Life is all about discovery: we want to know as much as we can about who we are and why we are the why we are. For centuries, our personalities and identities have been branded and packaged based on a broad spectrum of personality ‘types’– introvert or extrovert, for example – determining what way a person is most likely to act based on their mannerisms and charisma.
In a bid to understand more, some 2.5 million people undergo personality tests like the Myers-Briggs every year. But this method of systematically placing people into different ‘types’ based on the raw ingredients of their personality seems a bit outdated and has created a large intro-extro divide in doing so.
Naming can be limiting
Do you remember taking those mediocre personality tests in secondary school way back when? The one’s where you would bring the results to your guidance counsellor who would determine what career you’d be best equipped for based on the results? Or perhaps you’ve taken one recently in work so your superiors could determine the best role for you within a company. You ticked boxes that you thought best suited your personality out of an unambiguous list – outgoing, nervous disposition, active etc – unknowingly programming you with traits you may not even have and potentially denying your true personality to shine through based on what other people see.
Now, more and more researchers, psychologists, and social scientists are realising that identity tests are less scientific than originally thought. What these tests fail to acknowledge, ScienceOfUs reported this week, is that as we age so too do our personas; where a positive and uplifting person may shift towards more assertiveness and loudness. Similarly, you could have people who are highly extroverted and highly neurotic. There is also ample evidence that says that big life events change personality traits, as can dispositional mindfulness — like being able to describe your experience – and can protect against depression.
We love putting ourselves into categories because it’s a simple solution. But life isn’t some kind of Sims game where you can simply choose what kind of behaviour you have. We’re much more than loud or quite, rambunctious or shy. We’re intelligent and always-evolving beings. We should learn from one another and explore the different facets the personality spectrum in order to understand it as a whole. We need to shed the outdated, limiting, and self-diagnosed notions of binary personality because it’s not useful for understanding who we really are.
So whether you identify as an introvert, extrovert, ambivert,or upsidedownvert, it doesn’t matter. Don’t limit your potential; just do you.