That’s Just the Way I Am!

Three times this month I’ve heard someone refer to Myers-Briggs testing. It was used in conjunction with attempting to explain how they did not want to do something because this was their Myers-Briggs type. What I heard them say is, “That’s just the way I am”.
In the realm of current day psychology the Myers-Briggs is classified as a pop-psych test and there is a reason it’s called that. But it doesn’t deter over a million people a year from taking the test. There are 16 different “types” you can be categorized into after completing the test and it is supposed to predict how you will behave you in relationships at work or life in general.

There have been research studies done on the test that question the test’s reliability and validity. This means that people taking the test after a period of time may not get the same results and there is little evidence to support the basic premise of the test: that results from the test can reliably predict someones behavior in work or relationships.
(Barbuto, 1997; Pittenger 1993.) And this is just one piece of research. Google Myers-Briggs + Reliability and see what you find. At best the validity and reliability of this test is controversial and its usefulness questionable.

There has been a lot of scientific research done on personality traits and temperament which indicates there are indeed “types” and there is some connection to heredity. But don’t get heredity confused with surety.  You can be born with a general personality type but so much of what you are exposed to, how you are treated and how you CHOOSE to behave affects how your personality is perceived. It can even affect your own perception. I think the bottom line to remember is a genetic predisposition towards a personality type doesn’t mean it is inevitable.

What does this mean for me? Well I still believe I’m an introvert but my family and friends would laugh at that. I was always terribly shy up until grade 10. I decided I was starting a new stage of my life and I wanted to fit in. I didn’t want to be shy and an outsider. I chose to behave differently. Someone had told me that being shy was just a way to stay in control of a situation so I changed my mind about how I wanted to be perceived.

What was going on in my head when I made this choice? I can tell you right now my thought process was not calm and assertiveness but full scale panic. On the outside I was smiling and moving forward…but on the inside? Utter fear and a constant stream of, “Just do it, just do it, just do it, just do it. You will be fine”. Did I appear changed on the outside? Yes. On the inside the essence of who I really am, was there. And to this day it still resides there.

Did I need a test to tell me this about myself? Not really. The magic you need to remember is that you have a choice. Be aware of what you are feeling, thinking and doing. When offered a moment to change the direction of your behavior to achieve what you say is most important to you be prepared with a strategy.

My mind map for strategies has significantly changed since Grade 10. There is still this voice that says, “Yikes, what are you doing? This is nerve-wracking!” But I turn on the mantra and something magical happens. I move forward. Once I am invested in what is happening, the fear subsides and I am in the “flow”. I just need that initial boost to stay engaged in the new experience, no matter what it is.

As an added bonus, I’ve noticed, that over the years the leap from “Yikes” to being “in the flow” has become shorter and shorter but I don’t think it will ever go away.  For example I speak in front of my Toastmaster club every week and it doesn’t bother me at all but last month I spoke in front of 200 people for the first time. I was a screaming wreck on the inside. Once I stepped up to the stage and started talking all that panic subsided as I slipped into my role as Keynote Speaker.

So what can you do about it? Be aware of feelings, thoughts and actions. Come up with a strategy to move forward. Honor who you are but IF it’s important enough to move forward, find and use a strategy that works you. The choice you have is powerful tool to create maps of how to deal with what you feel inside and how you act on the outside.

To say, “Thats just the way I am!”, is a great place to hide out but you are sitting in a car that isn’t going anywhere.

My questions for you are: who are you really? What feelings do you have inside when you believe you need to behave in a way contrary to who you essentially are? What sort of strategies do you use to move towards what you say is most important to you? What makes you aware of this conflict? What have you thought about this?

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