Have you ever taken one of those personality tests? Pretty certain I’ve taken nearly all of them during my career. One told me I was a sea otter, another a shepherd, another a maximizer and yet another said I was an introverted perfectionist.
I’ve been thinking a lot about personality lately as I try to figure out what it is I want to do with the rest of my life, professionally speaking.
My conclusion is that these personality tests are bullshit. If an employer really wanted a truthful evaluation, they would require the questions be filled out by our mothers, best friends, partners and children. Let’s face it, we answer those personality questions based on who we wish we were rather than who we really are. Or maybe that’s just me.
My personality tests often indicated I was a perfectionist, detail-oriented and logical. About three years ago, I realized it was all a big lie. Part of my eye-opening came when my husband first questioned how I could be such a great writer and editor when everything that comes out of my mouth is grammatically incorrect or a swear word, my vocabulary is horrific and childlike, and making up words is my special skill.
OK, so if I'm being honest, those weren't his exact words. They are just what I heard. And if I’m still being honest, the inquiry was valid and made me think. (For the record, making up words shows creativity and imagination, not an inability to use the dictionary.)
So I had to face the reality that I’m not exactly a perfectionist about some things—like using the correct word when speaking or cleaning the house or being on time. OK, so actually I’m not a perfectionist about almost anything. Kind of weird given how all the personality tests said I was.
Apparently, I am also not detail-oriented. This I realized after noticing the frequency with which my then three-year-old would start a sentence with “Mommy, did you forget to <fill in the blank>?” Or when I actually asked her to remember something for me, like her own doctor’s appointment. Hmmm…perhaps not so detail-oriented.
Then I started looking at the piles of papers on my desk and opening file drawers only to quickly close them in horror. Either terrible office elves were wreaking havoc on my system or I didn’t actually have a system, which would mean my perception of myself as being organized was being blown out of the water.
Thus came the realization that personality tests are full of crap and so am I.
My perfectionism and attention to details are limited to one area of life only: editing, which is good because it means my 19-year career hasn’t been a total sham. As for being organized, painful as it is to admit, it would seem my husband and his detailed planning spreadsheets have been keeping me on task for the last 17 years.
When you’re trying to learn how to be your authentic self, at some point you have to give up your misconceptions of yourself. You have to look in the mirror and honestly answer this question: Who am I?
This is a far different question than “who do I want to be?” By the time we hit 40, we pretty much are who we are and at some point, we simply have to embrace ourselves, flaws and all, and make the best of it.
So here’s who I really am: a creative, scatter-brained, introspective, sarcastic, unobservant, easily distracted, emotional yet terrified of being vulnerable woman who is inclined to veer off on tangents. I’m someone who wishes she was detail-oriented and organized but is learning that not being those things is OK. It’s a different picture than the one I had in my head all these years, but it definitely feels more real.
Has anybody else discovered that when you start being honest with yourself, you aren't quite the person you always thought you were?