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August 9, 2021
So much of who we are as people is largely defined by those around us. The friends and family members that we share ourselves with are incredibly good at identifying and defining our habits and personalities. For instance, you may have never considered yourself as being an introvert if there wasn’t always someone in your life declaring that you’re shy, or announcing that you prefer to spend your time alone. Although you might not be uncomfortable with these unsolicited descriptions of your personality, what happens when you’re ready to be in the limelight, or when nothing seems more necessary than being in a loud and crowded room? Is it okay for introverts to become extroverted? Can people who love luxury and looking good spend their weekend binge-watching a favorite sitcom in sweats and still be alright?
Most people never recognize the extent to which their personalities have been defined by others. What’s even more surprising is the amount of pushback you’re likely to receive when you step outside of the bounds of what others expect. Even something as small as cutting your hair or changing its color can bring about accusations of “you’re not acting like yourself”.
However, the truth of the matter is that the only person who can live your life and decide what your personality and behaviors will be is you. Recognizing this is both empowering and liberating. You don’t have to conform to the expectations of others. You simply need to meet your own.
Much of the average person’s childhood is spent living life as their parents imagine it should be lived. It is only when children grow up, become independent, and set out into the world on their own that they truly have the opportunity to experience different world views, different cultures, different struggles, and diverse belief systems. Once you’ve reached the age of self-discovery, and the age of discovering the world around you, every time that you move out of your comfort zone, you’re able to learn something new. Best of all, each new discovery is an opportunity to become more empathetic and understanding, more tolerant, wiser, and more sure of yourself. With exploration and growth happening all of the time, no one can expect you to constantly remain the same – not even you.
Liking new things and being ready to take on new challenges doesn’t mean that you’re no longer your genuine self. Certain stages of life are defined by rapid and dramatic personality changes. Consider a docile, kind-mannered, twelve-year old who suddenly hits puberty only to become moody and contentious. Consider the perimenopausal woman who transitions from being bookish to taking surfing lessons or classes in stand-up paddle-boarding. At various stages of life, change is both exciting and important. Change is always a necessary part of aging, growing, and learning.
You have the right to define and redefine yourself as often as you feel the need. Remember that much of your perceived personality has come from the descriptions and expectations of others. It’s okay to regularly take everyone by surprise. Your willingness to move out of your comfort zone can expand your abilities, open the door to new social opportunities, and greatly enhance your quality of life.
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