Recently, I was required to take a “quick” 100-question test to determine what my Enneagram number is. (I’m a 5, in case you’re curious.) These questions — answered by clicking “agree” or “disagree” — weren’t complicated in any sense of the word. I honestly think I learned more about myself by the way I read a “Choose Your Own Adventure Book” as a child. However, according to its proponents, the “Enneagram is a blueprint for developing character that each of us carries throughout our life, but one that we don’t open until we discover our type.”
I’m going to have to throw the BS flag on that one.
Like you, I have been building my character consciously and unconsciously since the day I was born, making choices both good and bad and learning from mistakes. This hard-won knowledge has come via many years of education, people I’ve been blessed to know, jobs I’ve lost and found, books I’ve read, and experiences I’ve had — including my MS diagnosis.
You want to learn something about who you are? Sit in a hospital bed and let a doctor with the bedside manner of a damp rag tell you that you have multiple sclerosis and then encourage you (not kidding) to do some research on the internet. Yes, the internet. That will rattle your cage, believe me.
Sorry to kick sand in the face of that Enneagram devotee, but I didn’t magically “discover myself” a few days ago. The secrets of the universe weren’t revealed, and no scales fell away from my eyes because of a personality test based on some mystical system.
This isn’t the first of these kinds of tests I’ve endured, nor will it be the last. I’ve already been quantified, categorized, and stamped by the DISC test (S), the $50 official Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator (INFJ), the Clifton StrengthsFinder (Learner, Achiever, Input, Positivity, Developer), the Gary Smalley Personality Test (Lion), the RightPath 4 and 6, and a few others I thankfully can’t remember.
I don’t like these labels for the same reason I hate being written off as “handicapped.” It’s limiting. It colors the way people see me and puts me in a box. Same goes for being forced to make binary choices like Republican/Democrat, being asked which Christian denomination I belong to, or being called a rebel because I’m Generation X.
I don’t want to be a “female writer” any more than a person of color wants to be known as a “black lawmaker” or a “Latinx thinker.” No one likes being labeled, but we keep on classifying because it keeps things simple. They allow our unconscious biases to quickly judge others and free up our brains.
But more often than not, labels are flat out wrong. Consider Laurent Duvernay-Tardif of the Kansas City Chiefs. Bias tells us that football player = dumb jock who only went to college because he was athletic. In Duvernay-Tardif’s case, however, that couldn’t be further from the truth. He just graduated from McGill University School of Medicine. This dude started at right guard for a majority of his team’s games and went to medical school at the same time. Nothing dumb about that.
Søren Kierkegaard is commonly credited as saying, “Once you label me, you negate me.” I couldn’t agree more. Why? Because none of the scores from any of the aforementioned tests are set in stone. I could be a “D” or a “Golden Retriever,” had I taken those quizzes on a different day. I’m introverted or extroverted depending on the social situation.
Things like the Enneagram have no more authority to control my life than the horoscope in the local newspaper or the fortune cookie that came with my Singapore noodles last night. I’m dynamic and growing and moving on up — regardless of what they say. MS doesn’t boss me around, and I’ll be damned if I let some test dictate who I am or what I can do.
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