How many people have asked you, “What personality are you?” Or maybe they know what you are. “Oh, you’re definitely a ____.” If you know what they’re talking about, maybe you agree and chuckle to yourself. If you have no idea what they’re talking about, you feel a little lost. There’s this secret club where everyone knows what defines them and you’re not yet a part of it. Does that sound familiar? Personality tests have been around for ages. They feed into our natural obsession with ourselves, yes, but they also give us a sense of identity. They help us understand ourselves and in turn, understand others. For those purposes, they’re great! So what do I mean by “I broke the personality tests”? Why don’t they work for me? Well I’ll tell you. Maybe you’ve felt the same.
I was first exposed to the four personality types: Choleric, Sanguine, Phlegmatic and Melancholy, in high school. A friend of mine had studied them and she assigned each of us in our friend group with a personality type. If I remember correctly, she assigned “Phlegmatic” to me. I didn’t give much thought to it at the time. Essentially shrugged my shoulders and went along with it – which is actually a pretty Phlegmatic response.
When I started leadership training with my business team, I came across the book Personality Plus on our recommended reading list. I vaguely remembered the names of the personalities from my high school days and thought I was most likely a Phlegmatic. But the more I read about the weaknesses, strengths and various characteristics of each personality, the more confused I became. The Phlegmatic didn’t really sound like me at all! There were parts of the Sanguine I identified with, but I felt much more self-aware than the oblivious sanguine. The Melancholy personality was extremely relatable to me, but I was missing a key characteristic: being organized, neat and tidy. I was much more scattered like a sanguine.
Then I read about personality blends. But the two personalities I identified with most were – OPPOSITES. What?!? Now I was even more confused. The Sanguine/Melancholy isn’t a natural blend mentioned in the book, but I have found material on that personality type around the internet. They’re both emotional types and it makes complete sense to me that I would have both emotional types in my personality. All the emotions!!
Essentially, I began to feel as though I didn’t truly fit into any particular personality type. While my husband continued to reassure me that these were just guides and not intended to box us in, it frustrated me! I wanted to be boxed in! I wanted to feel I had a clear personality that I could then take and analyze. Then, maybe I could finally understand the motivation behind all the things that perplexed me about myself. Maybe another personality test would work…
Enneagram – Shmenneagram
The Enneagram personality test has also been around for so long, but in recent years it seems like it’s everywhere you look! I haven’t found a single Enneagram personality type that sounds like me. Inwardly, I feel like a “1”, outwardly, I think I present myself to others more like a “7”. Which one is me? Honestly? Probably both. The 1 is most likely equivalent to the Melancholy and the 7 is most like a Sanguine. So at least I’ve been consistent in my inconsistencies?
I’ve also looked at Meyers-Briggs. There are times I was certain I was an ESFJ. Then, maybe I was an ISFJ instead…was I extroverted or introverted?!? Other people told me I was extroverted, but deep down I loved being alone. I love people too! I can easily talk to new people and work a room. But I can just as easily keep to myself and hang back, depending on my mood.
I would think of myself in one way, then someone would perceive a different characteristic in me and it would make me second guess my own self evaluation. WHO AM I?!?
What was intended to give people a greater understanding of themselves and others had only served to confuse me more. Given so many options, I become overwhelmed with all the possibilities. Scenarios swam around in my head and I began to wonder, “well…how would I really respond?” I became trapped between what I wanted the answer to be and being honest enough with myself to recognize the real answer. This is why personality tests can be so challenging!
So Who Am I?
I finally came to the conclusion that I needed to self-evaluate apart from any test or book. What were my strengths? I started to cry (emotions, remember?) as I realized I was coming up blank. I didn’t know! If I knew what personality type I was, then surely I would know my strengths and then I would know my weaknesses. I could then operate in my strengths and be watchful and aware of my weaknesses. But I didn’t know. So I took some time to really think. I knew I did have strengths and very apparent weaknesses. So I made some lists. In full disclosure, I’ll share them with you here:
- Showing mercy
- Giving advice
- Coming up with ideas
- Relating to people
- Setting people at ease
- Being a “pushover”
- Overwhelmed easily
- Need to be right
- Want things done my own way
Then I came up with a third list:
Things I wish I was:
- In control
- Person of action
As I looked at my three lists, I saw definite areas that I could use to my advantage in all my pursuits. I also saw in my weaknesses, ways that I was holding myself back from operating in my strengths. When I looked at my list of what I wish I was, I saw everything that I try so hard to be, every single day. It doesn’t mean that I can’t grow in those areas, or become some of those things. But I think it is important for me to recognize what I really am good at, and give myself grace in the areas that I’m working on.
Who Are You?
Maybe you have found yourself in a similar situation, longing to be classified as somebody. Well, we are all pretty unique aren’t we? No one is one single personality to a “T”, regardless of what they may say. I believe there is still value in these personality tests and they are super fun to take! They can definitely help you to identify and understand certain personality types and traits in others. But ultimately, none of us can be defined by a test. Let them be guides as they’re intended to be. Don’t get too wrapped up in them (like I did) basing your whole identity around your test result.
I would challenge you to do the exercise I did. Find some quiet time to reflect. Think about what you know to be your strengths and weaknesses. Get really honest with yourself. I found myself able to think much more clearly when I didn’t have a bunch of suggestions on a page staring back at me. Then I could take my own lists back with me to compare to the different personality descriptions.
When someone asks me what personality type I am, I typically say I’m a Sanguine. It’s what I behave most like around others. Maybe you have a deep understanding of personality types and you feel like you’ve pegged me based on this blog post. Haha! I certainly believe that could be possible. What do you think I am? What are you? Let me know in the comments below! I’d love to hear what you think on the topic.