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Personality Descriptors Are Value Neutral

Personality Descriptors Are Value Neutral

If you’ve read my book, Nice Girls Finish Fat—yes, “boys” can learn from it, too—you’d know that dysregulated eaters share many personality traits. Not every dysregulated eater has all of them, but most possess the majority of these attributes: perfectionism, all-nothing thinking, approval-seeking and people-pleasing, poor self-regulation and self-care, fear of confrontation, being hard on yourself, and being shame- not pride-based.  

You may see yourself in this description and think, “Sure, I’d like to change and be different,” but you must understand that different doesn’t mean the opposite of how you currently think, feel and act. This view would be binary, a primary cause of eating and other dysregulation. Examples would be dieting or bingeing, holding in your feelings until you explode or being overly nice even when you dislike someone.

Personality traits fall on a continuum and are value-neutral. Nice may be at one end and mean at the other, but there’s lots of nuance between the two. The middle ground between dieting and bingeing is “normal” eating. A balanced life would include work and play. My point is that you don’t have to pick only one trait on each continuum and run with it. Life calls for a much more sophisticated response than that.

Value neutral means that each trait is neither positive nor negative. We decide which one to use by assessing situations and seeing what’s called for. You don’t always need to be nice, but sometimes you want to be, like when a friend doesn’t call and you later find out that he’s been depressed because his father died. Alternately, you’d want to be confrontive with someone who regularly makes, then reneges, on plans with you. 

To recognize what is situationally appropriate, you must allow yourself the entire range of emotional options, then decide which best suits your situation. Some examples: If you’re usually perfectionistic at work, you don’t want to suddenly give up on all your projects and start getting to work late. Instead, you want to consider what doing the right amount with each of your various tasks would look like. If you’re usually a pushover, you don’t want to become an argumentative person, but use anger when it’s necessary.

People who are personally and professionally successful possess and use flexible, not rigid, personality traits. They can be this way one moment and that way the next. They choose what will likely work in situations rather than automatically respond. They don’t see traits as good or bad but as belonging to a vast array of possible responses which will be more or less successful in any given situation. 

 

Best,

Karen

 

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This website is owned and operated by Karen R. Koenig, M.Ed., LCSW. It contains material intended for informational and educational purposes only, and reasonable effort is made to keep its contents updated. Any material contained herein is not to be construed as the practice of clinical social work or of psychotherapy, although adherence to applicable Florida States, Rules, and Code of Ethics is observed. Material on this website is not intended as a substitute for medical or psychological advice, diagnosis, or treatment for mental health issues or eating disorder problems, which should be done only through individualized therapeutic consultation. Karen R. Koenig, LCSW disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the use of any information contained on this website. This website contains links to other sites. The inclusion of such links does not necessarily constitute endorsement by Karen R. Koenig, LCSW who disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the use of any information contained in this website. Further, Karen R. Koenig, LCSW, does not and cannot guarantee the accuracy or current usefulness of the material contained in the linked sites. Users of any website must be aware of the limitation to confidentiality and privacy, and website usage does not carry any guarantee or privacy of any information contained therein.  Privacy Policy