Are you wondering how to change your personality, and curious if it’s possible to overcome toxic or undesirable personality traits?
Behind toxic behaviors are toxic personality traits. According to experts, toxic personality traits are actions, feelings, thoughts, and behaviors that are harmful to yourself and others around you.
Generally, extreme personality traits can become toxic. Toxic typically refers to a very high or very low score in some of the Big Five personality dimensions.
The Big 5 personality traits are neuroticism, extraversion, agreeableness, openness and conscientiousness.
Some of the most common toxic personality traits are recognized in individuals who are highly neurotic, or have extremely low levels of agreeableness.
Some toxic traits are learned from not-so-great role models in life. When you have toxic personality traits, multiple areas of your life are affected, such as your relationships, work, and even your health.
You can tell whether you have a toxic trait if people you trust keep making similar comments about your behavior. A little self-reflection may also do the trick. Research has found that changing toxic behavior is possible in only a matter of weeks.
So, with some inner work, more self-awareness, and commitment, you can shift your personality in the right direction and live a fulfilling life with healthier relationships.
Keep reading to learn how to change your personality and become the best version of yourself.
Neuroticism, one of the Big 5 personality traits, can become toxic if it produces negative emotions and intense surges of emotional reactions to frustrating and threatening situations.
When you’re highly neurotic, you experience frequent and extreme emotions such as excessive guilt, worry, or anger. Neuroticism can also make you want to be the center of attention, even in situations that are not about you. Plus, you tend to be more anxious and insecure if you’re neurotic.
People who are neurotic often suffer from unresolved childhood insecurities. They develop egotistic, perfectionist, and conflictive behavior traits. These behaviors cause them to become control freaks.
Since everyone is unique, neurotic personalities look different for everyone. For instance, while you may be too self-critical, someone else can stay in a toxic relationship out of fear of being alone. At the same time, another person might yell and honk in anger just because someone is driving slowly.
With neuroticism, you may experience low self-esteem, obsessive thoughts, poor work performance, relationship problems, and overall life dissatisfaction.
High neuroticism further increases your risk for:
- Anxiety disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Eating disorders
- Drug or alcohol addiction
High neuroticism also makes you more likely to develop asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, and cardiovascular disease.
Neuroticism can be debilitating. Luckily, being mindful can help you start feeling less and less neurotic.
How to Change Your Personality if You’re Highly Neurotic
Highly neurotic people need to become intentionally mindful of their feelings – both negative and positive. Try to determine what’s causing your stress and take steps to release your anxiety. Even though you might not have control over what’s happening to you, you can change your perception of it.
Remember, your perception shapes your reality. For example, you may have a project with a tight deadline. If you perceive the deadline as a negative and allow it to dampen your entire day, that is what exactly will happen.
You’ve already formed a negative perception that will become a reality and keep you in a foul mood. Remember that the law of attraction states that those who imagine or predict a positive outcome are more likely to experience that positive outcome.
In other words, possessing the ability to use your perception to generate a negative reality also means you can use the same power of perception to form a positive reality.
Going back to the work deadline example, the fact is, you have a deadline to beat, and there’s nothing that can make it magically disappear. Rather than dragging through the day in a funk, nudge your perception to encourage positivity.
Take a deep breath and visualize yourself having a very productive day. Picture yourself enjoying a cup of coffee or green tea while working in a calm environment.
Even though you’re bogged down by work, the bright side is this probably isn’t your first rodeo. So, if you’ve met your deadlines before, you’ve still got it in you to hit this deadline like a champ if you keep at it. It’s all about uplifting yourself with a positive attitude.
It’s not ideal to be too agreeable, or to be too lacking in the ‘agreeableness’ department.
Imagine that your friend invites you to a lunch date after weeks of not seeing each other. Almost an hour passes while you wait for her to get there. You begin feeling irritable, and shortly she texts, “So sorry, I’m almost there.”
Although you are in a sour mood and had your day already planned out, you reply, “It’s fine! take your time.” You end your text with a smiley emoji. That isn’t the first time it’s happened. This is what excessive agreeableness looks like.
Remember that undesirable personality traits are often a score that is too high or too low on one of the Big 5 personality traits. ‘Agreeableness’ is another one of the Big 5 traits.
Some of the tell-tale signs of a highly agreeable person include:
- Going along just to get along
- Letting those around you walk all over you
- Going out of your way to avoid conflict
- Not articulating what you want because you most likely don’t know what you want
Unfortunately, being too nice because you don’t want to rock the boat can backfire. Some people will take advantage of you if you’re willing to do anything to prevent confrontation. You can also be easily manipulated.
How to Change Your Agreeableness
With the aid of these tried and true strategies on how to change your personality when it comes to your agreeableness, you can push back without appearing too pushy:
It might not be obvious to you, but it’s okay to ruffle some feathers from time to time. That means being less agreeable. This may not happen overnight, but you’ll eventually get the hang of it.
For example, if your friend is late for your lunch date, let them know how you feel. Say, “When you’re late, I get worked up and also miss other important activities I had planned, which is not fair. Can you be early next time?”
In addition, set clear boundaries. Tell your friend how long you’ll be waiting for them. “In the future, I’ll wait no more than 20 minutes if you’re running late.”
If they’re late again, don’t break this rule, and don’t take it to heart. Instead, do something else. Otherwise, the rest of your day could be ruined just like that.
On the other hand, if you like to disagree or you tend to be combative, and you have a very low ‘agreeableness’ score, this is also a toxic personality trait. You can become more agreeable by showing a sincere interest in what others have to say. Work on being open-minded and tolerant. Take deep breaths when you feel yourself about to argue with someone. Count to five in your head before responding, and consider asking a question instead of arguing a friend’s point.
For instance, to better understand why someone thinks the way they do, you can ask questions like: “How come you know so much about this?” Or, “Did you ever have a different view about it?” It’s more rewarding to ask genuine questions instead of jumping into arguments every time.
Asking questions instead of making judgments is one of those habits that helps you become a more agreeable person. This is because the act of asking a question when you’re feeling judgmental could stop you from making one of your classic judgmental “I disagree” statements.
Adjusting your level of agreeableness to a healthier place is something that first requires enhanced self-awareness. When it comes to how to change your personality as it pertains to agreeableness, you need to be very present in the moment and aware of your own tendencies. You’ll have to actively ‘practice’ being more (or less) agreeable.
Have you realized you’re too conscientious? Conscientiousness is a crucial personality trait, but a score too high or too low could cause problems. Conscientiousness is being reliable, observing the rules, exercising self-discipline, and being hardworking.
Highly conscientious people can be perfectionists, too, similar to those with high neuroticism. As great as conscientiousness is, this can have its downsides.
Unhealthy perfectionism can lead to anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. In addition, perfectionism can affect your work, personal relationships, and overall quality of life.
When you’re highly conscientious, you may get pretty serious to the point of constantly putting work before play. Neglecting rest and fun can quickly lead to burnout.
Burnout will spill into every area of your life when left unchecked. Apart from feeling drained and exhausted most of the time, you may also experience the following:
- Muscle pain
- Frequent headaches
- Sense of failure
- Loss of motivation
- Using alcohol, drugs, or food to cope
How to Change Your Conscientiousness
If you feel your health is suffering or you are on the edge of burnout, consider going to therapy. Some forms of therapy can address negative thoughts and behaviors, ultimately controlling excessive conscientiousness.
For people who are not too conscientious, becoming more conscientious starts with finding your focus.
Identify what matters the most to you. It’s hard, if not impossible, to become more conscientious in everything you do. So, choose one goal to begin with; it could be one specific goal you want to reach as it pertains to conscientiousness.
From there, consider which behaviors can inch you closer to your goal. For example, starting your day early and getting rid of distractions like spending too much time on your phone. Next, turn them into frequent, repeated actions, and you’ll be well on your way to crashing your goal in no time.
What About Compulsive Lying?
Compulsive lying is another toxic trait. Lying is intentionally twisting the truth, including complete fabrication and changing or leaving out crucial details of a story.
For many people who lie frequently, lying is easier than telling the truth. Telling lies can be a ticket to get out of trouble or avoid criticism that may cause feelings of guilt and shame. However, the effects of lying are far-reaching.
Lying is not only misleading but also destructive. Research published in Psychiatric Quarterly found that those who lied on a daily basis were at a higher risk of having problems in their family, relationships and social lives. The research also discovered that habitual liars had lower self-esteem and life satisfaction than their peers.
How to Change Your Personality if You’re a Compulsive Liar
If you can’t seem to stop yourself from lying, start small. Set one goal at a time and achieve it first before moving your goal post.
Picture a situation where you can’t help but tell a lie, small or big, and then focus on changing that behavior. For example, it could be something like telling the truth about your real age to people you have matched with on a dating app.
Telling the truth might not be easy right off the bat. But you’ll eventually ease into it and realize it’s no big deal. After all, age is nothing but a number.
Once you’ve nailed your first ‘honesty’ challenge, keep going.
You’ll realize that telling the truth is freeing. Plus, your relationships and overall life will be all the better for it when you get into the habit of telling the truth.
In life, there will always be someone who’s more good-looking, successful, or talented than you are. That person could be your friend, neighbor, colleague, or even family member.
Comparing yourself with others you deem better can leave you envious. Unfortunately, comparison is the fastest way to fuel your envy. Envy saps your energy and takes the joy out of your life. In fact, one study shows that envy is linked to a considerable reduction in happiness.
Envy doesn’t look good on anyone. But it’s not an emotion you can simply switch off. You need to take proactive steps to stop it in its tracks. For starters, don’t compare yourself with others, no matter how tempted you are.
How to Change Your Personality if Envy is Causing Problems in Your Life
The green-eyed monster loves rearing its ugly head when you constantly compare yourself with others. So, try a different approach. For starters, pit yourself against your old self and no one else. This can show you how far you’ve come and motivate you to pursue your goals relentlessly. Bear in mind every person moves at their own pace.
Secondly, spend as little time on your socials as possible and carefully filter the content you consume. Many things on social media can trigger feelings of envy.
For example, a friend going on vacation several times a year, that schoolmate with a perfectly sculpted body, or a cousin posting their newest toy – a luxury car.
If you can’t handle what you see on social media, avoid it altogether for some time. Detoxing from social media or limiting your exposure to triggering content can keep your envy from spiraling.
Instagram and other social media platforms have a ‘deactivate your account’ option for those who need to remove the temptation to compare themselves with others on social media.
Is Your Personality Genetic?
Certain personality traits are partially genetic, which means your DNA might impact your ability to be conscientious, agreeable, or even causing you to be more neurotic.
An at-home DNA test such as the CircleDNA Premium DNA Test is something that can help you gain insight into your personality. The ‘genetic personality and behavior traits’ reports from CircleDNA are just some of the 500 reports about yourself that you’ll get from this at-home DNA test. CircleDNA is the world’s most comprehensive DNA test.
Sometimes, understanding where toxic personality traits come from (such as being partially genetic or a consequence of some type of trauma) is what helps you overcome them.