Good morning! It’s Noel Fielding’s birthday today, did you know? On the very small off-chance that he reads this: Happy Birthday, Noel!
Over the past few days I’ve been thinking about personalities, and how very complicated they are. We have a tendency to separate out different sections of our personalities, because we think that certain bits are anomalous to who we are, and some parts are just plain embarrassing. It is too difficult and confusing to admit that our bad habits and secret sins are linked to our genes, our upbringings or our life styles. Much easier to have a persona that can be summed up in three words by the people who know us best, and leave it at that.
We are encouraged to keep up this pretence of simplicity by constantly summarising and censoring ourselves: job applications, CVs, online dating profiles, Twitter biographies and more ask us to reduce ourselves into a few short sentences, and we willingly oblige. We know that we’re complicated, but we don’t everyone else to know that.
The thing is that every aspect of your personality is linked to something else about you, and that is a really good thing. Take the anomalies, for instance: I like watching football, which seems a bit random in terms of my other interests, but actually it does make sense. I like watching events with a large group of people (like when I go to the theatre), I like lots of noise (because I grew up in a big family) and I like having a pint with my friends (that’s just a given). So even though I’m not a stereotypical football fan, it makes sense for me to like football once you break it down.
When we think of certain personality aspects as anomalous we don’t embrace them for what they are: an important part of what makes us a complete person. This comes up a lot with mental health issues. People call depression “the black dog”, which I think is really stupid for two reasons: firstly, making the illness a separate, animalistic entity encourages people to be afraid of it and distance themselves from the issue, and secondly it kind of ruins the third Harry Potter book if you have that association in mind.
I’m not suggesting that mental health problems are a good thing (obviously), but if you have to live with them you shouldn’t have to be afraid of them, as well. They are part of who you are, but they don’t define you. There’s plenty of awesomeness in your personality, too, and they’re not necessarily separate qualities. For example, living with something like depression can give you strength you never knew you had.
Everyone has aspects of their personalities that they wish they could change or get rid of, but you are who you are. If we refuse to accept the bad things about our psyches as well as the good, we are rejecting a massive proportion of what makes us a real human being. Think about it: if we didn’t all have bad and good things about us, we would be completely angelic and therefore entirely incapable of empathy. We’d also be kind of boring. And you, my friend, are definitely not boring.
Have a stupendous Wednesday.