Could it be Depressing to Not be Who We Truly Are?

Assignment – Discussion – Personality Theory & Research: Do you see personality as a noun or a verb? How does the trait approach to understanding personality see it?  In your opinion, do you think individuals suffering from depression would be more likely to hold entity or incremental theories of themselves?

Could it be Depressing to Not be Who We Truly Are?

Apart from believing that a person experiences depression as a result of their nervous system being stuck in a neurobiological freeze response (Porges, 2011), which can occur for a variety of reasons, I also believe that an individual becomes depressed when being incongruent with who they truly are, as well as lacking a sense of purpose in their lives. When determining whether people have or lack purpose, it is beneficial to examine their predominant goals, as well as their beliefs and strategies for achieving them, as proposed by Dweck (1996) and her more process-oriented approach to personality analysis, as opposed to the more static trait approach.

Dweck distinguishes several types of goals, the first of which is divided into performance and learning goals, which aim to validate and improve one’s competence, respectively. Although everyone pursues both performance and learning goals at different times, Dweck has discovered that when one takes precedence over the other, certain personality traits emerge. When learning goals are the primary motivation, individuals are more likely to seek out challenging learning opportunities, maintain a positive attitude, and develop effective problem-solving strategies. On the other hand, when performance goals are dominating, and particularly when one’s belief in success is low, failure, or even fear of failure, becomes more detrimental, causing an individual to avoid difficult tasks, lose confidence in one’s abilities, and impede one’s ability to solve problems, thereby reducing one’s overall resilience to life’s inevitable challenges.

In searching for a possible link between depression and being who we truly are, I am wondering if people who consistently strive for performance goals also are more prone to developing depression. One possible explanation for this, as derived from Dweck’s findings, could be that they over time do not develop all of the necessary life skills, relating to psychological, emotional, physical, and spiritual “mastery”, for being who they truly are. People pursuing learning goals, on the other hand, are constantly developing as people, acquiring various life skills along the way, and thus are more likely to not only experience greater life satisfaction (and less depression) but also to acquire the necessary life skills for recognizing and expressing their true selves.

Additionally, Dweck believes that people’s approaches to goals and associated behavior are influenced by their distinct personal worldviews. For example, people who subscribe to entity theories of themselves believe they have no control over personal characteristics such as intelligence or ability development (Funder, 2016), which most likely makes them more susceptible to depression. On the other hand, a person who holds incremental theories of themselves, which means they also believe their intelligence and abilities can develop with time and experience (Funder, 2016), are probably more inclined to develop a more positive approach to life, while also developing the necessary skills for living a fulfilling life.

Although there are probably an infinite number of skills associated with living a self-actualizing life in which one’s deeper selves are expressed, synthetic happiness, as described by Gilbert (2004), appears to be one of the most critical skills required to at least live a satisfying life, all in keeping with the Greek philosopher Epictetus (n.d.) proverb, “What matters is not what happens to you, but how you react to it.”


Dweck, C. (1996). Capturing the dynamic nature of personality. Journal of Research in Personality, 30, 348-362.

Epictetus. (n.d.). Retrieved March 28, 2022, from Web site:

Funder, D. C. (2016). The personality puzzle. W. W. Norton & Company.

Porges, S. (2011). The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological Foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, and Self-regulation. Norton & Company.

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