As a newly elected member of the Student Council, I was invited to a “Strengths and Leadership” workshop on April 9 by the school. To participate, I took a “Strengths Finder” quiz, created by Gallup, which would then name my top five strengths. While the poll results should have been positive and affirming, they left me concerned, upset and more than a little confused.
I’m only 17 years old, so it seems to be a bit of a misnomer as dubbing this my “Quarter Life Crisis.” But here are my reasons for why I think the name still holds true:
Crises, which usually arise out of intense personal conflict, often call the values you hold dear into question—which definitely happened here.
I seemed to be a little young to have my midlife crisis.
Initially, I was unconcerned about the workshop the Student Council was supposed to attend, because to me, it was fairly reminiscent of the “group bonding exercises” we did at Mo Ranch (which, quite frankly, did not work as they were awkward and too contrived). However, I was assured of this program’s legitimacy, and I took the online quiz in order to participate.
When I started to take the survey, I knew that something was off. I was given various “would you rather” type prompts. The options that I was given were arbitrary and more often than not, I was forced to pick an answer that I wouldn’t have chosen in real life. In these ways, the survey itself already seemed to be limited in scope.
As soon as I was finished the 100-odd questions I had to answer, I was given my “top five strengths.” In the interest of full disclosure, the traits that I got were as follows: analytical, intellection, input, learner and discipline. And in fact, I don’t disagree with my traits — I actually wholeheartedly agree with them.
But I distinctly remember feeling frustrated and very, very misunderstood about my results. My discontent grew as we went around the workshop group and compared our analyses — as it turned out, most of my traits fell under the “strategic thinking” category, while most girls usually fell into the “relationships” category. To me, those “relationship” traits seemed to evoke warmth and friendliness, while my own “strategic thinking” traits conjured up the image of a cold disciplinarian — and that’s not who I am. I consider myself a complex, multivariable person, and my life goes beyond the five words I was assigned. To sum myself up in five words made me feel boxed in and restricted. Nor do I want to now consciously act in a certain way to affirm my labeling. I want to act however I want, in whatever way I want to, independent of any labeling.
For this same reason, I won’t take a Myers-Briggs personality profile test. To me, labelling myself neatly into a simple four letter combination seems to be an extreme limitation of my personality — I wouldn’t be able to describe myself in just four words, so why should I limit myself to just four letters?
The whole point of your teenage years is to grow and discover yourself personally. To have a specific label seems counterintuitive to my personal growth.
I’m not against personality quizzes as a whole — although Buzzfeed quizzes are entertaining, they aren’t trying to seriously pinpoint your personality and change. They’re facetious, and taken rightly so. I can’t name a single person who makes major life decisions and heavily self-reflects after a Buzzfeed quiz. But other, legitimate quizzes have the capacity to change one’s viewpoints and values, and this power has the potential to be significantly detrimental.
Human nature is complex, wild and unruly — in the best way possible. To limit oneself to four or five arbitrary personality traits seems to limit that very nature.
– Sunila Steephen