by Zahra Ali
Our society is drawn towards this idea of ‘finding yourself’, as if a person’s inner self is something that is hard to reach. This explains things such as star signs, which tell you who you are based on your birth date, so that you can then be given guidance. However, our society is also quite fond of the idea that everything needs to be scientific, or have some sort of backing in order to be true. This explains personality tests. Many people believe that personality tests are a way to understand yourself in a more scientific way, and therefore, personality tests that have some sort of psychological backing are often widely trusted. Examples of this include the Myers-Briggs Test (16personalities.com) or the Enneagram test. But can we really use these things as a basis, to say: ‘this is me’?
According to the Myers-Briggs personality test, I am a Mediator. I’m also a type 4 personality type according to the Enneagram and I am an overall introvert (although I do have random spouts of extroversion- occasionally). I guess you could say these things tell you who I am. But can you imagine introducing yourself that way? It’s guaranteed to get you a few weird looks, at the very least, most people won’t know what you are, and at the most, you might get a wry smile, and that person will probably never associate with you again.
Okay, maybe I’m being a little dramatic. But- as a type 4w3 on the Enneagram- this can be explained by my tendency to overthink, right? Or has this been influenced by the way my day has gone, the weather outside, the amount of sleep I had last night or whether or not I had breakfast. See, this is the main problem I have with personality tests, despite my addiction to them. Many people claim to have received different results on certain test within the space of week, although nothing in their life has been majorly changed. It can be argued that this is due to the variables I mentioned earlier, and therefore, personality quizzes have been criticised as unscientific. And on top of this, I’m sure many of us have come across questions on personality tests, and altered our answers. Knowing they will be used to judge our ‘inner selves’ makes many people who take personality tests extremely uncomfortable, and psychologists would call this effect ‘demand characteristics’. Knowing your personality is being assessed, may mean some of your answers or biased, and therefore results are inaccurate.
Now, let’s go back to imagining that scenario I played out earlier, with a few added details. You’re at a networking event, there’s somebody you want to introduce yourself to, so you rattle off your personality types. They look at you astonished. If they know anything about personality tests, they will psychoanalyse you on the spot. If they don’t know anything about personality tests, they will get confused and probably walk away.
I understand that this would probably never happen in real life, but let’s examine why. It’s because a personality type doesn’t help people get to know you. So why do we expect it to help us get to know ourselves?
Of course, it’s still fun to do quizzes and compare your results to that of your friends, but let’s all remember, that a personality type is not who we are.