What Elemental Personality Are You?

Dear Readers: 

I regularly hear from people asking how best to determine their elemental personality. Four years ago, I wrote a blog about just that and thought it might be a good time to share it again.

Stay safe and well,


celtic logo

Dear Readers: At a recent workshop, a student approached me unsure of her primary elemental personality. She had taken several different “learn your element” tests and while they all narrowed the focus to three elements (Water, Earth, and Metal), she still wasn’t sure which one was her true primary elemental personality or even how they might manifest in her life. Most of the test results said she was a primary Water personality, but she just wasn’t sure.

I explained that while the tests are a great starting point, I believe that the best way to determine your primary elemental personality can be to observe yourself relative to what we know about each of the element personalities. To do this, I asked her to send me answers to the following five questions:

  1. Do you work outside of the home? If so, what is your occupation?
  2. Do you have children?
  3. What are you passionate about?
  4. Are you in a marriage or partnership relationship? If so, what does your partner do for a living?
  5. When something goes wrong for you, how do you usually react?

She sent me the answers and I responded with comments to help clarified which element was relevant to each aspect of her life. The analysis felt accurate and illuminating to her and, given the possibility that it might help others, she has kindly agreed to let me share it. Of course, many of the specifics have been changed to protect her identity. Her answers to the questions are in italics and my comments follow each section of her letter. This may be a bit long, but I think it will be insightful. Thank you, Ms. Identity Crisis, for allowing me to share this!

Hi Vicki,

I am my husband’s legal secretary. We met in college in the ’70s; I was a freshman and he was a junior. We married within a year, then I dropped out and worked. When he graduated from college, he was accepted into law school. I went to secretarial school, then obtained a really good job as a corporate secretary during the day and went to college in the evenings. After my husband graduated, we moved to the Midwest and he began working with a law firm. I’m a really good secretary, but often find it boring. I took the training because I could get good jobs and it would potentially help my husband. And it has; I’ve been his secretary for 25 years now!

Okay, I doubt that you are a primary Water personality. One has to have some structure to be a good secretary, especially a legal secretary. Water people usually don’t have that much structure. Also, the best secretaries often have a lot of Earth energy; they’re happy to help people with almost anything. I just don’t think you could do this job for 25 years if you were a primary Water personality. But Earth makes sense. And some Metal energy would certainly be a plus for organizing an office.

These days my husband practices law by himself as a criminal defense attorney. Our son just turned 25 and is successful in his job. I wanted more children, but my husband didn’t think we could afford them. Living with him hasn’t always been easy, but I have this very loyal streak and could never bring myself to destroy what we worked so hard to build. I preferred to manage through the difficult times and trust the future will be better. If you asked my husband, he would probably have a totally different take on our life together since he tends to focus just on the future. I’m more focused on the present, but when he makes me mad, I stew about all the wrongs of the past!

Your husband is probably a primary Wood personality — they focus on the future. Earth people (and Fire people) are more involved in the present, and it is Metal people who stew about the past. The Earth personality usually wants lots of children and is very loyal; Water people usually aren’t all that loyal (but they do have the ability to trust). Also, your choice to go along with whatever your husband said around having more children was probably made possible by the fact that in the Five Elements model, his primary Wood personality controls the Earth part of your personality (see the big star in the model below).

The Five Elements Model

If I could narrow down what I am most passionate about, it would be spiritually evolving and helping people heal. In my 20s I was very much into medicinal herbs, tarot, and Carlos Castaneda. But I got busy with marriage, working, and a family so ended up dropping most of it. Ten years ago, I finally went back to college and obtained a degree in psychology. I’m also certified in several other forms of healing, including energy healing. I’m currently in a Touch Therapy program and will finish that this year. I really, really love being able to help people feel better using my skills and even joined a local BNI (Business Network International) chapter to help build my business. I almost couldn’t do it, though, because they are very structured, but I made it.

Your interest in spirituality will come from the Water part of your personality, as well as the Metal. However, people in the healing arts usually have lots of Earth energy. By your own admission, you “really, really love being able to help people feel better.” That passion is very much a part of the Earth personality. And spreading yourself across many different healing modalities can be a Water thing (floating from one to the other). It can also be very Earth.

On the business end, you are probably using the Metal part of your personality to manage the BNI structure that is so difficult for you. However, you seem thrilled to undertake new trainings and learn new things, but then seem to have trouble actually stepping into the role of therapist/practitioner instead of student. I wonder if your husband’s primary Wood personality makes it challenging for you to use your own Wood energy to move forward (manifesting a new role is a Wood attribute). Your Earth energy would want to avoid any sense of competing with your husband, and two Woods together can often feel competitive.

When something goes wrong for me, I go through stages. I obsess about it for a while, I feel bad, it keeps me awake at night, but then I work on letting it go and putting it out to Spirit that things will work out for the best. I have learned that the best thing to do is surrender to the outcome with the hope and belief that things will be ok.

This is an Earth personality approach in the initial stages (obsessing about things is very Earth). The ability to finally trust Spirit is Water and letting go happens in Metal.

You were right when you suggested that I don’t like structure; I much prefer to go with the flow and let things evolve. This is very different from my husband who likes to predict and say for certain how things will work out. I listen a lot but don’t say anything!  Growing up, my family lived in Australia and after 8th grade I had to go to a boarding school in Sydney. My dad told me that he didn’t worry about me because I was adaptable so he knew I would be ok. That is pretty much how I have lived my life; I adapt to whatever comes along.

Going with the flow is totally the Water personality. But it’s the Earth people of the world who listen more and say less. Water people will talk if they are philosophically engaged with what’s being discussed, as will Metal people. But neither the Water nor the Metal personality are inclined to listen unless they are intellectually interested. Along with being a good listener, your childhood ability to adapt also comes from the Earth part of your personality. Earths excel at connecting with people where they are, so that probably helped you make friends at school. But it must have been hard for you to be away from home at a boarding school because home and family matter deeply to the Earth personality.

And can I just say that your husband is such a primary Wood personality! His desire to predict what will happen and know outcomes for certain speaks of issues around control. Specifically, his Wood energy will want to ensure things don’t go out of control. And if he needs to be in control, he might well have a secondary Metal personality. Defense attorneys frequently use the Metal part of their personality to get through law school, then bring in the Wood part when they argue a case.

So, after reading all that you have shared, I really think you’re a primary Earth personality. You are passionate about helping people, enjoy healing arts, love children, put your needs after your husband’s in terms of career, excel at being a secretary, value loyalty, listen to others well, and obsess about things when upset. This is so Earth.

You are probably a secondary Water personality, even though the ability to be a legal secretary all these years would be hard for your Water energy because of the requisite structure. However, your love of going with the flow, interest in spirituality, desire to learn new things, and ability to trust Spirit all speak of the Water personality.

And if Water is your secondary, Metal has to be your third. There’s no way you could be a successful secretary without some structure, which is where Metal shines. Also, the fact that you stew about the past and are able to manage the BNI structure says you are tapping into the Metal part of your personality.

Remember, we all have all five of the elements in our personality structure, and when we know we need it, we can draw on any of the elements at will. You probably learned to do this early on. Something you also might consider is that, with a primary Wood personality husband, the Metal part of your personality has probably been very useful on occasion to help manage his Wood energy. That’s because in the Five Elements model, it is Metal that controls Wood.

Bottom line, I believe this makes you a primary Earth personality with a secondary Water. And one reason you have been able to accomplish as much as you have (rather than enjoy wandering off in a Watery way) is that your own Earth energy has helped to keep that Water part of your personality in line. In the model, it is Earth that controls Water.

Congratulations on your life, Ms. Identity Crisis! You are a beautiful blend of the Earth and Water personalities (with a little Metal thrown in for structure)! Blessings to you!

woman question

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