In a new paper currently awaiting peer review, a number of psychology researchers argue that they’ve decided upon the one true Healthy Personality, a.k.a., the Best Personality. The authors asked psychologists with expertise in trait psychology to describe a psychologically healthy individual by placing 30 relevant traits on a scale from low to high, and then asked a number of undergraduate psychology students to do the same. They then arrived at a consensus using a bunch of statistical modeling I won’t get into here. Suffice to say: they basically selected the most common responses and built a hypothetical person out of them.
According to their findings, this person needs to be three main things: open to feelings, positive, and straightforward. Or, more specifically, “the psychologically healthy person can be characterized as being capable to experience and express emotions, straightforward, warm, friendly, genuine, confident in their own abilities, emotionally stable, and fairly resilient to stress.”
Sound like anyone you know?
That’s right! It’s me. I am incredibly open to feelings. I love having them and hearing about them. Additionally, I would call myself pretty positive, on the whole. Not all the time, but I don’t think even the researchers expect that of me. I am also friendly, I think, and genuine most of the time, and confident in my own abilities, and warmish, at least? Although, now I’m seeing that true Healthy Personalities are low in neuroticism, which is … a stretch, maybe. It’s hard to say. Reading through the list is sort of like reading through a description of one’s astrological sign, in that the traits fit you about as well as you want them to. (“Healthy people were also rated as relatively more active and open to values but less prone to fantasy,” for instance. Which values? What kind of fantasy…??)
The researchers also acknowledge that certain among the traits might be adaptable, though, they write, “experts consider those traits as particularly healthy that tend to be most pronounced during middle adulthood,” so if you’re in your 30s or 40s, this might be as psychologically healthy as you’re going to get. For me personally, that’s fine, as I am quite healthy already.