Many amongst us seek to improve upon our own character at some timer or another and in some way or another. Sometimes we need to become harder workers to outcompete others for a potential raise; and sometimes we need to become better studied to understand a new stage of our life. There are plenty of instances where, if we are to be successful, our character must undergo some change.
And said metamorphosis can be approached from different angles. We could develop a new daily routine and religiously follow it, so as to ingrain new habits and skills into our person; we could adopt a new outlook on life, which we then apply to each circumstance we find ourselves in, so as to modify our course of action; or we could even adopt some combination of the two. Whichever we choose, the point is that we indeed do have a method to make changes to our character.
But not every method works with equal efficacy, some are worse than others. Albeit, I have no intent to propose why my method is better than others herein, but I do want to convey, nonetheless, another method for character change; of which I shall leave to the reader to determine whether they want to adopt or not: whether it truly is better or not.
Much like a painter who sets out to produce another work of art, our method likewise requires of us to find a source from which to derive information. However, the painter seeks inspiration in a whimsical fashion, a strategy which fails to place on us an obligation: we can do different if we so please.
The information we gather can be motivated by a purpose to achieve some desired outcome, such as when we want to become better workers; or, the information we can gather, much like the painter, can be based purely on aesthetic preference and whim.
For example, in the pursuit of becoming better mathematicians, we can seek information from the biographies of once great mathematicians; we can read about their interests, routines, and hobbies; or, in like manner, we can seek inspiration from less than real mathematicians, like those we would find in comic books or movies; the reality of the source matters little for the purpose of information gathering.
The goal herein be nothing short of finding essential qualities for the construction of a character blueprint. Something to guide our judgements and actions as we undergo our attempt to self-develop.
And, just to note, one ought to be careful about the information gathering process as well, as there is a possibility that you will select things which you already are due to their familiarity. We have to be aware of our biases, to some degree, in this process.
Portraying The Character
After we have studied a sufficient amount of appropriate sources for inspiration and information, such that we now have a character blueprint, we then have to ask: how is the character portrayed?
Character portrayal is done in two ways. On the one hand, we have to portray the character from a first-person point of view: the inner character. And on the other hand, we have to portray the character from a third-person point of view: the outer character.
In both of these mediums, a genuine and honest belief has to be taken towards the new portrayal, otherwise it becomes an act. We want more than a mere act, we want a genuine change; we want to become someone else, fundamentally.
For each domain of character portrayal, we are striving to become the idealized character blueprint which we have constructed. It is our aim to mitigate any discrepancy found between the blueprint and ourselves.
The Inner Character
The voice which reverberates throughout halls of our neural libraries, in search of stored information to answer questions of self, is the essence of inner character. That voice conveys the innermost essence of a person. In times of moral turmoil, that voice guides us by being the lantern which brings light to the darkness; in times emotional turmoil, that voice guides us by being the person we talk to; in times generally put, that voice is there for us. And that is what I mean by inner character.
To portray inner character is to portray that voice. We can ask questions of that inner voice as it is reflected on our blueprint, so that it speaks back to us from the character’s point of view. And such questions, we should likewise note, are meant to revolve around the essential components that constitute a person. We have no concern for questions such as, “what would my character say in this very situation?”. And that is because, through genuine portrayal of the inner character, we necessarily say, without conscious reflection, what the authentic character would indeed say. We seek to replace our own inner voice with the character’s inner voice.
For example, when we asked the question, “how do you feel about capitalism?,” we can go about answering in a few ways. On the one hand, we can ask of our character their disposition towards profit and wealth, and then attempt to say something which corresponds to the attitudes therein. But in strong contrast, someone who has sufficiently embodied the character, so much so that they have become the character, will respond in spontaneous yet genuine fashion; not much reflection would have been given to the values of the character under study.
So, in order to portray inner character, in any sufficient fashion, we must not spend much time asking how a character would respond in some specific context; we have to understand the generalities of the character, such that we can apply them to each specific context without a moments reflection. Our inner voice has to become indistinguishable from the character’s inner voice.
Domains Of General Inner Character
To no surprise, there are plenty of options available when it comes to studying the essence of a person. In science, such a course of study would be called the study of personality. We have not any need, however, to spend countless hours attempting to establish a scientific model of personhood. We only need but a few essential categories, of which are pertinent to most domains of life, to direct our questions towards.
In our case, then, we need only consider the following values which a person holds: their social, ethical, political, and existential. These, being very broad, can develop a general understanding of a person’s inner character.
Social values pertain to how one ought to behave within the greater context of society, as well as how one ought to consider society in general. Social values will determine how that voice responds to matters of social regard.
The theory of social contracts is, for example, influenced by certain sets of social values. To elaborate, in most circumstances, humans value some privacy and freedom; and as a result, a store owner will be obliged to let the customer, in an uninterrupted fashion, select whichever products they deem preferable; only because the store owner comprehends that people value their privacy and freedom. But the lack of communication between the store owner and the customer does not entail that the products are free; much rather, we have a social contract which obliges us to, after selecting our goods, pay before exiting the store.
So, in said circumstance, our behaviour is greatly impacted by our social values. The privacy which we cherish impacts the manner in which social contracts are engaged in. But social values go further than that, for it is likewise the case that our views upon society are also influenced by our social values.
Suppose someone believes that being on a phone while in a conversation is of the greatest level of disrespect. This person will most likely be of the belief that society has an issue with respect and conversation, for modern society has many people who are on their phones during conversation with others.
Thus, both our behaviours within social life and our attitudes towards society are sculpted by our social values.
In addition to social values, we have ethical values, of which are an equally important domain of consideration. Ethical values have much to say about the decisions we make towards others, and the standards we have within society.
In example, if someone were a moral nihilist, then not much concern can be found in their minds when they steal or lie to others; a lack of a conscience can lead to a lack of inhibition for anti-social behaviours. And thus, moral values, or lack thereof, have some meaningful impact on our decisions.
Likewise, it is a generally accepted axiom within society that theft or lying are immoral and evil. As a result, we, in accordance to the ethical values of society, conform. We will avoid stealing or lying to others so as to avoid being ostracized by the wider community.
And on top of the ethical and social values which influence how we behave and interact with the world around us, we also have political values which influence who we are.
Consider how we view either nationality or equality, two topics which are deeply political.
When we believe that our country deserves borders, and that we ought to maintain the homogeneity of the native populations, we are less willing to be open about our immediate affairs with non-natives. A kind of isolationist attitude is adopted towards outsiders, and that regularly impacts how we behave.
Furthermore, when we believe that everyone ought to have an equality of outcome, or, less extremely put, equality of opportunity, we begin to act differently towards others. In some cases, we might say of someone that believes in capitalism that they are evil and support the oppression of the poor. Or, if there are some laws which restrict, unnecessarily, the opportunities of some demographic, we will be inclined to partake in political activism to change such an adverse situation.
The point being, our political values have a massive impact on who we are and what we do, it is a domain of personhood which cannot be ignored.
The last set of values we shall consider are existential values. These values have much todo with our views and actions toward life itself.
When someone values, for instance, hedonism, they will at times throw off long-term achievements, of which can last beyond our own lifespans, for nothing more than momentary pleasure; doing so only requires that the momentary pleasures are of greater pleasure than the longterm reward. And so, the hedonic philosophy of life can have a meaningful impact on our daily behaviours.
Even if we consider philosophies of either pessimism or optimism, both can greatly influence our attitudes toward the next 24 hours of life. A dreadful gloom awaits, or a merry and cheerful day is arriving. The next 24 hours is utterly neutral, but our attitudes toward it shift our perspective of said 24 hours from neutral to either positive or negative.
Our values, existential and otherwise, have a significant role to play for determining the tone of that inner voice. How we respond will be influenced by that voice’s advice, and thus, our ability portray an inner and outer character depends, to some degree, on that voice’s uttered values.
The Outer Character
In each circumstance we find ourselves within, we express ourselves in some way or another in an outwardly manner. Sometimes we react to someone’s statement by closing our arms, and sometimes we react to someone’s statements by smiling. But each of these responses is, nonetheless, an expression of our character as it outwardly manifests.
And as with the portrayal of inner character, outer character ought to be portrayed in an unconscious fashion; no thought should be put towards bodily expressions. We should believe the inner character so much so that we necessarily act in the exact fashion, per circumstance, that the character would.
But for us to do this, we need not only understand the values of our inner character, so as to ensure we avoid behaviours which necessarily entail a set of values which do not correspond to our characters, but we ought also understand a few personality traits as well.
Traits and Values in Relation to Outer Character
To begin, I want to clarify that it need not necessarily be the case that values and traits are exclusive and have no influence on each other; traits and values can sometimes influence one another, as well as overlap. For example, if we have social values that lead us to greet everyone in public, then it is not unreasonable for us to also suppose of said behaviour some degree of extraversion or openness to experience. So, I caution readers to avoid the treatment of traits and values as always being distinct and unrelated.
But moreover, some ways in which values and traits influence the outer character are habits, verbal behaviour, and attire.
Habits can be influenced by the values we believe in; for example, if I have a habit of going for walks late at night in the city, and I value the well-being of others, then I will maintain a reasonable level of noise throughout my walk; only so I do not wake anyone from their slumber. As a result, I have thus allowed my values to have a meaningful impact on my habits.
And the same can be said for traits. For instance, someone who speaks over others may do so simply because of their high-levels of extraversion; there might be some need to be the centre of attention. Given that to be the case, then they could still value the input of others though, nonetheless, prefer to have greater levels of attention due to traits.
So, if we want grasp the social mannerisms, the daily behavioural habits, and even the way in which the character dresses in an intuitive and non-conscious fashion, then we have to thoroughly understand how our character’s traits and values manifest in outer character.
In the end, if the general philosophy outlined above is followed with serious intention and effort, then someone can systematically reshape who they are. They will become a different person from the inside out, and that different person will be the character blueprint.