Just about all of us have been in situations where we’ve had to talk about ourselves.
On the first day at a new school or job, you may have been asked to tell everyone about your likes, hobbies, and interests.
Or maybe you’ve filled out surveys that asked questions about who you are.
What happens when we don’t have answers to these questions and end up blanking instead of responding?
Or if we’re shocked to discover that our responses are utterly banal and commonplace?
If you’re reading this article, chances are something happened to make you feel that you don’t have a personality of your own.
So let’s do some digging to see why you feel this way and how to sort things out.
Why do you feel like you have no personality?
First and foremost, let’s dive into why you feel that this is the case.
Did you suddenly have an epiphany about the fact that you don’t feel like much of an individual?
Or perhaps you met other people who were so much like you that you wondered whether there was a formula you’ve been following?
Maybe someone you know or started to date recently told you that you’re just like everyone else in your particular social subset, or they commented on how “basic” you are.
Whatever the reason, you may have ended up sitting on the floor wondering who you are exactly.
If this is the case, please don’t beat yourself up.
Most of us are raised to conform, rather than to have independent thought and expression.
In fact, many people around you don’t have a strong sense of identity or defined personality, instead they identify with their interests and preferences.
For example, think about the people you went to high school with. There were likely various cliques around that people allied themselves with, but did any individuals stand out because they didn’t “belong” anywhere?
Chances are they were few and far between and were likely taunted by all the other groups for not fitting in. Most people want to be accepted, and thus will fall in line with what their peers are doing, rather than being true to themselves.
Do you only go along with what everyone else is doing rather than pursuing your own interests?
Alternatively, are you even aware of what your interests are?
Or perhaps you know full well what your authentic personality is like but you’re afraid to set it free because of how others will react.
If you feel like you have no personality to speak of, and that you’re simply a cookie-cutter version of everyone around you, it’s time to do some solid soul seeking.
Below are some suggestions on how to determine who you are and who you want to be. They can help you to cultivate a personality that suits you properly or free the one you’ve been keeping under wraps.
How To Develop A Personality You Actually Want
There are a number of things you can do to develop a personality that’s right for you.
1. Ask the people closest to you how they would describe you.
One of the best ways to determine who you want to be is to also figure out who you don’t want to be.
If you’re comfortable doing so, ask your closest friends and family members how they would describe you.
Take note of what they all say, and check to see where there’s overlap and where their views of you differ greatly.
While you’re at it, be aware of how each description makes you feel.
Do these observations make you feel happy or irritable?
Are you frustrated by how they perceive you, or delighted that they see aspects of you that you always wanted to have acknowledged?
It’s likely that your reactions to these responses will be across the board, which will give you a fair amount of food for thought.
For example, you may be delighted to find out that most of the people in your life think that you have a big, kind heart, but frustrated to find out that their awareness of your personality is limited to your knowledge of Star Wars trivia or your ability to bake great muffins.
If this happens, ask yourself which traits you would have preferred they had acknowledged and whether they’d ever actually witnessed those things.
A former colleague once griped to me about how offended he was that our boss didn’t ask him to design the company holiday card considering that he had years of formal training in drawing and painting at the art college we’d attended together.
I had to remind him that he now worked in the IT department, and I was the only person in the entire company who knew what he was capable of.
Those around you will have no idea about personality traits of yours that you never show them, in the same way that they won’t know about your various skillsets unless you demonstrate them as well.
Look at the feedback your friends give you, and decide whether you want to step more fully into the traits they’ve described or replace them with others that you’re happier with.
2. Consider who you admire, and why.
While not all of us have personal “heroes,” we all have affinities for people or characters whom we admire
Some of these might be real-life people who have inspired us with their achievements, while others may be fictional characters whose traits we either admire or would love to emulate.
When you think about your favorite characters, what do you love most about them? Do you love this one’s courage and that one’s free spirit? How about their taste in clothing, music, and interior design? Are you in awe of the things these characters do or what they create?
If you’re a fan of the Lord of the Rings movies, do you find yourself wishing that you spoke as eloquently as Christopher Lee’s Saruman? Or moved with as much grace as Cate Blanchett’s Galadriel?
Recognizing traits and behaviors that you admire can be incredibly useful in helping you determine the type of person you want to be.
While you’re in the process of determining all the things you love about these people (or characters), ask yourself whether you already embody any of those traits.
If you don’t, think about ways in which you can incorporate some of those aspects into your daily life.
For example, if you don’t like the way you speak, you can either take elocution lessons or be more conscious about your cadence and pronunciation. Similarly, if you’d like to move more gracefully, consider taking yoga and/or dance classes.
3. Examine your values and educate yourself.
This expands upon the previous tip about determining the people you admire and weighing their behaviors against your own.
Quite a lot of people say and do things they don’t actually believe in because that’s what everyone else is doing.
They don’t want to be ostracized—or end up on the receiving end of people’s ire—so they follow along even though they don’t believe in what they’re saying or doing.
Alternatively, they may not have strong opinions about subjects because they simply haven’t looked into them too deeply. This could be due to lack of interest, but may also be an avoidance issue.
If you’re non-confrontational, you can avoid getting into arguments by being aware of others’ perspectives.
This is a great opportunity for you to delve into things you’ve been taking part in for years but have done so on autopilot rather than from sincerity. Note that this can span a wide range of different beliefs and practices.
For instance, do you actually enjoy watching or reading the same news source that your family chooses to follow? Or do you do so because it’s always been that way?
Do you actually agree with what’s being broadcast? Or are your views and values totally different from theirs?
Every time you come across a subject—and this could range from the banal to the highly incendiary—ask yourself what you sincerely think and feel about it.
Instead of immediately responding by parroting what everyone else says, take some time to really contemplate it.
If you get stuck, do a wide variety of research from different perspectives and see what resonates with you.
As a child, I appreciated that any time I had a question about a particular subject, my parents and grandmother would provide me with a range of resources to delve into.
They suggested that I learn as much about a given topic as I could and then determine how I felt about it accordingly. Doing this allows a person to develop a startling amount of critical thinking skills and deductive reasoning.
Furthermore, it allows one to figure out how they think and feel, rather than being influenced by other people.
Try this approach for a while and see what happens. You may find that you actually feel very differently about certain things than those around you do, and your personality will start to fill out a bit more as a result.
4. Think about all the things you’d do if you didn’t care what others thought about you.
How many times have you refrained from behaving authentically because of how other people react (or might react) to you?
Many people who believe that they don’t have a personality feel trapped by others’ expectations.
They don’t feel that they can behave or look the way they want to because to do so might be considered “weird” by their family or peer group.
Many social groups enjoy homogeneity and either mock or ostracize those who look or behave differently than they do.
For example, let’s say that your social group is composed of people who like to go out drinking every weekend. You might be tired of these shenanigans and would prefer to chill with your true crime podcasts at home, but you feel obligated to join in because otherwise you might lose all your friends.
If you don’t drink and howl along with them, they’ll give you grief about how you don’t know how to have fun anymore. If you suggest doing something different, they might imply that you think you’re “better than them,” and so on.
If you live in a large city and have the opportunity to hang out with different types of people, then you always have the option to explore new social groups and make some new friends who’ll allow you to develop the personality you truly want to have.
In contrast, if you’re stuck in a small town where you’ve known everyone since kindergarten, it’s difficult to break free from the role you’ve cultivated (or has been cultivated for you) thus far.
Should you come across resistance to your personal changes, seek to understand why others are trying to prevent you from cultivating more of a distinct personality.
More often than not, it’s because they want the comfort of consistency. If you change, then they might have to examine their own life choices and behaviors instead of maintaining the status quo.
Furthermore, they might be afraid of losing you. If you change, will you still be the same person they know, love, and depend on? That very real worry pushes many people to behave badly toward those they claim to love.
If this happens, simply reassure them through words and actions that you’re still there for them and care about them but simply need to step into a new life phase.
*Note: this may also result in re-examining your friendships. If people close to you get openly hostile or abusive at your audacity to change, then that’s a huge red flag. Those who are truly your friends will support you, not insult you.
5. Take baby steps.
In most cases, you may have to take “baby steps” toward creating a new, more authentic personality for yourself.
For instance, if you’ve always had a clown-like personality but now want to be more reserved and dignified, tone down the silliness bit by bit rather than all at once.
This gradual shift helps people to acclimate to your new demeanor without being freaked out by your sudden change.
Additionally, it’ll prevent them from trying to get you sectioned because you’ve suddenly transformed into someone they don’t recognize overnight.
A massive, sudden change like that is often indicative of a mental health crisis, and it may be difficult to convince your friends and family members that you’re okay.
In simplest terms, most people are comfortable with change as long as it occurs within recognized, conditioned parameters.
This is why they adapt easily to someone changing their hair—albeit not too drastically (e.g. coloring or cutting rather than shaving)—rather than a complete style overhaul.
If you dress fairly conservatively one day and show up dressed like Lady Gaga the next morning, they’ll have no idea how to process that.
When you think about cultivating your personality, see it as a gradual transformation journey rather than an instant 180 turnaround. Just like caterpillars need time to pupate into butterflies, take time to gradually cultivate the traits that you admire the most.
6. Don the garb.
What we wear has an immense impact on how we behave. Actors put on different costumes and makeup to become the characters they portray.
Similarly, religious leaders put on clerical clothing to help them step away from their everyday life and into a state of higher consciousness while they minister to people.
You might have noticed that people behave differently when they’re wearing formal attire versus loungewear.
Perhaps you’ve also noticed that you feel differently depending on what you wear. When you choose clothes that you love and feel right for you, you may be more self-confident and comfortable in your own skin.
In contrast, wearing things because you’re expected to do so might make you feel constrained or that you’re playing a role rather than being who you really are.
As such, take the opportunity to “don the garb” so you can take on your desired persona until it becomes second nature to you.
If you love free-spirited behavior and bohemian clothing, incorporate some earthy pieces into your wardrobe and let your hippie nature shine.
Or, in contrast, if you like the reserved elegance of the 1930s and ‘40s, find some vintage pieces and watch some old films to get that era’s etiquette and elocution right.
7. Try to avoid cultivating a personality based on a gimmick or theme.
When it comes to cultivating a personality, make sure that you’re not basing your personality on a particular gimmick or theme.
For instance, if you’ve ever watched The LEGO Movie, you’ll know that every character’s persona was based on what they carried or wore, such as Wrench Guy, Hat Guy, Coffee Guy, and so on.
Many people make some aspect of their esthetics or interests into their entire personality because they don’t know who they really are. As such, they might draw upon some aspect of their lineage, a cause they identify with, a particular color, or an era’s esthetics.
Here’s a perfect example:
Kitten Kay Sera is known as “The World’s Pinkest Person.” Her hair is pink, her clothes are all pink, her house is pink, even her dog is pink. If you mention her name to people, however, they’re unlikely to talk about her hobbies, interests, or volunteer work, but they’ll certainly know that she’s all in pink.
Chances are there are several people in your social groups who have based their entire personalities on certain ethical choices or personal leanings, but that ends up being literally all they’re known for.
If others were asked to describe them, they might refer to them as “CrossFit guy” or “squirrel girl” because that’s all the person talks about. They really know nothing else about them.
It’s one thing to embody traits that you admire and conduct yourself in a particular manner, and another to end up pigeonholed by a single catchphrase.
If you’re really into CrossFit, that’s awesome! Just make sure to balance out discussions with others by incorporating other topics.
And hey, squirrels are great too—but make sure you also do things like make wicked smoothies or play an instrument you love.
A great personality is a well-rounded one, not a gimmick.
8. Throw yourself into new experiences.
If you have absolutely no idea of who you are or what your personality is really like, one of the best things you can do is to have an intense new experience.
Aim to do something you’ve not only never done before but is also a bit intimidating to you.
Trust me when I tell you that you find out your strengths, weaknesses, preferences, and dislikes very quickly when you’re thrown into challenging circumstances.
Furthermore, these experiences can change you on a fundamental level.
Many people who have lived rather uneventful, plain lives with little upheaval don’t have the opportunity to learn what they’re capable of.
Additionally, they may be so used to following the crowd that they wouldn’t know how to break free from the flow even if they wanted to.
If you fall into this category, be brave and do something that’s completely different from everything you’ve known so far. Sign up for a survival camping experience or do some volunteer work in a place that’s the polar opposite to your current living circumstances.
You will find out more about yourself during that experience than you would through any online self-help quiz, I assure you.
A friend of mine who had been raised in a very strict, religious home went off to the Amazon rainforest to do some volunteer work for a year and came back a completely different person.
Gone was the timid girl who flinched every time someone’s voice was raised, and in her place was a strong, capable woman who could weave a fishnet as easily as she could sew up a wound.
That trip gave her the opportunity to find out just how capable she was and to determine what was—and by extension, was not—important to her.
Instead of obediently following her family’s expectations to marry young and have kids, she chose to pursue a law degree and is now an environmental lawyer fighting to preserve endangered species in Costa Rica.
Do what scares you, and you’ll find out who you are. Stepping into personality traits that you already had but weren’t aware of is far more authentic than deciding to be a version of yourself that isn’t a proper fit.
9. Book some time with a therapist.
One main reason why some people may feel that they have no personality is that they were never allowed to express themselves authentically.
They might have grown up in abusive or toxic home environments in which any behavior that deviated from expectation resulted in punishment.
As a result, they learned how to mimic expected behaviors and fall into line with what others wanted of them, rather than being allowed to cultivate their own sense of self.
This can be devastating in one’s teen years and into adulthood, as many people end up in circumstances they don’t want but are expected to conform to. They may go along with what others say and do instead of following their own authentic life path.
Their own interests and opinions get tamped down and kept in storage so they don’t get into “trouble,” while their repressed authenticity manifests as depression, anxiety, or random bouts of rage.
It can be difficult to break through barriers like these, whether they were put up by you as a means of self-protection or imposed upon you for other people’s benefit.
As such, a good therapist can work with you to figure out who you really are underneath the appeasing and obedient behavior you’ve had to cultivate over the years.
Rather than helping you to figure out how not to be a boring person, they might be able to help you free the amazing version of yourself that you’ve had to repress for so long.
It’s likely that you’re nowhere near as boring as you think you are, nor are you lacking in personality.
Instead, you’re like a stunning mosaic that’s been hidden beneath layers of mud that others have tossed onto it because they felt threatened by the beauty they saw there.
There may be other reasons why you feel that you have no personality, which a therapist can help to determine or diagnose.
For example, people often feel “flat” when they’re dealing with depression. They may not have any interest in doing anything and don’t have much of an opinion on any topic. They might simply scroll social media and binge-watch shows to keep their attention occupied.
Alternatively, they may have undiagnosed neurodivergence, which has made it difficult for them to interact with others in a meaningful way.
There’s rarely ever a downside to talking to a mental health professional about something that’s troubling you. You may discover that you have a wonderful personality after all, and you’re simply far too critical of yourself to realize it.
As you progress on your journey to cultivate a more authentic and interesting personality, keep in mind that you don’t owe anyone an explanation for your actions.
You’ll undoubtedly face opposition from others, but you aren’t obligated to justify your personal changes.
We discussed earlier how some people may accuse you of changing “putting on airs,” or acting like you’re “better than them” because you’ve changed.
At this point, you can simply explain that your journey has nothing to do with them and everything to do with being a truer version of yourself.
If they continue to give you grief, take distance from them and spend more time alone or with those who support and accept you while you’re evolving.
If you find that you’re facing immeasurable opposition from those around you, your best bet might be to move somewhere else and make a fresh start.
You’ll be working with a clean slate, and you can establish yourself exactly as you want to be, without anyone else trying to tell you how you actually are based on their personal history with you.
Alternatively, if moving isn’t an option for various reasons—such as shared child custody, elder care, and so on—then implement your personality changes slowly.
As mentioned earlier, changing yourself too quickly can cause alarm in others, who may try to interfere in your life under the guise of “helping” you.
In contrast, keeping your distance from them as much as possible and making small, gradual changes over time will help them acclimate.
Ultimately, try to ensure that the personality you’re cultivating is one that’s a good fit for you, rather than one that’s meant to ingratiate you to a certain kind of person or draw a particular type of attention.
That would simply be donning another type of mask for years to come, which will drain and exhaust you before you know it.
Instead, aim to nurture traits that are a good fit for you and the life that you want so you will be comfortable maintaining them over time.
See this rather like putting on a new pair of shoes—those patent leather stilettos are cute, but they’re a nightmare to take care of and will cause pain and blisters after only a short period of time.
Instead, go for the sturdy, comfortable (but also cute) shoes that will adapt to fit your feet perfectly and carry you where you want to go with minimal discomfort.