When I was a student, I took the Myers Briggs personality test. It came with an “INTJ” result. I don’t remember exactly what these letters mean, but I remember distinctly that the “I” of Introvert was fitting perfectly with my self-projected image: being shy, not keen of expressing myself in public. When I took it a few years after as part of a work retreat, the diagnostic was confirmed: I was an INTJ. The confirmation anchored itself, and I found the introvert bit as fitting as ever.

Years later, I became a cloud solutions architect at Microsoft. My job was literally to go to our customer’s office, sometimes more or less uninvited, and tell them how to use our tech. As an introvert, this was a weird decision, however loving the company, confident of the tech I had to profess, and the impact on customers, it still made sense to take the job. This was quite uncomfortable, distant from my ideal work environment as a recluse coder in a lake cabin with a chat app as my only interface to the word.

Or so I thought. As with a cold bath, once in, it’s not so terrible.

It took me a few years to realize: I actually don’t mind speaking in public. I don’t mind meeting people - in fact I quite enjoy it.

I’m not an introvert. I might have been. I might have been shy, I’m not always 100% self-confident (I’m actually rarely more than 50% confident). I might have gotten used to public speaking, to pretending I know what I’m talking about, to interrupt someone to ask a question. Something might have changed. But until recently, I was still keeping that “introvert” label, and it was a defining part of my social interactions.

We label ourselves, box ourselves in a persona. It defines limits we can’t cross, comes with a set of playbooks commanding how to act, and how to react emotionally. They give us an excuse for what we do, and prevent us from improving ; because that’s who we are, right?

Defining oneself as introvert, we’ll avoid talking in public, and we’ll dread social situations. Defining oneself as a failure, we won’t even try. Defining oneself as part of the insurance industry, we won’t look at jobs in other domains. Defining oneself as late, we will use the excuse to always be late.

The truth is, these labels we attribute ourselves are incidental, arbitrary, pointless, and limiting. These limits barely factually exist, and are much easier to break than we might expect. Everyone is struggling. People we’re looking up to is pretending to have their shit together as much as everyone else, at the very least more than they actually do {CITATION NEEDED}1.

What are the labels that you’re giving yourselves, and are limiting you? Are you lazy? Are you a procrastination master? Are you an idiot? Are you mean? Are you low-energy? Do you hate meetings? Are you misanthrope? Are you weak spirited? Are you forever-single?

No you’re not. Or maybe you are, the point is: it doesn’t matter. The symptom doesn’t define the patient.If you keep using what you are to define who you are, you won’t be able to realize that it doesn’t have to be this way.

What you think you are, does not define who you are.

Notes

  1. that’s a piece of opinion, I won’t fact check that.