Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Scent of a Woman


A few weeks ago I read this article on our inability to foresee our personalities and tastes changing. This phenomenon has been coined the “end of history illusion,” in which people tend to “underestimate how much they will change in the future.” It struck a chord.

Even a few years ago I couldn’t possibly conceive my current predilection for nights at home watching Downton Abbey over nights out taking tequila shots and dancing. Sure, this is a common progression for people of a certain age. But what about nitty gritty personality traits? I took the Myers & Briggs personality test about five years ago. (I’ve persisted as a psychology junkie through the years.) I’m pretty sure I was “diagnosed” as ENFP (Extraversion/Intuition/Feeling/Perceiving) (vs. Introversion/Sensing/Thinking/Judging). A few weeks ago I took the same test and scored INFP (Introversion/Intuition/Feeling/Perceiving). Have I really turned from extrovert to introvert in a matter of a few years? I do crave more down time these days; I find I need to recharge and not “be on” for periods of time.

Another change of mind: About eight years ago I found my “signature scent” at a duty-free shop in the international terminal at JFK airport. I was with my stepsister, about to embark on our semester abroad in Barcelona. I’d been looking for a new perfume and I found it, the one: Cinema by YSL. For years I hesitated to tell admirers its’ name, God forbid they go out and purchase the perfume for themselves, essentially robbing me of my identity. Anyway, the scent became very “me.” I brought it back to the states and wore it throughout the rest of college and even after. At one point I learned it was being discontinued. I panicked. I bought an embarrassing amount of YSL Cinema, and even a few bottles of its sister scent, a summer fragrance, just in case. I’m probably still paying the credit card interest on those goddamn perfume bottles. And guess what? I can’t stand the smell anymore.

It’s not surprising that a fragrance I coveted eight years ago repulses me now. It is surprising that back then I couldn’t even begin to fathom that one day I might not want to be wearing that same perfume. And that’s the point the researchers in the Times article make. We can’t comprehend how different we’ll be in eight, 15, 20 years from now.

“Why? Dr. Gilbert and his collaborators, Jordi Quoidbach of Harvard and Timothy D. Wilson of the University of Virginia, had a few theories, starting with the well-documented tendency of people to overestimate their own wonderfulness.”

“Believing that we just reached the peak of our personal evolution makes us feel good,” Dr. Quoidbach said. “The ‘I wish that I knew then what I know now’ experience might give us a sense of satisfaction and meaning, whereas realizing how transient our preferences and values are might lead us to doubt every decision and generate anxiety.”

Lately I’ve been feeling indecisive about many things and an accompanying general sense of anxiety. I’ve had doubts about little things like the font of the first line on our wedding invitations. I’ve been contemplating big changes like where exactly we should be living. (For now I’m leaning towards bi-coastal. Just need to get the fiancĂ© on board…) And I’ve been especially indecisive about “thing things” like the China Justin and I attempted to register for. (After painstakingly surveying the options for about an hour, we couldn’t settle on a design. At least not one we’d be sure to love 50 years from now.) 

Lately I’ve been aware of how very transient my preferences are. That’s why I’ve been doubting my decisions; it's perhaps why I’ve been anxious. After reading the Times article I’m going to try to be more accepting of my uncertainty, the bi-product of getting to know myself and the awareness that comes with understanding that while I’m always me, I’m always evolving.

A

Image via http://notetosarah.tumblr.com

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