Who Am I? (The Time Beth Went to Friend Jail)

I’m going to tell a story based on what I believe or feel to be true, but isn’t necessarily true. So, let’s go ahead and file this part of the post under “disclaimers,” and we’ll put the post under, “feelings.” In other words, please feel free to take the rest of what I’m going to say with a huge grain of salt (or whichever condiment you prefer to flavor potential exaggerations. Mmmm cardamom).

Recently, I had lunch with an old friend – someone I hadn’t seen in 30 years, and it was absolutely fantastic. I may have hurt myself from smiling. We spent the entire time talking; so many words stumbled out, old stories, tales of new lives, and I swear I squeaked half the time. I didn’t want to walk away. I wanted to keep talking until I’d exhausted all the topics under the sky or sun or moon or whichever celestial body was in view – wishing for a few more minutes, a few more after that, and greedily even more still until the conversation spiraled on into an infinite and intricate tapestry of lives lived fully. Unfortunately, a lunch hour is truly only a single hour (or an hour plus if I push it). I imagined the look on my boss’s face, a person who is normally quite understanding and tolerant, if I tried to explain that by “lunch hour” I actually meant “lunch afternoon.” Had I not mentioned that before? And really, funny thing, it was just a slip of the tongue when I said “lunch hour” as I was heading to my car. I’m bad with words. Hey, but four hours off is ok, right? Meetings shmeetings. Work can wait while I socialize, can’t it?

Imaginary boss, much like my actual boss, wasn’t having any of it. Poo.

One of the topics discussed was personality tests – Myers-Briggs, Enneagrams, etc., and he joked, “before we can continue with this friendship, you’ll have to take a personality test.” I’ve taken several – Myers-Briggs (where I’m currently an INFJ – I used to be an INTJ, and at some point I remember taking it and there had been an “X” which indicated I was truly in the middle on one of those – like F vs. S maybe? Its been awhile. But hey, today it indicates I’m a “Protector.”) I’ve taken the Insights Discovery profile through work, which says I’m a “Coordinating Supporter,” and the Gallup StrenghthsFinder 2.0 that lists my top two strengths as “Empathy” and “Input” (where you gather information before acting). Basically, all of the tests seem to indicate, “I have a personality.” Go me!

A few weeks pass and he sends a simplified Enneagram test. Hrmm, two questions that apparently show I’m “caring, generous, but also possessive.” As for the “possessive” descriptor, I can only defend myself with this: I’m an only child, and as such I understand one thing – anything I see is mine. As for the things I can’t see, well they may also be mine; however, they’re not at the forefront of my mind to claim since they’re out of view. Obviously, your possessions are yours – your house, your car, your family, your pets – I’ll give you those. Mostly, because your taste is really off and I don’t need them, but also I suppose because they’re actually yours. (You did read the part that the new test indicates I am “generous,” right? Here is the written proof. Boy, those tests nail my personality.)

Well, I was told a further test must be given to test out some theory he had, and another test showed up in my mailbox. I took that one, sent it back, and later had a phone discussion where I learned that the results were confusing in some way – that he had to read further on it; only one other friend of his and I had scored so strangely. I quipped about handing out exams when you can’t read the results, and by “quipped” I mean I said something in a sarcastic/smart-assy kind of way, but with a jovial/light-hearted tone, I’m sure!

Then I may have had to back-out on a last minute invite, and somewhere between that and the mysterious final results of these personality tests I landed in friend jail. And my friend jail, I’m pretty certain I’m dead to this person, or I guess the routers between our Gmail accounts could have encountered a temporal anomaly, and he’ll either get the latest email I sent in 50 years, or it was sent when we were in high school, when there were no routers. However, Occam’s razor is really pointing towards “friend jail.” And to all of that I say, “well poop” because we really had a great conversation. Or maybe it was just me who had the great conversation. Hrmm… normally I’m pretty good at reading people. Although, now that I think about it, I suspected the friend jail was coming when I was explaining that I couldn’t make it to the last minute event invite.

This is kind of a bummer since my current friends really could have stood having a break from “the Beth show” that a new friend being in the mix would have offered. You see, my friends prefer I spread the wealth of me. I suspect they play rock-paper-scissors to determine whose turn it might be next.

Anyway, now I’m a little curious as to what the test indicated, and also a tiny bit offended that someone might have used personality test results xeroxed from a book as the only factor in determining if I’m an acceptable person to be around. (Please refer to the disclaimer at the top of this post, since you were warned this is about feelings and may not be the truth.) Dude, you’re not a psychologist or psychiatrist trained in reading the results, and basically this test was two questions? Really? You might as well have given me the latest Buzzfeed: Which Game of Thrones Character Are You? FYI, it said Joffrey. I’m not too keen on that either. I was hoping for Ghost or, you know, Arya.

Which Leads Me to My Thoughts on Personality Tests

I think personality tests are interesting. I think they can identify certain tendencies or qualities, but I don’t think they’re entirely accurate for a simple reason: You’re being asked to do a self-assessment of who you think you are. You’re being asked to take an inventory of your own personality, and the simple truth is we all have have blind-spots and biases when it comes to who we actually are. I know I do. I don’t know that any of us are so self-aware that it would be possible to get a 100% accurate picture of who we are. Sure, you can get a very good idea of who I think I am.

That said, I do think they can be used as a decent tool, depending on the test. I also think they can be a good starting point to lead into an actual interaction with the person, and that from there you can gain a more complete picture of the person. You simply can’t expect to know a person based on the results of a test. My guess is that if you threw me into a room with other INFJ’s or Coordinating Supporters, that while we would have some things in common, we wouldn’t be the same. Individually, we are so nuanced that a mere 16 personality types will never be enough to encompass everyone. If I walk into a room with 100 people, it’s unlikely there will be six people exactly like me.

So, who am I? I’m a unique combination of my genetics, my upbringing, and my environment. I’m my hobbies, my interests, my State (as a Texan, this is a real thing guys), and my politics. I’m a walking amalgamation of a thousand traits and habits that I’ve picked up through the years from my friends and family. Who I am cannot be, and should not be, summed up in the results of a personality test. You might as well have asked me for my zodiac sign. (FYI – Saturn was in retrograde when I was born.)

If you want to know me, then talk to me, but I can tell you I’m more than the answers to two questions.

7 thoughts on “Who Am I? (The Time Beth Went to Friend Jail)

  1. Susan Keeler says:

    This fellow INFJ likes this post. What number are you (Enneagram)? A 2? I think that’s what I am, though I must confess I don’t get the Enneagram (yet).

  2. azzageddi says:

    Love this, and glad you brought in astrology. Personality tests weird me out for the same reason star signs weird me out. I grew up with my mom telling me that, as a Cancer, I was this, that, and the other. Whenever I got emotional over something, she’d say, “Yeah, that’s such a Cancer thing.” (Not those words–Mom didn’t really talk like that.) And that shaped me WAY more than arbitrary positions of stars.

    I know lots of people who use their Meyers-Briggs results the same way people used star signs in the 70s. I think they have slightly more validity, but so do the Buzzfeed quizzes.

    Recently a friend was taking the DISC personality test. She texted me about it during a break, and I got excited. “That test was designed by William Marston, the creator of Wonder Woman!” “What?” “Yeah, he was polyamorous and sincerely believed women should run the world. And he was big-time into dominance and submission and bondage!” So she went back in to take the rest of the test with all that in her head. Hmm…maybe I should have waited until after she’d finished the test.

    • Beth says:

      Ok, that whole last bit about the DISC personality test and William Marston was hilarious! Of the tests I really liked the Insights Profile; it was the most helpful in terms of suggesting different ways to deal with different types of people. (Our entire team took the test, and I would roughly agree with the results and how they broke out across the team.)

      I actually wrote quite a bit more about zodiac signs and threw in palm reading, numerology, and tea leaves, then I remembered some of my friends are very much into that and I don’t want to be completely offensive. Those are things that are definitely not for me, but I get some people find some value in them, and if they’re not harming anyone, then I support them and will not sit in judgment (or try not to at least) because they’re darn fine people. That said though, I don’t want someone to completely judge me based on two questions. Take any two questions and say my answers are: 1) Yes, I do like ice cream, and 2) I would rather ride an elephant than an ostrich. Both tell you a little something about me, but they don’t tell you everything (or really anything interesting) or anything important. Blargh. I can tell I’m about to get fired up again. 🙂

      Also, HI DAVID!!!

  3. This was stomp the floor hilarious.
    In grad school there was group of students who were “intellectuals” and they wanted everyone who they might want in their group ( they did the inviting – I hadn’t noticed – I mean who does that outside or Jr High? It was funny to me, but they were so serious …insert giggles here…you know what gonna happen next, right?) anyway, they wanted people to take an IQ test. (and since they were mostly psychology students they were quite qualified to give and analyze said test, right? More giggle allowed…) I know my IQ. It drove my brother crazy as he was the dedicated student and I was “if only you would try…live up to ability…”.
    “Seriously,” I said to the “leader”, “You want an audition to be a friend and want to see if I’m worth your time?” Snort. (it wan’t exactly a top rung university, guys…with competitive entrance requirements….)
    The thing we in the behavior and hard science research fields note is that “test” responses are only a one day snapshot of a person..and very limited…especially if they know the game and think it’s funny or know the game and target their responses to get the results they want (sales people are really good at this)…especially as the results are all up for interpretation….by those without a sense of humor ..or sense.
    Sounds like you are having waaaay too much fun. Riot on!

    • Beth says:

      Ugh! IQ test entry exams to friendship? I would say that the only requirement I have for my friendship is that you don’t drool, but then I thought about that a bit, and realized drooling doesn’t bother me as long as you embrace it and have a sense of humor. Drool on! Lean into it! Own that drool! It makes you beautiful and unique! Truthfully, I just want my friends to be able to laugh big (at themselves, at me, at any situation), to take things seriously when they need to, and occasionally be up for a movie or three – or a Reverse Quinceañera with a Bollywood flare. A love of queso is a plus, but not a requirement, and a love of SciFi is a bonus.

      I agree completely with being able to game a personality test, and it doesn’t take much once you have a feel for the test. I can make myself an extrovert, an introvert, a bon vivant, a lover of all things data, and sometimes I have to force myself/remind myself to answer honestly, and not provide the “best version of Beth” answers if I want to get anything from the results. Have you ever seen the questions on the leaflets handed out by Scientologists? Granted, I’m referring to mid-80’s leaflets – who knows if they even still do that. Anyway, at UT there’s a big Scientology building on the Drag. We’d walk by it all the time, and someone was always passing those out. What we found fascinating was the way the questions were worded. You’d have questions like: “I think of suicide often.” (An actual question.) I think most people didn’t realize that no matter how you answered, you were always agreeing that you did the thing in question. Suddenly, you were suicidal – maybe you didn’t think of it “often,” but you just said you thought about it. My elitist intellectual friends and I (you know that smug 21-year-old gang high on their education, but missing a lot of humility and definitely no wisdom at all – full of intellectual bravado) loved picking those apart.

      I swear Derren Brown, a magician, and mentalist did an interesting experiment with personality tests (or at least I thought he had). I tried to find it and link it to the blog, but only found where he’d done an experiment showing how people like psychics could trick us. I still think it applies – it showed people being tested (they chose a random number, drew an outline of their palm, and they may have answered a couple of questions). Hours passed and, unbeknownst to them, they were each given the exact same results where the results were so generic, they were all able to read themselves into it. When they discovered the results were the same, the participants were rather embarrassed. Anyway, that’s a random thought on those tests. I can read myself into any result, especially if flattery is involved (I’m kind! I’m generous! I look great in plaid!) I can read into results from personality tests, astrology predictions, palmistry, numerology, etc. etc. ad nauseum, so I lump them together. As you said, it’s just a snapshot of who I am/was at that moment, assuming I was being honest when I responded.

      BLAH! I’m rambling! That’s the key takeaway from this particular snapshot. 😀 Bless my heart. As always, thank you for reading!

      • SO many in college were intellectual snobs without actually having the natural ability.
        Those leaflets! So subtle and luring – those were the days of many groups claiming to have the secret. (Having been in the business of writing;/editing/auditing standardized measurements/instruments/tests it is so interesting to watch how words are skillful or not so skillfully used – objectives matter – especially in politics (which is oddly similar these days )HaHA.
        I think I remember that magician – it was so weird. People are basically amusing and weird.
        Plaid! And rambling – yea! Onward

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