Auntie SparkNotes: How Can I Get a More Appealing Personality?
Today, one of my friends said something that brought me to write this email: "A person's appearance is why I approach them, but their personality is what makes me keep them." That got me thinking that I've always thought of myself as a boring/too serious of a person. I've just started my second semester of college and I thought I would have changed by now and somehow acquire this amazing, fun personality; but I haven't. Everyone else on my residential floor seems to be getting along super well, and I feel left out. Maybe it's because I don't party like they do, or because I stay in my room to escape feeling left out which in turn makes me even more lonely. I wish I could connect like they do, but I guess I fear being judged so I approach with caution. It's not just with my floormates, it's something I've noticed whenever I'm out with a large group of friends. I guess you could call me an introvert, but I actually want to go out and have fun. I want to have a personality that draws people toward me, I want to be charismatic. I don't believe that I'm boring on the inside because hey, my best friend thinks i'm pretty awesome, haha. Can I change myself? Is this just a phase, or is it just me?
Well, let's try this. Let's just suppose for a second that the answer is yes: you can change your personality. Imagine that overnight, you could become the most charming, funny, spontaneous party person on your entire campus.
Do you believe that charming, funny, spontaneous party people never lie awake at night worrying that nobody really likes them?
Because trust me, they do. The only difference is that they deal with it by putting on a show, where you deal with it by just not showing up to begin with. You allow your insecurity to push you back into your room, where it's safe, and where you can take comfort in the fact that nobody's there to judge you. But those people are just as insecure; they're just channeling their insecurities in a different way. All the world's a stage, everyone's a critic, and their job is to play the part of the Most Likeable Guy in The World. But at the end of the day, it's all the same: you'll both curl up alone around that hard little core of fear that you're not good enough, and fall asleep wondering if anyone even knows or cares who you are.
All of which is to say, it's not who you are that's the problem; it's that you think your problems would be solved if you were somebody else, and that you think there's something about you—not your behavior, not your attitude, but the inner, immutable, essential you—that's inherently unattractive. And until you can recognize the strength and appeal of being the best version of yourself, you're going to be in a lousy place no matter what kind of person you are.
The good news is, recognizing the lovely and wonderful things about your own personality is a heck of a lot easier than giving yourself a new one. (As in, that little exercise we did before was just for show. You can modify your behavior, go outside your comfort zone, learn new skills, or cultivate tastes that don't come naturally to you, but you'll never crack the nut that holds your essential self inside.)
And with that in mind, here is what I'd like you to consider: that you don't have to be a different person to take a different approach. As you've noticed, leaving yourself out because you're afraid that somebody else will do it just means that that the worst always happens: you get left out, forever, by your own design and with no hope of it ever changing. Wouldn't you rather risk that outcome with at least the chance of an alternative? Would being rejected by other people instead of yourself really be so much worse? And kiddo, come on: do you really think that would happen? You already know that you're not unfriendable, because hello, you have friends. If you give people the opportunity to know you, you can certainly make more friends. And maybe you won't connect with the same people or in the same way as your more party-loving classmates, and maybe you won't have a vast circle of superficial acquaintances in the same way that a superficially-charming person would. But being charming comes with its own unique set of challenges: the stress of having to be "on" all the time, the worry that people only like you for your generic pleasing qualities, the loneliness of having a million contacts in your phone, and not being able to call a single one of them when you're feeling sad or sick or helpless.
In short: being charismatic won't stop you from being lonely. The only cure for loneliness is to enjoy your own company. But if you can do that, then you needn't be anyone but who you are—because people will be drawn not to the particulars of your personality, but to the alluring glow of your confidence in it.
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