Personality tests: pro-growth or anti-identity?

The concept of self-discovery has undergone critical changes and shifts along with the rise of the internet. As media consumers eagerly attempt to fit in with trends and change themselves for public approval, personality tests have been a determinant in the spread of superficial identities. 

As individuals rush to learn about themselves, from their 16Personalities type to what kind of pasta they are, nobody is immune to curiosity regarding self-discovery. 

The most popular personality test is the classic Myers-Briggs test, more well-recognized as the 16Personalities test. Individuals take a 93-question survey answering questions about themselves and receive a four-letter determinant. 

The test’s creators, Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers, were especially interested in Carl Jung’s research, namely his book “Psychological Types.” This initiative led to the identification of Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) types, which opened a gate for thousands of new identity tests. 

With the expansion of internet browsers, these tests are easily accessible and a form of entertainment or self-discovery for all. These surveys and questionnaires have a common determinant; following submission, the test-taker supposedly fits into a boxed category related to the topic. 

Although many use these tests for entertainment, it is crucial to note that these results can subconsciously alter the user’s self-perception. 

The creators of personality tests tend to advertise them in a way that appeals to those who are emotionally vulnerable. 

Individuals who lack a sense of self or hope to explore multi-faceted sides of themselves may conduct these surveys to grasp new sides of themselves, which ultimately becomes ineffective when strict labels only leave less room for development. 

These test-takers are likely to be clueless about the underlying biases of these surveys, as many are desperate for some sort of outsider analysis about themselves.

Survey-based personality tests with defined results rather than open-ended descriptions encourage examinees to broaden their horizons and answer questions about themselves free of bias. The irony lies within answering the questions themselves. 

Subconsciously, test-takers will select options they want to understand themselves as, disregarding their image in the eyes of outsiders. Very few people have enough self-awareness to confidently agree with the statements that could trigger feelings of inadequacy. 

Users tend to take tests to receive the desired results rather than answering questions with authenticity. This concept encourages individuals to consider whether personality tests promote growth or hinder authenticity among test-takers.

Many believe these tests are solely for entertainment or self-discovery. Within the past decade, some employers and managers have considered personality tests during job applications or other important decisions. Many employees fill out personality questionnaires or surveys to discover their strengths and weaknesses in exchange for unsolicited advice from websites. 

All personality tests have automated responses according to the personality of the best fit. The lack of personalization among these test results can lead to unnecessary suggestions or comments. Meaningful advice cannot be offered by these tests without having a personal understanding of the individual.Putting labels on individuals without an improved grasp of them contributes to a broader societal issue. Many choose to oversimplify certain human traits, which results in individuals’ complex personalities being overlooked by a reduced label. People are often identified by others with oversimplified personality traits, which stick to an individual, thus disregarding the need for self-discovery. 

In this age of insecurity and longing for personality, most people have low autonomy, meaning they cannot govern themselves. Those with low autonomy tend to take others’ thoughts into more consideration than their own, which results in an unhealthy mindset of appealing to outsiders’ expectations. These closed labels on different personalities and characteristics can hinder human growth as people conform to their labels rather than choosing to explore new sides of themselves. 

Wholly, personality tests and limited labels do more harm than good — without a personal connection with an individual, assigning them different traits and listing their weaknesses will only confuse them more, hindering self-exploration. These tests often describe one’s shortcomings, which utilize emotional appeals to take advantage of the test-taker. This defect only creates an outlet for inauthenticity as people tinker with their characteristics to fit into a specific stereotype or label. Stereotyping prohibits diversity among different personalities, which results in a uniform mindset regarding personality.

One way to combat these labels is through counseling, often an outlet for self-discovery and social awareness. Opening up to a therapist or a trusted individual for advice opens a window of possibilities. Complex personalities can shine through face-to-face interactions rather than limited interpretation through broad, biased questionnaires. 

Meaningful advice is offered specific to an individual’s situation, counter to the automated results personality tests provide. Another outlet for personality exploration is journaling, which creates a sense of self-awareness through personal dialogue and reflection. Completing this exercise individually without other distractions or stereotypes enhances mindfulness and prohibits outside judgment.

In a world defined by stereotypical labels, the path to genuine self-discovery remains a unique journey. By blocking out the uniform labels encouraged by personality tests and practicing self-discovery exercises, each individual can truly become free of stereotyping through mindfulness and self-reflection.