“ENFPs are warm, enthusiastic people, typically very bright and full of potential. They live in the world of possibilities, and can become very passionate and excited about things. They can talk their way in or out of anything. They love life, seeing it as a special gift, and strive to make the most out of it.” Aw, shucks. Is that really me? “…the details of everyday life are seen as trivial drudgery. They place no importance on detailed, maintenance-type tasks, and will frequently remain oblivious to these types of concerns.” … yup.
This is my manual. A Shannon how-to book, if you will, available for everyone who wants to know the nuts and bolts of how I operate. Anyone who has been around me in the last month knows about my new obsession with Myer-Briggs and other relevant personality tests. In fact, I’ve taken to categorizing my family and friends into four letters with a simple test:
Myer-Briggs has allowed me to quench my incessant need to understand people by categorizing them. I’ve spent endless hours scavenging the internet, intent on learning about personality types and how they interact as a means to explain my relationships with my friends, family, and even coworkers. It has allowed me to put on a new lens, so to speak, and conceptualize the internal thought processes and values of people who think differently than me. Ah, they are reacting in that way because they’re a feeler. That right there, definitely J-material. Myer-Briggs, my people handbook, has helped me to distinguish intentions from actions and to appreciate the unique qualities in all types of people. Most importantly, it’s allowed me to visualize my place in a confusing world of social interactions.
But it’s not that simple.
A few weeks after my discovery of this slice of social understanding heaven, my analysis spiraled out of control. I eventually became so concerned with this classification that I began to question who I truly was and see my thoughts and actions only in accordance with my “ENFP” personality. Soon I began doubting my personality type. Has the essence of my personality changed, and if so, is there a true “Shannon” deep within? Again and again, age old questions of self identity rattled my whole system, and I felt paralyzed by doing or thinking anything.
My family thinks I’m an introvert, but in Boston I get my energy from my friends– what am I? I used to use logic without computing feelings, although now almost every thought and action includes feelings above all else. Does that confirm or deny my personality type? Should I strive to even out my “strengths” or develop my weaknesses? Should I seek personality types who I get along with well?
“Return to infancy, return to simplicity,return to the uncarved block of wood… We shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want.” – Tao De Jing
Studying the Tao De Jing made me realize that people, especially me, can’t be boxed in or categorized. The Tao emphasizes natural or non-action, the act of just being without analyzing. Perhaps there is something in cultivating emptiness instead of filling my mind with definitions, explanations, and reason. Maybe there is more value in simply embracing the chaos and mystery of people. To me, this is difficult. Seemingly impossible. But, I know that we’re more than four letters, and the essence of each person is undefinable. We’re all evolving mysteries. We’re all an uncarved block of wood, being weathered and slowly created into a masterpiece if only we don’t try to whittle the wood ourselves.