Which one is it this time? Are you in there? Who is this?
The questions above pop into my head when you talk about personality. Truth be told, I’m not sure I can consistently answer those questions if you were to ask me “what is your personality like, Travis?” Although I feel way more comfortable answering questions about personality at 41 than I would have at 21, I’m still struggling, like lots of us, to articulate who I’m becoming.
Personality is an interesting component of how we are perceived and perception (mine of others and others of me) has always created wonder for me. We hear these phrases all the time, don’t we? “What a great personality”, “their personality is hilarious”, “you, my friend, need a personality adjustment”. Personality is that thing that enables labels to be placed, perceptions to be built and behaviors to be justified. Personality, as most of us know, can change over time, so how do we react (internally) as our personality morphs and evolves? I’ve been away from my writing for more than 6 months, part and parcel to my own search for personality clarity, but I stopped writing because I haven’t been overly motivated. I can blame that on work, personal schedules, marriage, raising kids, but if I’m being transparent, I haven’t been writing because I’ve been busy battling a bit with the concept of growing into an evolving personality and how, as it changes, I’m able to react to the impact it might have on those around me.
For the last two months, I’ve paid close attention to how I behave as a person. It’s not always pretty, but I can tell you that I’ve noticed a number of “personalities” and the more I notice inconsistency with behavior, the more I wonder “why”.
It would be nice to meet that person who is consistent in all facets of their life, but knowing that Buddha, Jesus or the Dalai Llama aren’t hanging with me at the local bar on Friday nights for personal coaching and counseling, I have to look for other, more “regular” people to learn from. As I’ve admitted, I notice that I act differently around my immediate family than I do my co-workers, than I do around my extended family, than I do my close friends, than I do with my distant friends, than I do with the stranger on the street (I think you get it). I used to feel bad for the people I lived, worked or hung out with (poor saps, they don’t really know what makes me tick), but as I continue on my path, I’ve realized that the only person who feels pain from regular adjustment to personality is…. “Me”. Yes, some could challenge that at 41 I’m becoming “Sybil’esque”, but I’d push back and ask how often you are consistent with those around you?
Don’t get me wrong, we all have social filters, so yes, it is normal to behave differently around a variety of people, but how intense is the difference? My search has led me to believe that the more dramatic your personality adjusts and the more often you feel it has to adjust, the more painful it will be for you over time. Are you always smiling around co-workers, but biting your family member’s heads off when you are at home? Will you be a perfect gentlemen to a stranger on the street, but let your wife open her own door to the car or the house? Do you like to be in the center of all action with your own family, but hide quietly if you need to be at a party or big function? All of these variations on your personality create a bit of camouflage don’t they? Personality camouflage.
This personality camouflage is taxing and in time, takes a toll. There is a fine line between socially adjusting behavior because you are meeting new friends, or co-workers or neighbors and morphing into a bit of an actor with a variety of different groups. Don’t fall into the trap of adjusting who you are for the purposes of fitting others’ perceptions. As basic the concept and as often as people say “be yourself”, start looking around and I bet you’ll notice that most people are living a bit of this personality camouflage too.
As I continue to grow, I believe beauty exists in change, growth and evolution. The catch is, don’t stunt your personal evolution for fear that it might make someone or some groups to lose interest in the role you play in their lives.
All of us have a personality and all of us will change, in different ways, over time. Don’t let your personality camouflage become too intense and be supportive of those around you who are looking to grow and change too.
Everyone will be better off for it.