It is interesting that you can encounter as many different descriptions of this term as the number of people you ask. There may be associations with inner features, talents, advantages, and disadvantages that affect other people’s impression or simply a smile or the sight of a person that makes him/her a special one for you. If you glance at the more officially accepted explanation, personality is defined as” the set of habitual behaviours, cognitions, and emotional patterns that evolve from biological and environmental factors”. However, I firmly believe that the thing that makes us different, something that builds our personalities and something that is hard to change, is our character. Indeed, it is really complicated, if not impossible, to separate the term personality from character, since one is a part of the other. Nevertheless, there is a difference, and a decisive one.
Wilma Askinas, a great writer, once said, “Never mistake personality for character.” And there is a strong reason for that. It is a commonly accepted fact that each and every person is unique, starting with the fingerprints and irises of the eyes and including the way we think, interact, and express our feelings. However, how can we understand what is each person’s defining uniqueness and what is the so-called cultivated image?
Personality is easy to read, and most of us are experts at it. We need approximately a few seconds to register that feeling which is called the first impression, and a little bit longer to understand the personality. We can quickly judge people to be active/passive, introvert/extrovert, leader/follower, funny/bored, attractive/repulsive. It does not require a lot of effort and time to have a complete impression as well as to hide your real nature, acting as society tells us to.
But character is different. It takes much longer to “discover” character, and usually only through hard, uncomfortable, and uncommon situations, those in which the individual is not able to act or to hide his/her real face. Character develops from our first days until our very last breath, and it is truly a combination of biological, environmental, and societal factors, which exert a constant influence on us. Our character is actually that thing that differentiates us, and the one that is most worthy. However, I still want to pay attention to personality and the way it can be influenced.
Being unique and having different personalities from birth, most people still have a “herd instinct”, based on the wish to be accepted and respected by others. Many of those who are subject to “herd instinct” are flabby and weak and often betray their own characters and established norms to follow the mainstream. Others may simply think that they are not good or smart enough, compared with the “helpers” who are always waiting to give advice in order to bring into line those who are out of conformity with the common rules.
How many times have you felt as if somebody is not only changing your life but also you, yourself, your norms, your morals and your ”settings” in general? You are really lucky if those changes have been positive ones. However, there are many cases of detrimental influence, and sometimes it is tremendously hard to put that influence behind you. It is said that personality is inborn, and it is hardly possible to change it, but I believe that all of us at least once in our lives have heard something like “you’ve changed” or “you weren’t like this before”. How can this happen? How is it possible to change a person, his character and personality?
Habits! They have a huge importance in our lives. We know how certain things work, and all of us have established behaviours that have already become habits at the sub-conscious level. Research shows that 21 days are enough to form a new habit. Imagine that a person can be literally programmed like a computer by repeating one action, or statement, or simply having one thought for just 3 weeks. Terrifying, isn’t it? However, this is not the end of the story. After acquiring a new habit, a person can actually lose the ability to re-live the process that put the new habit in place. To simplify, think about brushing your teeth or locking the door. I am sure that I am not alone in the feeling that I am doing these things automatically. Sometimes you simply do not remember if you did it or not because you have already done it a hundred thousand times. Alternatively, breathing. I mean is anyone concentrating on how he/she breathes? (unless you have a cold). All of this, every action, word, and thought builds our habits, which have a direct connection with our personality and as a chain reaction, influence our character.
Based on everything mentioned above, we can proceed to an uncommon comparison between people and clocks. We can consider personality and character as our inner mechanism, just as each clock has an inner mechanism. The work of a clock completely depends on the work of the mechanism, the same way that a person’s life, mental and physical health, success, achievements and roughly, all other aspects of that person’s life depend on internal workings, strength of character, and personality. It takes years and lot of effort to build yourself, to change something that you do not like about your inborn personality or perceived weaknesses in your character. In other words, you simply have to work on the inner mechanism for your “clock” to work and show the exactly right time, which is a prerequisite to a good and stable life filled with prosperity and achievements and also with your mental health intact and a productive balance in your life.
Unfortunately, this is not that easy. Struggling to manage your life on your own in the face of challenges and problems, the situation can be further complicated by other people entering your life, above all those who become the closest and the most precious to you. Since these are the people who tend to have the greatest influence on us, it is hardly possible to stay unaffected. I am not talking about the lucky cases when the influence is positive, as I have mentioned above. I am talking about those people who are not able to notice in time that their inner mechanism is no longer under their own control, that it is actually those “dear” people who are controlling and changing their characters and personalities, fixing that mechanism with their hands. As a result, a person can become fully dependent on other people, blindly following every instruction and usually going in the wrong direction. It would be great if just once that person could see and understand the truth. However, then a hard and painful process would follow. The person has to decide whether to accept reality and continue down the same path or to leave everything and change direction.
How to remain yourself? How to keep developing and growing, getting rid of your weaknesses, while not losing yourself and not being influenced by “not right” people? How to be flexible in order to achieve the right inner balance between the ability to change and the ability to maintain your strong, established character and personality? I believe that there is no final answer. The situation differs for each of us in the same way that the personalities of different people do. The only thing I am sure of is that you must always listen to that inner feeling which all of us have. Call it intuition, the inner voice, the soul, whatever. It is one of the most important constituents of your personality. Listen to it and trust it, however, keep conscious and control the process, remembering that others can influence even that inside voice and inner mechanism.
In the end, appreciate yourself and try to establish a profound feeling of respect, as you are the only version of yourself. You are that unique person who is capable of changing yourself as well as the whole world. Under no condition, be reserved. This is not the message I am trying to convey. On the contrary, be open, sociable and ready for new ideas, advice, and points of view. However, never forget that your personality is the real distinction and even while attempting to change some disadvantageous part of it, stay loyal and deferential to it.