Lately I have been grappling with the process of shaping myself. I know the person I want to be. She is patient, kind, interested, generous, strong, moral, confident, and caring. There is enough room in her to admit that she can be wrong, but she is not plagued by self-doubt. She makes time for the things she values, and is engaged in the world around her. How do I become this person? Thus far the answer has been: work and lots of trial and error.
Trained in sociology and gender studies, and acutely aware of the impact of structure from an early age, I have difficulty wrapping my mind around so many elements of psychology. I went from believing that there are no personality types to passive acceptance, and now I have opened myself to the possibility that personality types might be real and strong. However, I wonder: are they shaped by structure? Sowed by genetics? Probably more realistically, more intersectionally, personality type is some highly individualized combination of both, and some factors I don’t even know exist.
For instance, my parents tell me that I have always been strong-willed. I have no reason to doubt what they say, and if I was somehow born or shaped very early on with this trait, it would go far in explaining my passion for discipline and the loud rebelliousness that seems to move my feet forward when I feel too tired to stand. But I also know the power of structure. I have seen in others and felt in myself the way that socially cultivated insecurity can seem to turn a person selfish. Convinced of our near worthlessness, we greedily and guiltily ask others to tell us, please, one good thing about ourselves. And it feels so good, so healing, that we ask again and again, hoping that their work, their energy will lift us out of who we are and place us on a higher, more attractive plane that we hope houses our authentic selves. There is only so much good those around us can do, though. In nearly every instance of deep insecurity, we need to choose. We need to act. Hearing a complimentary truth doesn’t do anything if we can’t accept and incorporate it into our beings. Which brings me back to personality types and the process of becoming.
I am struggling with how much I do for others and how much I do for myself while attempting to clarify the overlap. A patient, kind, generous, moral, and caring person would put others ahead of herself. But would she put them so far ahead of herself that she would consistently do things she did not want to do on the chance that the benefit to the other person might outweigh the emotional morass she knows she is wading into? Would that seeming selflessness just mask duplicity, which could easily be so hurtful despite all good intent?
I think I know the answer, but I’ve yet to fully arrive at it. I think that even though a patient, kind, generous, moral, and caring person would be inclined to put others ahead of herself, I suspect that that type of person would also urge patience, kindness, generosity, and care of the self.
Even though I am excited to see how this process of who I become shapes up, isn’t it always a little sad when you realize you can’t have/be it all?