Who is the real you? This may seem like an odd question, because we know who we are, right?
Many believe you are who you are because of what you have experienced, and those experiences have moulded your personality. There are many different programs and models set out to help categorise us into ‘personality types’, and these programs have their uses, of course, but what do we really learn about ourselves from them?
This topic has been an interest of mine for a long time. My mother is professionally trained to assess personality types, and will often attempt do so within 60 seconds of meeting someone (a scary thought), so naturally I’ve acquired a strong interest in this field. I took my first personality test when I was a fearless and irresponsible eighteen-year-old, and then again ten years later, after I’d had a chance to experience adulthood, and learn more about life. It transgressed that, subconsciously at least, I was learning a lot about myself each and every day of those ten years.
The test I took was called Myers Briggs, and you’ve most likely heard of it. It was originally created to decide what role American soldiers would take in World War II. Are you impulsive, brave and able to pick your troops up when morale is low? Or are you a thinker, a strategist who is prepared to make a decision that may have consequences, yet a decision that may need to be made for the greater good? Those life-or-death questions don’t really matter anymore, because Myers Briggs is now mostly used within companies and corporations of all sizes, all over the world. Higher-ups and HR managers are able to see the value in their employees, being well versed in this arena, because by being able to assess what personality an employee is will help them to learn what makes them tick, and can result in a better and more productive working relationship.
I'm uncomfortable putting people in pigeonholes. I don't even think pigeons belong in pigeonholes, but there are obvious divides and the more you look, the easier they will be to spot. Extroverts and introverts, for example. The former will enjoy being around people, gaining energy from company but losing it when alone. Introverts tire from too much conversation and need to recharge their batteries by seeking out a quiet space. Nobody will ever be 100% of one or the other, but a person will always be one way inclined.
This isn’t about manipulation or exploitation; it’s more about knowing that people can be made to be compatible, no matter how different they are. What I know is that, because of this learning, I’m now able to get a sense for what I think someone’s personality type might be, and this can help me communicate in a more effective way. What I don’t know is why they have the personality they do, and why I have mine.
It’s hard to say whether we’re born who we are, when it’s clear our personalities are a constant ‘work in progress’, despite many of us mistakenly assuming to be the finished article. My view is that we’re an assembly of traits or characteristics collected over time. Remember, you're both similar to other people, and also like no other person. You may have your dad’s sense of humour, you may have your mother’s temper, but these are only singular attributes that are slowly engraved into us. They do not define you. Everything on earth is made up of different components, and our personalities are no different.
Alex Mills is a Account Manager at Mission Media in London