How Your Personality Affects Your Wellbeing
Guest Post by Becky Gorman
Have you wondered if your personality affects your sense of wellbeing?
Our minds are powerful. Thoughts can enhance, detract, or distract us from what we most want.
I am passionate about working at the intersection of personality and wellbeing. I’ve seen firsthand just how powerfully our tenacious patterns of thought can help or impede our ability to thrive and heal.
Both as a Physician Assistant, and a Resilience and Leadership Coach, I’ve witnessed a wide spectrum of how people meet life, illness, wellness, distress, success, and dis-ease. I worked in the emergency room repairing traumatic facial and hand injuries, burns, and mangled extremities—situations where people were immediately plunged into handling great adversity. Likewise, family members were personally challenged as someone they loved was undergoing extreme difficulty over which they had no control. My job was to be there for all of them.
I’ve also seen tamer versions of wellbeing challenges—the day-to-day ups and downs: a difficult parenting situation, conflict with a colleague, a relentlessly, high stress and exhausting work load with no end in sight, early mornings and late nights, a personal relationship with mounting distance and loss of closeness, and the resulting increased weight gain, poor sleep, and dissatisfaction with life.
Gradually, these situations insidiously gnaw away at our wellbeing. We adapt—or so we think—often making it harder to get on top of it. To make matters worse, we assume we should “just be able to handle it.” Everyone else seems to be!
I’m intrigued by how some people consistently meet these challenges and persevere no matter how dire or relentless the situation…while others suffer, with even the subtle nuances, more quickly and intensely. And, of course, anything in between.
We’re changeable. Strong. Vulnerable, in places. Some experiences quickly target our vulnerability while other circumstances don’t bother us at all, and we move on.
What makes the difference?
Research shows that personality traits can affect our ability to experience wellbeing—our happiness and satisfaction in life. How we view ourselves, and even how we frame the unexpected—such as “difficult,” “part of life,” “this too shall pass,” or “too much to handle”—impacts how we move through and out the other side of a difficulty.
Our personalities and mindset show up in our bodies, as well as our emotions and our actions.
I had a patient who struggled miserably with irritable bowel disease and it was greatly affected his day-to-day life. As we talked, I heard how prevalent perfectionism was throughout his life as he described how upset and “irritable” he became when things didn’t go according to his preferences. He found it difficult to adapt to interferences with his routines. “After all, there were right ways to do things!” he would say.
Or the woman with migraines who shared the high level of stress she was experiencing at work, but she held back saying anything because she didn’t want to create any conflicts or difficulties—or worse yet, her greatest fear of losing her job if she complained.
Or the burn patient who knew she would make it through this horrendous and long healing process, return to the farm work she dearly loved and had done her entire life, and trusted she would find new ways to live with her resulting limitations and pain.
Our personalities clearly impact our beliefs, feelings, viewpoints, choices, and ultimately our overall wellbeing. Certain personality traits increase our ability to meet the difficulties that come our way. Other characteristics send us on a trail of greater pain and suffering.
So...is this a “have/have not” situation? Are some people born lucky, or did I miss out on the “resilient personality gene”?
Can I acquire these traits, or change my personality, to enjoy greater wellbeing more of the time, in more situations? Can I change my personality and still be myself?
Good news. Yes—we always have control over our choices and how we meet life’s challenges. We can definitely make changes to increase our happiness levels—increase those traits that help us feel good, practice new attitudes known to increase wellbeing, and redirect ourselves from those that don’t.
Scott Barry Kaufman’s research shows that we can make changes in personality that can help us reflect our values more clearly and lead to much greater contentment. I see clients distressed, feeling they’re not living true to their deepest values. Not only are they upset, but they're also unclear about where to start. As they explore their dilemma from new viewpoints, shifts in mindset and self-awareness emerge. What follows is the freedom, calmness, and self-confidence that comes with realigning with themselves. It is inspiring.
It begins with the desire to change.
How can I change my personality?
Kaufman suggests “a balance between authenticity and personal growth is important to wellbeing.” Incremental changes rather than drastic swings are more beneficial to increase our levels of happiness in a lasting way.
Simple steps for change might include:
Decide. Choose the change and commit to it. To enhance wellbeing, cultivate personality traits you like, amp up your intention to purposefully use them, and add new ones you desire.
Self-awareness. Practice self-awareness to become more self-assured, well-adjusted, and self-content. By knowing how we think, feel, and act—we can begin to cultivate the personality traits that bring greater wellbeing, and allow those traits that don’t feel good to evaporate away.
Make a plan. Stay the course. It takes patience to make these types of changes, which are always gradual. No lasting change is fast. Over time, though we can all make the changes we truly want to make.
For a deeper dive into how your personality affects your wellbeing, join me for BOOST this Jan. 13 and 14. As an expert Enneagram facilitator, you’ll get direct training from me to help you learn your Enneagram type and its implications for your wellbeing. You’ll become more self-aware regarding the unique qualities of your personality and how they influence your wellbeing.
I’ll be joined by two colleagues who connect these insights to your values and a wellbeing vision, while helping you achieve greater mind/body/heart alignment. You’ll walk away with greater self-awareness and ease to support your wellbeing.
All my best,
Becky Gorman, PA, Leadership and Resilience Coach
To learn more about the intersection of wellbeing and personality, check out these resources.