Living Beyond the Label

When I was a kid, I took an IQ test like every other kid at the school. But my parents chose to do something interesting: they chose never to reveal to me my IQ. Instead they always told me, “Study hard, and do the best you can.” So I grew up without the labels that come with a specific IQ.

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Later other labels/categories were introduced to me. For example, the Myers-Briggs test based on personality types developed by Carl Jung. I’m sure you’ve seen the personality types. I found the following right here:

The 16 personality types
ESTJ   ISTJ   ENTJ    INTJ
ESTP   ISTP   ENTP   INTP
ESFJ   ISFJ   ENFJ    INFJ
ESFP   ISFP   ENFP   INFP

Have you taken this test? I won’t say which of these types supposedly encapsulates my personality. But I will say that some of my former employers required this test or other personality defining tests. I never understood why, since I can’t pinpoint any discernible way that the knowledge of my personality type helped me in the jobs I’ve had.

Now, before you balk, remember, I’m talking about myself. Perhaps knowing your personality type helped you. I’ve been employed as a proofreader, copy editor, production editor, and a book/curriculum editor. If you think one personality type would be ideal for any of these occupations, you might believe you could make an accurate guess about my personality type. But you would probably be wrong about me.

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In some communities to which I’ve belonged, certain combinations of those four letters were highly prized, depending on the personality types of those within the “in” crowd. But I have always been a bit rebellious. That’s why, having learned my results from the Myers-Briggs test, I determined to forget what I learned.

“Don’t you want to understand yourself better?” some have asked me. Do I really need four letters to tell me what I’m like?

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When I was a kid, I failed to understand why my parents withheld information about my IQ. Now I do. They wanted me to live beyond the label of it—to work hard to be the best person I can be, whether my IQ is below or above average.

Regardless of whether I’m introverted or extroverted, some tasks will take me out of my comfort zone. But I still have to do them. If I allow the limits of a label to define me, I might shun these activities.

You know what I find interesting? The fact that so many well-known celebrities admit to being shy. If you look at this article, you’ll see that these individuals didn’t want their lives defined by this label. Instead they worked hard to live beyond it. Just like my parents wanted me to do.

Want to know which four-letter label I wouldn’t mind living by? You can find two of them on my T-shirt. A specific personality type is not required.

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What about you? How have labels helped or hindered your life?

IQ image from caltech.edu. Other photos by L. Marie.