Your character and personality make you a unique individual, but they aren’t necessarily one and the same aspect of the Self.
Your personality represents who you are. It’s the overarching whole of your inherited traits, natural inclinations, and beliefs that make you you.
When someone uses the word “character,” you might assume they mean personality, but that’s not always the case.
So, what makes character different from personality, and which one has more impact on your overall well-being?
In the world of psychology, when you think about the Self, your personality is everything. It’s “you” from top to bottom: all the behaviors, interests, thoughts, beliefs, experiences, and traits that make you unique in the world.
Most modern personality models agree that the foundation of your personality is your biology. Your experiences and environment help you develop other aspects of your personality from that point on.
In other words, you’re not born with a set personality. This changes and adapts constantly, particularly during the first 2 decades of life. After that, change is less likely or not as significant.
But if you’re not born with your personality, how do your behaviors and reactions as an infant develop?
Modern personality theory suggests personality begins with inborn temperament. Over time, you develop your character as you engage in everyday experiences, and that’s how your personality evolves.
Character and temperament blend and contribute to your personality traits, but they’re not all of it.
Here’s a closer look at these concepts:
Considered the primary foundation of personality, your temperament is thought to be present at birth. It’s those aspects of your personality that you’re born with.
In other words, it’s what you come equipped with based on your biology, not your experiences.
Temperament refers to your disposition and tendency to adopt certain behaviors and have specific reactions to your environment. For example:
- overall energy levels
- adaptation to change
- emotional responsiveness
As part of your personality, character represents your ethical, moral, and social attitudes and beliefs.
Character may be more evident in certain situations where you apply your core beliefs to the circumstances at hand.
For example, if you believe in social justice, your character may come forward when you witness something you consider an injustice. It may propel you to action.
It’s unclear when your character begins to develop or whether that development occurs in phases.
Some experts suggest that character develops as soon as you face environmental challenges.
The nature of those challenges — if they’re unpredictable, harsh, or sheltered — could predict specific character patterns in adulthood.
Some examples of character traits include:
Personality is more complex than the juncture of temperament and character. It also encompasses thought and behavioral patterns that come through in every life situation.
Your choice of friends and music, how you behave in work meetings versus social gatherings, or if you prefer lunch over dinner are all aspects of your personality.
How you go about your character also depends on your personality.
For example, you may believe in social justice, and your eagerness to act fairly is part of your character. But depending on your personality, you may act on this belief by quietly donating to social campaigns or stepping on a stage and speaking to the masses.
Some examples of personality traits include:
Character is an aspect of personality. It can influence major parts of life, such as work, social circles, activism, and criminality. It may determine many of your life choices.
It can also be essential in determining the outcome of personal goals and relationships.
Character can be seen as your essence, while your personality is how you express that essence. In this sense, they’re interdependent.
Research shows that personality, particularly certain temperament features, may be crucial to mental and physical well-being.
In 2014, research found people with the core personality trait of conscientiousness were more likely to be in better physical health at age 38 than people without the personality trait.
Dispositional optimism was shown to positively influence mental health in a 2020 cross-sectional study with adolescents, whereas neuroticism was linked to adverse mental health effects in the same research.
In this sense, your personality traits may have a stronger influence on your overall health, but character may impact your everyday and essential life decisions.
Your personality consists of the temperament you’re born with, the character you develop, and the conscious and subconscious thought patterns that result from learning and interacting with the world around you.
Your character is based on your core beliefs, while your personality is how you go about life in every situation.
Both character and personality are essential to your experiences in life as well as your overall health.