Can we just take a moment to be vulnerable with each other and acknowledge how hard it is to be a human being?
Assuming that you come from a background free of abuse, being a kid wasn’t that bad. Sure, we hated homework and school bullies. But it was also easier to be happy. You didn’t have bills to personally worry about and playing video games with your friends was all it took to put a smile on your face.
Those days are gone. Now you worry about how to pay off your student loans, keep a roof over your head, hang out with your friends, work a full-time job, and get eight hours of sleep each night. With all the noise that fills our day-to-day life, when was the last time you had time to think about developing your personal character?
Lucky for us, developing our personalities doesn’t come with an expiration date. Studies show that your personality does change as you age and typically for the better. Turns out you can teach an old dog new tricks. But that’s assuming that you do teach it.
The best time to start growing out of our character flaws is today. Here are a few common character flaws you can start with.
Character Flaw #1: Being Bad With Money
If you grew up poor like I did, that should be enough motivation to keep yourself out of poverty or get out of it. Raised with a silver spoon in your mouth? That’s even more reason to stay where you are on the socioeconomic ladder.
Forget all the feel-good talk around money not buying happiness. There’s no faster way to make yourself miserable than to be in debt, homeless, and unable to buy basic necessities. Plus, all the stress and worry that not having money brings puts you at risk for mental health problems that you can’t go to a therapist for because you don’t have money.
Developing good money habits won’t make you rich but it will make life more manageable. Prioritize your needs, plan your purchases, and always stick to your budget. Too many people fall into the trap of thinking it’s fine to “treat” themselves after receiving their paycheck but all those little treats add up fast. A better treat would be a rock-solid emergency fund and a retirement plan.
Before you get pissed: I’m not saying it’s your fault if you’re struggling financially. There are systems beyond our control that make it hard to rise out of poverty. But that doesn’t mean you’re powerless. Learning to handle your finances well makes life much easier in the long run and puts you in a better state of mind to take advantage of any future windfall.
Character Flaw #2: Having Low Impulse Control
Low impulse control is one of the character flaws that come hand in hand with bad money habits. It’s the secret behind why a lot of former pro athletes go broke once they retire and why you’ll hear about rich people ending up in deep debt after gambling away their entire net worth at a casino.
Maybe impulsive financial decisions aren’t enough to convince you. How about the fact that aggressive driving and road rage are a major cause of death in road-related accidents? That’s assuming the people you run into on the road aren’t more hot-headed than you are or you could end up with a bullet in your head.
This is the “make or break” character flaw that can ruin your life in the blink of an eye which makes it crucial to curb it as early as you can.
Bad impulse control tempts us in many aspects of our lives and the first step towards dealing with it is removing the source of temptation. Are you gaining too much weight? The answer may be to make it impossible for you to eat in the middle of the night. Stop shopping for junk food, delete your food delivery apps, and get an accountability partner.
Always angry? Manage your stress by picking up a relaxing hobby or an aggressive sport to channel your energy into.
If your problem is a gacha game gambling or shopping addiction, just unlinking your credit card from your phone helps. Creating that extra step that makes it harder to give in to impulse is often enough time to give you a chance to think about what you’re doing or simply stop you because it’s too much effort.
Character Flaw #3: Not Developing Your Social Skills
How many “Your introversion is a superpower!” articles have you seen floating around online?
While it’s true that having an introverted personality does have its strengths, too many introverts buy into the idea that introversion is the same thing as shyness. Some of us even use it as an excuse not to develop our social skills.
Introversion only refers to what you prefer to focus your mental energy on. Typically, these are solitary hobbies and one-on-one conversations.
If you find that introversion for you is being too shy to talk to a doctor despite needing immediate medical attention or going to the supermarket because you feel like people are judging you, that is not your introversion speaking. It is a real problem hampering your ability to function. Consider talking to a therapist about your anxiety issues.
Aside from potential mental health problems masquerading as introversion, you also need to consider the benefits of being sociable. The Big 5 model of personality lists agreeableness, meaning how friendly and sociable you are, as one of the 5 main personality traits. Though conscientiousness, meaning self-discipline and hard-working behavior, is the biggest predictor of career success, agreeableness helps increase your annual income, especially in larger companies.
Character Flaw #4: Downplaying Yourself
It sounds cheesy but the way you talk to yourself matters when it comes to shaping your reality. Think about it. When you’re always telling yourself that you’re not smart enough, not attractive enough, not funny enough, all that does is hammer it into your head that you are and will never be enough.
The result? What you say about yourself ends up becoming true.
Robert K. Merton discovered the effect of this character flaw in 1948 when he discovered a psychological phenomenon he called the “self-fulfilling prophecy.” Self-fulfilling prophecies, also called the Pygmalion effect or Barnesian performativity, lead people into cognitive and behavior cycles that make them act in ways that confirm their negative biases against themselves.
Self-fulfilling prophecies don’t just affect how you think about yourself. They also change the way other people see you. In fact, talking openly about how terrible you are can lower other people’s confidence in your abilities that your incompetence becomes true.
Researchers Rosenthal and Jacobsen did an experiment that involved measuring the intelligence of elementary school students. They then told the students’ teachers that 20% of the students had Einstein potential. Except that was a lie: the students were randomly selected and weren’t particularly smarter than the rest of their peers.
But the teachers didn’t know this. Instead, they took the researchers at their word and began to teach the “special” students with more care and attention than what they gave the others. In eight months, Rosenthal and Jacobsen returned to find that the students now scored higher than before. The teachers themselves enforced the self-fulfilling prophecy that these kids were geniuses.
The key to taking advantage of the positive effects of self-fulfilling prophecies? Positive self-talk. Apparently, manifesting your way into success isn’t that mystical. A study on the effects of positive self-talk on sports performance found that people who engaged in self-talk interventions performed better on motor tasks.
Character Flaw #5: Relying on Inspiration and Motivation
Self-talk shapes how we see ourselves, how others see us, and how we actually perform in our professional and academic lives. But while the previous character flaws were a little more obvious, this one might have you scratching your head a bit: relying on motivation and inspiration to get things done.
Don’t get me wrong: nothing beats the feeling of being absolutely pumped to start your day. Feeling motivated and inspired while you work feels amazing, makes you more creative, and drives you to be more productive. That said, what goes up must come down and along with days of high motivation come days when you’re just miserable.
When you feel unmotivated, you might be tempted to just waste your time and not get work done. After all, why work now when you can postpone it for when you do feel inspired? Unfortunately, while inspiration and motivation drive productivity, they can also be its biggest enemy.
In 2015, researchers studying the field of education found something interesting: on average, girls kept getting better grades than boys. Were the boys dumber? Of course not. But the fact that girls tended to have better self-control meant they could take advantage of what smarts they already had.
It’s not just in the academic field either. If you remember conscientiousness from earlier in this article, you might recall that it’s a measure of how self-disciplined a person is. Adults who scored high in conscientiousness were found that they had higher rates of financial success and subjective happiness. This is because they had a better perspective of where they wanted to be in life.
Conscientious adults acted more consistently with their long-term goals and were better at assessing their decisions. It also helped them maintain their social relationships because they were more consistent about staying in touch, avoiding unnecessary conflict, and mending their relationships. They also tended to be healthier because they made conscious choices to stay healthy instead of only going out for a jog when they felt motivated enough to do so.
Character Flaw #6: Being Too Stubborn to Ask For Help
Asking for help is hard. Among the other character flaws listed here, this one stands out because it often comes with a character strength: self-efficacy. Often, the kind of people who don’t like to ask for help are also the kind of people who go the extra mile to make sure they never need help. They have emergency funds to rely on when times get tough and they’re smart enough to teach themselves so they don’t have to ask for help.
As admirable as that sounds, it’s also pretty exhausting and inefficient.
Let’s move out of the scientific and into the practical: not asking for help means it takes longer to get things done and increases the risk of making costly mistakes. Sure, you could probably do things on your own but you could do them faster with an extra pair of hands.
Asking for help also humanizes you to other people because it’s a form of social interaction. By asking for help, you give others the opportunity to reach out to you, develop a social connection, and establish a precedent for future collaboration.
Character Flaw #7: Having a Savior Complex
There’s an unexpected disadvantage to being a person with high agreeableness: you tend to put yourself in a position where you have less money. The connection between worse finances and this character flaw doesn’t seem obvious until you realize that people who are always trying to help end up sacrificing their own well-being to help others.
In the Enneagram theory of personality, being helpful isn’t always such a nice thing. It hurts you because you don’t learn to establish boundaries that protect you from people who will take advantage of your kindness and it robs you of giving yourself the care that you give to others. It even hurts your relationships with other people because it creates the need to feel validated and loved for being helpful. When that doesn’t happen, you can end up feeling used and resentful.
Want to discover all your possible character flaws? The Enneagram theory of personality might be what you’re looking for. Read more about it here.