Other than the first three years at Serena Hills grade school, when I reigned as the Cootie Queen, not good enough has been a stumbling block. Other than my dogged pursuit of writing a marketable novel untangling myself from its grip has been my life’s mission.

My goal— to become renowned. If I were lauded as the best actress-acting coach-alexander teacher-receptionist-mom-wife-friend-writer, surely Not Good Enough would take a hike and inner peace would arrive. Nope-nope-nope-nope-nope. I offset these “perceived” failures by latching onto other labels such as a Spartan, Vegetarian, Leo, Vegan— Yogi. I threw Rune stones, dabbled in I Ching, Tarot, Enneagrams, and consulted psychics to find the “right” identity to guide me. I searched for an Identity the way some women hunt for the perfect shade of nail polish or the most comfortable high fashion shoes.

Jump back to 2018 when my son encouraged me to take The Big Five Aspect Scale assessment, which is made up of 100 phrases. I needed to either agreed or disagreed with them on a sliding scale. It took about twenty minutes. I didn’t have clue about the outcome. My self-ratings were compared with thousands of men and women of all ages. After which, I received my ranking analysis for each of the five personality traits and their corresponding aspects— ten rankings total.

  • Extraversion— Enthusiasm and Assertiveness
  • Neuroticism— Withdrawal and Volatility
  • Agreeableness— Compassion and Politeness
  • Conscientiousness— Industriousness and Orderliness
  • Openness— Intellect and Openness to Experience

Remember that each personality trait and aspect (and your relative position with respect to them) has advantages and disadvantages. It is for that reason that variation exists in the human population: there is a niche for each personality configuration. Much of what constitutes success in life is therefore the consequence of finding the place in relationships, work and personal commitment that corresponds to your unique personality structure. Good Luck with your expanded self-understanding.

My analysis was enlightening and accurate— proof below— but I was devastated. Shaken to the core by my score in Openness, which “is the primary dimension of creativity, artistic interest and intelligence (particularly verbal intelligence); it is a measure of interest in novelty, art, literature, abstract thinking, philosophy as well as sensitivity to aesthetic emotions and beauty.”

The rating for Openness— 57%. How could that be? I jumped to the aspects, my Openness was 95%, but my Intellect aspect only a whopping 8%. That lousy single digit undercut my ability to absorb and appreciate all the other high scores I received. In hindsight it’s clear that I must’ve been having a highly neurotic day but I was unaware of it at the time. Worse yet, I was equating the high double digits in the other traits and aspects with the A’s and B’s given out in school, which was completely off the mark because it isn’t that kind of test. How could I be a successful writer if my Openness was only 57%?

Spring forward to Jocosa revises her manuscript, learns how to reframe negative thought patterns, and discovers a fascinating book…

Personality: What Makes You the Way You Are by behavioral psychologist Daniel Nettle.

Nettle looks at the science of human personality, showing how personalities stem from our biological make-up, how they might have evolved, and how all personalities can be defined remarkably accurately against five simple measures.

Nettle’s book, which is the basis for the Five Aspect Assessment, upended all preconceived notions about myself. The word reborn comes to mind. Because my understanding of the Five Aspects and the results of my personal assessment have changed. Through specific case studies, Nettle shows how each of the aspects manifest in people like you and me. Every example allowed me to re-evaluate my own behavioral history. And I finally understood— cue DUH moment— what makes me unique is the specific interplay among my Five Aspect percentages.

I am a Highly Agreeable Conscientious Neurotic Extravert with an Openness to change.

This narrative is more than accurate— it Rocks! It’s my 95% Agreeableness and 91% Conscientiousness that allows me to write with patient persistence and remain loyal to friends and family. The battle between my 80% Neuroticism and 75% Extraversion is what makes this writing journey so hard. I want to go boldly into the world of publishing, dazzle the powers that be with my story, but I have doubts, which tangle up my tongue and my words whenever I pitch. And my 57% Openness, which is dominated by 95% openness fuels my love of reading and writing, which in turn fuels my Conscientiousness and drives me to improve.

Flashback to my Not Good Enough-ness. Armed with the understanding of how the Five Aspects work for me knocks the not good enough out of the playing field because now I can tap in and use them as needed to keep me moving Onward and Upward.

Bonus track— Personality: What Makes You Who You Are is one of the best companions a writer can have. The Five Aspects and their components are the fuel that drive character intention and motivation. A character’s struggle to keep these Aspects from getting out of control and derailing their lives is what gives them agency. This is the stuff that keeps unlikeable protagonists and stereotypical villains or love interests from mucking up a story. I can’t imagine writing a character without exploring how the Five Aspects come into play ever again. Victory!