She remembered who she was, and it changed everything.
The first time I was given a personality test, I was 23, fresh out of college, and very, very sure I knew exactly who I was, how I function, and what I value. At the time, I was a student in a small ministry school, and the aim of the test was to help us communicate better as a team that would eventually go to India together on a mission trip. I agreed to take the test, but I felt condescended to and frustrated.
I was unique—how could I be categorically labeled and defined by a formula?
Turned out, I lacked so much self-awareness that I was unable to sufficiently answer the questions on the exam, which happened to be the Myers-Briggs questionnaire. I didn’t know how I related to people, how much I valued my own time and space, or how I perceived and processed my environment. I scratched in answers on the paper test, and received a result that reflected my ambiguity. I fell down the center in two categories, meaning I had answered so unevenly that I debunked the carefully crafted formula.
Ironically, my prediction that I was “unique” was fulfilled—but gave me zero insight or sense of identity. As far as knowing myself went, I could pinpoint personal preferences and tendencies but not much else.
Still very much a work in progress, I moved on and dismissed personality tests as useless.
Thank God, over the next 6 years, I would grow and learn enormously, and my personality would continue to evolve through meeting different people, working different jobs, and living in different places. I would gain some much-needed patience and kindness, and perhaps most significantly, self-awareness. I would realize that as humans, we do fall into some basic categories of psychology that can actually prove quite helpful.
In many ways, we’re not as different from each other as we like to believe.
When I took the same test as a 28-year old, my answers were quick and sure—and the result proved revelatory. I’ve learned that I’m highly social, generally optimistic, and that I operate from what I feel and perceive. This insight has helped me choose the right career path, and learn to be a better friend/daughter/sister/colleague. Reading about myself from an objective source has helped me flourish.
When you know who you are, it changes the game. If that’s not enough to convince you, here are 5 reasons you should take a personality test.
1. Making career decisions.
Personality tests help you to identify the parts of you that make you uniquely gifted/strong/efficient, as well as the parts of you that are lacking/flawed. The advantage of this knowledge is not so that you can brag about your strengths and try to work on your weak points, but so that you can maximize your gifts and compensate for what’s missing.
This is undoubtedly super valuable in making a choice about your job. Choose a career path that will benefit from what you are already good at, and avoid a profession that requires you to become something you’re not. For example, if you can identify that interacting with people is draining for you, maybe avoid serving at a restaurant or working at a hotel.
When I learned I’m an ENFP through the Myers-Briggs test, I found that one of the key traits of ENFP’s is that they are extremely curious—explaining my continual to drive to learn about what’s new and what’s next. The results recommend that ENFP’s pursue careers that are project-based and/or creative—i.e. writing, which is what I do professionally.
2. Understanding how introverted/extroverted you are.
Personality assessments help you to understand how you relate to people, and what your “social capacity” is—that is, how much you either gain or lose energy from being around other people. The reason you get grumpy quickly around your roommates is that you might be more introverted, and need plenty of time alone to recharge. Likewise, you might feel unfulfilled in your office cubicle because you thrive on people, and incessant emailing just isn’t enough to satisfy that drive for face-to-face interaction.
When you know how introverted/extroverted you are, you’ll be able to take better care of yourself—and your relationships
3. Loving people better.
Examining your own results from a personality assessment can be powerful, but examining the results of the people you know and love the most (including family members, coworkers, friends, etc.) will probably prove to be just as insightful. If your roommate or boyfriend has a trait that really grinds on your nerves, or she/he seems to be headstrong in a particular area that you don’t understand, reading their results can show you the “why”– and empower you to be more patient.
When you learn how it is that people are different from you, and why that’s okay, you can learn to love and understand them better. It’s okay that your best friend wants to plan your Saturday together bit by bit, and you want to go with the flow and just “see what happens.” Learn how to compromise, and you’ll find harmony.
4. Learning from past mistakes.
When you can identify your flaws or weaknesses, and acknowledge them without shame or frustration, you’ll look at your past mistakes with new clarity. You may be able to pinpoint why it is that you made the choice that you did, which will empower you to avoid the same mistake in the future.
As an ENFP, I can be “independent to a fault,” which has manifested in various ways since I was about 3 years old. I’ve sometimes had trouble learning to depend on other people to help me with practical tasks, or even to meet my emotional needs. As a younger adult, I preferred to have total control over my day to surrendering it to someone else’s agenda. Now, I realize that losing control is (usually) necessary if you want to bond with another human being.
5. Seeing the beauty of diversity.
As much as I love to pore over my own results and sink into introspection, it can be equally interesting to look at all of the other possible outcomes of personality assessments. When I see all the different ways a person can function, think, and feel—and how different they are from my own unique ways of planning my day, relating to people, and thinking about life in general, I have a fresh take on the vast, beautiful diversity of people.
Personality assessments not only teach you to know yourself—they teach you to understand just how creatively we have been created. We’re made with talents, flaws, quirks, and preferences, that together, beautifully and messily, complement each to make up this thing we call humanity.
The different assessments
My favorite personality test is Myers-Briggs, which you can take for free and will give you a rich, thorough analysis of how you function in your career, family, friendships, and marriage, as well as make recommendations for how to thrive in all of these areas. There are 16 basic personality types, broken down by extroverted/introverted, intuitive/observant, thinking/feeling, judging/prospecting (I’m an ENFP: extroverted, intuitive, thinking, prospecting).
I have also taken the DISC test, which is simple and straightforward, and the Gallup StrengthsFinder, which gives you a detailed report of your strengths/weaknesses that is very helpful in a workplace environment.
Whichever you choose, I believe that you will finish with a stronger sense of identity and greater sense of insight into what makes you you.