Ok, Just Who Do You Think You Are?

ALICE STEINBACH

June 28, 1992|By ALICE STEINBACH

I am now deeply into Day 2 of finding out who I really am. Or

to be precise: who I think I really am.

And while it is my firm belief that there are few things in life as disappointing as finding out who you really are -- unless, of course, it's getting on the scale at your doctor's office and finding out how much you really weigh -- I decided in this case to throw caution to the winds.

Who among us, I ask you, could resist this headline in the current issue of Psychology Today: "Who Do You Think You Are?"

Not moi.

And so it came to pass that two days ago I found myself taking the Berkeley Personality Profile test. A test, incidentally, which its developers -- a merry band of fun-loving researchers at the University of California -- claim should take only 30 minutes. Or less.

But for some reason I found the several pages of explanatioabout "role identities," "specialized identities" and the "Big Five personality dimensions" confusing. I also found confusing the two pages of instructions about how to score your test results.

Mainly, though, I was slowed down by the warning that accompanies the test.

"A note of caution," write the Berkeley researchers. "The PT/Berkeley Personality Profile is not intended as a means of assessing the state of your mental health and does not provide any form of psychotherapy. We urge those who have a history of emotional and other psychological problems to check with qualified professionals before proceeding."

See, it took me almost a day to track down my girlfriend Janet -- who although neither qualified nor a professional -- is the guru I turn to for psychological guidance.

Her advice? Well, Janet told me if I didn't know who I really was by this time, then it didn't really matter.

I thought about this for awhile, trying to decide if there was ever a time when I knew who I was. Oh, sure, there was that time back in the sixth grade when I was sure I was Bunny Stubbs -- who was only the most popular, best-dressed, coolest girl in school.

For about three months I went around, just as Bunny did, wearing jodhpurs, a polo shirt with the collar turned up and riding boots. Actually, these were brown overshoes but with a definite riding-boot look. Bunny, by the way, was not amused.

Even today, friends don't understand my puzzlement about determining who you really are. Their attitude is: If you want to know who you are, just look in the mirror. They don't believe me when I tell them that mirrors do not reveal who you really are.

Actually, mirrors don't even tell you how you really look. They only tell you how you want to be seen. If you want to know how you really look, get a friend to snap a candid photo of you as you drive home from work -- preferably while you're stuck in a traffic jam.

Of course, knowing yourself as you really are is not what it used to be. It's harder. Now that we know about such things as the Peter Pan Syndrome, the Cinderella Complex and cross-dressing, it's hard to know just who's inside of you.

So taking the Berkeley Personality Profile test seemed like a good idea. After all, how hard could it be? It's not like a math test. It's a test having to do with your favorite subject: yourself.

And, in fact, I was doing fine on the 35-question test until I got to Question No. 2. Asked to rate myself in relation to the statement "Tends to find fault with others," I got really annoyed. What others? How much fault? Under what circumstances?

Alas. It was all downhill from there. I mean, how are you supposed to rate yourself on this statement: "Remains calm in tense situations." Like, how tense are we talking about? A shootout at your bank branch? Or an altercation at the produce stand over who gets the last three pieces of Silver Queen corn?

Still, I rated myself as fairly as I could. Then computed all my scores according to the instructions. Even called the hot line number for a more detailed analysis of my test results. By punching in my numbers I got a pre-recorded voice that said, "Your test score indicates you see yourself as someone who is reasonably calm but not without your more emotional style."

The voice also said something about "anger, tension and self-doubt." But since it was a 900 number and costing me 95 cents per minute, I hung up at that point.

The fact is, I don't really want to know who I really am. Knowing who you really are is like knowing the precise day and year in which you are going to die. It is a situation that very few can carry off successfully.

Which reminds me: I'd like to hear from anyone who has suggestions for successfully dealing with tiny -- I mean, really tiny -- feelings of anger, tension and self-doubt. It's not for me, of course. It's for a friend.

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