Books

Book Review: Me, Myself, and Us: The Science of Personality and the Art of Well-Being by Brian Little

A book about the big five personality traits and plus much more from one of the leading personality psychologists. He writes the Myers-Briggs personality type indicator is feel good, like a horoscope that will explain everything when you get the results. But the point of the book is not to trash the test but to shed light on stable personality traits and what they mean. The first point is there is no dualistic nature, meaning you are one or another. It is more like a scale, where you are not stuck. Life, circumstances, and all of those matters—that said openness, agreeableness, extroversion, conscientiousness, and neuroticism are one of the more stable personality traits throughout life. And often, people are not at the extreme ends, in the middle is more typical. Plus, introversion and extroversion do seem to have a genetic disposition. A-type personality also has a saying how we act and react in situations. Someone with a hostile a-type personality has volatile tendencies, displaying anger and envy, but are hardworking and driven.

Understanding all these traits might help you know yourself and others. I’m well-versed with personality psychology because of my studies and books I have read, and the first ten pages speaking about the basics, I feared this book would have nothing to offer me, but it did. Brian Little knows how to write about personality from a personal perspective and taking into account studies done. But that is not all. It also showed how much I thought I knew and how much I actually knew—something I would have found hard to admit five years ago. Partly because I wasn’t ready to face who I was and how I had to grow as a human being and where my tendencies came. Getting to know myself, my personality, my shortcomings, my insecurities, and understanding them has helped me and a lot. And MBTI is like this patch you carry around, more like an excuse rather than an explanation. Reading about control, impression management, creativity, cities, and self-monitoring (principled vs. pragmatic) can be beneficial when trying to figure out why we do what we do, when trying to understand why others act the way they do, and why there might be a conflict between you and someone else (or someone else and you.)

Even how helpful I find these things, I have a problem with labels and forgetting situations matter. When the questionnaires ask questions to define your level of, for example, agreeableness or conscientiousness, the circumstances seem static as if you would always act the same way. I have yet to meet a person who is consistent in every single situation despite the minor differing details. When someone is prone to a hostile a-type personality, their actions might not always be because of it, or when someone high impression management, they might sometimes be agreeable because of the circumstances. I find it harmful to label people, yes, it makes it easier to understand them, but people might be hurt or just absent-minded or something because they got bad news. We don’t live in a vacuum. Gravity impacts us. Not that Brian Little says situations don’t matter, he says the opposite, in fact and he admits the scales are suggestive and some of them accurate, but not simple and all explaining.

Altogether a brilliant book. I enjoyed reading it, and a lot. It helped clarify a lot of things I suspected, didn’t know, and had to suffer through because of me, others, and the power dynamic between us. To criticize the shape of it, I felt the book stumbled towards the end. Some chapters felt empty and hurried, more like an opinion than based on research—still a great resource for life as a human being and a writer.

Thank you for reading and have splendid day ❤

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