Personality Tests Can Hinder Your Personal Development, Here’s How
I am The Consul (ESFJ-T), 91% Extraverted, 54% Observant, 55% Judging. I have the same personality as Anne Hathaway, Elton John and Mariah Carey (yay me). The truth? These results just indicate a very small portion of who I actually am. Personality tests are always fun, it is exciting to realize more about myself and to even be compared to famous celebrities; however, it becomes dangerous when I rely on it as a guide or compass as to how I should behave or function, especially in social settings.
Firstly, let us understand what ‘personality’ actually means. Psychologist Walter Mischel defines it as ‘the distinctive patterns of behaviour (including thoughts, feelings, and emotions and actions) that characterize each individual enduringly’. To put it simply, personality refers to individual differences in characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving, according to the American Psychological Association.
Psychologists have further sub-categorized personality into multiple aspects to study, such as traits, behaviourism, humanistic theory or the biological perspectives of personality. In short, there are too many aspects included in the umbrella-understanding of personality to be possibly squeezed into a 20-part questionnaire. In fact, no one can say that these tests are 100% reliable, it simply does not cover all aspects of a person’s way of thoughts, methods of processing and expressing emotions as well as how these two translates into our behaviours. An over-dependence on these tests could in fact, hinder our personal development.
Here are three ways how personality tests can potentially hinder our personal development:
1. A lazy self-image
Simply put, our self-image is how we view ourselves. It is what we think of ourselves and how we perceive ourselves – a positive self-image could give us the confidence we need to conquer difficult social settings whereas a negative self-image could lead to a low self-esteem. How we view ourselves is more important than we realize! With personality tests, we assume the results are true and encompasses all of who we are.
When we have accepted these categorizations, percentages or labels as truth or as our identity, we then become lazy to go on a true journey of authentic self-discovery. Sometimes, these journeys are exhausting – any forms of identity crisis are daunting and it just is not fun to constantly question your values, motives or intentions; but it is very necessary. We reach a point in life where we simply have to confront ourselves to find out what we like, what we agree with or what we value – these forms our principles, that functions as a moral compass. There is no shortcut, and in fact, these will continue to evolve as we experience new things in life. However, over-relying on the results of a personality test might leave us stuck at where we are, unwilling or unable to grow.
I have come to a realization that I like my alone-time and I am not that big of a social butterfly – even though I thought I was, because hey – I’m 91% Extroverted! It scared me a little bit when I wanted to stay home every once in a while, to watch a funny movie, read or reflect; I thought these changes in behaviours suggested that something was wrong with me. I later then realized that it was probably because I was so busy trying to be busy in order to meet the criteria of being a ESFJ-T, that I missed out on the joys of resting and refreshing.
2. It becomes an excuse
When we do come across uncomfortable situations, we then use these ‘findings’ as an excuse to avoid them. For example, if a person was told they are 88% Introverted, they use this as a justification to avoid social settings. Of course, you shouldn’t push yourself beyond your limit, but you also shouldn’t hide behind these obituary indicators. For example, if you keep declining your colleague’s invitations to hang out after work – not necessarily solely because you are an actual introvert, but because there are underlying reasons you avoid being intimate or vulnerable with your co-workers – you give off the impression that you are aloof, distant or even rude. You also avoid confronting the underlying issues you are silently pushing off. If you find yourself to be a little more socially awkward but continue to hide behind these labels, you create an unnecessary obstruction for yourself to grow or improve your social skills.
This could even translate into irrational behaviours such as justifying impatience or lashing out at people simply because it is “part of my personality”. As people, we should always work towards self-improvement, however, using these test results as excuses to behave in vulgar manners could be dangerous not only for stunting our personal self-development, but it also hurts the people around us.
3. Falling prey to the self-fulfilling prophecy
According to Wikipedia, the self-fulfilling prophecy refers to the socio-psychological phenomenon of someone “predicting” or expecting something, and this “prediction” or expectation comes true simply because one believes it will, and their resulting behaviours align to fulfil those beliefs.
Your mind is more powerful than you think, and your beliefs have power to shape your behaviour. If you continue to believe you are introverted, or you’re more of a ‘follower’ than a ‘leader’, or if being messy is simply who you are – you are endorsing or encouraging potentially unhealthy behaviours. Although everyone has equal opportunity and potential to be groomed into a leader, you have unconsciously decided to self-sabotage and be a ‘follower’, this could result in you falling behind in work or even missing out on a promotion.
The scariest thing about this is that we are unaware of it even happening! Because you have accepted the self-image the tests have assigned to you, you then continue to make excuses to allow such behaviours to carry on; before you have the time to correct your mentality, it has actually become who you are. This could be a positive thing if you are adopting virtuous traits or it could just turn into many bad habits.
Personality tests are entertaining, and can be a useful tool in a journey of self-discovery, or could facilitate you towards the right direction. However, we need to be careful to not let them take control or take over our decision-making or our behaviours. The next time you take a personality test, take it with a pinch of salt and remember: these tests do not define us.