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Think You Can’t Change Your Personality? Research Says Otherwise
Personality Traits

Think You Can’t Change Your Personality? Research Says Otherwise

It’s common knowledge: You can’t really teach an old dog new tricks. At least...that’s what most people think.


Sure, a lot of people understand the idea of working towards becoming more confident, calm, or productive. But what about personality traits? Those deeply-rooted psychological characteristics we were born with?

Can an introvert become an extrovert? Can someone with a more distant and avoidant relationship style become more naturally caring and romantic?

It turns out, the answer is yes.

There is nothing permanent except change.

– Heraclitus

In 2017, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign did a meta-analysis of over two hundred studies to uncover the effects of various psychotherapy and pharmaceutical treatments on personality traits.

What they found was nothing short of surprising.

Personality traits did noticeably change within as little as two weeks of therapy. And we’re not talking short-term or temporary change, we’re talking about largely positive and long-term effects.

Here's what Brent Roberts, lead author of the meta-analysis had to say:

“There are some people in my field who don’t believe in personality, and some who don’t believe personality changes...”
“I’m saying that, not only do personality traits exist, you can change them. It kind of screws with everyone’s worldview.”

How attachment style plays into it

In another study published in theJournal of Personality and Social Psychology, people were able to change their attachment style and improve how they feel about their relationships.

Attachment theory states that a caregiver’s ability (mother, father, or other) to respond to a child’s needs dictates their attachment type later on in life.

If the caregivers respond properly to a child’s needs, that child develops a secure attachment style which makes it easier to trust others in a relationship later on in life. If not, they develop insecurity and have trouble trusting others later in adulthood.

The study, which included seventy couples, involved participants taking a survey about their relationships. Next, half of the couples participated in activities designed to improve intimacy while the control group pursued less intimate activities.

Combined with a one-month follow-up, the study results showed that participants with more insecure attachment styles were able to improve the quality of their interactions with their partners.

Change the way you are

The implications of this research are wide and far-reaching. If nothing is out of reach -- that is, if you can even change deep-seated aspects of your personality -- then you can truly become whoever you’d like.

If you tend to have trouble in relationships and find it hard to trust others, the right activities can reverse this once seen as rigid aspect of your character.

And if you’d rather be more outgoing and socialize more, but find yourself suffering from social anxiety, you can actually become more extroverted through practice.

The possible applications for this are huge, but the point is this:

You can change who you are.

Who you are isn’t set in stone, so if there’s some aspect of your personality that you’d like to improve or something that you feel is holding you back, with enough practice and the right activities, you can change that aspect of your personality for the better -- and for good.

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