escapril day 19: without your name, who are you?
I don’t think we realise the imprint of a name,
They tattoo our brains, how inked skin stains
As we write labels for the sum of our parts.
My name does not define me because
It will never describe me, but
To you it identifies me, and
Everything I am within my name
Is for you to decide without me.
On personality tests:
I have always been (or at least since I’ve had the capacity to remember who I was and who I’ve become) quite interested in things like personality tests. I remember the first time I encountered something of this kind was when I was perhaps around 11 in a book called ‘For Girls Only – Everything Great About Being a Girl’ by Laura Dower. I think there was a test right at the back of the book that was something similar to, if not just a simplified version of, the Myers Briggs personality test, just involving my answering a series of questions and then matching the answers to the personality type that I scored highest for. I just remember being so fascinated by the fact that I, one in 7.5 billion people, could be categorised into just one of these 16 personality types, and the fascination lives on.
Out of every test I’ve taken I have never found one quite as accurate as the Myers Briggs test. Since taking that I have read extensively into and watched countless videos on my personality type, looked into the cognitive functions of my type and discovered that it’s all me to a T. I was categorised as an INFJ, which supposedly makes up 1% of the population making us the ‘rarest’ type, despite the fact that since there are 7.5 billion people in the world, 1% of the population is still 75 million, which isn’t really that rare. I find it difficult to fathom that there are 75 million people out there who have exactly the same personality as me, since in my almost 20 years of being so far I can’t say I’ve found a single one. Yet.. in all the research I did about INFJ’s, I couldn’t help but feel like I was reading something that had been written about me.
The funny thing about reading and watching and listening to such descriptions is that.. most of the time, I didn’t even realise these things until I’d heard them. It’s such an odd feeling of self discovery as if suddenly I had a whole new understanding of who I am as a person. It gave me such a feeling of clarity and many moments of revelation and ‘Yes!! I do that! Someone understands me! Yes that’s why I do that!’. I still can’t get over the peculiarity in the notion of feeling like I’m reading about myself from someone else’s point of view. Feeling like there is someone out there who knows me better than I know myself. How can that be possible? Only I am me? I am entirely unique and there is no one else out there who can possibly be the same as me. How can I learn about myself… from someone else? And have such a revelation? I think it might just be that I had never even thought about the fact that the ways that I act, respond, and involve myself in situations might just be down to my personality type. But the questions is, does it?
These personality types really take more of a scientific perspective on what makes a person who they are. It looks at the brain and its psychology and the types are really only sorting people into the differing ways in which a person can perceive the world and make decisions. It’s about psychological preferences and really shouldn’t be called a ‘personality type’, because our psychological preferences make up far less than the entirety of our personality, let alone our being.
Every time I have to take a test to do with myself for any reason, whether it be for school to figure out my character strengths or in my own time taking every personality test under the sun, I seem to have some kind of obsession with figuring out who I am, but I just don’t think any personality test tells me that. I suppose it has been able to somewhat help me learn how my brain works and why I make certain decisions and act in certain ways based on that, but no one other than myself will every be able to really answer the question of who I am and what makes me who I am.
This essay / post / discussion was prompted by a podcast I listened to by Jordan B. Peterson, in which he briefly mentioned a personality test he devised (that I have not taken because it costs money), and the person by whom he was being interviewed said that he had taken it and that he’d found his results scary. Jordan Peterson had then said that the test was made in a way that everyone will find their results scary, because finding out who you are, is scary! It’s an interesting thought to me, that finding out who you are is scary, because even though he is completely right, the suggestion that we perhaps don’t have complete control over who we are is almost scarier.
It begs the question though, how do we truly answer the question, who am I? What constitutes our being? I am my physical, but also more than that. I am my personality, but where does the personality stop? And what makes up a personality? I am my mind, but not entirely. I am the science of my brain and I am my thoughts and dreams. I am my subconscious and my conscious. I am a lot of things I can’t explain or describe or even know or be aware of and and at the end of it all, I will never be able to put down on paper who I am. I can tell you on a surface level who I was, but who I am is infinitely more complex and ever-changing. Who I will be tomorrow is not who I am today. She will be a new person, built upon me right now, but still someone new. I can’t tell you who I am or who I will be. I can have faith in my potential but beyond that is a mystery.
I remember a quote I heard in a video by Miles Carter. He said: “Nothing is something I do, but anything I do is everything I am”. So does who I am come from the things I do? Am I who I am because of the things I do or how I do them? Am I who I am to me or who I am to others? Am I who I am at heart or who I present myself to be? Are they the same? Can I properly know someone if I only know who they are to me? And does the person they are to me and the person they are to themselves have to be the same to constitute the true definition of who they are?
What makes us truly who we are? I don’t know.
I can look in a mirror and see myself, and think.. that’s me. That’s who I am. But that’s only what I look like. That’s a physical casing. The evolution of consciousness in mobile beings has allowed us to be conscious and aware of that which is beyond our vision. That which we cannot see all together and that which we can’t see yet. Evolution of consciousness has given us awareness of time and future, and in this abstract context, I am aware of the fact that I have thoughts and cannot see them. There is a world inside me that makes up far more of my being than my physical casing and the science of my being ever will. I know it’s there, but it’s hard to describe it without being able to see it. Sight is the most concrete form of consciousness, without it, mobile beings were barely conscious at all. Who I am comes more from the parts of me that I can’t see than the parts of me I can, and that’s why finding out who you are is scary. Putting words to feelings is overwhelming even in a scientific context, but not knowing the words to put to it is even scarier. But I think this just comes down to the fact that there is no dictionary for people. No amount of words will ever define a person because who we are as individuals is blurred at the edges.
So who am I, really? I’m afraid I can’t end this with an answer, because there isn’t one. But I’ve at least expressed my questions. I don’t think it’s an important question to answer as long as I am aware of the value of my being. Others know who I am to them and that’s enough. Maybe I don’t know who I am to me because it’s a combination of who I am to everyone else. I am anything and everything and that’s as concise as I can be. Maybe I am simply what I find meaning in. The particularities of who I am don’t really matter as long as I am doing, expressing and being that which is meaningful to me. Maybe meaning is the answer.