this process, while natural and essential to healthy human development, becomes a limiting one.
If a person, for example, grew up being the strong one, the one in charge, the one who took care of others in the family, the one who stood up to adults, then at some point this sense of self as strong made being strong a requirement- this person needed to be strong to be themselves. Feelings of weakness or vulnerability were not welcome or allowed. Such a person becomes more solidly strong and powerful as they grow older. Many CEOs and leaders share this personality style. Such a person’s style as a lawyer would be to fight to win, to relish a challenge or a good argument, to have no trouble raising their voice or showing anger but to resist showing weakness. Such a person might say things like “my way or the highway”, have a worldview that “it’s a jungle out there” or hate “wishy washy”.
Now is this all really necessary or true? Does this person never have weak or vulnerable feelings? Where did those feelings go?
Despite what the strong personality claims or declares, we can see how this person originally must have had the same feelings of weakness and vulnerability as any human being. We can see how the softer qualities have been disowned, but remain within and we can imagine how accessing these softer qualities would help this person reach a higher level of adult development. A tender and strong champion- what a truly powerful combination!
Do you see how this person is not his or her personality?
How the process of identifying with our personality becomes unnecessarily limiting and puts us in a box? How understanding that we have a much broader potential range of qualities than the ones we have identified with opens the door to our growth.
So to begin simply contemplate that you are not your personality, that you have rejected certain qualities that are still yours to develop, that you are in a box and you can get out of this box.
Homework- become a witness to your personality. Pay attention to your own habitual attitudes, beliefs, behaviours and characteristics . Then ask yourself “who is the one who is watching?” This is known as developing your Inner Observer. Enjoy!