Personality Myth

Chapter 101 of the book Self-Help Stuff That Works
by Adam Khan:

SOME OF THE FIRST ZOOLOGISTS to study chimpanzees expected to find brutish apes and were surprised to see peaceful animals being tender toward each other. Later researchers, expecting to find peaceful animals, were often shocked to see them hunt monkeys and tear them limb from limb, or to see an angry male go on a rampage, sometimes injuring or even killing innocent chimp bystanders, or to see, for the first time ever in a nonhuman species, the chimpanzees engage in war.

The truth is, chimpanzees are capable of a wide range of feelings and behaviors. And that is also true of humans. Like you, for instance. Defending the life of someone close to you, you are capable of extreme brutality. When consoling a child, you're capable of the tenderest care. And everywhere in between.

You don't have a fixed personality. You change all the time. You are different now than you were even earlier today.

Any label you hold onto about yourself - a nice person, an angry person, a strong person - is foolish. It will limit you. The label is limiting, and when you force yourself to act in a way consistent with your label, you are taking something big and complex and trying to fit it into a small, simple container. You have to shave off a whole spectrum of behaviors and feelings you're capable of, some of which would be useful.

It's like being a carpenter but labelling yourself only as "the kind of person who hammers." What do you do when you need to saw something? You could grab a saw and get it done quickly. But if you've limited yourself to hammering, you'll pound away till the sun goes down and your work will look terrible when you're done.

Don't limit yourself. Don't label yourself. You're a human being and you're far more flexible than you think. Don't block yourself from your perception of other aspects of yourself. You're not dominate or submissive, inquisitive or close-minded, strong or sensitive - you're capable of all them. Like a carpenter using a wide range of tools, use your full spectrum of personality where it works best and you will accomplish more, get along better with others, and be happier.


Don't limit yourself by giving yourself a narrow label.

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APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, October 30). Personality Myth, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 22 from

Last Updated: March 31, 2016

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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