I get a kick taking any kind of personality test. I try to be quite honest in answering the questions and I have found that no matter how old I become or how I seem to have changed over time, the results from one test to the next are remarkably stable. My favorite is the Myers/Briggs test. I’ve taken it for fun but also in several work situations. I turn out to be an INFJ which means that I am introverted, intuitive, feeling and judging. It seems that only about two percent of the population shares my way of interfacing with the world, which probably explains why there have been times when I have felt a bit like an oddball. The good news is that the indicators classify me as an Advocate, a description that I wear proudly.
Some people see me as a kind of cockeyed idealist, a dreamer who sees a world that might only be found in my imagination. Instead I see possibilities all around me and I have spent most of my life attempting to help others find and develop the essence and magic of who they are. I enjoy coaching individuals to be leaders, inventors, counselors, happy adults. I suppose that my career in education was a perfect match for me. I value purpose more than money and I’m sometimes frustrated when people insinuate that I might have done more with my life. Generally they mean that I seem to have eschewed titles, power and wealth which is something that they do not understand. Somehow it makes me a bit of a loser in their minds, someone who had the talent to do great things but never quite achieved them.
I do enjoy the luxuries that money can purchase, like trips and the ability to help others fulfill their dreams. On the other hand, I don’t view income as a measure of success. My grandmother Minnie taught me long ago that even a poor women living in a ramshackle home can be as elegant and important as a queen. My heroes have been individuals who advocated for the downtrodden and those who devote their talents for the good of others.
My personality is not totally naive. I balance my dreams with hard work. My bosses and peers could always depend on me to do whatever was needed to get jobs done. If that meant working fourteen hour days and showing up on weekends, I was always dependable. I can be overly emotional at times leading me to sound a bit pitiful when things get tough, but I get over such feelings quickly and instead logically determine how to overcome challenges with determination and action. More than anything though is my concern for others. It is the force that drives me from one day to the next. I lie awake thinking about anyone who is struggling. I worry over how to help them and sometimes get myself into trouble speaking out for them.
It’s little wonder that Atticus Finch is one of my favorite literary characters because he is thought to have the same personality as mine. Ironically he was often misunderstood by the people around him and yet he had the same stubborn adherence to his ideals that I seem to have. My favorite role models, people who have inspired me, are considered to be Advocates. They include Nelson Mandela and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. While I will never rise to their level of compassion and leadership, I still feel driven by the kind of empathy and altruism that they felt was their role in life.
I really do feel annoyed with the preoccupation with money that drives so many folks. I guess that they are as difficult for me to understand as I am for them. That does not mean that I believe that very wealthy people are automatically less compassionate than I am. Lady Gaga is said to have my same personality. She has become enormously rich from her talents, but she regularly contributes time and money to help the under served and misunderstood. Her real passion lies in encouraging those who feel different and abused. I understand her and appreciate what she is doing.
I find it interesting that I am drawn to people like myself. I seem to find them even in a crowded room. They are the protectors among us. They know when someone is troubled. They nurture wherever they go. They are the daughters who care for their aged mothers with a smile and no complaint. They are the counselors who seem to know exactly what to say to someone who is struggling. They are heroes who take a stand for a worthy cause even when they are abused. I am only a shadow of them in the things I attempt to do, but I dream of being more like them.
I am quiet and reserved. I try not to hurt people’s feelings, but I sometimes do so in my adherence to my beliefs. I find assertiveness that seems almost unnatural when I am advocating for a child or even for my colleagues at work. I’ve been called a fool and many other names. I tell myself just to be silent when I feel that a person or group needs the support of my voice, butI can only sit back for so long and then I feel a compulsion to support them.
I once found myself on the hot seat at work because the principal was unfairly mistreating both teachers and students. I watched the injustice playing out and then sought to explain to our boss how disturbed everyone was feeling. I attempted to phrase my words in such a way that they sounded like a polite attempt to help her, not to criticize her. It backfired. She demanded to know the names of people with complaints. She grilled me like a member of the Gestapo for an entire school day, but I would not divulge the names of those who had come to me seeking help. Ultimately the school board stepped in and fired her, but not before many people on campus had suffered. Even though it was one of the most traumatic situations of my life, I would do it all again.
I like my personality. I like who I am. I like helping others. In some ways it is a kind of selfish way to be because it makes me feel so good to know that I have put myself out on a limb to help someone else live his/her best possible life. I love people, which may sound strange coming from an introvert, but in truth the only aspect of introversion that I have is enjoying each person one at a time without the distraction of a crowd. My feelings, my intuition and my rational side all guide me day by day to follow my beliefs and not worry about how ludicrous I may seem. Life is a joy for me and I can’t think of any better way to feel. I’m a proud “two percenter” who is unafraid to take on a cause no matter how small it may be.