If asked to describe your personality would you be able to? How would others describe your personality? What is the meaning of personality? Funder (2015) defines personality as an “individual’s specific patterns of thought, emotion, and behavior, along with the psychological mechanisms; obvious, visible or hidden and behind those patterns” (p.5).
Because this aspect of psychology is so interesting, researchers and psychologists have developed various personality theories. Sigmund Freud’s theory is one of the most well- known and he was influential to other psychologists in the development of other personality theories.
Many followers of Freud ended up dissenting from his theories as their own views and approaches to psychology changed. One such Neo Freudian was Alfred Adler. Adler’s view is as children we all feel more insecure compared to others, and having the ability to overcome these feelings can affect how we behave as adults. (Funder, 2015, p.396). Adler referred to this as “striving for perfection or superiority” (Watts & Ergüner-Tekinalp 2017, p.
330). This is a person’s answer to the overall feelings of insignificance and powerlessness, and the beliefs that one is inferior. Changing from this perceived negative position to striving for perfection or superiority occurs naturally within us. (Watts & Ergüner-Tekinalp 2017, p.330).
According to Adler, seeking perfection means that one is reaching toward greater ability, both for oneself and for society. Adler claims this is useful both for self and for others in building self-esteem and self-worth (Watts & Ergüner-Tekinalp 2017, p.331).
The concepts of this theory are relatable to me in that I believe I am always striving for perfection. It’s easy for me to tell another person, “no one is perfect”, yet I put pressure on myself in everything I do, thinking it’s never good enough. For example, I completed five marathons and although praised by friends and family, to me, because I never finished in under four hours, it was never good enough. I am also the Treatment Manager at a community corrections center and supervise six staff. My staff tells me I’m a great boss, but I’ll lose sleep over if I’m doing a good enough job. Trying to go to school and work full time has been a struggle. I try to tell myself I don’t “have to” always get an A, but if I don’t, I get mad at myself. As far as striving for the “common good of humanity”, I work with criminal offenders with addiction. I always question whether I am doing enough. It is no wonder I’m always exhausted!
I will never be and can never be perfect, and at this point in my life, I need to accept I make mistakes, some-times big ones, but I can only learn and grow from these experiences. I know my characteris one of integrity and honesty. Those closest to me know my personality as having these traits as well. They continually tell me to stop beating myself up.
So, why am I this way? As Adler’s theory claims, I do believe my childhood plays a role. I am the youngest of three girls. One sister is so incredibly smart and so nice, and my other sister is very sociable and popular. Even as an “older” adult I do not think I know where I fit in and possibly struggle to be recognized for doing well. I am probably striving for perfection because of my experiences as a child.
The humanistic theory emphasizes” free will, self-awareness and the meaning of life”. (Funder, 2015, p.424).Carl Rogers was a humanistic psychologist who believed that every person could achieve their goals, wishes, and needs in life. If this occurred, it is referred to as “self- actualization” (Ford, 1991, p. 102-103) or being and believing in our true self and accepting of that self. Rogers’ stresses our childhood experiences will determine if we can obtain self-actualization or not. I believe in free will, self-awareness and having a meaning and purpose in life. I think our child-hood experiences help shape who we are, but as adults, we can choose to make changes in our life or choose to remain stagnant.
Both of my parents completed high school. My father worked for the federal government and my mother worked part-time (or “mothers hours”). My experiences weren’t always happy or easy. I believe this affected not only how I feel about myself, but also affected the goals I’ve set and my views on the meaning and purpose for my life. Our experiences help shape us, but we can use them to either do nothing or make changes, accept who we are and pursue the goals, wishes and needs we desire. What I don’t agree with is Rogers’ belief a person feels a sense of worth only if other people see you as “smart, successful, attractive, or good” (Funder, 2015, p.437). A persons’ sense of worth should come from with-in and not be reflective on intelligence, success, or appearance. While I may not possess the highest self-esteem, I do know I am a good person and I’ve accomplished many good things. I have empathy and love for others and I strive to be a good person.
We all have a unique personality. With-in our personality our certain traits. These traits help make each of us different from one another. These traits are known as the “Big Five” (Funder, 2015 p.201). The five traits are Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism and Openness (CANOE or OCEAN are acronyms to help remember each trait). These traits can be both concise and complex. Concise in that the Big Five can summarize or gauge outcomes such as” career success, social status, health and cognitive ability” (Funder, 2015, p.202).
The Big Five-trait theory’s approach and concept is that we all encompass aspects of the five traits listed above. Underlying these traits are behaviors or characteristics we exhibit. As it applies to my personality, I scored very high (90 and 93% respectively) in Open-Mindedness and Conscientiousness. I believe it is accurate as according to the test, high scorers tend to be original, creative, curious, complex (Open-Mindedness) and well organized, reliable, careful and self-disciplined (Conscientiousness). Others (friends, family, employers, peers, and acquaintances) have always described me in these terms. I often am teased about how self-disciplined I am.
Based on my score of 56 for extraversion, the explanation was I am “neither introverted nor extroverted” compared to 56% of people less extraverted than I am. (Potter, J. 2000-2017 measurement instrument).
While I may possess some of these five traits, and the test reaffirms these traits, I am also so much more the test doesn’t take into account. In addition, I believe our personality can change or vary based on age and situation. I think the test is a useful tool, but should be used as a guide.
Early theorists such as Freud, Allport, Cattell, and others have researched questions as to what personality is. Some of their theories were considered too “out there” for its time and others never fully researched. Cattell’s idea of personality was never fully explained, and “Freud’s theory composed of the id, ego, and superego, was never well received”. (Meyer, 2015, p.12)
Thus, the importance of using multiple theoretical approaches to understand personality is the obvious fact that everyone has a unique and complex personality. As the study of personality grows, new theories will evolve and should be taken into account, along with aspects of the older theories. One theory doesn’t fit all. To use only one theoretical approach may not be enough to understand a person’s personality. One approach may not take into account biology, genetics, environment, culture, gender or age. By using multiple approaches, the hope would be all aspects of why and who we are covered.