Are you an introvert or extrovert? Are you loving-empathetic or Machiavellian-manipulative? Do you have low self-esteem? Are you adventurous? dominant? anxious? narcissistic? psychopathic?
Many people think that they can learn something about themselves when they take a personality test. I doubt that. Self-knowledge does not come that easy.
Consider what is going on in your mind when you fill in a personality test:
- Do you judge your personality based on abstract reasoning or a large, balanced set of examples from your life?
- Is there maybe one particular example you predominantly associate with a certain concept? What makes that example come up?
- How do you know that your affective unconscious does not distort how you remember and evaluate your past behaviors?
- Does your behavior not depend on the social context? Are you always the same: whether you are alone in your room, among your buddies, at work when your boss is watching you, at work when he is not, with your parents, coming home from boxing training, in a club successfully hitting on hot girls, or in a bar getting rejected by them?
- Maybe you have just been in a fight, banged a new chick, broken up with your girlfriend, or done something way less exciting?
- When you judge yourself, do you compare yourself to a social standard, to other people, to how you were last week, last month, or when you were younger, or is it a random mixture of many comparisons?
- Do the answers you have already given influence your further answers because you want to be consistent? or inconsistent? What makes you want to be that?
- Are you more likely to take a personality test when you feel lonely, unsure about yourself, bored, or overwhelmed by work? Did you google the test, did it appear in your Facebook feed, or were you asked by a friend or a psychologist to take it?
- How might your physiological state and the room you are in affect your thinking? Are you sitting in a cold, silent room or are you standing in a warm, crowded hall with music running in the background while you take the test?
- Are your answers biased because you want to be more outgoing, more assertive, or more mysterious? How much do you care about the outcome? Who else gets to see your results? Will they have social or economic consequences?
- Could wishes and expectations influence your self-evaluation?
- Do you regularly think about the qualities that make a person attractive to the opposite sex?
- Is your personality your true self or a character you play?
- Is your true self a rigid structure or a dynamic system?
These are just a few of the reasons why I deem the results of personality tests extremely limited for enhancing self-knowledge. Sure, they make you reflect on yourself, they trigger introspection, but they do so by making you think about your past.
You are not your past, you are a present being. Your emotional memory shapes that being, it does not reveal it, and it does not even reveal itself fully to you.
If you want to gain self-knowledge, take massive action, live a rich and mindful life, reflect on your everyday behavior with a humble mind, read books slowly, and open yourself to the idea that you might find your true self when you are least aware of it—when you surpass your ego.
- The Detriment of Self-Knowledge
- What Are Your Core Values? (Find Out Here!)
- How Scientists Measure Emotion Regulation
- Does Psychology Describe Reality?