Friday, March 31, 2017

Behold the Mighty Maximizer!

Going back to the Strengths Finder test I mentioned in my last post, one of the strengths I didn't explain was being a maximizer. Empathy and ideation, I expected. Strategic and developer, I knew I had but was surprised that they made the top-five cut. Maximizer is the strength that I didn't know existed, that I had never heard of until this test. And learning that I have the maximizer strengths is one of the most validating feelings I've had.

What does it mean to be a maximizer? A maximizer is someone who focuses on strengths rather than weaknesses. A maximizer is someone who would rather take something that's already awesome and make it even more awesome, rather than making something below average into something average. A maximizer is someone who is focused on nurturing strengths rather than correcting weaknesses.

Remember that part in the Strengths Finder book that said that 77% of US parents consider a child's worst subject in school to be the most important area of focus, and react with indifference to their children being good at things? Maximizers are the other 23%.

One of the most validating things that the book said about being a maximizer is that we try to avoid people who want to "fix" us or make us well-rounded. YES!!!!!!!! I have spent my whole life running away from people who try to fix me and pressure me to be well-rounded. It's been non-stop pressure since I was born and I've written so many blog posts about not wanting to be fixed and not wanting to be well-rounded and I just cannot believe that this is an actual thing!!!!

It makes so much sense, it just feels soooooooo good to get this validation. It's like how I felt when I first read about INFPs and learned that we're the third rarest type in the US population. It made so much sense! I've always known that my culture was not built for my personality type and it felt so validating to actually see that! INFPs are specifically the group most likely to not be okay in college! I always knew that the college system was not designed for me and it felt so good to see that! Sort of like learning that misophonia is a real thing, that being a highly sensitive person is an actual thing, and when I read that highly sensitive people like myself tend to be more sensitive to the effects of caffeine and we tend to not like drinking because we have a different sensory experience than our non-highly-sensitive peers. For real! I always hated the fact that everyone else likes drinking and I don't, people would classify as someone who wants to be studying or reading on a Friday night instead of partying when I knew I wasn't like that at all - I was like my friends who drank except that I didn't drink. But now it makes perfect sense! I have a different sensory experience to drinking than my peers do! It's almost on the level of being allergic to something. It was sooooooo validating to learn all of those things.

Learning that I'm a maximizer is soooooooooo validating!!!! And I'm so happy that it's classified as a strength. The next time someone tries to push me to change or be well-rounded or whatever, I'm gonna be like, "Yo! I don't roll that way! I'm a maximizer!"

I was the only person in the workshop who got maximizer. Remember how I said that the book itself was so validating because it criticized our culture of trying to fix people and was all about focusing on things you're actually good at and interested in? A lot of other people in the workshop talked about having trouble with that concept, and how they realized that they are focused on fixing things that they're not good at a lot of the time. One person said that she automatically wanted to know what her bottom five qualities were out of the 34 traits so that she could work on them, that it was a struggle for her to focus on strengths (which is what the test forces you to do by only giving you your top five results). Other people agreed with her. I also wanted to see the entire list of 34 traits to know what was at the bottom, but for a different reason. I didn't want to "fix" anything that was at the bottom, I wanted to have the information so that I know not to put myself in a position where people will expect me to have those qualities. And I thought to myself, this is what makes me a maximizer! Other people struggled with the concept of focusing on their strengths, but I didn't. This class was second nature to me and it was because I'm a maximizer!

I wrote this blog post years ago:

http://yourownkindofmusic.blogspot.com/2013/10/personality-testing.html

Basically, it's about the fact that people always assume that you want to change everything. If a question on a 1-5 scale test asked me "Are you a good writer?" I would answer 5. If it asked "Do you want to be a better writer?" I would also answer 5. But the test isn't expecting that. The test is expecting that that wanting to get better at something must mean that you're not already good at it. And on the other end, if the question was "Are you good at sports?" I would answer 1. If it asked, 'Do you want to be better at sports?" I would also answer 1. If I had any interest in becoming better at sports, I would be working on it. And if I were working on it, I would be improving, and I would not rate myself as a 1 on being good at sports. And yet, there's a built-in assumption that anything you're not good at, you must have a desire to be good at. I don't. Everything I want to be is simply a more extreme version of something that I already am.

I had written this blog post in response to a job interview I had where the interviewer first asked me to name a weakness and then asked me what I was doing to work on it. She literally asked "What are you doing to work on it?" as opposed to "Are you doing anything to work on it?" (which I guess in interview-language would have been the same thing, but still). I did not appreciate this assumption at all. I especially did not appreciate the sneakiness of it - getting me to name a weakness on its own, and then asking about working on it. See, my answers to the question "What's something you're not good at?" and "What's something you're working to improve?" are NOT going to be the same thing. If I don't have any of a quality at all and I haven't already worked on having it in the 25 years I've been alive (at the time of the interview) it's probably not a quality that I have any interest in possessing, and the way that I "deal" with that is to not be in situations where anyone pushes me to be like that. If you want me to discuss something that I'm working to improve, you need to ask me from the start about something that I'm working on improving, and then I will tell you something I'm working on improving. But that quality that I'm working on improving will not be something I would classify as a weakness because it would be a strength-in-process.

For a project in my psych seminar class, my partner and I gave the Big Five Personality test to our class. As we reviewed the results afterwards, it was the first time I realized how extreme my responses were. I've always answered a lot of 1's and 5's on tests that have a 1-5 scale, but I never realized how different my responses were from other people's. My test really jumped out at me as having almost all 1's and 5's, whereas everyone else answered more 2's, 3's, and 4's.

In reviewing my most recent Big Five Personality results (the comprehensive version with 30 traits), I have 8 traits that are in the 90th percentile or above, and 11 traits that are in the 10th percentile or below. That's 19 traits out of 30 - almost 2/3 - that fall in the top or bottom 10th percentile.

I think having the extreme results relates back to the question of "working on" things, and the fact that something I was working on would be something I was already interested in, something that I already have. I don't know that all maximizers have the same extreme kinds of personalities, but I think it's related. Maximizers find a strength and they hone in on it. They're interested in making something that's already good into something awesome. They're not interested in making something below average into something average. They don't have a goal of being well-rounded. It all fits.

The book says that maximizers focus on excellence, not average. In our areas of strength, we compare ourselves to excellence, not average. That is how I feel in the areas that I care about. I remember when I was writing my first novel and sometimes I'd be complaining that I was behind where I wanted to be, and everyone around me was just like, "OMG you're writing a book that's amazing!!!" and if I said I was only on page 50 they'd say, "OMG you wrote 50 pages, that's amazing, I could never even get beyond page one!" And while I do really appreciate all of that support and encouragement, it always felt weird. I mean, so what if other people can't write 50 pages? That just means they're not writers. I am a writer. I'm not going to compare myself to people who aren't writers and think, "Wow, I'm so much better than the average person at this!" That's just a given. I mean, if you were a nurse, would you go around feeling like "Wow, I'm so great because I know more about medicine than people who don't work in medicine," or would it just become normal to you? Writing is normal to me. When something is a strength, I hone in on it and want to make it into something fabulous (hence why I've had a difficult time deciding that my validation book is finished, because I could literally keep editing it forever). At a certain point, I don't compare myself to average anymore. I remember back when I used to write in my paper journals, I always felt like I could be doing more, like I could be going through journals at a much faster rate than I currently was (my average was about 5 journals for every 2 years). And yet anytime I talked about it, everyone else was just in the state of shock that I could even finish a journal because when they tried to keep a journal they just couldn't keep up with it. If you can't finish a journal, you're not a journal-writer. That's okay. There's nothing wrong with that. But I WAS a journal-writer, and I knew that I was capable doing so much better than I was doing, and I was not going to compare myself to people who can't finish a journal, I was comparing myself to the best journal-writing version of myself that I knew I could be.

And I think a part of why the over-the-top writing praise often bothers me is because it's rooted in people's expectations of me. I've found that the same people who think it's over-the-top amazing that I've written a book are people who have criticized me for not doing things that society expects of me. I've been forced to spend my time in school learning things I did not care about and working on things that I did not want to work on. Outside of the classroom, my peers pressured me to be more athletic and more social. And those same people who pressured me to be those things that I did not want to be felt perfectly fine going all gaga over the fact that I've written a book. I'm a writer. Writers write books. That's second-nature to me. It's normal to me. It's the same way that being social or athletic or studious is normal part of life for you. I don't want the over-the-top praise for doing what I care about while getting simultaneous criticism for not doing the things that I don't care about. I want you to accept that I have never wanted to be well-rounded, I've always wanted to just focus on the few things I care about.

You can't praise me for writing a book and coloring the calendar and making cool decorations for my apartment while simultaneously pressuring me to spend my time on things that I am less interested in. It doesn't work that way. I would have never become a good writer if I had gone to all those social events that didn't interest me, if I had spent my summer vacations doing organized activities rather than running wild on my own. I became a good writer because I spent a good portion of my life writing and daydreaming, at the expense of everything else that I could have been doing. You don't get to praise me for being a good writer if you've tried to push me to spend my time on other things.

I am a maximizer. I make awesome things into more awesome things. I am not well-rounded, and I am not a fixer-upper. I'm a maximizer.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Strengths Finder 2.0

About a month ago, I got to take the Strength Finder 2.0 test! Unfortunately, you have to either pay to take the test, or buy the book which comes with a code to take the test. I was lucky and got to take the test and get a copy of the book Strengths Finder 2.0 for free through a program at work.

Before I get into my own strengths, let me just say that I love the concept of this book! The book addresses straight-up how our society is always pressuring people to change, to "fix" themselves and become good at the things that we're not good at, rather than working at the things that we're already good at and are interested in. The book said that 77% of parents in the United States consider a child's least successful subject to be the most important area to focus on, rather than helping a child develop the areas in which they are talented. They're indifferent to a child being good at something, like being good at something is just a default condition, and they push their kids to be good at everything else instead. The strength finder program is about actually focusing on the things you're good at and developing those talents rather than trying to "fix" yourself to be something you're not.

I realized right away that the concepts in this book are very similar to what I talk about in one of the earliest chapters of the validation book. I talk about not trying to "fix" people, and not pushing anyone to be something that they haven't expressed an interest in being. I discuss the differences in the ways that we think about ourselves and others, about the reason why the MBTI is a much more accepting personality test than the Big Five, which has more social desirability embedded in it. I talk about what a difference in makes on your feelings when your results are on a scale between two equally desirable traits (like the MBTI) vs. being measured as something you either have or don't have (like the Big Five) and I encourage people to view other people's traits as a spectrum.

That is exactly what this test did. I'm used to taking tests that just give one statement to rate, such as "I am talkative" and you rate it from 1-5, "strongly disagree" to "strongly agree." I've also taken a few tests that put seemingly opposite statements across from each other, such as "I take a leadership role" and "I prefer to follow than lead" and you rate yourself between the two statements. But this test felt different - it put things against each other that did not even feel related. Sometimes it felt like I had to choose between "I like to stay up late" and "I want a pet armadillo." Sometimes I loved both choices, sometimes I hated both choices, a lot of times I had no idea what the two choices had to do with each other. It's interesting because whenever I'm taking a test where I have to rate myself on a scale of 1-5, I answer a lot of 1's and 5's. This test was probably the most 2's, 3's, and 4's that I've ever answered on a personality test, because even if I strongly agreed with a statement, I had to look at the opposing statement and decide whether I agreed with this statement so much that I was willing to strongly disagree with the other statement. I had to pick 3 everytime I didn't like either choice. I don't know quite how this all affected my final scores, although I'm sure it had an effect, I'm sure I might have come out totally different if I were answering each statement on its own, rather than opposite another statement.

But it makes me wonder if that was done on purpose as part of the strategy of finding strengths, if it's for the purpose of defining yourself as what you are instead of what you're not. Sort of like how I advise people to treat personality traits in the validation book, to say, "This person is more A than B," as opposed to just "This person is not B." Perhaps people are slightly inclined to give some points to every trait, to not say "strongly disagree" to anything, and putting two statements again each other sort of forces people to choose which one they like better. I wonder if for people who normal answer lots of 2's, 3's, and 4's on personality tests, this method actually made their results more extreme. I wonder if something about this method made it easier to pull out everyone's top 5 strengths, whereas letting everyone rate the statements individually would leave people being slightly good at a lot of the strengths. I'm not sure, but I'm curious if that's the reason.

The concept of this book is also very similar to my quiz book! I've said before that the intention of my quiz book is to help people gain self-knowledge without trying to "fix" anyone. All of the quiz results are meant to sound equally desirable, promote acceptance among friends with different personalities, and advise people on how to navigate the world as a person who answered the quiz the way that they did without pressuring them to be any different. It's not specifically about strength-finding, but the concept is similar. I love it when I see other books doing similar things to mine. That means I won't have to entirely carve out a place for myself in the self-help world that isn't already there. People are already leaning in this direction, even if it's not the majority of the culture yet.

So, here are my top five strengths:

1. Strategic
2. Empathy
3. Maximizer
4. Ideation
5. Developer

(The test only gives you a comprehensive look at your top five).

I'm not going to get into the descriptions of the traits in this post because I'm going to write separate blog posts about them. But I will say that I was really surprised. I expected to get empathy and ideation. I know that I am strategic, but there is no way I imagined that to be my top strength out of 34 possible strengths. I knew I was somewhat good at it, but I never imagined that it would make it all the way to the top. Developer was the same way - I've been told that I'm good at training people at work, but I don't think of myself as someone who is good at developing other people's talents. Not that I'm specifically not good at it, I just never stopped and thought about that as something I'm good at, and there's no way I would have predicted it to make the top five. Maximizer, I didn't know what it was before I took this test. That's my extra-special strength that I'll talk about in a separate post.

I've taken so many personality tests that sometimes I feel like I don't learn anything new - I feel like I'm just rereading all the stuff that I already knew. This test was totally different, and I actually learned a lot about myself.

I was surprised that I didn't get communication as a top strength since I write so much, and the description seemed to fit me, but that could still be a high trait that just didn't happen to make the top five cut. Maybe it's in the top ten.

I was also surprised that my work friend who did it with me - who is super validating and understanding and has always been so supportive of me - did not get empathy as a top strength. Again, it could have just not made the top five cut but still be in her top ten. But she did get another strengths that had to do with supporting people - "relator." It's fascinating because this friend has always felt like such a kindred spirit to me that I assumed we had similar personalities and would have at least one trait in common, but we didn't. I'm going to be interested to read about the differences between empathy and relator.

When we met with the class of ten people who took the assessment, we went around the room and each shared our traits and mapped them on a grid, so we could see what strengths everyone else had. Empathy was my most popular trait - 4 of us in the group had it (4 was the maximum number of people who had any given trait). 3 of us had strategic, 2 of us had developer, and I was the only one who had maximizer and ideation.

Most of the advice was work-related, but I want to apply all of these strengths to my personal life. Stay tuned for more posts about specific traits.


Friday, March 17, 2017

Not Worth the Cost

Think about a time that you saw something you liked, looked at the price, and said, "Well, I like this item, but there's no way I'm paying that price for it!"

Now, imagine that you somehow got forced, pressured, or manipulated into spending a lot of money on this item. When you tell your friends about it, they just keep insisting that this should not be an issue because you do like the product. You keep trying to explain that this product was not worth the amount of money that you spent on it, but your friends just don't get it.

THIS is what's it like when you keep pushing someone to focus on the good things that came of a situation that was horrible. Like the way that everyone tries to tell me that college could not have been that bad because something good must have come from it. Yes, there are good things that have happened in my life as a direct result of bad things, but that does not mean that the bad things were worth going through to get those good things. I never consented to paying that price. I like cupcakes but I am not willing to pay $1,000 for a cupcake, which is essentially what I did.

No matter what positive stuff comes out of a situation, it's always your right to say that it wasn't worth the cost.

Monday, March 13, 2017

You Make the Call

When you're taking a test, the test is only worth so many points. Whether it's 100 points, or 800, or whatever, there's a limit on how well you can do - you hit that highest score and that's it, you can't score any higher, that is the best that you can ever do on that particular test.

When you're writing something, it can always be perfected more. Always. You never reach that top score because it doesn't exist. There's always something else you can do to change it and make it better. Now if you're writing a paper for school, you have a set deadline. You have a point at which you need to hand in the paper no matter what state it's in, and that's how you decide that it's finished. But when you're working independently, when you don't have that set deadline, you can literally just keep editing and editing forever and never decide that it's completed. There is no maximum score. There is no deadline. It's entirely up to me when to stop. I have to pick a point to stop.

I'm picking now to stop because I know I'm there, I know I'm ready. It's hard to stop, but I realize that if I'm going to be a self-employed writer, I'm going to have to make that call. I don't have a due date. There is no such thing as a perfect score. It's entirely up to me. When you're the writer, you make that call. I'm going to have to keep making that call on everything I write, for my entire life. This is only the beginning.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Prepared

Here's the thing - I was unprepared for A LOT of my earliest job interviews. My cover letter was too generic-sounding. I didn't even own a business suit when I first started applying for jobs, and I had to run out and get one at the last minute. I totally blew my first post-grad interview because I didn't know how to answer any of the questions and I ended up saying "Maybe" and "I don't know" to a lot of questions. I interviewed at several companies in a particular industry before I reached the conclusion that I didn't even want to work for that type of company and I had to start my job search over from scratch. When I finally got a job, I had practically nothing in my closet that was work-appropriate. If I had gotten the job in the winter, it would have been less of an issue because most of my fun sweaters can double as work sweaters, but I got the job in the summer, and none of my fun summer clothes are things you can wear to an office. I literally did not have enough work clothes to go to work for a whole week. Luckily My mom let me dig through her closet and wear a bunch of her hand-me-downs. For the first few weeks at the new job, I had to wear pants that were too tight before I had a chance to buy new ones. The first time I went shopping for work clothes on my own, I ended up buying these blouses that required ironing or else they looked horrible, and I never iron my clothes. I had to adjust my sleep schedule by five hours because I was used to staying up late and waking up at noon, and now I had to get up at seven. Totally unprepared.

Looking back on it, I could have made my own life easier if I had prepared more for my interviews. I could have bought a business suit before I got any interviews. I could have gone online and researched what kinds of answers employers were looking for. I could have done more mock-interviews with my mom who has hired a bunch of people. I could have gone shopping and made sure I had black pants that fit comfortably and at least one week's worth of work shirts.

But the point here is, I applied for jobs before I was prepared because I needed a job. I didn't say to myself, okay, first you need to practice interviewing, then you need to get your wardrobe ready to have a job, then you need to do this, that, and the other thing to make sure you're ready. I didn't have time for that. I need a job, so I started applying for jobs. And maybe I should have taken more time to prepare, maybe that would have gotten me a job earlier and been a lot less stressful. But I needed a job, so I just dove straight in.

I don't know why I'm so scared to dive right in this time, when it comes to submitting my book. I keep thinking about every little thing that I could possibly need to prepare first. I know it's different this time because the stakes are higher, because I really don't care about any of those job interviews that I might have blown because I wasn't prepared, but I DO care about getting my book published and there is no way that I want to blow it because I'm not prepared.

But I am prepared. I am so much more prepared to meet with publishers than I have ever been for a regular job interview. I have the "right" interview clothes. I'm on a more "normal" sleep schedule so interview times shouldn't be an issue. And most importantly, I know how to speak intelligently about my book! I know because I've been doing it since I started.

I dove into job-hunting without being prepared because I didn't have time to stop and prepare. This time around, I am prepared. I am so much more prepared than I ever was. There's nothing to wait for. There's nothing left to do to get ready. I am ready.

I'm Ready as I'll Ever Be

Last week, I got to attend a webinar at work, hosted by the Women's Forum at my workplace. The speaker talked about discrimination issues in the workplace, and she specifically mentioned that study where a lot of women will look at a job posting where they have 8 out of the 10 qualifications and not apply for it because they think they're unqualified, while a lot of men will only have 3 out of the 10 qualifications and will go ahead and apply and assume they're going to the get the job. (This research is problematic because it ignores non-binary people).

I had already read about this a while back, but as the speaker said it, I couldn't help wondering if that's what I've been doing with the validation book. I keep saying that I need to edit more, I need to fix a few things, but really, this book was at a publishable quality last June. Then I perfected it even further and had it ready by the beginning of September. But it was ready then. I don't know why I'm still holding onto it and thinking I need to keep editing and editing before I can send it to a publisher. It was ready to be sent to a publisher last September!

Now, I got the news about my grandma in September and a lot of bad things have happened since then, so it's totally fine that I wasn't up for dealing with my book during that time. And it's totally legit if I'm still not up for dealing with it now (which I haven't quite figured out yet, I need to wait till I'm fully not-sick to see if I'm ready). But my point is, if I acknowledge that the book is ready to go but I don't feel well enough to deal with it at the moment, that's one thing. That's fine. But it's this business of having to re-edit it over and over again, to keep thinking that it's not ready when it was clearly ready six months ago, that's the problem. I think I'm doing that thing of saying, "Well, I only have 9.5 out of the 10 qualifications, so I'm not gonna do anything until I have the full 10."

I know my book is ready. I know my book is good enough. Multiple people have told me that the quality is better than many published self-help books that they've read. I talked to Eli about all of this, and they told me that I'm definitely saying "I only have 9.5 out of the 10 qualifications," that they would have said, "My book is awesome!" and submitted it much, much earlier if it were their book. I don't normally consider myself to be a perfectionist, but I think I am being too much of a perfectionist about my book. I think I'm scared to share it with publishers. It feels like my baby and I keep feeling like I'm not ready. I'm scared of it getting rejected. I'm scared of it not selling even when it does get published. And I'm scared of how my life is going to change if it does get really successful.

But I realize that I'm not going to become any more "ready" to publish the book than I am right now. I'm as ready as I'll ever be. It's time to research the process for submitting a book, find potential publishers or agents, write my pitch letter, and hit "send."

Monday, March 6, 2017

Guess What? You Were Wrong!

Everyone always thought that I was a goody-good-girl because I went such a long time not having any interest in guys, not even fantasy crushes on celebrities or anything. But the real reason for that was because I never actually liked guys, I liked girls all along!!!! When I finally started getting into guys it was something I sort of pushed on myself to be cool, and the first time I developed serious crushes on guys was after we did physical touching stuff that got me excited. I kept all my girl crushes and fantasies to myself and I didn't even understand that they were crushes because I didn't see my feelings reflected anywhere in books or TV shows or movies, it was all about girls liking guys and I couldn't relate so I thought I was a late bloomer, I thought I had no romantic feelings whatsoever because I didn't have them towards guys, I didn't know what was wrong with me while meanwhile I didn't know what was up with all the weird fantasies I had about girls. 

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Nope.

I am NOT a resilient person and I will not accept anyone pushing me to have that quality. Ever.