Looking back on the last year, several things emerge as sort of overall themes of my life in 2010. Challenging fear was probably the biggest, setting standards and eliminating deadweight was another, questioning what’s important (and subsequently making meaningful connections) would likely fall into third place, and somewhere in the mix, amongst the hopes and dreams, was a quest for identity. I’ve always been fascinated by the study of human behaviour, and though I regret not pursuing it through formal education, I continue to seek out and digest as much information as possible on the psychology behind our personalities, our emotionals, our social tendencies, and on how we define ourselves. Mention the words “personality test”, and an initial response may very well be a wrinkled nose and questioning brow – but I put great faith in the theories developed by Jung, by Myers, and by Briggs.
Last year, I learned something fascinating about being an introvert. I also learned that when administered, answered, and researched meticulously, your Myers-Briggs Personality Type can be scarily accurate – and can shine a new light on why you think, act, and see the world the way you do. This stuff is a feast for the mind – figuring out the logistics behind your internal wiring that shape how you behave and define yourself can really go a long way in one’s quest for identity. But I can’t help but feel that despite the reading I’ve done, the results I’ve got, and despite it all making so much sense – I still feel a bit of an anomaly. Perhaps that comes with being an INFJ – we do compose less than a single percent of the population, after all.
A few weeks ago, I played matchmaker for the first time, setting up a couple of friends on a blind date. It was wildly fun, hearing both sides asking about each other, about their likes, dislikes, history and upbringing – but one question stuck in my mind: “What sort of a person is he?” I tried to give as much information as I could, and went on to describe details about work, about education, and interests – but how do you concisely and accurately describe someone’s personality when inside lies a labyrinth of characteristics? With labels, I suppose. We all want to know who we are, and we all want to know who everybody else is, and the quickest, easiest way to do it is to stick a label on the outside for all to see. Goth. Nerd. Emo Kid. Lazy. Weirdo. Casanova. Drama Queen. Awkward. It Girl. There are no end to the labels we attach to other people, but as Mr. Yorke once put it, we do it to ourselves. Everyone has an idea of who they think they are, and when asked to “tell me about yourself”, they’ll offer a few tidbits of information that combine to form a quick impression of the person as a whole. Often, these can be pretty accurate. But in labelling, we inadvertently give ourselves a glass ceiling. By defining ourselves as one thing, we conceal everything else that makes up who we really are. I’ve always found it difficult to define myself. I guess that’s why I felt like the leprechaun at the end of the rainbow when I first discovered the Myers-Briggs and the field of personality psychology. But the truth is – I still don’t really know.
I seem to defy social niches. That’s not new information, but perhaps it’s part of why it took me so long to find the people with whom I truly belong. Through adolescence to early adulthood, I flitted from group to group in an endeavour to fit in, allowing certain facets of my personality to shine through when it was appropriate, but hiding everything else in doing so. Only recently have I begun to embrace every part, instead of trying to fit a social mould – to acknowledge that it’s okay to be different. It’s okay to be an anomaly, because variety is the spice of life! Personally, I love getting to know multi-faceted people. People with different layers and contradictory yet harmonious interests. I like to dress up, straighten my hair, wear extensions, heels, and manicures. But I can also be blokier than Phil Mitchell. I hoover my counters and wear the same jeans four days in a row. I’m in love with the past, with fierce imagination, with history, culture, theatre and literature. But I’m also fascinated by science and technology, and the ongoing movement from science fiction to science fact. I love to imagine life on other planets and the evolution of the stars in the night sky, yet I’ll cover my walls with great art and beautiful words. I’m just as thrilled to listen to Celtic folk music as punjabi bhangra, Duran Duran, or 17th century choral masterpieces. I enjoy cocktails as much as a pint of Carlsberg, and a round of Cranium as much as questing through Feathermoon Stronghold. I’ll be the first to crank up the Glee soundtrack while painting my toenails, but I reminisce about the days I fronted a punk band, thrive on the latest UK indie, and daydream of being the next Tarja Turunen, surrounded by symphonic power metal. I feel overwhelmed in crowds, yet crave social connection when alone. I’m equally happy in a cocktail dress at a dinner party as I am dressing up in a World of Warcraft Night Elf costume at a comic book convention. I’ve been told I’m an introvert and an extravert.
I sometimes feel as though I live in the void between social identities. But then I remind myself, it’s just the world telling me I need a definition. It’s just other people that make me feel I need to fit a predefined genre instead of scattering myself throughout the library. It’s also an interesting parallel, I think, to blogging: we all know how I feel about limiting yourself to a niche despite it being the favoured means of operation, and I feel strongly that if you’re passionate about lots of different things, you should allow them all to see the light. Not tuck yourself into a box and stick a label on top for the sake of belonging to a certain crowd. We’re all such interesting and beautifully complex souls. And I think I’m finally okay with being a hodgepodge, after all.