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Mary hates herself because she’s short and rounded; Robert despises his narrow chest and receding chin; Yvonne detests her curls; Colin abhors being bald.

We all know these people and sympathize with them because they are ourselves. We wouldn’t spurn Mary, Yvonne, Robert or Colin for their physical characteristics and – unless we’re having a bad hair day or using our looks as a focus for deeper issues – we wouldn’t seriously condemn ourselves, either.

Sadly, we are not so sanguine when it comes to other kinds of characteristics: “I’m no good with money.”; “I’m frightened to speak in public.”; “I’m hopeless at spelling.”; “I can’t count for toffee.”; “I get tongue-tied in groups.”; “I’m much too emotional.” These are the kinds of psychologically-related self-criticisms we use to embed the ‘should be able to’ knife deeply into ourselves.

Even more sadly, society generally isn’t very compassionate around these traits. Especially with the celebrity focus so prevalent today, it’s easy to believe we have to be world-class comedians, orators, models, and academics just to get a job as a teller at the local bank. Organizations themselves perpetuate this nonsense by requiring job applicants to make presentations and/or write thousands of self-justifying words even when the job in question has no need for speaking or writing skills.

In this environment, it’s too easy to be genuinely disheartened and disempowered by our perceived inadequacies. This feeling is worsened if we try to improve ourselves and still fall short of what we perceive we ‘should be’.

There is a way, however, to bring the same level of acceptance (hopefully high) to our psychological characteristics as to our physical ones. This, quite simply, is by knowing what we are and recognizing the impossibility of being what we are not. Just like coming to terms with our physical being, we can hold up a mirror to our psychological selves, assess our relative strengths, and learn to love the overall blend of features.

To help us in this task, the world is full of readily-accessible tests for self-revelation. They range from early forms of personality assessment such as astrology to more recent ones such as Jung’s personality typing and the variant tests based on it. I have a free one you can try on my website:

These tests are accurate within a reasonable tolerance. The more of them you take, the more you will balance out individual test idiosyncrasies and recognize your true self appearing repeatedly before you. When the tests reveal aspects of yourself you don’t like or recognize, take another look at yourself: it’s unlikely that tests that are generally accurate will contain huge deviations, especially if the unliked feature recurs across different tests.

Stay true to type

Peter Drucker, a genius on matters of management and life itself, wrote: “Give your resources to your opportunities.” This simple piece of advice is one we seem to find extraordinarily hard to follow. It means we benefit most when we put our effort into things we do well. Too often, we make huge investments in trying to fix things we don’t do well rather than profiting easily from what we do successfully.

Imagine the state of the forest if every oak tree were struggling to be a mushroom. The notion is absurd. Yet this is just what happens when philosopher-types try to be salespeople, artist-types try to be administrators, and regimental-types try to be social workers. They tend to be unhappy or they do a poor job. If they’re naturally competent, they will do a good job but be unable to sustain it.

I believe the most successful strategy for a full life is what I call “Dynamic Living”. Dynamic living is about increasing our conscious awareness and developing congruence, integrity and flexibility. This enables us to pursue the path which seems most honorable and beneficial both for ourselves and for the wider society. A vital part of this is taking our psychological type seriously, discovering it and acting on our discoveries.

Then we can love ourselves for our littered desk (INTP-type) or our tidy workshop (ESTJ-type). And then we can enjoy others’ revealing features too, and stop scorning them for having the psychological equivalent of a large nose.

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