An interesting study was published in 2010 in the Journal of Social Psychological and Personality Science. It suggested that our personalities are set by the time we are in Year One, which is the age of six. The study interviewed people across four decades and found strong correlations between their behaviour at six and their behaviour in middle age. They looked at things like verbal fluency, adaptability, impulsivity and the tendency to self-minimize. “We remain recognizably the same person,” study author Christopher Nave said. “This speaks to the importance of understanding personality because it does follow us wherever we go across time and contexts.”
Different Personalities in the Playground
This idea made me think of the personality types we all encounter in the school playground, and whether they simply move into the workplace. Some of the personalities we all recognise include:
The pleaser- teacher’s pet, eager to excel, win approval & achieve
The popular party-goer- everyone’s friend, likeable, a leader
The wallflower- shy, quirky, loyal
The creative/dreamer- imaginative, off in their own world, see things differently
The sensitive- always worrying about what could go wrong. Cry easily.
The clown/entertainer- always making everybody laugh
The nurturer/rescuer- cares for others, comes to the aid of bully victims
The quiet achiever- very smart, constantly performs at a high level, but keeps to themselves
The dark horse- stays under the radar, doesn’t give much away, unfussed about winning approval
The rebel- constantly defies authority, often in trouble
The bully- deals with pain and insecurity by trying to dominate and intimidate
The networker/negotiator- always coming up with new schemes and forming alliances
The mastermind- like to control others, highly intelligent, can be insensitive
How does our playground personality affect our adult life?
Our playground personality completely affects our adult life. It is our first picture of the way we interact in the world. In our careers, we find industries that support our playground personalities. Industries are just territories for each personality type.
The media is filled with entertainers, networkers & occasional bullies. The political and business industries attract masterminds and negotiators. Law, medicine and universities are filled with pleasers & quiet achievers. Creative industries like advertising and design are filled with dreamers and rebels.
Interestingly, we often enter relationships with people who are the same as us, or are the opposite of us. So the pleaser might fall in love with the dark horse or the dreamer might fall in love with the rebel. The mastermind might be drawn to the nurturer and the sensitive is drawn to the wallflower or the bully. We fall in love with anyone who will help us to become whole within ourselves.
Can you change your playground personality?
It’s not about changing your playground personality- it’s about becoming aware or conscious of it, and working with it rather than against it. We take the same coping mechanisms and tendencies into our adult life, and so we need to find relationships and careers that are compatible with them.
We waste so much time and energy looking longingly at other personality types, when we simply need to accept and love our own. The dreamer needs to do something creative or they will feel desolate. The pleaser needs to learn to find approval within so they don’t spend the rest of their lives trying to get approval from others. The bully needs to make peace with the pain they are carrying and to become a peacemaker in the world. The rebel needs to learn to act, rather than always reacting to authority.
Collective consciousness is the beauty of all these personality types coming together. The rebel becomes an activist who opens our eyes to injustice. The dreamer imagines a better world. The quiet achiever works hard for their cause. The networker connects everyone. The entertainer makes light of it all. Everyone is necessary, as we all hold different aspects of the collective personality.