Sunday, 18 June 2017

'Know Thyself'

Can I just say: I’m loving the Myers Briggs personality test indicator thingy. A friend wrote something on Facebook about wanting to know her friends’ personality types, and as a result I spent a happy couple of hours revisiting mine. It says some nice things. 

If you haven’t already had a go at it, and you are struggling with your PhD right now: have a go at it, do it. Set aside a chunk of time when you’d only be procrastinating all day anyway. Spend some time mulling over your responses; get them right. Prepare to be amazed. (As you will know from the very end of a previous post, I thought mine was kind of revealing.)

I did the Myers Briggs test back in about 2010-2011, when I was hopelessly drowning in PhD, and was signing up to all the ‘Motivation’, ‘Time Management’, ‘Planning’, ’How to do your PhD’ type courses at my Graduate School, hoping to infer something from them that would magically help me transform myself from the chaotic mess I was into the kind of person who… could finish off a PhD easily and quickly, and with pleasure. (It didn’t quite work out like that.) A Guru in one of these seminars suggested, amongst other things, that we all take the Myers Briggs personality test. He said that to understand your personality type can help you figure out why you work the way you do. I remember that I did the test on a sunny Saturday; one day when I was procrastinating over something else, and just having a nice day doing nothing, I finally sat down to do it. (It wasn’t around the time of the seminar; it just sort of organically felt like the right thing, many months later.)

I remember that I spend lots of time thinking about my responses, asking myself ‘Is that really what I would do?…’ - and giving carefully-considered, well-thought-through answers. Maybe because of this, my test result came back particularly revealing. It proclaimed, loudly and clearly, lots of things which I had for a long time kind of known about myself, but never articulated. Most surprisingly, it labelled as ‘strengths’ several qualities which I had long thought of as ‘bad things’, ‘rubbish thing’, their opposites being labelled in my head as ‘that thing I’m no good at’, or ‘that thing you’re supposed to do and I’m not doing, and I don’t even know why’. To see your inherent ‘weirdness’ written out on the page, but in complimentary language and packaged as a human ‘strength’, gives you a different narrative to begin to tell yourself. (It took me a long time to get used to that narrative and let it actually inhabit me; for a long time after taking the test, and after finishing my PhD, I would still look at those qualities and think ‘Yeah, but that’s no good. That doesn’t help you find a job. That doesn’t help you get on in the world. That’s all very nice, but…’)

Knowing your personality type can help you figure out why you work the way you do - and help you become aware of your strengths, the Guru said. 

Post-PhD, I spent a long time applying for jobs with titles like ‘Office Co-ordinator’ and not being quite sure how to answer that question in interviews when they ask you ‘Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?’ (‘I see myself as an Office Co-ordinator but with more responsibility and skills…?’ - is not really true). It took me a really long time (until about this year, I dare say, if not actually this WEEK) to realise that I don’t need to be a square peg trying desperately to fit into a round hole. I don’t need to write another job application on which I proclaim career goals and desires which are only loosely mine, things I ‘can happily do’ rather than ‘really really would like to achieve’. That whole plan, suggested by a careers coach back when I had just finished a PhD, of finding a ‘back-up job’ and going down to four days a week and then eventually having a go at your dream - I don’t need to do that. I have the grotty job which I do for a couple of days a week and which brings me a tiny income that is just fine. I don’t need any more than that. I don’t need anything. Just get on with it, I’m telling myself.

I read something the other week (in the readers’ comments under an online article) that ‘a weakness is just an overdone strength’. I’m not going to dwell too much on what this might mean for me. I’m not even sure I’ve thought really carefully about how this might apply. But I’m feeling a bit more ready to embrace the things that make me ‘me’, and go out and do them. Out loud, and unapologetically.

I have an overwhelming urge to tell the truth sometimes. 


CN xx  

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