What's your type? Mine is A.
Updated: Oct 30, 2020
A is for Absolutely No Chill.
Growing up, and probably well into my 20s, I only ever heard the term “Type A” used as an insult. I distinctly remember the first time someone called ME Type A - I was floored. Did people really think of me that way? I’ll be the first to admit I’m an overachiever, but I saw this laundry list of adjectives start to run through my head:
With mild horror, I wondered if these were words people associate with me. Then, I swiftly pushed it from my mind -- that would be a Pandora’s box to unpack another day.
(Side note: my three younger brothers would emphatically agree that I’m bossy. No comment.)
In keeping with my need for cold, hard facts, I went to the source of all knowledge (Merriam-Webster, of course) to see how they would define Type A. The outlook wasn’t so good: “a personality that is marked by impatience, aggressiveness, and competitiveness and that is held to be associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease.” I’m going to set aside the possible health risks here (although now when people ask me why I run, I can say I’m running from potential heart disease caused by my neurotic tendencies! Talk about a fun conversation starter!)
The more articles I clicked on, the more unsettled I felt. My favourite was the following helpful diagram (thanks, SimplyPsychology!):
Especially as women, we’re conditioned from a young age to want people to see us as relaxed, patient, and easy-going. Read: even if you are none of those things, people should definitely think you are those things, so that nobody feels threatened by your directness and ability to say what you want. Many pop culture tropes support this idea; I’m thinking especially of the Uptight and Inhibited Rom-Com Leading Lady who “learns” to Let Her Hair Down and Just Have Some Fun. Insert giant eye roll here.
Assuming the above diagram is a spectrum, I’d put myself around the ¼ mark on the left. I’ll say now that 27-year-old me is at peace with herself in a way that 20-year-old me definitely wasn’t. I’ve accepted that I’m impatient, micromanaging, have a general inability to sit still, and that stress seems to be written into my DNA. Huge shout out to therapy, which has given me healthier coping mechanisms than I’ve had in the past. Rationality and self-awareness? Yes please, I’ll take both.
Carrie Bradshaw voice: What if women didn’t have to live in fear of being seen as Type A, but instead embraced the positives that come with our personality type? I’d like to toss out a new list of adjectives that reflect the way I see myself. (For what it’s worth, I also conducted minimal, and very biased, field research in the form of texting my closest friends and asking how they would describe me. Their answers were mostly in keeping with my list -- except for one, who said “Whatever Megan Thee Stallion says in that song”; I declined to include “sassy, moody, nasty” on my list.)
Now THAT sounds like someone I’d want to be friends with. Someone I’d like to have on my team at work. Someone I’d like to train with for a race.
I can, incidentally, think of many instances when you’d want to seek out a Type A. We work well under pressure, so if your flight is cancelled and you have exactly 12 hours to get home for Thanksgiving, you definitely want a Type A on the phone with the airline. We’re perfectionists, so if you have a big presentation at work, we’d be happy to give it a once-over for you. We’ve also thought of the worst-case scenario in every situation, and we’ll totally share our contingency plans with you if you ask nicely.
Please note that I’m adamant we shouldn’t let our bullheadedness run unchecked; all Type As need a prod to bite our tongues every now and then. In grade six, my teacher commented in my report card: “Paula, life is a marathon, not a sprint...SLOW DOWN!” I’ve had to remind myself of this on a daily basis ever since.
In my books, “Type A” as an insult is on its way to obsolescence. To quote the great Joan Jett, “I don’t give a damn about my bad reputation, you’re living in the past, it’s a new generation.” Let’s reframe our language when we talk about Type A women in the workplace (the adjective swap exercise is a great one). Let’s celebrate women who are highly competent, efficient, and goal-oriented. Type Bs, you’ll have your day, but this one is for us.
Paula Turcotte was born and raised in Calgary and received her B.Ed. from the University of Alberta. She has self-published a book of poetry and spends most of her weekends on a bike, in a tent, on cross-country skis, or hanging out with her dog. She makes a mean chocolate chip cookie.
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