Have We a Core Personality?

My German grandmother wouldn’t allow a speck of dust to be out of place, let alone her own bedspread. “She puts a pin in the middle,” my father explained, “So the sheets and blankets are even.”

We sat for our Sunday visits in her tiny, tidy front room. I’d look over at my hunchbacked progenitor and wondered how she managed to keep so neat at her age, and in her condition.

“Don’t touch those!” she warned whenever we neared her knickknack shelf.

“Maybe you could play outside,” my mother sighed.

Outside didn’t promise much. The yard held long, thick grass but no swings or slides. The garden was dead; sprayed that way since Great-Grandmother couldn’t pull weeds. The dilapidated, warped-window garage was padlocked; forbidden. At the rear of the property ran a communal watering canal, also forbidden.

My pioneer stock great-aunt, on the other hand, kept a dog. She kept a candy jar. She kept roses.

“Thank you; thank you,” she told us as we pruned her roses. We tried to visit often enough to keep up on the flowers. She couldn’t bend or stoop anymore on account of bad knees, and I could see how it pained her not to kneel beside us in the lush, fragrant garden of bushes.

“Look, Shadow,” she would address her pet, “Some friends to play with you.” As the black poodle wagged his stump of a tail and slid after the old tennis ball we threw, Great-Aunt said, “He just loves it when you come.”

Both ladies aged and moved into care facilities. Both retained their manners and demeanor. “They always serve the same food,” Great-Grandma criticized the staff’s meals. “What a lovely card,” Great-Aunt praised our handmade creations.

I wondered, in my childlike mind, what made for the difference in my elderly relatives. Did my German one behave as she did because of her osteoporosis hunch? Did my rose-loving aunt feel happier because she took a strong dose of medicine for her joints? Or, was there a core personality in each?

What, then, was my core person like?

From what I could see, not good. I related to Mary Lennox of The Secret Garden, described as an odd little thing who did not get along well with people. I had a temper. No one seemed to like me -and that was fine with me! I cried easily, was stubborn about everything, and felt others ought to be forced to do what was ‘right.’

I saw myself in my great-grandmother’s eyes, yet recognized that hers was a repugnant personality.

Still, I seemed unable to change. I still seem unable to change. A counselor told me I could; that mine was a personality of years of learned behavior. My husband thinks I can; that my gloomy outlook is a matter of controllable perspective. I berate myself; saying I ought to be less sarcastic.

Yet, out it comes. Couldn’t dry wit and depressed sarcasm be my core after all?

I’m curious if this is the case with you, my readers. Do you think we have a core personality? What is yours? Have we the ability to change? Have you done so? How?



I’m not sure my relations would approve of what I wrote last week:
Wednesday, September 25: Helped out the rising, driving generation with “11 Adulting Tips About Cars.”

Thursday, September 26: “The Darn Sock Connection, a parody,” a parody on “The Rainbow Connection.”

Friday, September 27: Winner of the Weekly Terribly Poetry Contest. Congratulations to The Abject Muse!

Saturday, September 28: Announced the 45th Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest. The theme is a tanka about pumpkin spice. Sniff some cloves and ENTER today!

Sunday, September 29: “Never Forget the Soap,” in response to Carrot Ranch‘s prompt.

Monday, September 30: An inspirational quote by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

Tuesday, October 1: “Wilhelmina Winters, One Hundred Six.”

Wednesday, October 2: Today.

I also posted all this week at my motherhood site. I wrote “Make Time for Yourself (A Parenting Myth),” “9 Halloween Movies for Kids (Adults, Too!),” and “The Morning Menagerie.”

Photo Credit: Alex Harvey 🤙🏻

©2019 Chelsea Owens

52 thoughts on “Have We a Core Personality?

  1. Interesting question. I think we can change, but I’m not sure we will without some strong incentive. Others telling us that we ‘can’ isn’t necessarily that motivator. You see people who are overweight or addicted or whatever, and others press them to fix the problem, but until they really, really decide they want it done at any cost, most attempts are…half-hearted?

    Is it innate or learned? That is a whole other question and I’m not sure there’s an answer to that one.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I read an interesting study showing the personality tests of the participants at age 20 and again at age 60. The shocking part was the same person who had answered at 20 had a completely different result at age 60. In fact, the tests were so different that it showed that they were two different people. Makes you think!
    I think temperament is a trait you inherit, therefore can not be changed. But our personalities are changeable. I am not who I was at 16 (THANK HEAVENS!!)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes. I think we all have a core personality. I think we can adapt, but not change. If we try too hard to change, we’re only disappointing ourselves, because we go against our nature. I have learned to talk to people I don’t know, but I’m still an introvert and try to avoid situations where I’m forced to mingle. To try to become an extrovert would be devastating. Good post

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think our core changes somewhat when we become adults and again if something traumatic or “life-changing” happens. Our ideas might change over time, but it is hard to change the core.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve heard said that how you are at 40 will determine your old age demeanor! Mind, I heard that when it was too late!

    But, yes! A person. CAn. Change. For me, when (and still) I deal with the inner anger, then more peaceful and less judgemental talk comes out of my mouth. (I am worried, tho. I don’t want to be like your grandma – or auntie who lives with us).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t write about her, but my maternal grandmother became more quiet and childlike as she progressed into Alzheimer’s. I think that’s a condition in which a ‘core personality’ definitely comes out. I don’t think I’d become like her… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Sort of like the character in “Runaway Bride?” I told my husband last night that I’m too much of a chameleon -yet I also have an internal self who comes out and throws tantrums.


  6. Yes. I believe we all have a core personality. We spend a life time disguising the weak points and learning a new personality so that we can play better with society at large. We need this to survive in todays world.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Consider that you feel and behave differently in different settings, or when you feel different moods.

    The mood you’re in right now isn’t your “always” disposition.

    I know that for myself, I am sometimes very driven, other times lazy and relaxed; sometimes charismatic and the life of the party, other times sullen or reserved; sometimes cheerful and confident, other times wounded and depressed.

    Everyone is like this. Find out what puts you in your happy place and do more of that.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. You mature every day and grow either darker or more optimistic. Circumstance contributes to it, but so does innate disposition. It’s difficult to pin point what exactly causes change, but I believe you can change your core. But here’s the crazy truth: You can only change if you’re on medication because it works on your neurotransmitters and alters you entirely. Or if you do mind altering psychedelic drugs, or have religious experiences. The only other way natural way to change is to see trials in life. They make or break a person. Wonderful post. I loved how you weaved a story into an essay of sorts.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Nitin!

      I would definitely agree with you on the need for medications for change in some situations. Heck, I think I even wrote an article on that!

      I always appreciate your perspective, insight, and experience.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I also think we have a core personality. We can work on things and change to some degree, but one’s core personality still drives the boat. It is those positive and negative qualities that make the characters in stories so compelling.

    I also believe it’s essential that we have self-awareness as then we can avoid those situations that might bring out the worst in us.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t think everything is etched in stone, but changing our core is not the same as changing the little things in our lives. I believe I have some good qualities, but I’m also aware that I can be pretty anal about small details. That quality is, unfortunately, part of my core. I try to suppress it, but it’s part of who I am.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. What a powerful essay, Chelsea. When I read “My pioneer stock great-aunt, on the other hand, kept a dog. She kept a candy jar. She kept rose,” I cheered kept women. I think what we keep about us impacts our personality and I believe it evolves as we grow. I also believe we have core strengths and natural inclinations. How much of your great grandmother is learned, and how much is actually in your DNA, I wonder.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I definitely believe in a core personality. I would say that I believe in core weaknesses, and that our life experiences are an obstacle course of sorts, made for exposing those parts of us that need working on. I believe that a major part of life is meant to be for working on those core weaknesses, and I genuinely believe that God can make those weaknesses strengths (with a lot of applied consciousness and effort on our part). We are meant to be changeable beings for this part of our creation, molded one way or another by how we handle our experiences. I also believe that, while a certain degree of mastery can be achieved, perfection probably won’t be, because there just plain isn’t enough time to iron out all of our deficiencies. I guess that is why a focus on effort and intention is more important than a final outcome. I think our finals may be further away than we think 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like the idea of an obstacle course to expose our weaknesses for us to work on them.

      The best example I love of weaknesses being strengths is in A Wrinkle in Time. I’m certainly more of a Meg than a Calvin.


  12. An interesting question, and it’s one I think about more than I probably should.

    I’m not quite sure what my core is, some days. I’m definitely an emotional bundle of…whatever. My outlook on life has been one from extremely dreary to less so.

    Liked by 1 person

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