The Norman Transcript

Columns

September 24, 2013

Test your true self with reality TV

NORMAN — I’ve been fascinated by personality tests ever since I abandoned those quizzes where you try to find out the shape of your face. At this point in my life, I don’t care what shape my face is — or what shape my whole head is for that matter. What am I, a professor of geometry?

Personality tests, however, always extend the promise of deep and meaningful insight into what’s been bothering you all these years. Even brief ones printed on bus panels are a catalyst for self-examination. One-panel versions in public transportation pose such questions as “Need Cash?” or “Want to Meet Local Singles?” If your ride is long enough, you can write a complex story combining an answer. Basically, those two questions inspired Flaubert to write “Madame Bovary.”

But even personality tests have their limitations. To be honest, the standard assessments have replaced organized religion for a lot of people. I have friends who treat Myers-Briggs the way others treat Warren Buffet, with a belief so profound it borders on reverence.

You’ve heard of the Myers-Briggs personality test, right? It’s the one reassuring you that you’re an introverted, feeling, intuitive perceiver. Because if you’re a judgmental extravert, then you’re kind of a jerk. I’m a judgmental extravert if there ever was one, but I don’t permit myself to mention it at parties — not since people kept excusing themselves to fetch some cocktails, then not return.

Is it just me, or has everybody you’ve met recently started referring to themselves as an introvert? If she took Myers-Briggs, Joan Rivers would probably decide she’s an introvert; Bette Midler would identify as an introvert. Miley Cyrus in the latex suit? Secretly an introvert.

Those with the biggest mouths, the most magnetism and least shame have suddenly all decided they are now introverts. They’re making a million bucks a minute by being famous, but they’re all secretly shy. There are huge best-selling books about how to love being an introvert — not only how to love it, but how to exploit it.

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