Our Personality Is the Unique Way Life Expresses Itself Through Us
We want to know who we are. We look for explanations for why we are the way we are, why others behave the way they do. We have so many questions. We are searchers.
Are you also a searcher? Are you curious to know? More about yourself? More about others? Are you searching for answers and guidance on dealing with yourself, or more pragmatically with your fellow human beings, your staff, your colleagues, your partner?
Psychological assessment tools have been prevalent to respond to this search. Especially the personality type’s ones. We find structured explanations and sometimes justifications for our behaviours, we find labels for ourselves and what we do, we feel relieved or puzzled or shocked about what we find out. We look at someone else’s profile description and are fascinated. We try to make sense of our being and want it validated scientifically. Why actually?
We look at the description of our personality traits with the same fascination as we look in the mirror. Is it only a narcissist search?
I don’t know, but I wonder.
My head used to start searching as soon as I saw one of those tools and in my profession I used a lot of them, both during my psychology studies and after, in my Corporate HR career and as Executive Coach. The field of application of psychometric and diagnostic tools is vast: Clinical Psychology and Therapy, Recruiting, Potential Evaluation, Leadership Development, Team building, Personal growth...
Is she more a Thinker or more an Achiever? Is he an introvert or an extrovert? Bold and imaginative? Too cautious or too dominant? A Perfectionist? What about sociability? And the stress tolerance? And so forth... Labels after labels. All packed in fascinating personality and behavioral profiles… and in boxes.
I have noticed how much we love to put ourselves and others in boxes!
There are as many labels as there are ways to show up in the world! But what do we need them for actually? Why can’t we just show up in the different facets of us and be simply present with each other. Without putting a name on what we see?
Is it our need for understanding, control and predictability?
We love to judge, categorie, measure, compare, evaluate, predict. Somehow, squares and charts attract our intellect like magic, as if they contained a well-kept secret that would help us structure reality and our experience of life. As if we needed this structure to be more human and get in contact with each other. But that´s the opposite.
It feels so strange; this search used to be an essential part of my work. It was a time when my intellect was highly dominant in my life.
But honestly, despite the knowledge and intellectual understanding, I was also sometimes confused with these profiles, personality traits and behavioural descriptions. Part of me was not sure whether I was on the right track. Whatever answer I would find there, it never really felt like my clients or like me. It was them or me sometimes, but not always. And there was this tiny voice inside, that I heard but didn’t too much listen to at that time.
We are sometimes like this and sometimes like that. So which one is the real us? So why would we accept one of those descriptions as us if we can be all of them? Just because we can be one of them more often or longer?
It felt so tight and didn’t help much.
It took me a while to see that something didn’t work there for me. Years ago it started not to make sense anymore. Something was really missing.
The personality types of all kinds, the categories, the colours, the graphics, the symbols… seem to respond to a deep need to structure the world, giving us a sense of direction. It also responds to a need to quiet the mind, feeling for a moment that the search is over, that we can relax, that we now know who we are and what to do with ourselves and others. Scientific proof of the nature of our existence. An explanation for our lives and behaviours. A workbook to help us deal with our fellow human beings.
But have you noticed that it doesn´t help as much as we hope? That we cannot remember people´s personality type when we are in interaction with others. That it is not as helpful as we wish for, even for ourselves?
And that the search is never over? That each time you find a new profile, your mind starts searching again for answers? As if the answers from last time were not enough? As if we knew deep inside that there was something else to see?
Those personality labels are not the way we find clarity, peace and connection inside us and with others. They are just a momentary relief.
I don’t really enjoy those tools anymore. Not for myself, not for my clients. I come across many of them in the companies I work for, and even if those tools can be useful to mirror our behaviour at the moment, and help still momentarily the need for understanding how we show up, they provide no real support in the long run. Just an illusion of knowing. Relief for our intellect.
Let me share how I see that today.
Our personality type is a description of a habit of operating in the world; it refers to a set of behaviours we may not have questioned, an external expression of habitual psychological mechanics developed over the years and our personal history.
If used wisely, measurement tools can indicate of how we show up and how we see ourselves in a particular moment, compared to others, and compared to how else we could show up. The information we get from them are no ultimate truth of who we are, just maybe an indication of some of our behaviours.
We should not identify with the picture we get from them. Like we should not identify with the picture we see in a mirror.
Psychometric measurements are made of made-up criteria. Each of these tests has been developed based on criteria to categorize our way of thinking and behaving, putting humans in boxes with labels on them. An intellectual attempt to predict our behavior and bring some order in the world of humans. But they are statistics not reality.
What if we were not as predictable as the statistics see us? What if we had much more options available to us than we see? What if we were freer in our being than we can imagine? What if measuring and labelling ourselves was exciting but contra-productive?
We need another understanding of how we see our personality.
Who we really are is beyond the types, descriptions and labels of behaviors and habitual thinking we take for our identity. We are the creator of all that: the human being looking at the mirror, not the picture.
One of the most beautiful ways of talking about our personality and what we are capable of when we are free to be who we are is how the choreograph Martha Graham described it:
“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique.
And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it.
It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open.”
Our personality is the unique creative expression of a life force that is wild and moving.
It doesn´t do it any justice to label it for the sake of understanding it intellectually, and it doesn’t belong in a box anyway. Just let it be what it is meant to be. It will find its way if you let go of the concepts. There can be only one version of you anyway. There is only one version of each of us, always.
What our personalities need are not labels but freedom of movement.
With Love, Drissia
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