Authentic vs Knock-off

I love being put in a box.*

*That is, when I put myself in there.

Personality tests and psychometric testing have always been appealing to me, like a more logical version of astrology. I have taken so many different versions of the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator, and I always end up with the same answer – INFJ.

The Advocate: Introversion. Intuition. Feeling. Judgment.

The test results say that I’m ‘rare.’ I’m an idealist. I’m a perfectionist. I’m not a dreamer, but I love to see others achieve their goals. It’s easy for me to embrace being placed inside these boundaries.

Psychometric testing may be the way that most people have their creative or artistic intentions crushed, but it makes sense to me. It’s also the easiest way for other people to understand the base formula of my personality without getting too close.

So it’s not surprising when people describe me in a way that absolutely does not match up with my personality. I just go along with it. Most survival tactics boil down to the element of surprise – most people never get the chance to be surprised by me, but I always have that card ready to play.

‘I want out of the labels. I don’t want my whole life crammed into a single word. A story. I want to find something else, unknowable, some place to be that’s not on the map. A real adventure.’

During an exercise for an assessment, I was asked to source three words from the people around me –  the words given had to describe me precisely. I ended up with passionate, ambitious, and self-righteous.


Although complimentary, I would never use passionate or ambitious to describe myself. Those are words that people use to fill space on their LinkedIn profile – they have no deeper meaning to me. The self-righteous part of my personality turns its nose up at the fact I could possibly be summed up with a resume buzz word.

Maybe it’s my own fault – I don’t like to give too much away about myself. If someone wants to know something about me, I skirt around the basics until they fill in the blanks. I don’t really care what they put in those blanks, as long as they keep it to themselves.

During the exercise, I found it surprising that most people gently accepted the words given to them. But on the flip side, maybe someone would find it surprising that I prefer to embrace a formulated response from a test over a real human that knows me.

I have been a militant player my whole life in the game of identity politics. I guess I would rather be pigeonholed by my own doing than be softly categorised by someone else.



Header image: In 2010 the Detroit Institute of Arts hosted the exhibit “Fakes, Forgeries, and Mysteries” — about how experts figure out whether artworks are authentic. Above, a painting titled A Female Saint (left) that was once attributed to Italian artist Sandro Botticelli is exhibited alongside The Resurrected Christ (right), a Botticelli painting from around 1480. (x)

3 thoughts on “Authentic vs Knock-off

  1. Kate Bowles says:

    I’m so interested in this as I was just listening to a radio discussion about authenticity in the context of mental health treatment. A qualitative research project has just been published as a book that examines whether the women who were the subject of the research felt more “themselves” before, during or after medication-based treatment. I was listening to this as I was driving on the freeway, reflecting on the assumption that there is an authentic self. From a narrative perspective the emphasis is on how we choose to represent ourselves in any moment, that can change in the next.

    This is what i like in your post, the way you choose MB. That their boxes have strategic utility for you makes a lot of sense to me. I see the three words that others give us as other kinds of boxes too. My tentative thought is that in practising identity we’re rapidly sorting through these identity propositions that others (other people, other systems) offer us, so rapidly that it feels like our own self-evaluation. It’s like navigating by mirrors.

    Liked by 1 person

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