The last week of my life has been unusually centered around pushing things on those unfortunate enough to be in my vicinity. Two things to be exact. At first glance I deemed these things unrelated, but upon further reflection I’ve realized they’re actually quite intimately linked. And together they pose a compelling philosophical question.
The first thing I’ve been pushing is a website called 16personalities.com. Is it a glorified Myers-Briggs test? It is. But it’s beautifully designed, thoughtfully laid-out, incredibly insightful and it’s opened my world up suddenly and surprisingly.
Having been privy to several versions of this test over the years, I was wary of yet another one.
Just kidding. I’ve never clicked faster. I suppose I should mention I can never take enough personality tests.
*looks up from navel* Who, me?
But even if you don’t share this affinity, give it a whirl just to be sure (that is, if you haven’t already). Because all of us are fascinating creatures interacting with the world with a vastly different set of mental tools, and there is an ocean of understanding waiting to be explored within the pages of this site.
As I read through my results (INFJ), I felt giddy with existential excitement. Is there anything more euphoric than making the tiniest bit of sense of something as complex as human identity and the brain? The results felt creepily accurate.
Naturally, I immediately emailed my boyfriend, two closest friends, parents, and siblings begging them to take the test so I could read about theirs too. Pusher Extraordinaire. And to my utter delight, they all obliged with very little convincing.
I pulled some content from the “Parenting” section of both of my parents’ personality profiles (ENTJ and ENFJ) and sent them to my siblings for a blind test. Which one did they think was which? Their responses were both something to the effect of “that is insane!” Neither even felt compelled to actually point out the answer. It was that obvious.
If you were to ask me if I bought the $32 premium profile and then accidentally printed out the 100-page document at work, I’d plead the fifth and then go recycle something.
The second thing I’ve been pushing on people is going to shock no one vaguely familiar with this blog. And that is Hormonology. For those who are unaware, Hormonology is an app that explains in great detail how the female hormones responsible for your 28-day joyride might affect you depending on where you are in your cycle. Fairest of warnings: the app is heinous and horribly designed, but the content is there! #comicsans
I first wrote about it when my relationship with the app was in its infancy. I’d only had it a couple weeks. It told me I might feel foggy and I winked back. It told me I might feel forgetful and I blushed. But if those were our first dates we are surely living together by now. I’ve become intimately familiar with its contents and am still bowled over by the proverbial flashlight it’s pointed into the dark mysterious batcave that is my body.
And today, like so many days before it, I stood in the kitchen at work selling four of my colleagues on this app as if my life were on the line. And one of them already had it and another was male. I’m nothing if not committed.
They two remaining eligible victims promised to immediately download it. Potentially to get me to shut up.
What’s more? I’ve become something of a hormone consultant to my friends and family. Whether they ever wanted or asked for it remains to be determined. Suffice it to say, I’ve sent my sister her marching orders. She has 6 months to adjust her cycle so that her November wedding falls on her day 7. Trust me on this Kelly.
These companies, while approaching identity from different angles, are both helping me to further understand myself and the layer of interpretation that exists between me and the world. A layer neither I nor anyone can remove whether we’d like to or not. The former, 16personalities, points to my belief that we are all vastly different. The latter, Hormonology, points to my belief that we are all the same.
These beliefs stand in contrast with one another, but of course they can both be true and are. The human mind is a maze too intricate to be repeated across people, but too honed and evolved to be so different.
But even if we have the help of science to unpack the complexity, where do the biological and psychological explanations end and the personal responsibility start?
“I may as well just be a sack of hormones walking around. Am I even making my own decisions!?”
I was joking when I said it earlier today, but there was certainly a granule of real-life fear baked into it. It’s true, of course, that a reason (defined as “a cause, explanation, or justification for an action or event”) does not equate an excuse (“an attempt to lessen the blame attached to a fault or offense”), but it can certainly get blurry when it comes to the compulsions of our minds and bodies and what we decide to do with them. It can be tough to know how to turn this knowledge into power when our free-will is thrown into the mix.
For instance: if I, as an introvert, choose to avoid a social activity in favor or going home to work on a project, am I maximizing my strength or not pushing myself? I don’t always know the answer. So I’m left to wonder, a bit, about how I can best wield the knowledge these sites have afforded me. But the added context, whether easy to act upon or not, is nothing short of incredibly enlightening and this past week I’ve learned I’m nothing short of incredibly annoying about it.
Push push push. What can I say? I’m an INFJ! I want people to explore themselves!*
*reason or excuse? You be the judge.