On personality tests + boxes


Confession: I love personality tests.

I love them for the same reason that I started this blog and why I write what I write—because I love figuring myself out.  I like knowing why I function the way I do, and I like having something to document and visualize that, whether that’s a piece of writing or a series of letters that results from the Myers-Briggs test or a list of my top 5 strengths according to the Clifton Strengths Finder.  These things help me to know myself.

I’ve also been learning lately that personality tests, like us, aren’t perfect.  They can’t give us a full picture of who we are.  There’s going to be gray area, parts of our test results that don’t exactly match who we are and how we function.

And as someone who has always felt driven by a need to understand myself, that drives me crazy.  I want to believe so badly that personality test results are 100% accurate.  I want to be able to match those results right down to the smallest letter, with no room for variance.

But there is variance.  There’s inconsistency.  And I sometimes get irrationally upset when I see it in myself.  I’ve been seeing it a lot lately as I seek to better understand how I function at work and what kind of jobs fit me best.  Results of a variety of tests suggest that I’m supposed to be a natural improviser and quick on my feet, and while it’s true that I’m not much of a planner, I’ve never been much of a quick thinker, either.  I can abandon any plans I may have in an instant without being frazzled.  But creating a new plan on the fly to take the old plan’s place?  Not so much.  And many of the careers suggested to me through test results don’t appeal to me, leaving me confused as to where else my talents and strengths might be useful.

It’s one thing to not possess certain strengths.  Everyone is different.  I get that.  But it’s another when a personality profile that is otherwise pretty accurate, something that has been compiled after much research and study, contains a few things that don’t quite fit me.  That sends me into a mini-crisis.  I think I need to fix myself so I can fit my results.  It’s not something I can control, but it discourages me anyway.

Like I said, I still believe that personality tests are great tools.  But they can trick us into thinking that human beings are simpler than they really are, or that we are bound by hard and fast personality rules depending on our type.  They can cause us to get overly tied to labels.  They can lead us to believe that humans are nothing more than things that neatly fit into boxes and molds.  But we weren’t made for boxes.  Attempts to simplify people only water down their reality, but their reality is best accepted and embraced at full-strength.

I’ve always struggled with feeling secure in my identity.  I’ve turned to music, social media, titles and descriptors, places, and more, thinking that they would put that insecurity at ease.  But they’ve only ever contributed to and worsened that restlessness.  Attempts to fill myself up with them have only ever left me empty.  And putting so much stake in personality tests isn’t proving to be any better.  Because humans are messy and ambiguous.  They’re curious mixtures of paradoxes and interests and strengths.  They’re not neat or easy to pin down.  I’m usually okay with acknowledging that in others.  But I don’t want to accept that about myself.  I’ve never been good at just being, at accepting myself for who I am without questioning or agonizing over it.  I overthink it.  I hoard arbitrary identifiers—most recently, personality test results—and expect to be able to squeeze every last ounce of myself into them, as if they can fully contain all that I am.

I like to understand things.  I like to know why things are the way they are.  But I think this mini identity crisis—the most recent of many—is God’s way telling me that I just need to trust who He made me to be.  Not worrying about whether I fit certain labels or wishing I fit them more perfectly.  Not wishing I possessed strengths that I lack. But trusting that things will come together and make sense in due time. He has His reasons for making me the way that He did.

I don’t think God operates in labels and boxes anyway.




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