One of the things I have struggled with as a an adult is the desires of other people to fit me into a box. Not literally, of course. It started most noticeably with my in-laws; they couldn’t seem to quite wrap their minds around a girl who said she loves Jesus but would wear a bikini. They were constantly trying to hold me to a standard that fit their ideals but never took into account the complexity of my personality or character. My brother-in-law in particular, who was 13 at the time I came into the family as a girlfriend, would constantly put me up onto a pedestal of idealized Christian womanhood – at least that was the way it felt at the time. I was 19 when I fell in love with my husband and had spent the last 19 years being adored by loving, supportive parents. It was a foreign concept to me that my husband’s parents wouldn’t like me as much as my husband did. After all, I thought with classic 19 year old arrogance, what’s not to love?
This experience was just the first in long series of being pushed into the box someone else thought I belonged in. I have never put myself in a box and couldn’t understand why others insisted on doing so. I find it to be completely normal to listen to classical music one minute, Def Leppard the next, and country music after that – all in the same car ride depending on my mood. This doesn’t make me fickle or unpredictable; it makes me complex and interesting. My thoughts of myself have always left the door open for a wide variety of experiences, friendships, and opinions.
And that is where the naming of this blog came in. First I was going to call it So Much More, but that website was already taken. So I went with So Much More Than, which incidentally was also already taken. Therefore, the name of the blog is So Much More Than but the website is You Are So Much More Than – which I like because this wide-open mindset doesn’t only apply to me. It applies to all people everywhere. It is extremely rare to find someone who only fits one mold, fills only one role, or believes only one thing. Humanity is by nature complex, varied, and interesting.
I am so much more than “just” a mom, “just” a daughter, “just” a wife, “just” a business owner, “just” a Christian, “just” a sister, or “just” a woman. All the parts come together to create a whole. It is rare for any one person to get to see the all these different parts. Not because I am fake but because I obviously will not act like a wife at the same time I’m acting like a business owner. The different parts influence the others and some parts infuse all the others (my Christian beliefs for instance permeate everything I do), but it is rare for all my different parts to be seen all at once. The people in my life who get to see me in all these different roles are special friends indeed.
By seeing myself in a such a complex light, I am able to see others with the same acceptance of their complexity. The woman who comes across as a total b*** the first few times I meet her may have just had a series of bad days or she may have a hearing problem I’m not aware of or she may be going through a divorce or she might actually be overcompensating for a traumatic childhood or she might actually be a b-word. But I’m going to continue giving her the benefit of the doubt until I know for sure. I have found throughout my life that some of the most initially off-putting people are actually the most interesting, most caring, and most supportive once you get past their barriers.
Getting to know one’s self is challenging and getting to know others is time consuming. Some of the best tools I’ve found for getting to know myself have also helped me to better understand others. I love the Clifton Strengths Finder and the Enneagram. Meyer’s-Briggs is also a very helpful resource. Any single one of these could pigeonhole but using them all together has given me a better understanding of who I am, why I do what I do, and how to best interact with others.
Clifton Strengths Finder – what I’m good at
I was introduced to the Strengths Finder when I took a Leadership class through the local Chamber of Commerce. At the first meeting I introduced myself as a stay-at-home-mom rather than a business owner because that was the dominant role in my life at the time. The instructor had us take the Strengths Finder through Gallup and then share our results with the class. There are 34 different strengths in this test which lead to 64,000 different possible combinations. No two people in the group of 30 had the same top 5 strengths. I was so intrigued by my top 5 that I paid the additional fee to find out where all 34 fell on my list. This was so interesting that I paid for both my mom and my sister to take the test as well. This led to hours of interesting conversations between us and a much better understanding of our relationships.
And with 64,000 different combinations there is no way this test will pigeonhole anyone!
Enneagram – how I see the world
I was supremely skeptical of the enneagram when it started gaining popularity in my social circles. It sounded a little too granola for me, a little too far fetched that all personalities could be broken down to 9 different types, a little too confusing with wings and subtypes and centers. However, when the Mastermind group of automotive shop owners I belong to started talking about the Enneagram, I decided to give it a whirl. Rather than just looking online, I bought a book called Becoming Us by Beth McCord and Jeff McCord. This book laid out how the enneagram works, how to interpret it, and how it fits into a Biblical world view. Perhaps the most interesting part of the book is that it described what living aligned with the Gospel looks like for each type. Rather than pigeonholing, the Enneagram opened up a door to better understanding why I interpret situations the way I do.
Meyer’s Briggs – how the world sees me
Meyer’s Briggs has been around for a long long time but is not currently as trendy as the Enneagram. Although now you can take a quiz online to find out your type, at one time you had to go through a certified Meyer’s Briggs administrator – someone who was trained in giving the test and interpreting the results. There are four different categories to determine type and each category has two possible options that are opposites of one another. Introvert/ Extrovert, for instance. Between the opposites, there is a sliding scale that tells how far towards the extreme you are. I am an extrovert and fall near the far side of the extrovert scale; meaning there is very little (though some) introvert in my personality.
I first took the Meyer’s-Briggs in college in 2000. It was a study skills class and understanding yourself was an important part of developing a study system that would be effective. There was nothing surprising to me about my results and over the years my results continue to be consistent.
It is easy to put oneself or others in a box based on their Meyer’s Briggs type – just like it is easy to put someone in a box based on their Enneagram or their predilection for bad jokes or their social awkwardness. The important thing, however, is to remember that people are inherently complex, even if they don’t want you to see them that way.