Beware the Fast-Foodification of Self-Awareness

When Personality Tests Do You More Harm Than Good

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Everyone knows their personality type, right? You take a test online, get your result along with a report describing your strengths and weaknesses and hey presto! you’re free to join all the relevant online forums where together with fellow members, you lament the challenges you share as the same personality type. Finally, you’ve found your tribe. Life is well and truly sorted.

Except it’s not that easy. The test is just the starting point. It’s the prompt for a deeper discussion to help you understand your unique preferences and tendencies, the catalyst to prise your natural self from the person you’ve learned to be, and the opportunity to explore the parts of your personality you’ve barely considered or valued up till now. With a qualified professional.

Did you have this discussion? Did your coach encourage you to compare the person you are at home with the persona you portray at work or college? Were you given time and space to reflect on how you react under stress? How about the chance to consider the blind spots where untapped talents might lie?

If you answer no to any of these questions, then please proceed with caution. Self-awareness at its best is a continual process of observation and contemplation. At its worst, it’s when people take the result of a personality test as an end product written in stone without questioning whether it best reflects their true self.

You see, questionnaires are not reliable tools. They are only as good as the data you put into them. We can skew the answers in several ways: by answering with our ‘work head’ rather than completing it when we’re relaxed at home; we answer when we are tired, cold or hungry. Other times, we self-censor the answers to fit the image we have of ourselves.

That is why we encourage you to work with a professional. Speaking as a licensed practitioner, I worry that too many people bypass the self-reflection required to go onto develop self-awareness, and instead jump impatiently to a solution without questioning it. It’s like being given an oven-ready meal without understanding how it’s made.

A burger and a plate of nachos have as much in common as what sets them apart. The value is in recognising both and understanding the merits of each. Both contain beef and onions, but tortilla chips enable 2 people to share the dish while the burger bun allows the burger to be eaten easily on the run. One is not better than the other. Both have advantages depending on the situation.

Therefore, it is critical we become aware of our unique ‘ingredients’, understand the environments where they will shine but also identify situations where we may need to stretch ourselves.

Having profiled around 1000 people, roughly 3 out of 4 people self-assess differently to their online-generated result. When given space to allow their natural preferences to rise to the surface, lightbulbs switch on. It is this opportunity to explore innate traits over learned behaviour that forms the foundation to self-awareness.

So, when people accuse personality tests of being no more than a horoscope and having little merit, I tend to agree. Every year, I randomly complete a couple of online tests to assess how accurately they get me. I know my personality very well and I remain unconvinced that any test should be used in isolation.

The purpose of personality profiling is to kickstart your journey with enough insight for you to continue to explore yourself so that you evolve to use your time and energy more effectively, communicate better and have more harmonious relationships.

It’s not about putting you in a box. It’s about valuing natural talents and strengths, and understanding where we might experience conflict and stress. Ultimately, it’s about empowering us to make better choices to live with maximum fulfilment and minimum stress. To succeed, you must understand where you are starting from. Please make sure you do. You are more than a cheeseburger.

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Previously published on 25 April 2020 at annaseabo.co

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