Just in case there is any real writers out there willing to critique my paper. I already know I should have paraphrased more instead of using so many direct quotes.. But hey, I am still learning. :-)
Personality is qualities and beliefs that individuals possess that make up who those individuals are. Each individual is unique in how they respond to life and look at the world. No two individuals have the exact same personality, yet the way they develop and mature is somewhat the same. The maturing of personality is influenced by both the environment in which he/she grew up and also the genes given at birth. The unconscious part of an individual influences the direction that individual takes even though they may not be aware of it. An individual’s maturation is also influenced by his/her view of self and the view of self is largely influenced by other significant people in that individual’s life. Motivation is complex and individuals are motivated by different things. Besides being motivated to meet their basic needs, individuals are also motivated to become self-aware. During the maturation process, personality shifts and changes and individuals become more and more the people God created them to be.
Keywords: personality, development, environment, maturation, view of self, motivation
Individuals are born with a unique set of DNA and with their own special way of looking at the world and reacting to it. Personality is what makes individuals who they are. Some personalities are loud and rambunctious while others are quiet and methodical. Wong, Gardiner, Lang, and Coulon (2008) affirmed, “Personality is defined as an individual’s preferred or typical way of behaving, thinking, and feeling” (p.880). Personality theories differ in their specific definitions of personality, although all would concede that personality is a pattern of behaviors that is unique to each individual. This paper will explore what makes people who they are as individuals, how they arrive at that particular place, and why they are what they are.
Foundations of Personality
Nature versus Nurture
The nature versus nurture argument is about the influence of an individual’s attributes as opposed to experiences from the environment wherein that individual grew up. It appears that both play an important part in the shaping of an individual’s personality. Evidence more and more shows that the majority of personality traits and behaviors are not solely caused by environment or genes, but rather are influenced by both factors. Plomin, Shakeshaft, McMillan, and Trzaskowski (2013) stated, “. . . [B]y the 1960s and 1970s, the pendulum began to swing back towards a more balanced view that recognized the importance of nature as well as nurture” (p. 46).
Stella Chess was a child psychiatrist who studied infants and children and the disturbances they sometimes face. She set out to find whether the disturbance any given child endured is the result of the mothering (nurture) or whether it goes deeper than that and is influenced by nature. Would these children be the same regardless of the parenting they got? Do difficult children create the tension in parenting or does critical parenting create difficulties for the children? In other words, would the troubles of childhood and later life disappear if parenting was done properly? This does not always seem to be the case:
Chess found that parents of difficult children were no different on the whole from other parents, neither in their attitudes about having a child nor philosophy about raising them; although some of them did develop unfavorable attitudes after having lived with their difficult child for a time (Karen, 1998, pp. 276-277).
So, if a child shows a temper is it because he misses his mother who has returned to work, or is it because he is just more prone to a quick temper? If the answer is nurture, how should differences in temperament among siblings be accounted for? Likewise, if it is completely a nature issue, teaching and training would not have any kind of impact. Referring again to Chess, she “. . . saw temperament and environment as continually interacting and modifying each other” (Karen, 1998, p. 285).
The unconscious influences behaviors and experiences even though individuals are unaware of those influences. Individuals are usually aware of only a small portion of their thinking processes at any given time, but are still being influenced by those thoughts that are not in the conscious mind. Individuals must be open to exploring their inner selves and thus find themselves and begin to understand inner conflicts that affect how they live life. Rozuel (2012) was particularly concerned with how organizations encouraged or discouraged its members from inner exploration. “The more the members’ unconscious is silenced and repressed, the greater the tension within each individual and the more harmful the long-term consequences for the individual and her/his environment” (p.498).
The unconscious is a section of the individual’s mind where the personality structure resides. Past experiences and thoughts that influence who an individual becomes are often stored in the unconscious. Motives, specific approaches to life, morals, and ways of relating to others largely find expression for their individual characteristics in the unconscious. Rozuel (2012) stated, “. . . active imagination [the unconscious] contributes to reinforcing moral imagination for the individual to connect more authentically with others” (p. 496). She goes on to explain the importance of the ego and Jung’s ideas of how the ego within each individual is influenced by four functions: thinking, feeling, sensing, and intuiting. “The ego is the centre of our consciousness, that which leads our life. . . . The ego is at the forefront of our personality but is directly influenced by the unconscious” (Rozuel, 2012, p. 496).
View of Self
Self-concept is thought of as the entirety of an intricate and active system of learned beliefs, thoughts and opinions that each individual feels to be true about his or her reality. Baby (2012) succinctly stated, “The self-concept is composed of relatively permanent self-assessments, such as personality attributes, knowledge of one’s skills and abilities, one’s occupation and hobbies, and awareness of one’s physical attributes” (p. 254).
The self-concept is learned. It develops through relationships with others and involves being aware of one’s own being and functioning. “. . . [I]t gradually emerges in the early stages of life and is shaped and reshaped through repeated perceived experiences, particularly with significant others” (Baby, 2012, p. 254). An individual will generally introject values placed on them by significant others, especially parents. Self-esteem, than, begins at an early age and continues to solidify as the age of the individual increases. That is why support from family, friends, and teachers is so important in the early years especially.
Erikson felt that self-concept developed throughout life and not just in the early stages of childhood. It is a lifelong pursuit with adolescence and early adulthood being critical for the development of the ego and self-concept. “Adolescence is a critical development period whereby social, emotional, and physical factors tend to influence perception of the physical self” (Baby, 2012, p. 256). In his article concerning loneliness and life satisfaction in adolescents, Kapikiran (2013) agreed, “Self-esteem is an important characteristic for the process of adaption in adolescents and their psychological well-being” (p.619).
Progression of Personality
Heredity, environment, and individual situations are what shape the different personalities. Individuals are unique in their way of behaving, responding to emotions, perceiving things, and looking at the world. In a study that was done with adolescents moving from high school into college, Ludtke, Trautwein, and Husemann (2009) determined that there is quite a bit of stability in personality development on an individual level (p.434).
Robert McCrae and Paul Costa, Jr. developed the Five Factor Trait Theory. This is a list of five factors that are used to measure personality and its development across the life span. The five traits are extraversion, neuroticism, openness, agreeableness, conscientiousness. Most people score near the middle of these five traits, but there are some people who are more on the extreme of either high or low. These traits can be applied to any individual across the lifespan, not just adults or children. Van den Akker et al. (2013) agreed,
Results have indicated that the Big Five framework applies to children and adolescents in much the same way as it does to adults, making it possible to study the development of personality across the life span within a single framework (p. 1038).
While the five factor model was developed to study the typical personality, it was discovered that this model could also be used to understand children with challenging issues as well and thus find ways to help these individuals deal with their problems. Van den Akker et al. (2013) reiterated, “While the five-factor model was originally developed to describe normal personality, the potential utility of the dimensional approach for understanding problematic personality in adults as well as in children and adolescents is becoming apparent” (p. 1038).
Personality directly influences motivation as individuals with differing traits will behave and respond to circumstances in varying ways. Motivation is like the inspiration behind the actions of an individual. All individuals have certain needs common to humanity, and all individuals strive to have those needs met. Maslow believed that individuals work to meet lower level needs and then as those needs are met they strive to meet higher, psychological needs, but Sengupta (2011) dared to differ. This author believed individuals are striving for levels of being, where life begins to have meaning, instead of just meeting the basic human needs of food and safety. “. . . [T]he journey becomes of self awareness and self realization instead of gratifying the basic biological and physiological needs” (p.113).
Motivation is what drives individuals to meet their needs, enjoy life, and to do important things with their lives. Wong et al. (2008) clarified, “Motivational drivers refer to the factors that energise, direct and sustain behavior in the individual. While very closely linked to values, motivation is more specific to the factors that drive actual performance” (p. 881). Popular opinion states that motivational factors differ across generations, yet research supports the idea that different age cohorts go through very similar motivational hindrances at the same point in their life stage as the age cohorts before them (Wong, et al., 2008, p. 881).
According to Maslow’s theory, there is a sort of hierarchy of needs, where a stronger, more basic need must be satisfied before an individual can be motivated to move on and meet the next kind of need. Sengupta (2011) stated, “In Maslow’s theorization the appearance of a need usually rests on the prior satisfaction of another more prepotent need which is the strongest, in the sense that it has to be satisfied first” (p. 103). For Maslow, the ultimate motive was self-actualization, however, according to Sri Aurobindo, the ultimate motive of the individual was towards the divine or spiritual aspect of life. Both Maslow and Sri Aurobindo were deep thinkers, but Maslow considered the biological aspect of man when it came to motivation while Sri Aurobindo contemplated the divine essence.
Maslow defines growth as the continuous development of talents, capacities, creativity, wisdom and character, the various processes, which bring the person toward ultimate self-actualization. However, according to Sri Aurobindo man’s main drive is towards the transcendence of his humanity. Sri Aurobindo’s motivation is that of the soul towards the Divine (Sengupta, 2011, p. 104).
Personality development shifts and changes throughout the lifespan of an individual. Freud developed stages of physical maturity, especially throughout childhood, and he believed that all individuals attained maturity in the physical aspect. However, he only ever hinted at psychological maturity. The problem, unfortunately, is that complete psychological maturity may or may not happen because individuals have too many opportunities to develop pathologies. Specht, et al. (2014) stated, “Personality development is a lifelong phenomenon. It is influenced by a multitude of factors that directly, indirectly and in transaction with each other shape who we are and who we become” (p. 226). Individuals mature and grow in a different manner, in their own time and way. Specht, et al. (2014) affirmed,
At the heart of research on personality development is the observation that individuals differ systematically from each other on several characteristics. These personality characteristics describe individual differences in thoughts, feelings and behaviours that are relatively stable across situations and over time (p. 217).
Most researchers now agree that personality can be measured in five broad traits which include extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability, and openness to experience. In an article they wrote, Klimstra, Hale, Raaijmakers, Branje, and Meeus (2009) explored personality maturation among adolescents and possible gender differences in the five personality traits. “Adolescence has been shown to be a period where individuals . . . gain an increasingly more stable identity status. . . . It is likely that these changes toward maturation in biological and psychosocial domains are also reflected by change in personality traits” (p.898). In many studies done, there has been disagreement as to amount of change and stability in these traits among adolescence and also whether there is a difference among genders. Some studies concluded that girls mature earlier then boys, but other studies disagree. “Thus, there is little agreement on gender differences in both mean level and mean-level changes in Big Five traits” (Klimstra, et al., 2009, p. 900). However, in the current study, the authors found some evidence that generally girls matured at a younger age then boys, although both genders showed signs of change in the Big Five throughout adolescence. For instance, there was little gender differences in agreeableness by late adolescence, and in emotional stability the gender differences were not significant. Although in Conscientiousness, girls scored higher than boys (Klimstra, et al., 2009, pp. 903-906). Adolescence appears to be the time for an individual’s personality to become more settled and well-organized.
Clearly, God created people with all manner of different personalities. Not only did He create them differently, but He also used these people to do great and mighty things. There was Paul who was direct and resourceful, Peter who was outspoken, and Moses who was shy and thorough. God does not look at flaws or outward appearances, but rather in the heart of the individual. 1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV) stated, “. . . Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
In the body of Christ, different personalities with their differing gifts all have a place to serve. Romans 12:4-5 (NIV) alleged, “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” God carefully formed and shaped each individual in His image with unique tastes and ways of looking at the world. Some individuals are extraverted, outgoing, and enjoy adventure while others appreciate peace and quiet, and work well alone and out of the spotlight. Psalm 139:14 (NIV) affirmed, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
God created individuals unique and with the wonderful ability to better themselves, grow, and change. Some individuals are emotionally unstable while others are more open to new experiences. Yet, as Christians, each individual has the opportunity to change, grow more and more into the image of Christ, and become more who they were created to be. 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV) clearly assumed this, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
Personality is the sum total of a person - including his beliefs, attitudes, physical attributes, actions, and thoughts. God did an amazing job of creating a world full of individuals whose personalities are all unique to them. Pilarska, (2014) maintained that, “Forming a separate, coherent, unique, and stable identity is regarded as critical for further development, being a kind of ‘landmark in psychosocial maturity of the human being’” (p. 130). Yet, in spite of differences, God created individuals to work together and mature into a group of people who love and serve Him with all their hearts, souls, and minds. (Matthew 22:37, NIV) reiterated, “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’”
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