13. Slipping Out of the Straitjacket–Shedding Others’ Ideas of Who You Are and Becoming The Person YOU Want to Be

Success isn’t about fitting in, but rather, standing out. It’s important to take people’s opinions of you into account, but it’s just as important not to be defined by them. This module offers some free diagnostic assessments to get your self-reflective juices flowing and suggests others you may want to search for at your career center, then asks you to consider others’ expectations for you, and finally, to jot down words that describe your own, authentic image of yourself. 

For most of us, in junior high, the idea of standing out was deadly. At that age, nothing is more important than fitting in. But as we mature we realize that fitting in can carry you only so far. At some point, if you truly want to succeed and shine, you have to figure out how to differentiate yourself from the crowd.

Becoming an authentic human being means accepting yourself for who you are. We all have a different approach to life, unique likes and dislikes, skills and talents. And what makes us unique is also what makes us valuable—as students in a college community, and as employees in a workplace.

We’re not suggesting that you stop caring about what other people think, but you can’t make the most of other people’s advice until you truly know who you are and what you want. You can’t build a personal brand based on someone else’s ideals, no matter how well-intentioned they are. If you did, you’d be a fake. And you’d also be expending a lot of energy trying to be someone you’re not. 

Before you can live authentically and make the most of your own strengths, and before you can utilize other people’s advice most successfully, you need to make an honest assessment of what you want and who you are. You should definitely seek input from others as you make the decisions that will shape your education and career, but you can’t let anyone else determine who you will be (even though that sometimes seems easier than figuring out who you are on your own).

One way to start thinking about who you are and who you might want to become–including which career path you might want to follow–is to take a few diagnostic career assessments to get a better sense of the type of work at which you might excel. The Myers Briggs Test is a very popular personality assessment, and the Strong Interest Inventory is the gold standard of interest inventories; both are often used by career counselors, MBA programs, and the training arm of businesses. For many of you, you’ll be able to take these diagnostic assessments through your school’s career center at a reduced fee, so visit your career counselors and see if you can give them a whirl. 

If you don’t have access to the above assessments (and even if you do), you might want to try a free diagnostic tests:

For a short free interest inventory, go here.

Such quizzes can be fun and informative, but the best way to get to know yourself is to do some in-depth thinking and answer some open-ended questions. And that’s what this path aims to help you do. You’ll do some more in-depth self-assessments later, but for now we just want to get the juices flowing. 

Answering the following questions will help you reflect on who you are, how others see you, and how you see yourself. Once you have that information, you can use it to make educational and career choices that will enable you to maximize your strengths and live life as your authentic self. So get out your iPad, laptop, or notebook, find a quiet space, and take some time to write down the answers to the questions on the next page.

Module 13 | Slipping Out of the Straitjacket–Shedding Others’ Ideas of Who You Are and Becoming The Person YOU Want to Be