For you to engage with this post, you have most probably been told, or you have been led to believe, that you are difficult to love. Appreciating your temperament style, and that of others, might help you clarify whether you are part of the problem, or not.
This quiz was compiled by Sharon Eshmade, a counsellor, parenting coach, author, teacher, and mum-of-a-teen with behaviour and learning difficulties, to help you confidently navigate your relationships and get the balance right.
A slow-to-warm-up temperament
These individuals are mostly easy-going as they usually have a low desire for control, but they are, often initially, slower in responding to a new environment by being cautious. Although wanting to always please others, the slow-to-warm-up individual has an overriding need to withdraw so that they feel psychologically safe and can avoid feeling uncomfortable or being involved in a conflict. These individuals are often described as shy.
An easy temperament
These individuals also have a low desire for control but differ in their positive responsiveness to situations. These individuals like to accomplish what they want while balancing being assertive and feeling confident to bond and connect with others in their environment.
A difficult or challenging temperament
These individuals have a desire to be in control and are often negatively responsive. They can be defiant, stubborn, cold, and have a will of steel.
When they lose control, they can be violent, overwhelming, and make others feel uncomfortable but their desire for control at that moment, and to have their needs met, can be far stronger than their need to bond with others.
A headstrong temperament
These individuals can often be described as stubborn, but they are also described as sociable, charming, thoughtful, chatty, and helpful. These individuals’ temperaments sit somewhere in the middle of the continuum between easy and difficult.
Am I part of the problem?
Our temperament is determined by our genetic makeup only. However, our personality is the way in which our temperament interacts with our environment. Research confirms that the influence of nature and nurture are roughly equal.
Individuals with an easy, slow-to-warm-up, or headstrong temperament can be easier to get along with as they usually interact positively with their environment.
I had a difficult temperament as a child, so I am still inclined to be more controlling and negatively responsive by nature. In my awareness, I work on being more balanced and assertive in the way I treat others so that they feel loved and respected.
It’s a bit like saying that a dyslexic finds it difficult to spell so they must work harder at spelling than others. Knowing they are dyslexic helps us understand them and be flexible, but it is not a justification for them to relinquish their responsibility or an excuse for them to not put in the hard work.
Am I difficult to love?
Despite my challenging temperament, I am loved unconditionally for who I am while being kindly held accountable if I am not being thoughtful of others. If anyone makes you feel that you are unlovable, then perhaps they do not yet know how to kindly hold you accountable, and/or they do not love you unconditionally.
When we are not loved unconditionally in our childhood, we can develop into people-pleasing perfectionists. This means that we often accept unacceptable behaviour in our relationships because we have been conditioned by our parents since unacceptable behaviour was normalised in our childhood.
To solve this challenge, you must work on being kindly assertive in your communication style, love yourself enough to be your true authentic self, as this is where your mental health stability lies, and surround yourself with individuals who love and accept you unconditionally.
Could it be that they are the one who is difficult to love?
The good news is that if we are not loved for being our true authentic selves then that’s a Y.P., not an M.P. (a you problem, not a me problem). I love this statement and you may need to repeat it to yourself often.
Keep in mind the person who has made you feel unlovable. Would you describe them as being controlling, coercive, forceful, aggressive, insulting, cruel, intimidating, and bullying? Do you often feel physically and emotionally unsafe with them? Do they perhaps flip-flop from being the hero in the relationship to the victim of their passion?
All these behaviours are glaring red flags of a physically and/or emotionally abusive relationship. This can be an excruciatingly difficult realisation. Please seek support and help if you are in an abusive relationship.
Ask for help
It may be useful as a first step to read my blog on “How to cope with passive-aggressive people (PAP)” to support you. Being kindly assertive in setting healthy boundaries takes awareness, acceptance, letting go, self-love, practice, and for many of us, myself included, therapy.
For all references to specific points of view and research, please visit my website, download my book, Crash Test Mummy, and refer to the Appendix section.