Michele Attias Life Coach

Lead with Character Not Personality

I was at a speakers event a while back and was shocked when the keynote speaker opened the conference with a very interesting question to the assembled audience; wide-eyed with anticipation.

Here’s what she asked;

“Can all the introverts in the audience please put your hands up.”

As I looked around the room, I was shocked to see a tide of arms lifted up as if claiming a title to be proud of. Not that there is anything wrong with introverts, extroverts or anyone having decided to live through this, but it baffled me.

I had spoken to some of those raised hands, barely half an hour earlier, and they had seemed nothing but friendly, funny, sociable and pretty interactive.

Isn’t it funny how some of us categorise ourselves into a neat little box then we live through it without ever questioning its validity?

At least gathering evidence to back up the case in hand.

The famous detective Sherlock Holmes gathered evidence of a crime that was brought before him, previous to arresting a suspect, he gathered copious amounts of it. This process would be based around analysing the accused and creating a personality profile which questioned if they were capable of the criminal activity at hand.

Sherlock would go through a personality profile and nothing was left to chance, so as to establish the truth.

We need to do the same.

An inner investigation is all that’s needed.

We need to tick off the evidence as a confirmation that the personality we claim to have is still really part of us.

Perhaps these traits appeared during a time in life when you were scared, anxious, or felt the need to be more withdrawn, extroverted, sensitive or intuitive. But now that is no longer relevant, yet you’re still living through it as if you’re stuck in that time.

It might no longer serve you.

Some of these labels have been stuck from so far back, that we’ve lost sight of how they started. In fact, we no longer question them, they just get locked in, we make decisions by them and end up with a whole life mapped in front of us that is frankly based on a variety of half-truths.

Have you ever asked questioned if your personality assessment is really correct?

If you haven’t, question it.

You need to amass enough data to justify your conclusion. If you call yourself an introvert, extrovert, sensor, feeler, doer, intuitive (and all the other multitude personas).

Are you that way in every single scenario?

Or are there some situations where you are outgoing and others where you withdraw somewhat? All which is completely normal, just don’t take your old constructs as law.

Like the barcodes given to items in the supermarket which categorise the price and section it belongs, often personality labels feel the same. We stick the barcode on and then place ourselves only on particular shelves.

Like the tin of peas wouldn’t dare to be seen in the confectionary section.

We never dare to peep out and try living life without this. It might make us feel safe, gives us certainty, and we can never stray too far away.

So what’s the difference between character and personality?

In my opinion, personality is how we’re labelled, such as funny, energetic, optimistic, confident, extrovert, introvert. It’s normally fluid and not fixed, other than in our own thinking, which picks one of these and then lives through it.

It is the outward manifestation of the individual self.

A character is built on a belief system, the driver that motivates our actions, often this is more ingrained and goes way deeper. It refers to a set of morals such as honesty, virtue and kindness.which make a person unique and different to others.

Personality is what we show outwardly, whilst our character is what we are both in public and private.

I find that a ‘fixed’ personality is the first thing that flies out the window in an emergency, a burning building or when someone is desperately sick.

I remember reading about a woman who felt hesitant about setting a Facebook page for her business as her shy persona wouldn’t lend itself to something as bold as this. Then when her son fell desperately sick a few months later, she immediately set up a Facebook page campaign and within no time managed to reap the funds he needed for urgent treatment.

So how do we break free from these constricting labels?

We stop defining ourselves through a particular label. We stop feeding it.

A while back I was working with a client who claimed he hated meeting new clients and networking as he called himself an ‘introvert’ and he felt very overwhelmed when faced with this.

“Let’s explore this further,” I said.

“When you approach an event or a new client, what thoughts are going through your mind?” I asked.

“I want to impress them. yet I don’t feel good enough, then I clam up and this stops me from making conversation.” He responded.

This is what he called introversion. Already a label he had stuck on and was living through, it was the perfect excuse for staying exactly where he was.

In my days working as a therapist, we would have possibly spent months analysing his childhood to establish the core of the issue, but I didn’t feel this would be helpful. He needed to get active and he also needed evidence that he was not stuck in this made up persona. I actually experienced him as a very interactive, friendly and engaged client in our sessions.

“What if you could quit impressing and just be yourself with clients?” I asked.

He took a big breath. He only knew one way of interacting, this was done by sticking out a business card and trying to talk about himself awkwardly. This got him nowhere.

I asked him how why he really wanted to conquer this, why it was so important to him. He responded, that this was getting in the way of any promotions and opportunities. He was desperate to progress within the company but felt this huge limitation was getting in the way.

We practised and role played how he would show up at these meetings, and more importantly we had fun in the process. This brought a lightness and an effortless that was all he needed to get him out of his insecure thinking and into creating possibilities, promotions and opportunities for himself.

As time went on, he began to attend meetings by engaging and taking an interest in clients when they attended. He even found himself socially engaged in the process and actually enjoying it, even when he felt somewhat shy and insecure. He wasn’t required to be a big shot or overconfident character, he was just required to be himself (imperfections and all) and take an interest in the clients.

Through this process, and over a few weeks, his introverted persona magically disappeared in a puff of smoke.

He never again mentioned this limitation again in any of our sessions. He just got on with doing what he needed to do to advance in his company. He kind of forgot about the personality he had constructed, and began to live through his potential. He absolutely thrived, becoming a victim of his own success, as opportunities came to him globally through his methodology of being interactive, socially engaged and getting out of his own way.

If you construct a personality, you can also deconstruct it. All it takes is knowing that it no longer serves and in fact might be holding you back in creating what you want. Letting go of a part of us that no longer serves takes tremendous courage, it’s like saying goodbye to a good friend who kept us safe but no longer fits into our life. Meanwhile, we can continue to optimise and embrace the aspects of our character that we can lead with successfully.

Self Development