Experts Reveal Just How Much Your Personality Really Changes As You Get Older

by Julia Guerra

Looking back on Julia at age 13 and Julia at 26, it’s become clear to me that I am who I am. But that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m always the same, if that makes sense. It’s like this: While a few core values, views, and character traits have stuck with me throughout my entire life — like the fact that I’m naturally a jealous person, a perfectionist, and love with my whole heart — I’ve definitely grown wiser, stronger, and to this day, I continue to develop into the person I was meant to be. Your personality changes over time, and according to new research, that’s perfectly normal. However, certain traits tend to stick with you for your entire life, so really, the only way to know for sure if your personality has changed over the years is to compare your present self to your past self — not to others around you.

Before you can really grasp what, specifically, about your personality is bound to stick and change, it’s important to keep in mind that most experts believe your personality forms during early childhood, Robert Glatter, M.D., an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital, Northwell Health, tells Elite Daily. In other words, you’re pretty much your own person right off the bat. However, Glatter says, your personality is ultimately a combination of two things: genetics and life experience, which means certain elements of who you are can be subject to change depending on a) what life throws at you, and b) how you’ll adapt to your surroundings.

To assess how your personality changes over time, a first-of-its-kind study was performed by researchers from the University of Houston, the University of Tuebingen in Germany, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who drew data drawn from a personality questionnaire given to high school students in 1960, ScienceDaily reports. The team followed up with those surveyed almost 50 years later, asking questions that compared and contrasted their teenage personalities to what their personalities were like in the present.

The study's findings, which have been published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, showed that, generally speaking, your dominant personality traits are most likely going to stay dominant throughout your entire life. But at the same time, the research found, your personality is also pretty malleable in that, well, life just sort of happens, and sometimes those life events cause you to gain a different perspective and change your mind accordingly. And according to Dr. Sherry Benton, founder of TAO Connect, a psychology professor emeritus, and former counseling center director at the University of Florida (who wasn't involved in this particular study), this is 100 percent natural and, in a sense, kind of inevitable.

"All of our experiences are constantly changing us, and modifications to our personality are inevitable," Benton tells Elite Daily over email, adding that, while you and I might not always have control over what life has in store for us, we can "consciously change our thinking and behavior in positive ways that improve our adaptation to life and satisfaction." In other words, even if you feel like the deck you've been dealt in life is kind of a dud, that doesn't necessarily mean your personality, or the way you feel, or the things you believe in, have to be a reflection of that. To an extent, you're in control of who you are as a person, so the best thing you can do is accept what you can't control, and work on changing what you can.

So what exactly doesn’t change about your personality? Well, to put it into perspective, think of it this way: Some people, when they’re little, absolutely detest broccoli. Then, when they grow up, they learn to appreciate the nutrients in green veggies and end up adding broccoli to almost every meal — they can’t get enough of the stuff. Those minute details are subject to change, but let’s say you’ve always identified as being an introvert, aka someone who tends to value their alone time more than others. That, Benton says, is most likely not going to change.

If you're a true introvert, Brenton tells Elite Daily, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll wake up one morning and become an extrovert with a flick of a switch. However, "you can build excellent social skills and function well when more extroverted behavior is called for," she explains. Because the thing is, in life, you’re always going to have to adapt to your surroundings to some extent. This doesn’t mean you’re changing who you are at your core; it just means you’re moving with the current. Again, this is totally natural and, in some instances, all too necessary.

Something to keep in mind in regards to how your personality changes over time, though, is that just because certain personality traits of yours, or the personalities of other people, don't seem to be changing over time, that doesn't mean you or anyone else stays exactly the same throughout their entire lives. "Our personality can and will be impacted by the company we keep [and] the physical environment we find ourselves in, and the combination creates changes in our personality," Shannon Thomas, an award-winning therapist and survivor of psychological abuse, tells Elite Daily. There are multiple layers to your personality, she says, and the best way to acknowledge them and determine whether or not they've evolved is by taking note of who you are and how the circumstances around you have shaped your identity and how you respond to things. At the end of the day, we're all just kind of growing into the best versions of ourselves that we can be, and that really all you can do.