Personality tests are always fun and offer insight, but do they really give us the whole picture?
If there’s one feeling every human needs and loves, it’s to feel understood. We crave the feeling of belonging from the time we’re tiny toddlers, to when we’re looking for a lunch table to join in our high school cafeteria, to when we’re searching for a life partner in our twenties or thirties. Finding a place, group, or person to call home is an intrinsic need.
Along with this need comes a desire to understand ourselves — how can we know where or who to call home if we don’t even know who we are, what we need, or why we function the way we do? Self-discovery and acceptance is, in our modern age, considered tantamount to our development.
In order to achieve an understanding of ourselves, many of us turn to personality assessments like Myers Briggs and Enneagram, both offering insight into our inner workings, reactions to situations, and needs. We read the breakdown of our “type” and almost feel like it was written specifically about us and begin to comb through our traits to see how they fit in with our newfound identity.
Personality assessments offer insight into our inner workings, reactions to situations, and needs.
As someone who benefitted from taking a Myers Briggs test, I always advocate for others to take the test. Taking the time to come to know our unique minds and personalities can aid us in picking a career path, knowing why we gravitate towards certain people, and learning our limitations. There’s quite a bit of wisdom to be gained through personality assessments that are based in psychology, but are they always helpful?
They Can’t Tell the Whole Story
The best parts of any personality test are the answers it can give us — we’re able to reach new levels of self-awareness by having the way we work explained to us. But what we often fail to realize is that these assessments don’t provide the full picture of who we are, and why. They just can’t give us all the answers.
Personality tests can easily give us the “what” by pointing out our behavioral patterns, lines of thought, and relational needs, but they don’t always explore the “why.” They’re able to present us with what we do, without being capable of walking us through our unique motivation. Not every introvert is introverted for the same reason. Not every extrovert will necessarily crave attention in the same way.
Personality tests can easily give us the “what,” but they can’t always explain the “why.”
Our personal story, upbringing, and trauma affect how we interact with the world. While factors of our personalities can fall into categories, it’s impossible to sum up the entirety of who we are with 60 questions followed by a four-paragraph breakdown.
It Could Make Us More Judgmental of Others
Personality tests have a limited amount of possible results — far less than there are people in the world. Our personality type’s analysis doesn’t capture the entirety of who we are, but it’s easier to comprehend that in reference to ourselves, because we know our personal story and motivations. But what about everyone else?
The danger with putting too much stock in someone’s personality type is that we’ll wind up making unfair assumptions about them, especially if we’ve had unsavory experiences with someone else who had the same personality type, or even if we simply consider their “type” to be our polar opposite. We’ll end up jumping to unmerited conclusions and determine the content of a person’s character without bothering to get to know them.
We Can Use Them To Justify Bad Behavior
We’ve all rolled our eyes after hearing someone exclaim, “Sorry I’m always late. I’m such a Capricorn!” While personality assessments that are actually based in psychology are far more aligned with reality than star signs, we too often use our personality types to justify behavior that we really ought to change or grow out of.
It’s easy to take advantage of what we think we’re allowed to get away with because it’s in our personality.
It’s really easy to take advantage of what we think we’re allowed to get away with because it fits in with our personality. Types that are known for being detail-oriented will try to micromanage everyone around them. Other types that tend to be scatter-brained will rely too heavily on others to keep them on track. Types that make decisions based on feelings will fail to think through their decisions, while types that value their head over their heart will believe the truth of their words to be more important than empathy.
Using our supposed personality type to stay stagnant and excuse bad behavior defeats the purpose of getting to know ourselves — shouldn’t we be learning about ourselves in order to grow into our best selves?
Personality assessments aren’t all bad — they can offer incredible insight and help us feel understood. But we can’t rely on them to answer every question or unveil every motivation, and we would be wise to see ourselves as far more than just a personality type.
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