The term personality can simply be defined as a person's unique image; what makes them different from other people in terms of attitudes, abilities, capacity, interests, behavioral modes, and individual structures, and determines how they interact with the environment. It is crucial for people to identify and understand their own personalities, because only then will they be able to uncover those things that are important to them and which require their time, effort, and commitment. Moreover, knowing our personalities opens up opportunities for us to discover our weaknesses and, hence, improve how we relate and interact with others in a diverse environment. It is for these reasons that I took the initiative to undertake the Big Five Personality Test, which I must say was a worthy cause and helped me understand my personality for my own good, but more importantly, for the good of the people around me.
The test results depict me as a seemingly closed-minded, conscientious, extraverted, agreeable, and relaxed person. I find issue with the first trait (closed-mindedness) -- a dismal score of 16% in this trait portrays me as a conventional, down-to-earth, and uncreative person, which to me is outrageous. A closed-minded person would never go out of their way to pick an entirely new hobby, something totally different from the conventional, as I did when I replaced my long-time passion - oil-panting, with photography on joining college once it became apparent that the former was no longer viable under the new circumstances. Besides, I have worked in different departments, including sales, finance, and human resources over the last couple of years and my performance has been way above average, despite the fact that my background and academic qualifications are more inclined towards customer-service. Such are not the prospects of a closed-minded person. If I were a closed-minded person, I would not have managed to go round the challenges presented by these positions, especially because they fall outside the scope of my skills. It is through open-mindedness that I was able to acquire new skills and face new challenges.
On a positive note, I substantially agree with the 86% score in extraversion. Most of my friends describe me as a talkative and very sociable person. Perhaps two real-life examples could better illustrate this. First, I often ask so many questions, that my siblings would do anything to keep me away whenever their friends visit. At the same time, my talkative nature has gotten me selected as the class spokesperson in school forums numerous times - in high school, and more recently, in college.
Having established the importance of understanding one's own personality, it would be prudent to understand how an individual's personality comes about. In other words, what elements shape an individual's personality traits?
An individual's personality is shaped by a range of potential factors which come from either the environment or heredity. These factors shape personality development by determining the types of expectations, beliefs, and values that an individual would acquire, especially during childhood. The people in an individual's life constitute one of the most crucial personality-shaping elements. First, they contribute genetically to an individual's personality traits, and then they determine how the individual responds to the same right from childhood through to adulthood. Genetics has a lot to do with an individual's personality traits but the people around the concerned individual have an even greater influence. For instance, a person could inherit poor motor skills from their parents, making them unable to throw a ball straight; just like another may be a perennial poor performer in school. Such an individual could, as a result of their incapability, be labeled as a failure or an inadequate person by friends, relatives, and teachers. Owing to such perceptions, the individual would develop feelings of inferiority, which often results in withdrawal; providing ample breeding grounds for an introverted and closed-minded personality. In the same regard, a child who regularly gets bad grades in school, but still receives appreciation, acknowledgement, and support from their teachers and family members is likely to be more extroverted, sociable, and supportive of others - in spite of their incapacity. In the same way, a child with alcoholic/delinquent parents, or who has perhaps witnessed tragic scenes such as fatal road accidents and terrorist attacks is likely to have somewhat permanent mental scars that make them less trusting, and fearful. What these elements do is create some form of self-fulfilling prophecy that makes an individual pessimistic about their future and their capabilities. Self-esteem and inferiority complex issues are also likely to come about, inhibiting the individual's ability to positively interact with other people within their social circle.
As mentioned earlier on, I am a highly sociable person. I can largely attribute this to the child-rearing practices I was exposed to. I grew up in a family where children were regarded as equals to their parents, and were, therefore, significantly included in the family's decision-making processes; they had a say in, amongst other things, what the family would have for dinner, where to go on a family day out, and how an errant sibling would be dealt with. This environment made me learn to treat the people I interact with as equals -- autonomous parties entitled to their own views and opinions, regardless of age, ability, or appearance.
Moreover, my siblings and I were socialized on, among other things, what our gender roles would be in late childhood as well as in adulthood. As a young girl, for instance, I was exposed to minimal and controlled domestic tasks, such as observed babysitting. This exposure built my socialization skills and opened up opportunities for me to learn the art of compromising whenever I could for the benefit of someone else. With this, I have been able to maintain my social interactions through being appreciative of the views and opinions of others, and suppressing my own wishes, especially if they are in conflict with the needs of someone in need of assistance, or appear to put my relationship with the other party in jeopardy.
It is evident that an individual's personality depends significantly on the people in their lives, as well as on the situation(s)/conditions to which they have been exposed. A child is likely to develop an introverted personality, for instance, if they are made to feel inferior by their family members and teachers, owing to a particular incapability. However, the people around an individual, as well as their own social environment, change as they progress in life. Towards this end, teachers and parents may not be as significant influencers of personality in early adulthood, as they may have been in childhood and adolescence. When such influencers change, personality traits are also deemed to change. In this regard, we can expect some aspects of one's personality to change as they progress in life, as others remain stable throughout their life.
As suggested earlier on, individuals pass through different life stages, each of which shapes their personality differently. Contemporary researchers have, however, argued that personality traits simply follow an individual through their life course. Costa and Robert McCrae's Baltimore Study is perhaps the most definitive study involving personality traits. The researchers observed the personalities of sampled individuals aged between 19 and 80, over a period of twelve years, specifically measuring their conscientiousness, agreeableness, openness to experience, extroversion, and neuroticism levels -- in an attempt to determine whether these remained stable or changed during the course of an individual's life (Santrock, 2010). They concluded that the aforementioned personality traits remained stable in late adulthood; but were less stable during the period of early adulthood (18 to 30) (Santrock, 2010). Another analysis, which was also based on the Big Five Personality Traits, and included 81 longitudinal studies ranging from age 10 to 101 supported Costa and McCrae's findings, concluding that openness to experience; conscientiousness and agreeableness; and neuroticism decreased through early adulthood and remained relatively stable in late adulthood, whereas social vitality (sociability and talkativeness) increased as one progressed to adulthood (Santrock, 2010).
I mentioned earlier on that I do not fully agree with the test results in the openness to experience/closed-mindedness trait. Nonetheless, knowing myself, I recognize the fact that even if the results were to change, the scores would still not be as high as they are in the other four traits. This is one aspect of my personality that I would love to change over the next decade or so. The world is becoming increasingly competitive; people are coming up with new inventions by the day, which is to mean that the marketplace has got no place for closed-mindedness. In order to, at least, survive in a dynamic world, one has to be open-minded and constantly on the look-out for new ideas, as well as knowledge and opportunities that could improve some aspect of humanity. I reckon that closed-mindedness is an inhibitor to innovation; yet innovation is fast becoming the only way to maintain an edge over competitors and remain afloat in…