• Julie Raymond, LCPC

The power of personality: Challenging our perception of our personality “flaws”

A lot of times as a therapist, I often have clients coming in to sessions and usually broach the topic of their personality as something they need to change. Maybe they were told this by a family member, a friend, at work or even in school. These personality traits may be perfectionism, impulsivity, emotion sensitivity, obsessive compulsive and so forth.

Looking at certain personality traits as either being good or bad creates shame about who we are. For many clients, I invite them to an alternative approach to view their personality styles. Each personality trait or style has something wonderful and positive that it can be used for. For a lot of my clients I see, often times these traits are being used in a way that is harmful or unproductive for themselves and preventing them from living their meaningful lives.

Challenging oneself to look at their personality traits and in what ways their own personality style can actually be one of their greatest strengths. For example: impulsivity is often marked as something negative that needs to be controlled. But what if we looked at it as having healthy spontaneity? Or looked at clients finding healthy outlets for their need for impulsivity rather than trying to control this trait or get rid of.

Another common example might be perfectionism, otherwise known as being a conscientious person. We look at how the ability to pay attention to detail, being orderly, preference for routine, dependable, delay of gratification, and putting in hard work have probably helped this person in many ways with their career and relationships. I encourage clients to look at perfectionism as the pursuit of excellence and self improvement.

I invite clients to look at unhealthy ways they have been using their traits, sometimes as excuses of why they can’t change and others as sources of shame where they remain stuck. I encourage them to challenge themselves to find out how each one of their traits can be not only a strength but something positive that can be used to excel them in all aspects of their lives.

To be able to accept there are part of ourselves I.e our personality, that we cannot change can be difficult and maybe even overwhelming to some. Knowing that our personality is not changeable, yet how we choose to look at our personality and to channel its strengths for something amazing can be freeing. It is what can help individuals move from a place of shame and feeling stuck into a place of pride and change. I invite clients to look at “repurposing” these personality traits and find strengths and value from their traits that will allow them to move towards their meaningful life.

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