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Personal Potential

In my work as a psychologist as well as career adviser I often make use of psychological tests. Students, who take a test, often ask me already before they know the results: how did I go? Or they protectively ascertain in advance: I do not think I did my best… While in case of the tests assessing the level of intelligence or mental skills the questions concerning the correctness of a certain statement are justified, whereas as far as the personality tests are concerned, the whole matter seems completely different. Taking any test, everyone would like to get the best possible result, however in case of tests relating to personality or temperament, it is hard to speak about right or wrong answers, and results at the same time. Each of us is a unique individual and has various characteristics, some of them bright and shining – these are the ones we like to boast of, the others dark and rough – the ones we would love to hide.

As people we differ from each other in look, views, desires, personality. Definition of the real ‘I’ is necessary to understand ourselves and to answer, who we are, why we react this way and not the other way in different situations. We also need it to learn our strong points to be aware of them, know how to develop and make use of them, as well as to know our weak points and how to overcome them. Every person is a sort of combination of the characteristics which make up a constellation unique for everyone, giving the world such a useful variety.

The term personality is currently used in very different meanings and can have different overtone either in a colloquial, philosophical, humanistic, historical or sociological meaning. The psychological meaning of this term has been defined in many ways by creating various theories.

The expression personality comes from the Latin Word persona or expression personare – to sound throughout something. The word persona comes probably from the Greek word proposon, which means a mask the Greek actors used to put on during the dramas in the theatre. In the antiquity it meant both a mask and a person of certain characteristics.

Speaking about the personality, it is hard to separate it from the temperament. What is more, these terms are often confused. 

Temperament should be understood as the traits of behaviour – therefore, temperament is a component of the personality. We may say it is one of the traits of the personality. In comparison to other psychological phenomena temperament is characterised by a relative stability during our lifetime, has a biological ground – however, depending on the assumed concepts, different physiological and biological mechanisms are taken as its basis. Personality is shaped by temperament. Temperamental traits are shown from the very early babyhood. They are often slightly changed over the human development. Moreover, they are present in the world of animals as well.

Personality is a psychological phenomenon, typical only of a human. Human does not have a personality in the moment of birth yet. It is shaped in action and interaction of a human with the social environment and is developed in an individual’s lifetime. Human establishes contacts with the social environment since birth, which has a pivotal influence on their personality development.

As far as the multitude of the theories of personality is concerned, for the purpose of our deliberation, we will assume the definition of personality which refers to unique and individual aspects of behaviour. Personality reflects an individual’s characteristics which distinguish them from the others. It is a set of traits of a given person, determining their behaviour towards people or with people, towards themselves as well as objects and phenomena of the world surrounding us. It is a part of a human, which is for them, as a person, the most characteristic one, distinguishes them from the others and constitutes that what a human really is. In short, following the statement of one of the first personality researchers, Allport, ‘personality is that, what a human really is’.

Let us have a look at personality traits which the psychologist, Florence Littauer, distinguishes and what are the strong and weak points of a certain type of personality.

Florence Littauer based her theory on an ancient concept of four types of temperament of Hippocrates, who divided personalities into: sanguine, melancholic, choleric and phlegmatic. Each of these types has different, characteristic traits, which have influence on emotions, work and relations with other people. Littauer distinguishes in her concept four profiles of personality described below within the selected light and shade of each one of them.

Sociable sanguine is a talkative eccentric and optimist.

Typical sanguine persons are emotional and expansive. Work is a fun for them and every new experience very exciting. They are opened and full of enthusiasm. They love people and easily make friends.

Perfect melancholic is an introvert, thinker and pessimist.

Temperament of a perfect melancholic is full of extremes. Their ups are the highest and downs – the deepest.

Strong points:

Weak points:

  • deep and willing to mediate,
  • analytical mind,
  • serious and determined,
  • talented and creative,
  • musical and sensitive to beauty,
  • sensitive to others needs, prone to devotion, conscientious,
  • good listener, deeply cares for others and helps in solving their problems,
  • faithful and dedicated.
  • easily gets depressed,
  • as the years pass they complain more and more often, take life deadly seriously,
  • takes everything too personal,
  • likes suffering, smells criticism everywhere,
  • spends lot of time on planning,
  • has unfeasible expectations towards others (because they like everything to be perfect, they transfer this trait to others),
  • distrustful and oversensitive.

Energetic choleric is an extrovert, a man of action and optimist.

Strong points:

Weak points:

  • a born leader,
  • dynamic and active,
  • shows strong will and decisiveness,
  • hardly discouraged,
  • independent and self-sufficient,
  • is hardly moved,
  • inspires trust,
  • leads and organises and usually right.
  • workaholic,
  • cannot rest,
  • must feel control over everything,
  • has an undeterred conviction of being always right and those who think different – are not,
  • cannot handle people; judges them,
  • bossy,
  • cares more about duties than feelings,
  • loves controversies and discussions.

Peaceful phlegmatic is an introvert, observer and pessimist.

Both strong and weak points of phlegmatic are not presented distinctively enough.

Strong points:

Weak points:

  • reserved,
  • undemanding and carefree,
  • calm, cold, composed,
  • patient, even-tempered,
  • quiet, but witty and sympathetic,
  • universal,
  • easy to cope with, polite and cheerful,
  • good listener, who has got many friends,
  • sympathetic and caring,
  • likes watching people.
  • cannot get excited with anything, shows little enthusiasm,
  • does not like changes,
  • avoids doing their everyday duties,
  • needs incentives of others to act,
  • always takes the easy way out,
  • submissiveness,
  • has problems with making decisions.

Not without reason we are not the same. Everyone is unique. We should care for ourselves, see what talents we have, how we can make use of them as well as how we can overcome our weaknesses thanks to our willingness. It is worth using our features in order to live, work and function in the society in accordance with our own destiny. Some people are perfect in managing, creating ideas, inspiring, while others are great artists or planner, and some others are best in building relations with people. This diversity is necessary so that the world as a whole could function well, and each of us as a part could act according to our own predispositions.

I would like to recommend all of you, who got interested and inspired by the above presented subject, the books mentioned below. The reader can find there, among others, tests defining personality according to the categories discussed in the article.


Marta Prokopek-Pyśk


  1. Hall C.S., Lindzey G., Teorie Osobowości, PWN, Warszawa 2002.
  2. Littauer F., Osobowość plus, Logos, Warszawa 1998.
  3. Siek J., Struktura osobowości, ATK, Warszawa 1986.
  4. Strelau J., Psychologia. Podręcznik akademicki, GWP, Gdańsk 2000.