Are our personalities set in stone, or can we work on – even improve – them?


Ask yourself what your ideal personality will be and, with self-awareness and repetitive practice, traits will follow

At some point most of us have been assigned a neat label for our personality, as if it were a brand of clothing. It could have occurred during a job interview, for an online dating profile, or in a social-media quiz that matches your traits with a character from Game of Thrones. Or perhaps you’ve endured a conversation with friends in which everyone is declared an “introvert” or “extrovert”, the two tribes into which the entire world’s population can seemingly be divided. ​The dogma of personality classifications, says psychologist and author Dr Benjamin Hardy, is that they reveal “your true core authentic self – and that [once you have] discovered it, you can finally live your true life.” They are supposed to be empowering and are presented as definitive. They work on the assumption that personality is a rigid thing, cast in plaster.

Speaking over Zoom from his home in Florida, Hardy says all this is “bogus”. In his recent book Personality Isn’t Permanent, he argues personality isn’t fixed at all. Some shifts occur naturally as we go about our lives – but we can also consciously alter our traits should we so desire. He speaks about personality – “your consistent attitudes and behaviours, your way of showing up in situations” – as a collection of learnable skills, like riding a bike.

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