Are you agreeable? Conscientious? Open to experience?
Do you consider yourself an introvert, an extrovert, or perhaps an ambivert?
One hundred years ago the first wave of personality tests reached the marketplace, providing us with a new tool by which to answer the most urgent of questions: Who am I? What makes me unique? How do I appear to others?
There now are dozens, if not hundreds, of personality tests on the market and they surely serve a purpose – helping lovers find a mate, employers find a fit, psychologists find solutions. Above all, these tests help us recognize, and acknowledge, the differences between us.
But there are dangers in taking their results to heart. Explains Melissa Block, writing for NPR: “On the one hand, believing that there is something innate or essential about who you are means that you don’t have to apologize for who you are … On the other hand, I think it can make you feel like you don’t have to take responsibility for changing.”
Personality and behavior are not fixed, they change throughout our lives. Defined patterns persist, no doubt, but human beings are not static creatures. We change with the times, we’re shaped by the company we keep and we grow from our successes and failures.
Said personality researcher Brian Little, in a 2016 TED Talk: “Are we just a bunch of traits? No, we’re not. Remember, you’re like some other people and like no other person.” Little, an unapologetic introvert, adds: “I’m uncomfortable putting people in pigeonholes. I don’t even think pigeons belong in pigeonholes. So what is it that makes us different? It’s the doings that we have in our life – the personal projects. These are free traits. What are these free traits? They’re where we enact a script in order to advance a core project in our lives. And they are what matters. Don’t ask people what type you are; ask them, ‘What are your core projects in your life?’ And we enact those free traits. I’m an introvert, but I have a core project, which is to profess. I’m a professor.”
For those who enjoy personality tests, and I do, I’d recommend the Big Five, which enjoys both consistency and reproducibility. Writing for fivethirtyeight.com, Maggie Koerth and Julia Wolfe explain: “The Big Five doesn’t put people into neat personality ‘types,’ because that’s not how personalities really work. Instead, the quiz gives you a score on five different traits: extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, negative emotionality and openness to experience. For each of those traits, you’re graded on a scale from 0 to 100, depending on how strongly you associate with that trait. So, for example, this quiz won’t tell you whether you’re an extrovert or an introvert — instead, it tells you your propensity toward extraversion.”
Beyond the Big Five, you might enjoy the unique “Fascination Personality Test” which, instead of measuring “how you see the world,” tells you “how the world sees you,” according to their website. The site notes: “If you’ve already done a test such as Myers-Briggs or DiSC or StrengthsFinder, you have a point of view on the way you see things. But with the Fascination Personality Test, you’ll see yourself through the eyes of your clients and co-workers.”
Personally, I’ve taken dozens of personality tests (many of them, multiple times). I enjoy them, they allow me to reflect on how I perceive, and interact with, the outside world.
So the next time you think to yourself: “Well, that’s just the way I am,” keep in mind that if something feels amiss, the capacity to change lives inside you.
There is power and beauty in evolution.