We were recently speaking at Chez Nous about what makes up each individual personality--what is a character flaw and what is a character trait and what is a major problem that needs addressing. Can we change who we are and should we ever change who we are? I'm not talking about the things that we can categorize as an actual problem that is affecting our lives across the board, but the small parts that make up our personalities. I think we have a way of always pushing people towards happiness; thinking that we should want to be happy 100% of the time if it's a possibility. And I think we also push people towards positive character traits; thinking that we should only want the positive ones to be part of our daily make up even though the negative ones usually also hold a silver lining.
I spent a large portion of my life wishing to be my older sister and I still struggle with internal comparisons (it certainly wasn't external--this was my own doing). It is hard to wish to be someone you're not and still continue to feel comfortable in your own skin. It took a long time for me to enjoy myself as an individual who is very very different from my sister and like myself even though I'm not my sister. Does that make sense? I mean, how could I like me if I liked my sister better and wanted to be like my sister but I could never be like my sister? You see the Catch-22 in all of this and how happiness came from stepping outside and liking myself as well as liking my sister, even if I didn't have the traits that I coveted so badly in her.
I don't want my children to go through that.
And they are very different from each other.
I think it's natural to covet. Especially when you see someone rewarded or seemingly rewarded for a trait. For instance, someone is very studious and they have great concentration and can work for long periods of time and they earn an A. And someone who struggles to maintain concentration will never receive that A, perhaps. And then the question remains, is a lack of concentration a character flaw (that should be accepted, but perhaps pitied) or a character trait (it's just who the person is in the same way their hair is brown and they run quickly) or a problem that needs addressing.
The things I wish for are rarely physical (except for hair that could be feathered back in the early 80s. I really wanted hair that could be feathered, but you can't feather curls). I know that a flat stomach, smaller breasts or red hair are not within my control unless I'm willing to resort to surgery and dye. I was born with my physical traits somewhat decided by genetics. But what about my personality? How was that shaped? And if it was shaped, I should be able to keep molding it, right? Taking on the traits I see and covet. Only it isn't that simple. You can want to be funny. Either you're funny or you're not funny. And if you're not funny, it doesn't seem to be something you can just pluck out of a book and learn.
You can want to be laidback or not care so deeply or not be thin-skinned or be more circumspect--but these things seem so much harder to control and mould than physical traits. There aren't shortcuts or ways to work around them. Your personality traits--whether you are fearful or brave, a worrier or someone carefree, optimistic or pessimistic--feel a little set in stone. Yet if we aren't born one way or the other and we are shaped by our experiences, when did our experiences cease to keep changing us? When did our personalities settle?
One of our children has an element to their personality and we are unsure if it is character flaw or a character trait or a problem that needs addressing. On one hand, it creates a sweetness and on the other, it creates an impediment. And though I never worried about stirring G-d's pot when I was cooking up these babies, I find myself very tentative about impacting their personalities--something that will also be with them for life--and trying to change something without knowing the impact of what happens when you move a character trait. Do the rest tumble down after it, reforming like a kaleidescope into a different person?
I wonder what personality traits they will covet in the future. If this child will even see this part of their personality as a problem.
There are certainly ones I covet for myself right now.
I think if I could choose only one to pick out of the bag at the next Secret Santa Personality Grab Bag, it would be bravery. I wish I were more courageous--and not just about crickets and mice. I wish I didn't let fear play such a large role in the decisions I make.
Many questions rolling around in my head tonight.