What’s your sign?

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I do my best magazine reading in the bathroom. I have a basket of the latest issues right beside the toilet, and find myself lingering longer than necessary when I find an interesting article. This morning I was engrossed in an article about personality. The writer cited a staggering statistic for the number of people who Google personality quizzes each month (400,000). She wonders, as I do, why people are so eager to find out who they “really” are, based on yet another set of parameters; why they don’t just look at themselves and say, “This is who I am.”

I myself have taken many a quiz. I can tell you that I am a blood type O, a Vata, an ENFP, and a number seven on the Enneagram. That tells you that I am thin and quick moving, that I don’t like cold foods and am usually freezing cold, That I am an extrovert, and that I like to have fun.

So? Could I have known those things about myself without the quiz? Absolutely. But it’s reassuring to find out that some expert can confirm who you are without even meeting you. If the quiz you take confirms that you are small-boned based on your Aruvedic type, well, by God, you must be small-boned. It’s not just me looking in the mirror, measuring my puny wrists, or taking a bone-density test.

Learning that I am a Vata in Aryuvedic Medicine confirmed for me that my desire for hot coffee on the hottest days is not ridiculous, even though it seems counter-intuitive. Also, even though I was a vegetarian for thirty years, I don’t really like raw vegetables and salads. Vatas have a hard time digesting raw food. And eating warming spices and dairy products makes me feel good. Bring on the Chai Tea!

Even though the “Eat-Right-for-Your-Blood-Type-Diet” has been debunked, I learned that I need a little meat each day to feel my best, and so I am no longer a vegetarian. Good call.

So why don’t we trust ourselves to understand who we are without taking a quiz? We should be the authority for who we are, what we like, and how we behave. Yet, when I was on a panel of Number Sevens, I understood for the first time that my inclination to put out of my mind unpleasant events and to remember just the fun I had is a trait shared by all Number Sevens. Also, my propensity for breaking the rules and flying off in my own direction is a trait of number sevens. I am NOT responsible for my bad behavior, you see!

The magazine article stated that the idea of Personality is a relatively new thing, begun roughly 100 years ago by Carl Jung. Before that, people referred to Character. Are you honest and reliable or creepy and dishonest? These are characteristics that personality quizzes miss. Judging by the craziness in our culture today, these traits seem to have taken a backseat to Personality.

Whether mental stability is a character trait, or part of personality, or neither, I remember having to take a test to determine my mental stability before I was hired in Juvie. The test took about two hours to complete. The same question was asked several times in slightly different ways to determine whether your answers were honest or whether you were faking sanity to get a job inside a prison. I was asked several times whether I lash out with my fists when I get frustrated, whether I want to kill my father, and whether I think stealing office supplies is okay. 

I felt pretty confident that I had passed the test, and mentioned to my fellow teachers that it would be impossible to flunk this test if you were literate. Sadly, one of my fellows remarked angrily that he had had to take the test three times before he passed.

So I ask you, do I need to take a quiz to find out if I tend to open my big mouth without thinking first? I don’t think so. But knowing that all Number Sevens do this makes me feel a little better.