Who am I? This question has been circulating in my mind for most of my life. I used to search for this answer outside of myself – from other people, books, and personality assessments and quizzes.
One of my favorite such assessments was the Clifton StrengthsFinder. When I read the descriptions of my top five talent themes, it was like they had written them for and about only me! For the most part, these described my behaviors very well. People who knew me best weren’t all that surprised by them either. I was known as the girl who would get stuff done – I always had a very full checklist of everything that I needed to do and no matter how busy I was, I checked multiple things off my list every day (Achiever). When I made a commitment, people knew that I’d deliver – no matter how much work needed to be done or how long it would take (Responsibility). I was highly organized and was very proud of my ability to find just the right way to present information (Arranger). I had a special skill for starting with something that was “good” and making it even better (Maximizer). And I dove into new situations and learning opportunities with gusto (Learner).
These labels became so integrated into my being; that I could no longer see who I was beyond the labels. Except of course for all the other labels that I used to describe myself, such as: Perfectionist. Workaholic. Wife. Mom. Career-loving woman.
But recently, I’ve been exploring questions such as: How true are all of these labels, anyway? Am I really an Achiever in the way that Gallup, Clifton, or evening Buckingham have described it? Or is there more to it than that? Is there something deeper?
I’ve learned that the reason it was so easy for me to latch onto these labels is because I needed something to attach my value to. If I wasn’t an achiever, if I didn’t over-promise and work myself to exhaustion to deliver on a commitment, then how would I show my value?
In my HR Consulting days, I used to pride myself on (and I was recognized for) my ability to quickly build rapport and relationships with my business clients. I did this by listening to what they needed (or wanted), and then by “getting to work” on delivering that, or more. Without this, without the delivery of something specific, something tangible, then where would my value come from? How would I create trust? How would I build relationships?
As the question of who I am has been finding its way into and stirring up my heart, I am now searching for the truth of who I am inside, rather than outside, myself.
Now I know that my value comes not from what I do, but from who I am.
Now I see that I provide value to my clients not by what I do for them or what I deliver to them, but for who I am when I am with them. When I’m fully present with them, I listen with a compassionate heart, I ask better questions, and I help them see what they can’t see.
Now I know that I add value to my family not by how clean I keep our house or how much laundry I do or how many errands we accomplish over any given weekend. My value comes when I detach from work and other obligations and spend quality time with them, and when I allow myself to let go and have fun. I offer value when I let the achiever and perfectionist fall away and I simply focus on being patient and loving and kind.
For the rest of you out there who love personality assessments as much as I have loved them over the years, please know that I am not disrespecting them. They have their time and place and when used effectively, can provide helpful information for our professional growth and development.
In fact, there are two assessments in particular that I’ve used within the last two years that are helping me go beyond a “type” and below the label. Even with these assessments, I know now that the information I’m receiving from them is only part of the story. Now I use them as one tool in my overall journey and view them as one mechanism for self-discovery. I use them as a way to explore more deeply some of my core ways of being that impact not only how I am at work, but how I am in relationship with other people.
Aside from these assessments, I am tuning into my heart. I’m noticing when I feel passion. I am allowing my feelings and emotions to move and guide me. I am slowly starting to see the ways that add value by simply being, rather than by always doing.
One of the tools that has been instrumental to this higher level of awareness has been the Enneagram. Yes, this assessment has “types” and descriptions and provides you with examples of what you might do when you are “in” your type. But this tool in particular does not try to keep you in a box; rather, it helps you find your way out of the box. When you use this tool as a springboard for deeper reflection, as I’ve been doing over this past year, you start to see how your core beliefs impact not only the relationships you have with others, but also the relationship you have with yourself. At least, that’s been my experience with it. (And in my next blog post, I’ll share more about my experience with this tool and the ways I’ve used it, in conjunction with other tools, for a deeper level of self-discovery and a higher level of self-awareness than I’ve ever experienced before.)
This post isn’t just about personality assessments or the pros and cons of using them. Because whether it’s an assessment or feedback you receive from someone or any other source of information that resides outside yourself, all of this external information needs to be taken into consideration with what you know to be absolutely true about yourself. Don’t let this external information, alone, define you. You are more than the type, you are more than the label. Don’t allow it to shape and mold you into something you’re not.
“When (I am) present, there is something in (me) that feels compassionate and strong, patient and wise, indomitable and of great value. This something is who (I) actually (am). It is the “I” beyond name, without personality – (my) true nature.” (Adapted from Wisdom of the Enneagram, page 37)
What is YOUR true nature?