People describe each other by describing their traits: friendly, nice, arrogant, easy-going, etc. Traits are a collection of behaviors: if someone is charismatic, it means that they show behaviors that others think are charismatic. If someone is shy, it means they don’t go out of their way to connect with others.
Any personality trait you wish to have can be broken down in terms of repeatable actions. Even something that seems abstract, like confidence, can be defined in terms of actions. For example, a confident guy is someone who approaches women whenever he is attracted to them.
If you think of personality as a collection of behaviors, then think of the social behavior someone does as their method for avoiding emotional discomfort. The shy person avoids social contact because social situations cause them anxiety. The arrogant douchebag is aggressive because being passive would cause him discomfort.
Behaviors are reflexes that prevent us from feeling bad emotionally, which is why we repeat them over and over. They help us avoid pain.
“I’m not the kind of guy who approaches women I don’t know.” Why’s that? There’s nothing in your psychology that dictates this. It’s actually one, something that occurred as a result of avoiding these behaviors in the past, and two, an excuse.
Saying things like “I’m not social” or “I’m a pessimistic person” creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. These excuses hold you back from success, but at the same time, they help you avoid emotional discomfort, which is why you continue to use them.
So if it’s possible to change my personality, how do I do it?
Contrary to what many people believe, any time you’re changing something about yourself, the behaviors come first, then the feelings. In order to BE confident, you have to DO the things that confident people do. Saying “fake it till you make it” is great advice, but is missing a big idea- that when you’re doing these new actions, you aren’t actually faking anything! Fake it till you make it really just means take an action repeatedly until it becomes a habit.
This means that changing personality is possible, but involves experiencing emotional discomfort in the process. When you’re working to improve your life, remember that your personality is built from what you do in every moment. In each moment there is an optimal way to behave, and until you’re a social genius, doing what’s optimal WILL make you feel discomfort.
Improving your personality means learning to take the optimal actions in each moment regardless of your mental chatter, as I discussed in a previous post. Use those strategies to deal with the discomfort that will come with changing your personality.
In every moment of your life you have a limitless amount of actions you can choose from. Each of these small moments adds up to the big picture idea of your personality. Sometimes the things you feel like are personal flaws are really just a lack of effort, and are completely in your power to change.