Over a hundred years ago, psychologist William James said, “In most of us, by the age of thirty, the character has set like plaster and will never soften again.” Recent research has only backed up this statement, and the term “personality plasticity” has come into use, to describe the way that personality traits tend to develop until around age thirty and then plateau.
Does that seem frightening? If you are or have always been dissatisfied with yourself, this kind of statement could make you feel doomed, as though it’s impossible for you to ever change. But don’t fret, it’s just a “rule of thumb,” not a hard and fast rule. You can definitely make big changes in your thirties and beyond.
I guess I’ve just never been a very fearful person, never cared too much about what others thought, either. Personal happiness has always mattered more to me than money, status, or anything of that nature. A few years ago I reached a point in life that most people might call a pinnacle, but I was miserable and stressed out. I was supporting the family, owned a big house and had a pretty fast-paced corporate job when I finally felt I’d had enough of that life. I felt as though I wanted to look at all the people who doubted me when I was growing up and say, “Okay, I did it, see? Are you satisfied now?” and more importantly, now that I had proven myself, “Can we STOP this now?” I had spent a long time doing what everyone thought I should do, but it didn’t make me happy. I quit. I have less money now, by the way. But that’s okay with me. You’ll have to decide what’s more important to you.
I can’t even describe the impact that moving away from your hometown can have on you. I come from Georgia where people normally tend to stay put. It is definitely not the norm that kids graduate from college and move off to other states and have a family that only gets together a couple of times a year. Not at all—people tend to stay pretty close to home and family all their lives. We shocked everyone we knew when we moved to another state a few years ago. There is some pain and inconvenience to that situation, but if you only knew what we had discovered by moving! If you live all your life in one place, the inhabitants of that place will form your opinion of all humanity. When you move, you learn how different people can be from what you thought. Also, you find you can be anybody you want. Nobody in your new home will be judging your looks, your job, or your lifestyle in comparison to what you’ve always done, so you feel free to try anything you want to. I don’t have to worry about running into my high school rivals or my ex-boyfriends and what they’ll think of me. It’s amazing.
Change Your Look
I’ve written about this before, but I still believe it: if you’ve always dreamed about getting your teeth fixed, your nose fixed, getting a breast enhancement or reduction, or any other type of cosmetic surgery, find a way to do it as early as you can. What’s the use of finally doing it when you’re old? On a smaller scale, grow out the bangs you’ve had since 8th grade. Get contacts. Wear the clothes your mom never approved of. Sure, if you’re still in your hometown, people will notice the difference and maybe poke a little fun at first, but they will get accustomed to it. If not, they’re the ones in the wrong. When you get to your 25 year class reunion, you’ll see that it’s the people who never changed their look who have become laughable. Update your appearance and get on with your reinvented life!