A therapist once told me that I was extremely self-reflective. To this day, I’m unsure whether that was meant as a compliment or a correction, but the statement is true. I love to dig into my “whys”, hold them up to the light, and figure out how they are helping or hurting me. I have found that quizzes are the ideal tool challenge me in this way. They help me name qualities or issues, understand my reasons for holding onto them, and find ways to move forward. If you’re looking for ways to better understand yourself as we begin a new year, here are some tools I’ve found useful.
You have likely taken a Myers-Briggs as part of a professional process, like for hiring or determining your career interests. It is certainly a standard way to help create that kind of reflection. But I have found that understanding I am an ESFJ (Extrovert, Observant, Feeling, Judging) allows me to lean more deeply into its best qualities. According to 16personalities.com, this combination makes me a Consul: “Attentive and people-focused, they enjoy taking part in their social community. Their achievements are guided by decisive values, and they willingly offer guidance to others.” This is how I show up in most situations. I’m often told that I am the calm when things get stormy and the problem solver when things don’t go as planned.
In understanding the weaknesses of this combo, though, I have learned so much more about myself. “Reluctant to improvise” and “vulnerable to criticism” are two of those weaknesses that really jumped out at me. I know when I get into that place of intractability. I realize that I have strayed into behaviors that undermine my best self when I keep telling everyone how I want things to be. Being able to watch for that behavior has helped me to limit how far down that path I go. It changes how quickly I can get back on track to being that calm problem solver so valued by others.
The Four Tendencies
Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, created the Four Tendencies to help explain why we meet (or don’t meet) expectations. Rubin writes, “When you learn your ‘Tendency,’ you can make better decisions, meet deadlines, suffer less stress and burnout, and engage more effectively.” Of the four tendencies—Obliger, Upholder, Questioner, and Rebel—I am a Questioner, which anyone who has ever worked with me could have told you. You see, I can be annoyingly inquisitive as I try to understand the justifications for a project. While seeking to understand is admirable, making other people feel like they are in an inquisition is not.
Understanding that I’m a Questioner has helped me embrace some strategies for meeting expectations. First, I remind myself to frame questions constructively. I often need to outright say that I would like to understand better and give my questions context. Second, I ask for deadlines and make sure I understand the “realness” of the deadline. I can sniff out a fake one quickly and then ignore it, so making sure I know the real time constraints is helpful. Last, I set a personal deadline for when I need to make decisions. Often, Questioners just keep on questioning and seeking information long after we have gathered all relevant data.
The Enneagram helps us understand our essence, or our soul, and how conflict changes that essence. By knowing our essence, or our Type, we can better understand how to manage the conflicts that move us further from that original soul. The Enneagram Institute has a quiz, but you can also take a self-study approach (I used The Road Back to You) to discover your Type.
Not surprisingly, if you add up my ESFJ and Questioner selves, I land solidly as a Type One. According to the Enneagram Institute, Type Ones are “conscientious and ethical, with a strong sense of right and wrong. They are teachers, crusaders, and advocates for change, always striving to improve things, but afraid of making a mistake. Well-organized, orderly, and fastidious, they try to maintain high standards, but can slip into being critical and perfectionistic. They typically have problems with resentment and impatience.” Hello, me.
What I have found truly useful with Enneagram is recognizing my tendency toward being hypercritical. It is truly my first reaction, my “go to” when things start to feel out of hand. Being able to understand that this is just my gut reaction and not my final resolution has allowed me to learn to take a breath and slow my response. Sometimes I just need to keep my mouth shut until I can offer a constructive response. On the positive side, I can lean into my idealism or my commitment to purpose to help get projects back on track or issues resolved in inclusive ways. When I don’t let my criticism overshadow the situation, I can truly lean into my best qualities.
I Am Who I Am
You can see the common threads through all of my quiz revelations, both good and not so good. Understanding that at my core I am idealistic, inclusive, helpful, and thoughtful has guided how I approach both my professional and personal lives. Also knowing that I can stray toward hypercritical, overly inquisitive, and intractable places has helped me avoid those pitfalls. I know I am a better friend, sibling, employee, wife (and every other role) when I have engaged in some self-reflection and consciously changed my behaviors.
Perhaps the most challenging part of this self-reflection and behavior change is when people around you don’t want to see it. It’s hard when others believe that you will react exactly as you have in the past. Not being given the opportunity to demonstrate change can be defeating. Then the idealistic, problem-solving, answer-seeking me looks to give that grace to others. I try to see them for who they are and not what they were. Hopefully being true to my better self will eventually break through any old misconceptions they harbor.
As I move into 2022, after living through two of the most challenging years I can remember, I want to use all of this self-reflection to forge beyond those challenges. I’m not sure what that looks like yet, but I know I will ask lots of questions, dig deep into getting the answers, and find ways to shine my idealistic light toward something. Cheers to quizzing your way into a self-aware new year!