Personality Evolution

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Image from 16 Personalities.

People, people, people.  The past few days I’ve been obsessed with personality and character, which is not in my comfort zone.  As someone with a degree in engineering who works with a bunch of computer programmers I have spent my life interacting with other humans (because cyborgs aren’t perfected yet) but not always understanding other people.  In my work space I use personality tests and data to try glean information about those around me.  I’m really fond of the Strength Finder analysis and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).  Oftentimes with those two pieces of data I feel more comfortable knowing those around me.

The one bummer about Myers-Briggs is that it’s ridiculously expensive, and depending on the year my company may or may not foot the bill to let new people take the test.  Well, this week one of my colleagues sent out a link to 16 Personalities.  You get a Myers-Briggs-ish result at the end, with an additional “identity” trait and it’s free! The price point is great, and there is an added benefit of a really spectacular website design.  In about 10 minutes I’d answered all the questions and got my result: INFP-A, The Mediator.

Reading through the results they seemed as accurate as any of those test are, but the F shocked me.  My entire life I’ve been a thinker (T), not a feeler (F).  (The third letter is either thinking or feeling.)  When I first took Myers Briggs in 1999 I was an INTJ (Introversion, Intuition, Thinking, Judging.)  From the MTBI website:

INTJ:  Have original minds and great drive for implementing their ideas and achieving their goals. Quickly see patterns in external events and develop long-range explanatory perspectives. When committed, organize a job and carry it through. Skeptical and independent, have high standards of competence and performance – for themselves and others.

About 10 years ago I took the test again, and had shifted slightly.  My structure, or how I deal with the outside word, had changed from Judging (J) to Perceiving (P).  I went from being settled and organized to being more flexible and spontaneous.  I was always on the borderline there, neither a strong J or P, so the switch didn’t really surprise me.  Also, my husband is a pretty strong J, so I think I naturally needed to provide some flexibility in our family unit.

The rest of my traits have always been pretty cemented.  I am a pretty strong introvert (I), I love interpreting information (N) and when I make decisions I am logical (T).  For example, I used a spreadsheet and a formula to name my daughter: happy to send you a copy if you want to try it out.  When I need to make decisions I take squishy ideas and turn them into hard numbers, then evaluate those numbers to make sure that I’m not just making a decision on a whim.  I was confident those three character traits defined me, until now.

This new test has me at 59% feeling, so not really even borderline.  The 16 Personality site says,

Feeling individuals are sensitive and emotionally expressive. They are more empathic and less competitive than Thinking types, and focus on social harmony and cooperation.

Okay, well I am still not sensitive and emotionally expressive, but the rest of the definition seems pretty spot on.  I am regularly commended at work for not needing to get credit for my work and collaborating.  My team is built on maximizing everyone’s strengths and acknowledging that we all bring very different but important skills to our work.  I, as the manager and client liaison, am not more important than our programmers, analysts, testers, or system administrators.  We all provide critical pieces to our work in different ways.  Similarly, as a parent I’m the one who listens to the woes of third grade and says, “Man, that sounds so hard.  I’m sorry you had to go through that.”  My husband, a T, has a million suggestions for every conflict.

So I’ve had this new personality suit I’ve been wearing around all weekend to see how it fits.  For highly-self aware people I’m sure that news like this isn’t even news, but for me having a new definition of who Johanna Levene is will take some adjusting.  I’ll continue to dig through my results, and compare it to my husband’s and my kiddo’s to better understand our family dynamics.  As people at work take the test and share their results I’ll figure out if that changes the needs and work of our team.  I’m also going to research if the differences between MTBI and 16 Personalities to see if may there is a difference in methodology.

All that said, I did have a moment of clarity with these results, that might help with my whole writing in a closet dilemma.  According to the 16 Personalities site, Mediators are led by their interests, and not rewards and punishment.

At their best, these qualities enable Mediators to communicate deeply with others, easily speaking in metaphors and parables, and understanding and creating symbols to share their ideas. Fantasy worlds in particular fascinate Mediators, more than any other personality type. The strength of their visionary communication style lends itself well to creative works, and it comes as no surprise that many famous Mediators are poets, writers and actors.

Oh… well at least that helps explain this insatiable need I’ve had over the past three years to start writing and telling stories.  Because really, this new passion of mine is really incongruent with an INTP/INTJ personality type.  See, eventually my inherent N trait will sort this all out…unless I become an S someday…

If you take the test I’d love to hear your thoughts on your results!

Rose Colored Glasses

My friends and family who know me best know that I have two really big fears in life: broken glass, and my lack of self awareness.  The glass fear is just a normal fear, but the lack of self awareness fear impacts every aspect of my life.

We all know someone who thinks they are the most important person on every project they are on, while everyone else is cleaning up the messes they leave behind.  We all know people who think that everyone likes them because they are always the center of every social situation, when really they just push themselves to the center and refuse to give up the position even if others roll their eyes behind their back.

I am terrified of being that person.  I am terrified of not seeing the world as it truly is.  I am terrified of thinking I am smart, talented, attractive, funny, good at my job, a good writer, whatever, when everyone around me exchanges knowing glances.  I am not an extrinsically motivated person.  I do not need others to tell me my worth.  I am an intrinsically motivated person who is afraid that her internal compass is completely out of whack.  Every time I hear someone confidently exclaim their talent I cringe a little.  Not because I don’t agree with them, but because I would never be so bold.

Two things have happened recently that have made me doubt my fears: a mirror at work and some new sunglasses.

There is a mirror in the women’s bathroom at work.  It is a large mirror, almost floor to ceiling, and it is wide.  I think the proportions may have something to do with it’s magic.  I, like most people, am not getting more attractive as I age.  My middle is getting thicker.  My face is getting wrinkles and rounder.  My posture is stooping a bit.  I dress to hide my flaws, but I am not the woman I was twenty years ago, or ten, or five.  However, I am always amazed by my image in this magical mirror.  I don’t look skinny, but I don’t look fat.  I don’t look young, but I don’t look old.  I really look like the best version of me in that mirror.  It might be the light, it might be the mirror or…maybe I really look like that?  Is it bad to think that I really look like that?  Is it bad to think that maybe the mean mirror in my bedroom is the flawed one and what other’s see when I walk around is the work bathroom mirror lady?

My new sunglasses have a rose tint.  They are cute sunglasses, and I do love wearing sunglasses.  My contacts stay dirt free, my sensitive eyes don’t squint, and I have a face that works in sunglasses.  (Oh, that last part was so bold.  Someone is saying, I’ve seen you in sunglasses and…well….I hate to tell you…)  That said, these new sunglasses are extra special because they make the world more beautiful.  They have a rose tint, and when I wear these sunglasses the sky is a blue I’ve never seen before.  It’s darker and deeper than the normal sky and the contrast of the clouds is beautiful.  Any orange or red colored flower or leaf pops with a brightness that is dazzling.  The world is bright and different when I wear these sunglasses.  It’s not how the world really looks, but it is pretty and it makes me happy.  Rose colored glasses really do make the world better.

It’s a slippery slope this false attractive version of the world.  Pretty soon I’ll be waltzing into meetings in too-small hot pants and my sunglasses and proclaiming that I am the smartest person in the room.  If I appreciate the work mirror me and the brilliant orange flowers offset by the deep blue sky, where does it stop?  Or, am I building self awareness appreciating the beauty of the sunglass mirror world, but not accepting it as truth?

Wait a second.  I’ve never looked at myself in the work mirror with my sunglasses on!  Gasp!  What a vision I will be.  I need to go plan my outfit appropriately.  I need something red or orange….and something sky blue.  Maybe hot pants?