I took a personality test, this morning, in the wake of the navel-gazing I’ve been doing recently. I scored high on measures of complexity, sensitivity, and anxiety, and low on orderliness, gregariousness, and friendliness. In other areas, parts of my personality don’t work together in the way that the test predicts. For example, my high scores in dutifulness would predict I’d like a really structured work environment. My low score on orderliness predicts that I would like an unstructured work environment. There’s truth to both. I want order in terms of what my goals are, and I want you to leave me alone about things less central to whether the work is being done. The number of knicknacks on my desk really shouldn’t be a factor in my overall success.

It’s interesting to me, because I scored high on openness (admittedly a different scale) and low on gregariousness (which is undoubtedly an aspect of openness.) Probably explains why I ranked highest in complexity. I scored above average, but lower than I thought on some things like conscientiousness, but on further exploration, I think it’s just saying I’m conscientious without being compulsive, with which I’m 100% okay.

My first inclination was to try to raise some of my lower desirable scores. “I can try to be friendlier! I actually like people, and there have been times when people found me much more approachable than they do now.” And then I thought about what was different.

When I let down my defenses in the past, the degree of drama in my life goes way up, and that sends my anxiety up. Trust me when I tell you the last thing we need is for my anxiety to go up. I seem to be approached most frequently by needy people and exploitative people. And when I just roll with that, I get sucked into situations that frustrate me and send me running for cover. My event-planning super-power got me planning events for a group of people affiliated with people in my age range not from my specific church, but in the metro area where I live. I made some friendships I enjoyed, but I found myself, without encouraging it, with a handful of relationships to manage— people who called me, asked me for favors, and who took advantage of me when we were out in groups (one in particular wouldn’t pay *all* of her check for group meals, and because she stuck to me like glue at group events, people expected me to manage the fact that she never paid tax and tip. People in the group knew about her, had distanced themselves, and were happy to let me hold the bag.) It was hard to maintain an affiliation with the group because I needed to insulate myself from those people but would not be specifically cruel to them, and they wouldn’t respond to anything less than overt cruelty, so I eventually dropped out of the group. My discomfort with hurting their feelings was clearly much higher than the average person’s in the group (hello high sensitivity score), and eventually overwhelmed any value I was seeing. And my sensitivity is not a metric I’ve had much luck in changing, partly because I really value my capacity for empathy. I think without it, my propensity to be cold and cruel would quickly hit levels I find unacceptable.

I have been guilty, in the past, of thinking that a coping method that I have used in the past continued to be valid long past when it was necessary. So it might be time to drop my defenses a little more and see if I get different results. I’d like more friendly without more drama, and I’m not sure how to manage that, filter-wise. My filter is on too high a setting for me, now, and I’d like to figure out how to let more good in while continuing to restrict access to the needy and exploitative.

Any thoughts?

ETA: What if what’s needed here is a way to manage my anxiety, more than anything else? I don’t have an anxiety disorder, but I have had to actively manage my anxiety to improve my life, over time, and maybe I need to actively manage it more. Maybe the problem is not how I am in the world, but how much I worry about that. If I felt okay with being a less gregarious person (I mostly feel okay about that) without feeling like that was a bad thing, because it’s partly a function of sensitivity that I regard as an asset, it drains some of the tension from all that.  Something to think about.


So what do you think?

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