Playing with my labels

Back when I was at university, many moons ago, I minored in psychology. This meant numerous chances to play with psychological tests. Introvert-extrovert, thinking-emotional, masculine-feminine, and so forth. I noticed a thing – that the tests did not quite work for me. A large percentage of the questions I wanted to answer ‘both’. Go to a party or read a book? I could place myself in the middle of any scale, or simultaneously out towards both ends. My second discovery following on from this was that for most measures, nothing existed to name me. Just for gender, where I found and relished the term ‘psychologically androgynous’.

Part of what this indicates is that sliding scales assuming personality traits can be lined up in certain ways are reductive and flawed. I wonder how many people conform to ideas like you can be either a thinking person or a feeling person just because those ready-made identities are there to be conformed to.

One of the things I never got to study in psychology is the question of why we are so keen to label and identify ourselves. Why do we want our thoughts and behaviour defined along an axis? What do we get out of comparing our scores with other people’s? There’s no real application for this stuff, although it clearly forms the basis for all the dodgy ‘what kind of X are you?’ questionnaires in magazines. There’s plenty of research out there to show that who we are and what we do is situation specific anyway. The person we are at work is not the person we are when hanging out with friends.

Who is the real me? Is the persona I choose to adopt any less a manifestation of me than an off the cuff reaction? Surely, any choice I make is who I am. My artifice is as much part of my lived truth as my moments of raw emotional authenticity. I want to go to the party and read the book. When it comes to gender stereotypes, I pack like a man, shop like a man, take a problem solving approach like a man. I look like a woman, in line with current gender fashions. I’ve no inclination to emulate the social models for male appearance, or feminine behaviour patterns. I think about how I feel, I use reason and gut feelings together for problem solving and decision making. I’m not an either/or sort of person, I want to explore all the things available to me.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

9 responses to “Playing with my labels

  • Rick

    This is a fundamentally sane approach to life. Some people very close to me are like this too, and I’ve always admired them for it.

  • Leeby Geeby

    I’ve had much the same reaction to the labels as you whenever I would do one of these tests in university. I would fudge through the test to get a free coffee or whatever, but never felt they where in the slightest bit accurate.

  • Elen Sentier

    either/or is easier for most people to “deal with”, doesn’t require them to think, enables them to continue in whatever shibboleths they’re addicted to. The and/and position requires far more care, discrimination discernment and ability to see clearly … that’s too much hard work for many/most people. It also destroys their beloved prejudices that have underpinned their lives so far.
    (all said with my psychoogist/psychotherapist hat on 🙂 )

  • robinpoet8

    its ridiculous and baffling and dangerous to want to package our vast human universes into easily managed labels based on the kind of thinking that wants to turn us all into tellytubbies bouncing about a mass produced nursery of supermarket stores and mass made identities for us to inhabit so that big brother can keep us away from scary things like consciousness …..I think there’s is so much of us that is out of reach and contact to those mechanistic, reductive approaches, let alone to ourselves except when we let go of identity

  • bone&silver

    Great post. My girl/boyfriend feels the same, ever since primary school. And I know my sexuality slides & glides around depending on context, needs, & age too it seems. Thank you for articulating your honest position, cheers from Australia 😊

  • lornasmithers

    I can be either/or on things I’m certain about, but I have a lot of grey areas too. Similarly I look like and dress like a woman but have a lot of personality traits people would view as masculine.

  • Rebecca Field

    OK. Hypothesis. In days gone by, if a person knew your true name it gave them power over you. In the same way in our current society these labels are seen somehow to give other people power over you.

    It is fine/good/OK to answer tests like thes, with a different answer/all options, which will possibly change in a semi-random way, as time passes. After all these “tests” have in themselves a limited number of “boxes” in which they can categorise the person who completes them.

    please excuse my rather garbled response.

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