Why Are You the Way You Are? The Formation of Personality

Your way of being is unique. There's no other person like you. However, what's made your personality this way? Is it because of everything you've lived through? Is it inherited from your family? Or are there, perhaps, other factors? We take a look.
Why Are You the Way You Are? The Formation of  Personality
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

Why are you the way you are? Are you the result of the circumstances you’ve lived through? Has your family influenced you to be this way? Most of us have asked these questions at some point in our lives. The biologist, Julian Huxley, said that the variety of individual personalities is so wide, complex, and wonderful that they endow the world with authentic beauty.

However, sometimes it’s difficult to live together. Because our personalities, at times, can collide with others. Furthermore, there are those who feel limited by the way they are. Indeed, not everyone is satisfied with their personality type. They may like to improve it, enhance certain of its aspects, and make others disappear. Is this possible? Can you change your personality?

The field of psychology has been studying these aspects for decades. Carl Jung pointed out that personality is the supreme realization of the innate idiosyncrasy of a living being. In this dimension, multiple factors are actually combined, from genetic, environmental, experiential, and even motivational aspects. Let’s take a closer look.

Girl laughing and wondering why am I like this?

Why you’re the way you are. The formation of personality

When you ask yourself “Why am I the way I am?” you look for causal origins. You tend to forget that, in a way, you’re also responsible for the way you are. For example, when responding and interpreting things in a certain way. Therefore, there’s the possibility that you can change and alter certain small details in order to better adapt to the environment and feel happier and more satisfied.

Psychological therapy observes that many people think they’re the way they are as a direct result of their upbringing and the influence of their parents. It’s true that this adds a certain weight and determination. However, as Dr. Nick Haslam, professor of psychology at the University of Melbourne (Australia) and personality expert, points out, we can all improve and heal certain aspects of ourselves and build stronger and healthier profiles.

This is because your personality, beyond what you’ve been led to believe, isn’t fixed. In fact, a study conducted at the University of Illinois by Dr. Nathan Hudson indicates that people can change some of the traits that define the well-known Big Five theory of human personality. These factors are extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, stability, and openness to experience.

Now you know that your personality traits aren’t permanent, let’s take a look at what usually defines them.

Biological-environmental interaction

Both genetics and the environment in which you grew up have influenced the formation of your personality. The environment, your communication habits, the relationship you established with your family and school, early experiences, the affection you received, and even socioeconomic variables (suffering from deficiencies or good well-being) carve out your personality.

Nor can we ignore such important aspects as nutrition, physical health, and neuropsychological development.

Your experiences and how you interpret them

Gordon Allport, one of the renowned figures in this particular field claimed that personality is an entity too complex to be entangled in a conceptual straitjacket. Nevertheless, there are few things more interesting than trying to define and understand it.

Every time you ask yourself why you’re the way you are, you should look back at all the experiences you’ve had. Everything you’ve suffered, felt, experienced, laughed and cried about, or been afraid of makes up the person you are now. Suffering an early loss, being bullied in childhood, maternal or paternal abandonment, having fallen in love and learned from the process… Each of these things influences you.

However, more than the event itself, you’re influenced by the way you interpret it.

Character, temperament, and intelligence

Hans J. Eysenck was an English psychologist who devoted his entire life to the study of personality. According to him, the personality structure was defined by three specific areas:

  • Character. This is defined by the education received, the cultural context, and the environment in which we grow and develop.
  • Temperament. This area is linked to our biology and, above all, to those brain processes in which neurotransmitters make us more extroverted, introverted, impulsive, emotional, etc.
  • Intelligence. The cognitive factor that not only shows our potential but also sculpts our personalities.
boy thinking

Focus on your motivations

In an article published by Dr. Carol Dweck on the American Psychological Association (APA) website, she claims that personality develops around our motivations (needs and goals). This means that we’re not mediated by fixed and invariable traits.

In a way, this idea is a criticism of the classic model of the Five Great Traits or Big Five (Goldberg 1993). In fact, currently, psychology is more oriented toward thinking that we can all invest in our human growth and change certain dimensions to achieve well-being.

It all depends on our motivations and needs. For example, if you feel limited by your insecurity and shyness, it’s possible that, with work, therapy, and a firm commitment to yourself, you’ll be able to be a little more confident and open with others. Change is always possible. Bear it in mind.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Hudson, N. W., & Chris Fraley, R. (2015). Volitional personality trait change: Can people choose to change their personality traits? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology109(3), 490–507. https://doi.org/10.1037/pspp0000021

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.