Where Your Personality Test Falls Short

There is something so beautiful about taking what has only ever been a concept in the subconscious and articulating it with such clarity that the conscious mind can begin to grasp it. This is especially powerful when we read well-articulated assessments of our personalities because it makes us feel known and understood.

This is the draw of personality tests—they were designed to give credence and validity to our tendencies. And while I take no issue with these tests, what saddens me is our urge to treat these assessments as an infallible doctrine of who we are and allow our identities to become cemented in these definitions.

Admittedly, I have struggled with this myself. There have been many times where I felt justified continuing down a certain path because it felt like a personality test gave me license to do so.

I’ve always generally understood that I struggled with relating to people, but it wasn’t until I read well-written commentary on this weakness that I finally began to understand it. The test told me that I hated small talk because I just wanted to get straight to the point of why we’re having to interact in the first place. It told me that I lacked the ability to empathize with others. In fact, I scored so low on empathy that it said I was almost in range with someone who had Asperger's. These are the things we read about ourselves and interpret as a point of pride rather than a weakness to be addressed because we relish so much that feeling of finally being known. So, imagine what happens the next time I’m put in a situation where someone wants to make small talk with me. Instead of just being slightly bothered by it, my irritation is emphasized because my ego says “This is who I am. I have a right to be this way.” Ego has taken what was merely a proclivity and promoted it to an entitlement, ultimately exacerbating the weakness.

Now, I’m not at all saying we shouldn’t endeavor to understand ourselves and how we’re wired. In fact, we should want to bring these concepts to our conscious minds in order to truly learn from them. The danger, however, is when we stake our claim on these definitions because we see them as a validation of who we are rather than insight into how we can better ourselves.

Today, I'm looking for reasons to grab my laptop and relocate my work station to be among the rest of the team. I care deeply about their personal lives as well as their professional trajectories. I’m outgoing when I get in front of clients and now make small talk all the time to encourage deeper relationships—not just because it’s good business, but also because I genuinely care about them and their success in life. Changing myself in this area doesn't mean I sold myself out to become someone I wasn’t. It simply means my awareness of this weakness engendered a responsibility to grow, so I did.

Personality assessments should really be treated more like potentiality assessments. Seek to understand what makes you tick, but refuse to dig your heels in and let your ego win. Finding the humility to improve and the courage to get uncomfortable in pursuit of growth says so much more about your identity than a personality test ever will.