A few years ago, I took a personality test - one of the more reputable ones online (in my completely unprofessional opinion). I raced through the instructions because really, how difficult could it be to take an online personality test? And my years fighting the power have instilled in me a firm belief that instructions are for suckers. (I'm working on that) I jumped right into it. A half hour and 145 questions later, I had a nice, tidy personality "type". I finally achieved "full frontal self-awareness". I signed up for daily motivational thoughts designed for my personality type and went on about my quest to change the world and my life with this new self-awareness - referring back to this personality type only when I received advice that puzzled me.
I'll admit, I wasn't entirely comfortable with the type assigned to me. A few motivational thoughts seemed to hit home, but others had me wondering if something was amiss in the quiz...or worse...me. I was constantly coached on living too much in my head, fantasizing, being deeply introverted and unable to connect to people. While I do have a pretty active imagination...some of the motivationals didn't match my typical day to day behaviors. I went back to the personality profile type and read it, focusing hard on the description. The first time, I just assumed the type description was me, because my score said so. I blame catholic school for this blind willingness to accept. (Shakes angry middle-aged rebel fist) This time, I questioned if my haste to get to the results directly impacted the validity of my answers. So I took the quiz again, with a few changes.
First, I cut out all distractions. I'm a notorious multi-tasker. I've always got multiple things going at one time: 20 tabs open on a browser, tv informing no one in the background while I have the phone stuck to my head half listening to the person yammering on the other end of the line. My senses are under a constant state of attack. I am mortified by how often nothing gets my full attention. I'm actively working on shutting up a LOT of noise in my life. But that's another conversation for another time.
Next, I read the damned instructions. Not skimmed. Read. And guess what? I answered the questions based on the wrong assumption. I was supposed to answer the questions based on my behaviors, not my feelings. On the surface that doesn't seem like a big distinction, but then when think about it - sometimes behaviors are VERY different than the feelings that prompted them. For example, you might FEEL afraid and powerless in a situation, but your behavior may be aggressive and controlling to compensate for the feeling of impotence. I answered based on my feelings. But my behaviors were different when I reflected on them instead of the feelings that may or may not have inspired the actions. So I resolved to take the test again - to see if I would net a different response. And guess what...I did.
As I read my new type, it immediately made more sense to me. The flaws, the challenges and triumphs were no longer "kinda right, or kinda off". This was spot on. The analysis didn't make me question how I could be so blind to some of my tendencies, when I've always prided myself on having a fairly good understanding of myself. It didn't make me feel any less uncomfortable with some of the less than courageous elements of my make up, but at least they were things I could readily identify in myself as opposed to scratching my head and thinking, "how is it I've never observed this in myself?"
So what's the moral of this story? I guess there's several. Always read the instructions, would be the most immediate. The next one might be, don't be afraid to question an assessment. Particularly if you are guilty of NOT reading instructions. The final one would be...note the distinction between how you behave versus how you feel. That one hit me like a ton of bricks. When reflecting on the difference between the two, I can see how many of us might miss the opportunity to resolve or improve certain behaviors because we assume our feelings match the behaviors we exhibit. For example, I "feel" introverted. Yet, people experience me as an extrovert - particularly in professional situations or personal situations where I am required to be "on". In truth, I'm more of an ambivert. I can deal with and appreciate time both among people and by myself. If I'm only paying attention to how I "feel"...I'm potentially blind to how others might perceive me based on my behaviors. Another example: I may "feel" overlooked or invisible to people around me, while ignoring that that I "behave" as if I don't want/need intimate interaction with people who truly matter to me - isolating and detaching myself - which feeds the feeling of being overlooked and making the originating feeling seem accurate.
Such an important distinction, I'm almost embarrassed that I leapfrogged the distinction. And yet now that I am considering it - I'm excited about the opportunity to work on myself even more.
I'm looking forward to those daily motivationals.
Take the Enneagram Personality Test.