The scoop on personality assessments: How much weight should they really hold?

The scoop on personality assessments: How much weight should they really hold?

Individual Therapy Bethesda MD

Let’s imagine a hypothetical scenario. You’re sitting across from me on my therapy couch and I ask, “Do you know who you are?”

What is your answer?

Regardless of your response in that situation, you may be surprised to learn that most people (in real life) say some iteration of, “I don’t know,” and then pause for a second before continuing to exclaim, “Wow…that’s wild to think about. How could I be XX years old and not know who I am?” It’s not as rare as one might think, however. I once, in fact, grew close to a woman in her mid-60s who retired not too long after I met her. The most memorable thing she said to me was, “I’m so glad I’m retiring. Now I get to figure out what I actually want to do with my life!” Although I was shocked when I heard this, I’ve realized over the years that most—if not all—of us are on a lifelong journey toward discovering who we are and what we want out of this short life that we’ve been given.

So, human nature being what it is, many of us turn to online assessments to help us answer that vital question: who am I? Some are psychologically sound and scientifically verified, others offer more pop-culture fun, but they all share the ultimate goal: helping us gain at least a sliver of understanding about the complex inner workings that makes each one of us uniquely us. Here’s a brief list of some popular assessments. Some are serious and some are fun—I’m hopeful that you can tell the difference:

  • Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
  • StrengthsFinder 2.0
  • The 5 Love Languages quiz
  • DISC
  • The Hogwarts sorting hat quiz (for Harry Potter fans)
  • Zodiacs (technically not “personality assessments,” but still shed light on various qualities)

There are countless instruments available for use with the intention of helping you glean a clearer sense of who you are. While the quality may vary, I do think that personality assessments have a number of pros. First, they can help you uncover and give name to different aspects of yourself and your personality. If you’ve always felt different than most people, taking the Myers-Briggs Indicator, for example, might reveal that your INTJ personality type makes you slightly aloof and intensely analytical, but also friendly and warm with people you know, love, and trust. Assessments can also help you better understand people in your social orbit. If you know that one of your coworker’s top strengths is “Woo,” you may decide to assign him the task of maintaining morale on the team, trusting that it is a role in which he would take great pleasure. Finally, these tools can also provide useful information about careers, hobbies, and even partner qualities that would best congeal with your “type.”

That being said, it is important to keep in mind that no personality assessment is perfect or all-encompassing. Keep in mind that they can all, in some way, be fairly restrictive. Even if you have an ESTP personality type, that does not mean that every behavior, thought, and emotion you display will fit neatly within the box of what an ESTP is proclaimed to be. Also, one most guard against using the results as a significant basis for major life decisions. Just because an assessment says that you would make an excellent engineer, it does not mean that you must pursue that path. Similarly, Capricorns should not exclusively date Taurus’, although they are supposedly an ideal match. In other words, do not let your results choose your destiny for you.

Finally, try to diligently refrain from using another person’s personality score as an immutable lens through which to view them. A person’s Myers-Briggs type, DISC score, or Hogwarts house does not automatically dictate who they are or who they will become. Be intentional about using others’ results as a loose framework that leaves room for supplemental details to be added along the way.

Personally, I think personality assessments and tools can be excellent resources for helping to answer the central question of, “who am I?” Questionnaires that take a bit of time to complete (e.g., Myers-Briggs, DISC, and StrengthsFinder) tend to provide more detailed results that, I have found, more accurately speak to specific personality traits and characteristics. Others, like the Hogwarts sorting hat quiz, are fun and whimsical (but also eerily accurate!). Viewed within the appropriate framework (i.e., informative, but not dictatorial), personality assessments are often interesting and eye-opening tools that can, at the very least, spark some very stimulating conversations.

Do you have personality assessments in mind that you love or strongly endorse? If so, I’d love to hear about them. Sound off in the comments below!