“Be gentle first with yourself if you wish to be gentle with others.” ~Lama Yeshe
Everyone has a personality. Unfortunately, though, most of us don’t understand the impulses that repetitively show up as our idiosyncrasies, better known as our ego.
If you are a sensitive type, you feel guilty for wanting to be alone; you’re sentimental and often quiet.
If you’re a thinker, you are indecisive, fickle, and starved for contact, needing someone to be around most of the time.
If you have a practical personality, money, work, and goals motivate you and give you identity.
And lastly, if you’re an Energizer bunny, you’re wild, uninhibited, and always looking for a party, even when you know you should stop.
It’s obvious how any one of these personality types might fall out of balance. They become, respectively, too reclusive, too talkative, too practical, or too indulgent.
Here’s the good news: Your ego is designed to create individuality and a unique signature. The bad news is that your ego works overtime, has a short attention span, and does not necessarily have your best interest in mind.
Balance Through Compassion
The way to create awareness or balance in your life is to cultivate compassion. Compassion for your human condition is what your ego is lacking.
Imagine if you really could assume the spiritual posture of seeing that you are exactly as you should be. In fact, your ego and its quirks are essentially endearing; they’re what makes you uniquely you!
For example, I have a friend who doesn’t like to talk. This person can appear withdrawn and detached. Knowing what I know about personality types, this is a disguise for someone who actually cares so much, they appear numb.
Just the opposite, I also have a boisterous friend who is always taking over, always loud and silly, camouflaging insecurity as a need for attention. When it comes to my friends, you would never know the detached person is so sensitive or the bold character so insecure.
To balance our personalities requires full disclosure and honesty from self to self. If only you could stop judging yourself for being [fill in the blank]—too sensitive, too neat, too messy, too wild, too inhibited, too weird. We are who we are, right? And it’s best to be you since everyone else is taken!
For me, I tried for years and years to get rid of my fiery bigness. I sought help.
My therapist at the time had a great suggestion. He sent me to a party, and not just any party; this was the Thanksgiving party of a pretty famous guy. He wanted me to walk in and act like I owned the place, to totally epitomize and experience my fiery energy. The thought made me nauseous, but I was game.
I walked into the party, grabbed a bottle of wine, and began traversing the crowd, filling people’s glasses and introducing myself as I went.
I laughed and mingled. I joined conversations that didn’t otherwise involve me. I held my own and allowed my fiery nature to shine. And I had a blast!
This experience helped me to love a part of myself that, until that point, I had been stifling, hiding, and wishing away. Once my self-judgment subsided, I was able to have compassion for that part of myself and live in balance with it.
The Language of Personality
Culturally, we don’t currently have a language for personality types. We don’t understand how to be compassionate toward human nature.
What would life be like if you could stand at a distance and simply observe an agitating character in your world with compassion and understanding? There would be no more us vs. them; we would all be in this together.
This missing language does, in fact, exist, though we have ignored it for centuries. The wisdom of tribal elders immemorial has carried a knowledge and understanding of the essential elements of our existence: water, air, earth and fire.
Through understanding these basic elements, we can begin to operate from that place of compassion, first toward ourselves and then outward into our communities.
Water people are highly emotional, easily breaking into tears, one minute deeply sad, another crying tears of joy. They feel everything!
They tend to be secretive. They’re creative. They’re geniuses.
These incredibly smooth sailors tend toward addiction problems because they want to escape—with video games, with porn, with gambling, with getting high. They want to go off and play because they’re so sensitive it’s painful.
Air people are talkers. They communicate all the time. They’re verbal. They think. They talk. They change their mind. They get multiple ideas going at the same time and they’re communicating to everybody.
They’re on the Internet, Facebook, they’re texting. They move at incredible speed!
Earth people are super grounded and practical. They deal in numbers, in insurance. They deal with your car, your tires, and putting the dishes in the dishwasher the right way.
They cross their Ts and dot their Is and really love to go to work and love results. They measure their whole success on how much they’ve accomplished in a day.
Fire people are supercharged, energetic, loud, dramatic storytellers with unbelievable energy. They have enthusiasm. They get excited over nothing and they can’t sit still!
They have to be moving and doing something challenging, even something scary like bungee jumping or whitewater rafting—something to keep their juju going! They love energy!
Whatever your elemental nature is (and it certainly can be a combination of elements), own those parts of yourself and give yourself some homework: Allow yourself to dive in and experience those aspects of yourself fully. In this way, we can begin to cultivate self-compassion.
From there, we can reflect that compassion outward to better understand those people in our lives who, up until now, have been extremely challenging figures for us.
Think Republican and Democrat, think liberal and conservative, think man and woman. Understanding differences allows us to create a middle ground where we exist in a palace of compassion rather than a shaky pedestal of judgment. From that place, acceptance, balance, mediation, and wisdom are born.
In the future, a child will be born and a personality test will come inside the diaper box. This instruction manual will provide understanding for all the different personality types right from the beginning.
In the meantime, developing a deeper understanding of the elements can give us a running start to understanding how strange we really aren’t.