'What's your Myers-Briggs personality type?' It was our first proper date and the question came out as we were driving to dinner. Maybe he knew me well enough to know that I would know what my Myers-Briggs type was. Or maybe it was some sort of test to see how emotionally developed I was.
Either way we proceeded to spend close to an hour discussing our personality types. We deliberated over whether the characteristics typical of our type were true for us and tried to pick what types our mutual friends were.
Maybe it was a little nerdy, but it was fun and not altogether out of the ordinary. Most people these days tend to be very aware of their own personality traits.
Over the years I've been to countless work breakfasts, staff retreats, personal development days and leadership courses. Off the top of my head I know I've done at least six different personality quizzes that endeavour to 'explain' me and reveal greater insights into how I can live or work or play better.
Introversion vs extroversion is another easy categorisation. It’s a simple way to get a feel for someone. I’m never surprised at how quickly this topic comes up in conversation with new acquaintances and colleagues.
More informally, we all have labels that we give ourselves. Consider for a moment the words that come to mind when you think about who you are. Positive or negative, these are the output of the continual stream of self-talk running through our heads. They’re the result of our mind processing our successes, failures, emotions, thoughts and past experiences in an attempt to build our identity.
All this can be a really great thing. These insights help us to better understand ourselves and each other. They give us appreciation for the intricacies and funny eccentricities of our fellow humans. A positive self-image gives us confidence in who we are and what we can achieve.
The power of labels
However, if we aren't careful to protect how and what we think about ourselves, these labels can also gain power over us. Words can be self-prophetic. Propensities can become permanent behaviours. Personality types can greatly limit us if we allow them to define us.
I am definitely an introvert. I have no qualms about being a homebody and enjoying time alone. The more time I spend with people and the larger the group, the quicker I lose the ability to carry on a conversation and keep up the appearance of being a generally nice and thoughtful human being. Knowing this is very helpful!
Saying that, I am also aware that I often use my introversion as a justification for the times that I don’t want to push myself. It’s an easy excuse to stay within my comfort zone and to shy away from opportunities that though a little uncomfortable, would have brought great personal growth or happiness.
Who or what defines us?
I am still learning the freeing truth that we don't have to be defined by our labels. You are not what a quiz or a psychology textbook or even your own brain says about you.
I want to invite you to challenge your labels.
Who do you want to be?
Who is God inviting you to be?
In Romans chapter 12, verse 2, Paul calls us to be transformed. Specifically, to be transformed by the renewal of our mind. As we seek God, read His word and speak His truth over our life, He will gently (sometimes radically) mould us into who we are truly meant to be.
As our character and nature are transformed, God will enable us to see ourselves and to think about ourselves in the way that He sees us. God doesn’t do anything superficially.
We see this in the New Testament story of Simon Peter. A fisherman, called by Jesus to be one of his disciples, Peter experienced first-hand what it means to be changed by God.
At the start of his story, we see fearful Peter, who loses faith when he steps out on the water toward Jesus. We see brash Peter, declaring that he would never let Jesus be taken and killed, and cutting off the ear of a soldier. We also see Peter the betrayer, denying Jesus three times, even after declaring that he would die before disowning him.
Yet after personally experiencing the risen Jesus and receiving the Holy Spirit, he becomes Peter the Rock, who was a part of the foundation of the early church. We see him transformed into Peter the bold, who preached with conviction and saw thousands give their lives to Christ. Not least, he is changed into Peter the humble, who relied on Jesus and not his own capabilities.
Change is always possible. Don’t let your unwanted labels influence who you become. Invite transformation in your life, allow the Holy Spirit rather than your labels to define you, and you too could be a rock on which God builds his Kingdom.
Anna hails from Australia but lives and works in South East Asia. She enjoys travel, good coffee and getting to hang out with awesome people from around the world.