I’ve changed myself on purpose.
Who is the real me?
There’s an underlying ambition there, otherwise there would be no incentive to try to change anything. The base (I won’t say “real”) me is tightly wound, selfish, and lazy about many things. Also I don’t *like* stress. It’s my cultural that upbringing makes me want to be a better, more selfless, more hardworking person.
I’ve worked very hard at becoming “Nice,” though you may not see this aspect of my personality (or #2′s) on the blog! I try to be nice both in my external interactions with others and internally. Being nice externally means being polite and respectful. #2 taught me how to use “I” statements rather than “You” statements when we were roommates and they really do work. Being outwardly nice (but still firm, and apologetic when no, sorry, I can’t become a doormat, it wouldn’t be fair to my other commitments) helps smooth many things over for me. When people think of me favorably they’re often willing to help me out when I need it.
More difficult is working on being nicer internally. And my reasons for being a nicer person internally are also completely selfish. I don’t like stress. So what I do is I assume the best of people because it’s less stress for me to do that. Often, I have found, if I keep acting like people are being good people eventually they start believing it too, at least in their interactions with me. And because I have a history of unintentionally slighting people, not due to any underlying whatever on my part but because I’m a bit socially clueless (and many misunderstandings are due to cultural differences across the US, only after years of study and living different places can I avoid those). I figure I ought to give people the benefit of the doubt that I wish they would give me. Middle school was over decades ago. I’ve spent quite a bit of time as a young adult working hard at looking for possible reasons for people’s actions and picking the best one. Now it is automatic. And it really is much less stressful than assuming people are trying to slight me.
Stress used to make me melt down. Graduate school hit me hard. So I ended up in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). And I worked really hard at it, because, I hate stress. Now when I start feeling the physical signs of stress, I automatically start deep breathing. When I start thinking unhelpful and untrue negative thoughts, I automatically start to cognitively restructure: That isn’t true, what is true, what are the consequences? I’m going to be ok.
Breathing isn’t the only physical thing that seems to change who I am. While dealing with infertility I discovered how much of my emotional ups and downs were food-related–hypoglycemia really does make me crazy. Birth control pills, even the low dose ones I was taking, also had effects on my personality. I will probably never go on BCP again (though they’re great for many people and we should all have easy access to them!), and now I know that when life seems hopeless possibly for no reason that maybe that’s a sign I need a snack, or to stay away from the refined carbs.
Academia is full of ups and downs. For example, the results that were working an iteration ago are now all significant in the opposite direction. Or the unfair rejections from journals for things about the paper that aren’t actually true. These are a constant. And early in my career they were much more devastating than they are now. I know that the sign error is either a mistake in the programming, or it will be something unexpected and interesting that might make a better paper (generally, however, it is the former). I just need to track it down. The rejections are inevitable, and although there would be fewer if I was, say, male, if I’m not getting any, it means I’m not aiming high enough or not trying enough things. And so long as *I* still think the paper is worth something, eventually I’ll find an editor who agrees. (It helps that as I’ve gained a reputation in the field the quality of my reviewers has also increased– starting out some of the folks they send your work to are idiots and assholes.)
I used to only be friends with crazy people. (#2 has mellowed considerably throughout the years!) I found crazy people interesting and normal people boring. But people who are still crazy in their late 20s and 30s… well… maybe not the best for someone who wants to avoid stress. I also have a strong personality and had a tendency to “fix” people with weaker wills than my own (seriously, some people… the answer is so obvious, and yet…) Over the past 10 years or so, I have started to shy away from the crazy, keeping them at a polite arms length, and I have been willfully stepping away from my tendency to control people who want to be controlled. I probably do enough inspiring and future changing in my role as teacher and mentor.
The man I partnered with calms me down. Every other boyfriend resulted in shouting matches, even the first sweetheart of a guy. I love who I am when I’m around my guy almost as much (but not quite) as I love who he is. He’s the perfect package all around, and his effect on me is a wonderful benefit. I love the way we don’t fight, but instead we problem-solve together.
The me that I want to be is not the me I started with. The me I want to be is a more wonderful person, and is who I have become in many ways and am continuing to become.
“I can’t be born again, but I can change a little every day.”
Have you ever tried to change your personality on purpose?