We’re all full of contradictions, and that’s perfectly okay
Type C personalities, ambiverts, choleric-phlegmatics. Science and society endeavour to define every possible permutation of personality archetypes so we in-betweeners can sleep better at night knowing we fall into some category of human paradigms. We can rejoice in the fact that we are something. We have a label to slap on our social media microbios.
As we grow and ascend to greater heights of self-realization, we may find deviations within ourselves that are a little disquieting. We feel a certain anxiousness at not identifying as any personality type out there. Or, we experience internal conflict from thinking we don’t “fit” a mold we initially thought suited ourselves. We all have taken personality tests at some point and feasted our eyes on the results at the end, eagerly anticipating an illumination of our character; whether or not the results align with our own perceptions can generate some serious cognitive dissonance. But once we find some classification with which we can identify, we are back at ease.
“I’m an extrovert, but lately I have been craving alone time and don’t feel like being around people at all. Am I depressed? What’s wrong with me? Maybe I’m not really an extrovert, but an introvert at heart. I guess sometimes I can be shy. Oh, look. They’ve come up with a new type called an ambivert; I’m allowed to exhibit traits of both outgoing and reserved people after all. Great.”
I think it’s bullshit.
I’m not referring the concepts themselves; this isn’t a diss to psychology or personality tests, which fascinate me and are obviously backed up by an immeasurable amount of research and science. And I’m not discrediting people who outwardly brand themselves as certain personality types; such labels are convenient and concise ways to describe ourselves.
What I call bullshit are the feelings of anxiety and not belonging caused by personality constructs — and the ways they can limit our thinking.
When I was younger, I always thought myself a perfectionistic, aggressive “Type A” person. As I grew older, I began leaning towards a more laid-back, go-with-the-flow “Type B,” but still retained a number of “Type A” tendencies (planning, micromanaging, etc). This worried me: was I getting lazy? Maybe I wasn’t being true to myself. Or was that type A person never really who I was?
Examining social tendencies only added to my self-doubt: I thrive in social situations and love being around people, but I also need my alone time — a lot of it. I’m not a shy person, but I find myself going out of the way to avoid human interaction sometimes. So am I an extrovert or introvert? The more I thought about personality models, the more questions swirled around in my head. I was confused and conflicted.
In the midst of this, I remember having a conversation with a friend in which he observed,
“We’re all full of contradictions. You don’t fit in anywhere; no one does. We’re banded together by our uniqueness.”
The truth of that statement broke down my illusions about what I was supposed to be like. Efforts to find a category in which to place myself were not only in vain, but also self-restricting.
Contradictions and little nuances are perfectly natural and okay. They make me who I am, and no “type” could ever encompass that fully.
As much as we strive to compartmentalize human behavior, we must remind ourselves that such constructs are simply generalizations. There are no catch-all archetypes to accurately describe the infinite mosaic of experiences, emotions, and thoughts that comprise every human being. We aren’t mass-produced puzzle pieces. Nothing is black and white. The majority of us fall in a vast gray area.
But we often yearn to fit in somewhere, to belong. That’s why the Barnum effect exists. That’s why labels give us comfort. They fill in the gaps about ourselves and justify our actions when, in reality, we don’t need anything to justify the way we are.
Thus, identifying too much with “types” limits our capacities for personal growth. It confines us to thinking we aren’t meant to or shouldn’t do particular things because we are some type of way. By defining ourselves according to lists of characteristics, we are enclosing ourselves in boxes. The characteristics that come along with your personality aren’t absolute; they don’t govern who you are. Nothing can do that except for you. You may associate strongly with an archetype, but you are perfectly allowed and able to go above and beyond that, in any direction that attracts you.
The reality is, humans are exceptionally complex and multifaceted creatures who cannot be circumscribed by mere descriptions.
We have the intellect and will to do what we want. We adapt, we grow, and we alter our perspectives according to different situations. And elements of personality that are seemingly at odds don’t necessarily equate to hypocrisy or being untrue to ourselves. Contradictions and imperfections make each one of us a different human being; and no one knows that uniqueness better than yourself.