Who do you think you are?

How do you know if you know yourself, and who could you ask for help?

I recently had a conversation with a friend who is about my age and she wondered if her current work was really a good fit for her. She had questions about what her personal preferences really were and whether they matched the job descriptions for the various activities in which she was involved. Was she really doing the kinds of things she was best at?

In my own life, my wonderful husband and I go about things so very differently. How do I handle our differences and somehow make them into opportunities for interpersonal growth, communication, and a better relationship?

I have four children and I am constantly trying to understand them to the fullest degree. That’s a challenge because they are moving targets as they grow up although some things remain fairly constant: their individual levels of need for physical affection and social interaction, their various decision-making processes, their place on the messy-neat continuum, and so on. Why do I care about understanding them on the deepest level possible? There are several reasons. Knowing them better makes it easier for me to predict their behavior and reactions and I can set my expectations appropriately for each child (i.e. I can see it coming). Understanding who they are will help me guide them toward activities and careers that will be satisfying to them. Finally, I’m an “Idealist”, specifically an INFJ, and that’s just what I’m all about. (She’s a whaat??)

Personalities are so interesting. I began a psychology minor in college because I was fascinated by the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator test. I had taken it in high school, and in college a friend introduced me to “Please Understand Me” by David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates. (It has since been rewritten and improved by Keirsey as “Please Understand Me II“.) The later edition contains two simple tests. The short test sorts people into four groups: Artisans, Guardians, Idealists, and Rationals. The longer one breaks each of these four types into four sub-types and gets pretty specific about the characteristics of each temperament and how they learn, love, work, and lead. Fascinating! Did you know that you base your self-esteem on being one of the following: artistic, dependable, empathic, or ingenious? Do you know which you use? I certainly value all of those, but after taking the temperament sorter one word made more sense for me than the others.

It’s a little like reading your fortune, but without the predictions… so I guess it’s more like seeing yourself in a psychological mirror. “Idealists, as a temperament, are passionately concerned with personal growth and development. Idealists strive to discover who they are and how they can become their best possible self….” (Keirsey) Hmmm. Yes, that’s me.

If a person wanted to understand her/himself better, s/he would have several options. To begin, I would highly recommend a personal relationship with God because He is really, really good at explaining us to ourselves.

Outside of religion, I like Keirsey’s books as well as his online sorter. His second book goes into quite a bit of detail about mating, parenting, and leading. (“Oh, so that’s why I do this and he does that.”) There’s also a book about understanding children: Nurture by Nature by Teiger and Barron-Teiger. For my friend with the career dilemma, I recommended Do What You Are by the same authors. The Myers-Briggs Foundation does it with more panache, professionalism, research, and depth, so you can go that route as well and surely there are others.

It’s reassuring to know that you are understood- if only by the author of a book in your hand- and that you are part of a group of people with similar preferences. I find it revealing to read about my family’s personalities. Each person in this world is amazing, wonderful, and unique. However, it’s surprising how similar we can be. Do you know who you are?

5 thoughts on “Who do you think you are?

  1. I’m an INFJ too! When I was working on the National Education team at Equity, we did an entire leadership training on Emotional Intelligence. What a great resource to understanding yourself better and understanding how teams of people can work together. Thanks for the additional book suggestions!

  2. Interestingly, when I took the test this time, it came out differently than previously. Now I score as INFP-Healer. Furthermore, all four categories were strongly scored — well away from center. Previously I’m pretty sure I scored as INTJ, and at least one category (I think the P-J) was nearly on center. Is this a natural variation or does this mean that I’m actually managing to change my personality?

    • You are an INTP as I recall, but the variation is probably due to your efforts over time and your current values. Your basic foundation is all “Rational”.

  3. Thanks for posting this thoughtful reflection – it certainly is a worthwhile pursuit to discover who we really are, and who the people around us really are. It reminds me of something C.S. Lewis said in his “Weight of Glory” sermon (though it is also found other places, expressed similarly by other speakers). Lewis said something to the effect that we would be surprised to realize that every person on earth is a potential god or goddess – and if we remembered that, how different would our interactions with them be. Remembering this makes me more motivated to consider that as I interact with others, especially as I look forward to interacting with our own little boy soon 🙂 Best wishes to you and yours!

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