Dear Straight Talk: My parents have always dominated my life. I’m a junior at a college I hate. I play college sports and a musical instrument I'd rather not play. I’ve never worked, being too busy being "enriched." I sound spoiled, but I'm actually depressed and seeing a counselor. My parents are not bad people, they are just intent on my success and I feel enormous pressure to not disappoint them. My life has been so hyper-organized, I don't know how to go about finding my own passion. Please help. — “Lisa” in Amherst, Mass.
Editor's Note: My favorite personality tests are the Myers-Briggs, the Enneagram, and True Colors (a simpler, highly-accurate derivative of Meyers-Briggs). All have been tried and tested with millions of people. These tests have helped me understand myself more than probably any other single thing. (I can still remember, in my late 20s, the sinking feeling in my stomach when I recognized my Enneagram type.)
Good personality tests identify who you are versus who you want to be (or who your parents want you to be). Who you are is the gift. Trying, usually unconsciously, to be someone else — or hiding, unconsciously, behind addictions — helps nobody. Personality tests help identify and attract the things in life that raise your self-esteem and light up your mind, body and soul. Understanding and honoring your personality is like finding the "sweet spot" on a tennis racket. You can start nailing those serves and have satisfying volleys with others.
A secret about pressure-cooker parents: Most are just afraid you're going to fail or make them look bad if they don't continually buzz around you and keep the heat on. If you show them hard work, boundaries, and personal confidence about your path, they usually will back off while continuing support. Most really do just want you to be happy AND successful — not just successful.
A secret about college and jobs: Yes, some majors are more employable than others, but it mostly comes down to, that’s right — personality. Employers are looking for individuals who display emotional maturity, passion for the job, a light in their eye, honesty, and an ability to get along with others and up everyone’s game. (Yes, these qualities can actually be “seen”). The more you know yourself, the more you will be interviewing for jobs that bring these qualities out in you.
Even the mystics say that the most important life work is one's personality. Start now. It will pay off in dividends. —Lauren
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