Have you ever said a sentence that kept playing in your head and you wondered who that person who just spoke was? Or had a phone call from a coworker or a family member and felt so relieved the minute you hung up the phone. Or even been in a situation while asking yourself how you ended up taking part. I think most of us experience those moments when we simply feel trapped in a character that doesn't resemble how we see ourselves. But who are we truly, what is the perception of our true personality? What is it composed of? And wouldn't it be more effective and convenient to change it and adapt it according to every situation to better integrate and make things smoother? Or will we be, by doing that, identified as hypocrites who simply hide behind masks whenever they are too afraid to embrace their truth? Should our truth be changeless, or is it adjustable?
If we look at the definition of “personality” in a dictionary, it is mostly defined as the combination of characteristics or qualities that form an individual's distinctive character. So, by applying this definition to everyday life, we only need to see the characteristics and qualities we reveal to identify ourselves and our real person. But even under that understanding, the answer remains incomplete and more complex than we imagine, as we are capable of wearing these characteristics every day as a mask to fit in with our daily lives, even if they are not necessarily the true reflection of who we are.
Understanding who you are is perhaps the most basic, yet most complicated question a person could ask oneself. We must also admit that asking this question and taking time and distance to know ourselves requires in itself a certain maturity and desire to understand who we are. Since birth, we live through various experiences and events which build up a set of traits forming our character. A character that we call ours, without digging deeper to know if it is the only character that represents our real essence or if it is only a creation of our experience. Many agree that the development of the personality is beyond conscious choice or volition, the personality is a consequence of causes, conditions, and circumstances. It is an intricate system of learned responses whether one is extroverted, introverted, agreeable, honest, patient, forgiving, or mean.
According to Sigmund Freud’s theory of personality, there are three parts to it. There is the Id, which is the first to be developed, it’s the biological component of the personality, it includes our instincts, operates on our unconscious mind, and operates according to the pleasure principle, which signifies that all our needs are met immediately. Secondly comes the ego, it is the second to develop. It operates in our preconscious in the conscious mind. The ego is part of the personality that takes decisions. Finally, we have the Superego which is the last to develop. It exists in all three levels of consciousness. The superego pushes us to obtain the ego ideal or our view of what is right, it also represents our conscience or our view of what is considered to be wrong.
Taking a closer look at this personality puzzle, there is a great TED X talk given by Professor Brian Little, in which he raises the main question of who we really are. He states that one of the most influential approaches in personality science is known as trait psychology. It aligns us with five normally distributed dimensions that describe universally held aspects of differences between people. According to that theory, people are not necessarily what they seem to be, which leads again to questioning who are we then. We indeed daily reveal a bunch of characteristics such as being an introvert or an extrovert, but these could be changeable by the person and it’s completely okay because what reveals our real personalities are the things we have in our life, it’s our core projects.
You might have a specific personal project in your life at the time being of which nobody around you is aware. It may be related to your kid or your beloved ones, and so if you have been acting out of character, these are the free traits. For example, you are very agreeable, but you act very disagreeably to break down those barriers of administrative torpor to get something for someone. These free traits are where we enact a script to advance a core project in our lives, and they are what matters. Don’t ask people what type they are, ask them what their core projects in life are. One may act extroverted, but be an introvert only for a core project. However, we need to be very careful when we act protractedly out of character as sometimes it could be destructive and exhausting if the one loses control.
In the end, it is essential to recall that we could be resembling some people, but we are for sure like no other person. Each of us has our free traits and those make us who we are. It’s okay to act out of our natural characters to achieve our core projects as long as we are aware enough of what nurtures our souls. The moral behind that is to not put ourselves or others in pigeonholes, as Professor Brian Little mentioned, because even pigeons do not always belong to pigeonholes. Allow yourself to be the other you and allow yourself to act out of many characteristics whenever you need to achieve your core goal, because, at the end of the day, that's what frees us and allows us to completely feel like ourselves.