To what extent does someone’s personality depend on their surroundings?

I would say very much so, and for a number of different reasons.

I’m not sure that personality is as fixed as people like to claim it is. Normally people who say ‘it’s just the way I am and there’s nothing that can change that’ are actually saying ‘I’m not willing to let go of my privilege, so deal with it’.

As noted in conversation recently ‘deal with it’ generally means ‘you deal with it, because I’m not willing to’.

But this is probably me just wanting to talk about a prior shoulder chip, rather than engage with the question.

I’m not sure that personalities exist. At least not as monadic wholes. I don’t think I have ‘a personality’, so much as I have a series of states of being that I can present to the world. My mental state reflects back out into the world, and reacts to the people and things around me. I am less a personality and more a set of learned and occasionally selected responses to stimuli.

None of this is fixed, and our awareness, unless an illusion, allows us to make choices about what reactions we think of as normal. We sit in the centre of our self, and direct our self image outwards.

But too often is our controlled self overridden by taught impulses. Social restraints. Fear of ridicule. Implied normalities. Guilt.

Or maybe it isn’t. I don’t know. I don’t think it’s particularly possible to separate a ‘this is me’ from ‘this is what I have learnt’ from ‘this is what I think you want to hear’ from ‘this is what our peers think makes sense’ from ‘this is the way the world works’.

They all interlock, and then gnaw against each other, like gears made out of angry, self hating monsters.

So our location, our social network and our sense of place, all have a huge effect on how we behave.

The me on a sunny day surrounded by friends is very different from the me on a rainy day surrounded by people that loathe me.

And that’s assuming I’ve come into those situations with a similar mental state.

I don’t really think of personality as an entity. I think we’re made up of a long string of moments, different beings, constantly changing and being reborn. Learning at each instant how to live.

The thing we thing of as us is the story we sing to marry it all together. We tell this tale of acts and motivations, to try and ensure that we feel like a coherent channel through the history of the world. It isn’t necessarily the truest thing, but it’s our story, and it helps if we keep singing it.

But we’ve got to recognise it as such, because it gives us a particular kind of freedom. The freedom to change.

Don’t see yourself as a fixed point, see yourself as a story being told. Learn from the past and build into the future.

Because you can.

Illustration by Emma


About Alex Ava

Joiner of Dots. Player of Games. Unreliable Narrator. Dancing Fool.
This entry was posted in Illustrations by Emma, Questions by Alex P. Bookmark the permalink.

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