Written by: Jenny Smith
Sometimes it can be easy to get stuck seeing ourselves or other people in set ways. This is particularly true with regard to ‘negative’ or challenging personality traits. Tools to help understand ourselves like astrology or psychological tests such as Myers Briggs, can help us to realise that there are different ways of viewing the same thing and that we have some choice as to how we interpret qualities.
Whilst it is important to take on board feedback to a certain degree and take responsibility for extreme behaviour that is not helpful to anyone, there is also a place for being creative with how we describe situations and people so that we focus on the good rather than the bad.
Is personality fixed?
There is still debate as to how fixed personality is, but if you are of the school that sees it as quite static in people, being creative with how you interpret traits can be a very useful approach. Take the quality of stubbornness for example. Generally this gets a bad press. If we simply flip it over we can re-define it as constancy, consistency and dependability. In a similar vein the trait of being controlling can also be viewed as containing, holding, persevering and reliable. It really can be a question of how you view what you experience in yourself and others.
Culturally we lean towards negativity in our assessment of ourselves and those around us which means that many of us will have been told that we are controlling, stubborn, shy or domineering. Most of the time this sort of feedback happens when our behaviour doesn’t suit a person who is around us, and similarly if it is us dishing out the labels, it often says more about us than the other. If you are someone who has been told that you are a certain way or who has a habit of telling certain other people that they are x,y or z it may be worth taking some time to reflect on how else you can view the person?
Negatives to positives
It can be a real gift to search a bit deeper rather than go with knee jerk reactions. If you want to have a go, just brainstorm onto paper all the things that come to mind that you’ve been told you are or that you repeatedly tell others that they are. If you are reflecting on your own labels see if you can identify which ones you think have some truth in them, eg: Are you really bossy? Are you really controlling? If you can’t identify with some of them at all then put those aside and focus on the ones that resonate with you. Once you’ve refined your list take some time to ponder how you can re-frame the labels that you’ve taken on.
Think about what it takes to be ‘bossy’ . You might come up with qualities like courageous, self-assured, leadership, clarity. See how those alternatives sit with you especially for the labels that you feel hard done by or misunderstood by. Then try experimenting with describing yourself in these new ways, first just to yourself and then to others, play with it rather than take it too seriously and see what affect you can have on others when you re-frame what they’ve come to see as negative aspects of themselves into their lighter and more positive counterparts.