In an encyclopedia, the definition for a Type A personality would likely be accompanied by a picture of me. I am your typical Type A persona: rigidly organized, stressed and often irritated. But when cardiologists Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman, developed their Type A and Type B personality theory, they were thinking about the likelihood of coronary heart disease for different types of people. However, as a high school student at a rigorously competitive school, I can’t help but think about engaging in high school competition. Many people, including Type A personalities like me, have a hard time managing stress, and I try to relax more, but sometimes it just isn’t possible for me.
According to Friedman and Rosenman, people with Type A personalities tend to be extremely competitive, and that’s not surprising. Since I’m only 16 years old, I’m not really thinking about the side effects of high blood pressure and heart disease. Although it’s true that Type A personalities like me are more prone to hypertension because of our stress, as a high school student at Marlborough, I inevitably focus on competition.
Is it wrong to get wound up about goals that you can’t achieve, like writing perfectly neat math homework or being part of a hundred clubs? Maybe, but I don’t want to change that. Relaxation is difficult for me and for others who have Type A personalities. So what if sometimes (really, all the time) I’m impatient, unlikely to accept failure or highly stressed out? My stress helps me get what I need to do done; it gives me a competitive drive. Not everyone may be a Type A personality, but for those of us at Marlborough who are, we know what it’s like to be stressed out all the time.
On the other hand, if you flip that encyclopedia’s page to the definition for a Type B personality, there will surely be an image of my younger sister. She does indeed live a life that is less stressful than mine. (I’m not saying that every Marlborough girl is a Type A personality, but I don’t think it’s possible to escape stress entirely.)
Type B personalities tend to be more relaxed and laid-back, which also means that they have less of that intense competitive drive to reach high goals. A perk of being a Type B personality is that they tend to be happier with their lives because they lack that almost-aggressive ambition. Type B personalities tend to be more reflective and open to failure. Essentially, they just aren’t as stressed.
In terms of competition, the main difference between Type A and Type B personalities is that the first does not accept failure and goes above and beyond to reach success, while the latter can be happy whether they win and achieve great success or not.
So, the Type A and Type B personality theory leads to the question of whether it’s better to have highly competitive instincts and more stress or less motivation and greater peace of mind. The answer is based on what you want: results or happiness.
However, it’s possible to be both highly competitive and happy. It may be challenging, but there are individuals, of whom I am intensely jealous, who are capable of maintaining a positive life balance. Maintaining such a balance means being able to work hard and compete but also taking the time to relax and enjoy life. I’m not saying that Type A personalities are going to have an easy time finding a balance, but I do think it is important for all of us, regardless of our personality types, to find happiness.
Looking at this from a neutral perspective, without competition, there would not be as much motivation to succeed; without happiness, there’s no point of doing anything. The main issue is that sometimes, regardless of our personality types, we need to take a step back and see what our priorities are. Maybe then we can shift them for a better balance of healthy competition and relaxation. To us Type A personalities, happiness is the overall goal when we compete, but we often forget about it when we are caught up in our own stress.
I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to be less competitive or stressed out. It’s highly unlikely that I will be able to break the shell of my Type A personality, but, of course, there is always hope. Perhaps the solution is taking the open and relaxed character traits from Type B and combining them with the hyper diligence of Type A. The main thing is try to relax once in a while but not lose focus on working hard. I suppose that the key message is whatever type of personality you are, competition should motivate you but not prevent you from managing your stress and workload.