What made you who you are today? It’s a combination of genetics and upbringing right? (Anyone who said ‘star sign’ can leave right now…) And presumably that upbringing was mostly to do with the way your parents and teachers taught you to behave. And possibly a few key life events that helped you to form your opinions and personality…
Well yes, that’s all true, but what you might be surprised about is just how many different things went into forming your personality, and just how sensitive your personality was to change when you were still developing. Read on to be amazed by some of the things that influenced your personality and made you into the person you are now.
Birth Order: Countless studies have demonstrated that birth order can impact on your personality. First born children are more likely to be bossy and responsible, while last-born children are more likely to be impulsive. One study has even shown that our choice of partner can be affected by birth order – and that we’re more likely to date people born in the same ‘position’ as us.
Age: Your age can affect your personality too in ways you might not expect. While the larger overarching aspects of our personality are likely to remain relatively stable throughout our lifetime, other traits tend to change in a largely predictable fashion as we age. Our emotional stability and sense of responsibility tend to be at an all-time high when we are in our 40s-60s, while our eagerness for novel experiences tends to drop as we get older.
Life Events: A life event such as the loss of a loved one or even a change in career can often have profound impacts on our psychology and even result in our personalities changing. Going through a serious trauma for instance can often make people more adverse to risks and more anxious, and can even result in personality disorders and other psychological conditions. OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) for instance is common following the loss of a loved one.
Date of Birth: Earlier I made a little dig at horoscopes (apologies for anyone offended), but actually there is some scientific evidence for our date of birth affecting our eventual adult personality. This has nothing to do with ruling planets however – instead it’s a result of social factors such as your age going into school. Children born in September for instance are statistically more likely to be high-achievers as they will go through school being more developed and mature than their classmates. This will give them the cognitive and physical advantage for many activities, in result giving them a boost in self-esteem and a good head start.
Likewise date of birth can affect many other experiences we have throughout our lives – such as the time we learn to drive as compared with our peers, and even the activities we enjoy on our birthdays.
Intelligence: Intelligence is not considered a personality trait, but is linked closely with personality. Generally highly intelligent individuals are considered more likely to adjust well to their environments and to excel academically while being less likely to get mixed up in the wrong crowds.
On the other hand though, high IQs can lead to some less desirable traits. Those with high IQs for instance are more likely to experience certain types of depression (such as ‘existential depression’) and are more likely to be high in impulsivity and risk-taking behaviour. Those with particularly high IQs might also feel ‘odd’ compared to their peers and lonely when growing up.
Nervous System: We all know that biology plays a part in our personality development, but that doesn’t just refer to brain chemistry and composition. At the same time, our nervous system and our hormones can also play a role in defining who we are and things such as your metabolism and heart-rate can directly make us more anxious or more calm among other things.
Diet: Among the things that cause us to behave the way we do are of course our hormones. If you produce a lot of testosterone then you are more likely to be an angry and determined character, while you’ll probably be a lot more happy-go-lucky if you produce a lot of dopamine and serotonin (happiness hormones). In turn these hormones are caused by a number of things, but one of the
Appearance: It should come as no surprise that appearance can shape personality. The old theory that we’re more likely to rely on our looks if we’re very attractive at the expense of developing other traits is one that does hold water in the research – and of course lots of positive attention is going to help with your overall confidence.
Name: Even your name can change your personality as you grow up – so perhaps a rose by any other name would not smell so sweet? This is due to a number of different factors, but principally it alters the way that others see us and the way that we see ourselves even. Names have many connotations, based on the media, on history and even on the sounds of the letters. Some theorists believe that all of us have a type of ‘synaesthesia’ that causes us to associate certain sounds with particular colours, feelings and shapes and that this could have provided the basis for language development. Someone with a ‘harsh’ sounding name for instance might be perceived as a harsher and sterner character, and by being treated as such they might grow to become that person. If only Hitler had been called ‘Cuddles’… Parents, take note!