People tend to default to the functions imposed by societal surroundings. Putting yourself in new surroundings, about new people, and taking on new jobs would be the fastest ways to access different aspects of your character, for better or worse. Entirely take on the roles you assume, and you’re going to change from the outside in.
To split from a mutual comprehension of character as inborn and unchangeable, it is helpful to think about the etymology. The word”character” comes from the Latin word character : a mask worn by an actor in a theater, or a character acted onstage. In real life, also, we wear different masks and perform different roles.
As William Shakespeare wrote,”All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts”
Consider this for a minute: Are you the exact same person? You might not feel like the same person in all situations and conditions? Of course not. In some circumstances, you might be silent, awkward, or timid. In others, you are on top of the world. The”you” that shows up is quite different depending on the circumstance.
If your home has been robbed, you would be different than if you’re sitting on a plane or at work or in a rock concert. Around certain individuals, for example old high school buddies, you might represent a younger and less mature version of yourself. Sometimes you act more introverted and more extroverted.
But here’s what is interesting: As people age, they tend to stop engaging in new conditions, experiences, and environments. To put it differently, people’s personalities become more and more consistent just because they stop putting themselves into new contexts. Indeed, the psychologist and philosopher William James thought that an individual’s character basically became fully shaped and fixed by era 30, since then someone’s life often becomes highly predictable and routine.
From the time someone reaches their thirties, they stop having as many”first” experiences. In their youth, teens, and even twenties, there are a great deal of adventures: First kiss. First time driving. First job. First major failure. First time going to a different city.
But at a certain point, we”settle down.” We stop engaging in new roles and new conditions that bring out new and different sides of us. Since people’s lives become highly regular, both in their social roles and their surroundings, you start to see very predictable behaviours and attitudes.
This is one of the core reasons that character is seen as predictable and stable over time. It is not that your character itself becomes stable but instead your routine environments and societal roles lock you into habitual routines .
According to the Stanford psychologist Lee Ross,”We see consequences in everyday life due to the power of the circumstance.” Ross explains that ultimately, it is the situation rather than the individual that decides what we think of as character.
“People are predictable, that is true. But they are predictable because we view them in conditions where their behaviour is constrained by that circumstance and the roles they are occupying and the connections they have with us.”
Research has shown that as people age, they become increasingly less open to having new experiences. They prevent surrounding themselves with new kinds of people, engaging in new environments and roles, and taking on new challenges. They stop experiencing new emotions. When folks get stuck into patterns, they get old far too quickly.
The more emotionally rigid a man or woman is, the more they see themselves as the exact same person in every situation they’re in. This narrow approach elides the fact, which is that in various circumstances, not only if you are another person, you can not help being another person.
From a Western perspective, this might not make plenty of sense. Westerners tend to see the world from what’s known as an”atomistic” perspective, which presumes that something (or someone) could be understood regardless of circumstance.
This involves isolating and abstracting items from their own context and trying to describe them to get their”innate” traits. It’s why we see personality as fixed and unchanging, and it is also why we love our personality tests.
A more accurate and scientific standpoint is to see your personality relationally — according to your connection to the people and thoughts that surround you.