Everyone you see has a dirty secret that they repress and keep hidden a way in the dark crevices of their soul. That man you saw on the bus this morning in the sharp suit? He likes to dress up as a priest and have his wife spank him. That woman you saw walking her dog earlier? Once a year she dresses up in a wedding dress and makes said dog wear a tuxedo to create the wedding she never had. The young lad pouring your pint at your favourite pub? He has invented his own fantasy game, more complicated and multi-layered than Dungeons and Dragons can ever hope to be. Yet, my insidious, self-obsessed and narcissistic secret is more shameful than any of these. My secret is that I’m a recovering online personality test addict.
I can’t get enough of them. It began last year during a particularly slow revision day. I filled in a Myers-Briggs personality test to find out what “personality type” I was of the 16 choices. I got ENFP, otherwise known as “The Inspirer”. “Wow,” I thought to myself, “that’s a cool name”. I read the strengths and thought “Hey I sound great!” and read the weaknesses and laughed, rolled my eyes and shook my head. “That’s so me!” I thought, “I do get bored easily!” That was my first hit, my first taste. The first time I felt that sense of affirmation. Of validation.
From then on, I was completely and utterly hooked. I did more Myers-Briggs tests and got the same result over and over again. I read some of the forums about how to “grow” as an ENFP and “conquer your weaknesses”. I looked at inspirational quotes and the list of famous ENFPs. Some such as Aldous Huxley, Kurt Vonnegut and Gaddafi are heroes of mine. Those halcyon days were beautiful: I just experienced so much life-affirming wonder that I didn’t realise what I was doing. How dangerous it was. But, as with all addictions, shit began to get real (so to speak).
After a while, the googling of “ENFP male”, “ENFP in relationships” and “how to be a good ENFP” was no longer enough. It left me feeling empty. Hollow. Like having sex with someone you don’t love, I needed more. So, I began to get more leftfield. It began with my doing a “What Game of Thrones house would you be in?” and I got House Tully. House Tully. So, I did it again. I got House Targaryen second time round. Elation turned to inconsolable despair when I realised Emilia Clarke was now out of bounds. Or was she?
Feeling buoyed by the fact that I was a dragon, I did some more. I did “What type of drink are you?” and got a pint of Guinness. A pint of Guinness?! I’m not even Irish. I wanted more. More tests. More! Then a real low-point occurred: I did “What House in Harry Potter would you be in?” and my results were unimaginably bad. Hufflepuff. Fucking Hufflepuff. This nadir wasn’t aided by the fact that word got out and I lost many friends. Why would people want to hang around with someone in Hufflepuff? I couldn’t blame them for their disdain. At this point I should’ve turned back. Stepped away from the abyss. But I didn’t. I pressed on.
Before I knew it I was finding out what character I was from Mad Men and Gossip Girl. I have not watched a single episode of both those shows. I was bleary eyed and impoverished, rocking back and forth giggling to myself. Not looking after myself; not eating or drinking. Constantly searching for more. Being told who I was by complete strangers made me feel special. I was finding out how British I was (not very according to BuzzFeed), what race I was in Middle Earth, whether I was spoilt, whether I was an indoor or outdoor person. When my friends saw I had an incognito window open on my laptop they’d say “Been watching porn again?” and I’d laugh sheepishly and go along with it. “You know me” I’d say. I wanted them to think I was addicted to porn. The truth was too painful.
One Saturday evening it was past midnight and I was in my bed lying languorously amongst a pile of empty Pot Noodles and Chomp wrappers. I was doing “What gaming console are you?” and it suddenly dawned on me just how far gone I was. Why did it actually matter what gaming console I would be in this weird parallel universe that exists where everyone is an inanimate piece of high-spec technology? What type of world would that be? How would society even function? What was I hoping to find out about myself? What does being a Nintendo even mean?
So, I sought help and my friends thankfully gathered around and got me through it with a combination of discipline, love and daylight (turns out I am an outdoors person after all). Six months later I was rehabilitated. I haven’t touched a personality quiz since but there have been times when I’ve wanted nothing more than to experience that exquisite feeling of belonging that the quizzes give you.
But when that craving comes back, I fall back on this saying: “God, grant me the courage to accept the things I can't change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Indeed.