I’m so excited to sit next to him.
I haven’t spoken to my friend in weeks. Now, for a lecture, I snag the seat beside him. I can’t wait to catch up and hear how he’s doing.
But once the lecture concludes, he grabs his things and leaves. I’m left with my mouth open. Like a codfish.
What’s up with him?
So I text him:
Hay. You okay?
Yeah, sorry. I’m just really introverted.
I blink at his reply. Oh. OHHH. Right.
The first time I heard the work ‘introvert’ was in my high school Psychology class. We studied—cue horror-movie music—personality tests. Specifically, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). This personality test assigns you one of 16 personalities that sheds light on how you view the world and make decisions.
There are many reasons why personality tests, particularly the MBTI, do not tickle my fancy. For starters, it involves focusing on yourself. And focusing on yourself has always struck me as rather, well, self-focused.
But my main gripe is that personality types are used to justify yourself.
All the good and all the bad.
The New Yorker journalist Louis Menand writes:
Each type of personality is as “normal” as the others. There is no better way to be—logical or emotional, spontaneous or organized, party bro or brooder. These are not imperfections to be corrected. They are hardwired dispositions to be recognized and accommodated.*
I’m all about accommodating. But if everyone’s going, ‘This is just how I am,’ then is anyone accommodating?
Personality tests normalize your traits, and I get how nice that is. Really, I do. I have felt liberated by being able to say, ‘That’s just how I am.’
I will always long to be with people and will feel depleted if I spend a day by myself. That’s just how I am.
I will always feel uncomfortable when there is too much emotion in the room, i.e. when emotional things are being said by emotional people. That’s just how I am.
I will always have a rebellious spirit and will run in the opposite direction if a belief is imposed upon me. That’s just how I am.
I will always trivialize my struggles and tell myself to get a grip, even if my sadness is warranted. That’s just how I am.
But even as I read these things over, I cringe inside. It just sounds so close-minded. And, I believe, that’s at the heart of my distaste for personality tests. It seems so closed. As much as they facilitate ‘self-discovery’ and are branded for personal growth, their categorizing seems finite to me.
So back to my friend who gave me the cold shoulder after our lecture. Instead of feeling ‘too introverted’ to talk to me, he should have sacrificed his comfort to be polite to me. Not relied on personality-test verbiage to normalize and justify his behavior.
And that is why I hate personality tests.
Hey. I can’t help it. That’s just how I am.
Photo Credit: Meredith Curtis
*Menand, Louis. “What Personality Tests Really Deliver.” The New Yorker. September 10, 2018.