The Personality Psychology Series, Part 2
How Personality Psychology Helped Me To Accept Everyone, Including Myself
It took me 24 years of wandering through life on this planet before I realized that I’m a unique fruit.
Snowflakes are so 2012.
Up until the ripe age of 24, I assumed that all people were basically the same. Yes looking at the external, we appear to be different. We look different. We behave in unique ways. But don’t let that fool you! They are illusions! External differences don’t necessarily mean that there’s anything unique about us on the inside.
I concluded that our thoughts, emotions, and natural inclinations are all the same.
We only behaved differently because we were all raised and conditioned to behave differently.
I assumed that everybody had the same nervous, stomach churning sweats at the thought of confrontation just as I did, some people just chose to be confrontational despite that.
I assumed that everybody could solve abstract math problems just as well as I could, others just put in more or less effort than I did.
I assumed that everybody felt nothing when listening to rock and punk music, some people just forced themselves to listen to it.
It was clear to me that other people behaved differently. But because I could not literally peer into another person’s mind, I had no idea what they really felt or thought.
Therefore, I had unanswered questions.
How do other people feel when they listen to the Sex Pistols?
What process do other people use to solve an algebraic equation?
Does everyone else tear up during Disney endings?
I assumed everyone else would answer these questions in the same way I did — and if they didn’t, it was only because they were raised differently.
I put all my faith in nurture. Nature had no bearing on us. At the most, our inherent personalities were trivially unique.
So I gleefully just assumed that everyone else, like me, loved making music and disliked engineering. Some people just chose to suck it up and become engineers. Others gave in and tried to make it as musicians.
But the idea that we are all the same person — just behaving differently — doesn’t actually make any logical sense.
But it seems to me as if many people believe this to be true.
Why do I say that?
If I believe that people are fundamentally different from myself, in terms of thoughts, feelings, and motivations, than why would I tell someone else that they are wrong, or put another person down, or invalidate another’s opinion? Why would I expect you to behave a certain way, and get upset if you do not act in that way? Why would I be convinced that the way I live my life is the way you should live your life?
To tell someone that they are misinformed is one thing. But even that is a dicey proposition, because what is information or knowledge anyway? The definition of knowledge, according to google, is “facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education.” Well if those “facts” are acquired through experience, and everyone’s experience is different, then they aren’t really “facts” in the objective sense of the word, are they?
“everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.” - Marcus Aurelius
We are all just expressing what is true in our experience. That is all we can say. I can not, in truth, speak for you, nor can I invalidate your experience — unless you allow me to. If one person attempts to invalidate another’s experience, and the victim allows their experience to be invalidated… That allowance is a choice that the “victim” is making. Although, admittedly, it’s not one that is easy to be in control of. But making the allowance is how ego’s are hurt, boundaries are violated, arguments are started, and, at times, violence is committed.
And we’ve all experienced this.
Although we are all human, each of us exhibits variations in our habitual thought patterns and actions. So it’s clear that we have different personalities, and that in some ways, we are naturally different from one another.
Psychologists split human cognitive, emotional, motivational and behavioral tendencies into two divisions — the ones we are born with, and the one’s we learn. If we know which is which, then we can know which one’s we can change to become better people, and which one’s we can learn to accept and use for maximum success and enjoyment in our lives.
An understanding of personality psychology allows us to:
- Develop our natural strengths to their highest potential, and allow us to make allowances in those areas in which we are naturally weaker in.
- Place ourselves into positions where we can utilize our strengths, and thereby feel impassioned by our work.
- Organize ourselves into groups that can consider all the realities and possibilities of a situation and analyze the effects of a potential decision.
- Communicate more effectively and with fewer disputes.
- Lead more balanced, satisfying, and happier lives in whichever path we choose to take.
Understanding that other people are unique and fundamentally different from ourselves, and knowing how we are all different is extremely advantageous to our well being. I would even go so far as to say an understanding of personality psychology is necessary for healing and growth in every level of community — from our personal friends and family, to our partners, to our school mates, to our coworkers, to our communities, to our countries.
Fundamentally, at the level of personality (those tendencies in our motivations, perceptions, thoughts, and feelings) we are all unique. The athlete who is always talking about football stats? He isn’t faking it. He loves the game. He gets the same feeling scoring a touchdown than I do when I solve a challenging math problem.
My brother who makes everyone around him immediately comfortable? That’s a gift that he has — it comes to him effortlessly.
Want to know what comes to me effortlessly?
Being really awkward at making small talk. Overthinking everything. Doing the simplest task in the most complicated way possible.
But some things clearly come with relatively less effort for me than they do for others. Hearing a piece of music and playing it on the piano by ear. Abstract and logical thinking. Considering different ways to solve a problem. Empathizing with others, and seeing all sides of the argument.
The greatest takeaway from knowing that we’re fundamentally different from each other is that there’s no need to try to be something we’re not. In fact, trying to be someone else is just like hitting the gas pedal when you’re car is stuck in the mud: it’s a waste of energy, and just causes frustration. We all have strengths, as well as weaknesses, and accepting both is critical to living a balanced life.
Not only does an understanding of my personality help me to accept myself, but it also helps me to accept other people. I don’t expect people to change to suit MY personality. If other people behave differently than I do, I have a framework for understanding why they do. I don’t get frustrated when other people don’t think of things as I do, or see my point of view, or have the same emotional reactions to things as I do. Because, on a certain level, we are different people. And that’s OK.
At the same time, we aren’t all that different. Each of us experiences thought, joy, sadness, fear, anger, frustration, horniness, inspiration, hopelessness, purpose, lack of purpose, jealousy, awe — the limitless spectrum of human emotion. We only experience these things at different times, and in response to different things.
In theory, we can always accept ourselves all of the time. We don’t need to know anything about introversion, Big 5 Personality traits, or Myers-Briggs tests. Some people like to understand why things work, and some like to perceive the how. Understanding human psychology on an abstract level like this has been incredibly important for my growth, and may also be important for yours.
Knowing the ways in which we, as humans, are fundamentally and naturally different, and the ways in which we are similar is why I am interested in personality psychology. It helps me to understand who I am and why we as people are the way we are. Most importantly It has opened the door to accepting not only myself, but other people as well. Exactly as we are.
Stay tuned for more articles on personality psychology. Next time I’ll talk about Jung’s 4 fundamental psychological functions — and how each of us tends to use one the most. Read more at https://live-your-purpose.squarespace.com