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How to Develop Your Personality
     

How to Develop Your Personality

by Betsy Root
 
Betsy Root’s “How to Develop Your Personality” column, published from April 5th until August 14th, 1937 in the Buffalo Courier-Express, offers a window into the psychology of personality movement that flourished in the 1930s. How to Develop Your Personality collects all 113 articles written in the column’s nineteen week run. It offered

Overview

Betsy Root’s “How to Develop Your Personality” column, published from April 5th until August 14th, 1937 in the Buffalo Courier-Express, offers a window into the psychology of personality movement that flourished in the 1930s. How to Develop Your Personality collects all 113 articles written in the column’s nineteen week run. It offered “daily advice on character building, personal adjustment, vocational guidance, etc.” Genial, encouraging, open, lively, Betsy Root offered an ongoing explanation of personality through “illustrative instances quoted from a vast experience” and urged the reader to attempt self-analysis inspired by the daily anecdotes and suggestions. She drew on interviews and conversations with hundreds of people, and along with their stories, she shares experiences taken from her own life as wife, mother, friend, neighbor, and character analyst.

In her pages we meet a Russian princess living a spare, impoverished existence, a waiter in a Philadelphia hotel with dreams of a singing career, a Belgian countess visiting a World War I hospital while the author was in the Red Cross, a laundress in South Carolina descended from slaves and at last free of spousal abuse, a woman who destroys a relationship by trying to shape the personality of the man who loves her, a number of young people trying to chart their own destinies despite the efforts of their parents to choose their careers and control their decisions. Betsy Root stays true to her sympathy with children and young adults and to her belief that “personality is the outward expression of character.” She insists, “If you want to develop an influential and interesting personality, then be sure it is yours, your very own.” She gives examples of the ill effects of suppressed personalities and insincere, imitative behavior. She also discusses the idea of personality traits that arise out of inborn inclinations that link back generations and offers instances where talents and powers emerge in someone whose parents prefer an alternate identity for their child.

The values that undergird Betsy Root’s perspective are clear throughout the column. Early on she urges: “Try to give your youngster good sense, good taste, a definite religious concept (Faith), a sense of moral values . . . all the things he will need to mold his character. But let his personality flower of itself.” She warns against the misdirection of personality, the pretense of a personality that the individual doesn’t truly have, the danger of too much self-absorption. While she is able to talk about personality as power or as charm, the ethical dimension of her thinking continually crops up, particularly in her insistence of the need for sincerity and also in her insistence on the need to serve. “It isn’t enough that the time should be filled,” she writes. “The filling of that time must make an impression; it must register something. . . . Unless there is something done during the opportunities of every day which will serve others, we might as well never have lived. Unless that is true, our personalities are of no use either to us or to others.”

Betsy Root begins the final column on August 14, 1937 this way: “There has been great emphasis placed on the persistent effort to keep true to one’s self, in all these articles.” She advises, “True social success is the fitting of one’s self into one’s own proper place of achievement. . . . if one be simply one’s self, the place will be evident and once found will be one of contentment.” By then the reader will likely appreciate the degree to which Betsy Root has remained true to her personality, to her best self.

The entries in How to Develop Your Personality provide insight into a now distant era in popular psychology and offers advice still of value almost a century after it was written, presented by a woman of considerable charm, wit, and intelligence, inviting us to play a game to benefit our understanding of ourselves.

Product Details

BN ID:
2940015889796
Publisher:
Glimmerglass Editions
Publication date:
10/27/2012
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
700 KB

Meet the Author

Betsy Root (1895-1947) was born Delia Lathrop Ross in Cooperstown, New York, attended Albany State Teacher’s College, and served in the Red Cross during World War II. In 1933 she and her husband, Arthur Root, and their three children moved to Lockport, New York. Her travels around the country in search of relief from her asthma and her sharp, observant mind constantly provided her with examples of individuals struggling to understand themselves and she shared their stories in her 1937 newspaper column, How to Develop Your Personality.

Robert L. Root, Jr., the editor of How to Develop Your Personality, is the grandson of Betsy Root, the editor of two historical journals and several literary anthologies, and the author of the historical travel narratives Recovering Ruth and Following Isabella, the essay collection Postscripts: Retrospections on Time and Place, and the memoir Happenstance.

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