The Dirty Secret Personality Tests Don’t Want You to Know

SELF | 5 mins

Here’s a completely imaginary conversation I never had with someone we’ll call, Tim. It might sound familiar:

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TIM: “Kyle, I just took the Myers-Ennea-Strengths-Briggs test, and it said I would be in Hufflepuff and I just feel like, ooooomygosh I would be!!!!”
ME: Mmkay.
TIM: “I mean, OMG, that’s sooooooooooooooooooo1 me!”
ME: Cool. I’m going to start calling you Cedric Timmory2.

Ever had the experience where you take a personality test, diligently input your answers, and find yourself sweating over the existential meaning of suddenly extremely important purpose defining phrases like, “Given the choice would you rather sky-dive naked or eat week-old meatloaf?” I don’t know! I’ve always wanted to sky-dive, but I also love meatloaf—which is more ME???????

Of course, you have. You’re reading this on the internet. Which was created to take you on a Holy Grail-like quest to find the one personality test to rule them all.3

So, here’s a question for you: Why do you take the tests?

The answer is likely that you want to learn more about yourself; to better understand who you are and all of your unique strengths and weaknesses. Maybe even to get closer to your true purpose in life.

If that’s your answer, I’m going to pop your personality bubble.4

Personality tests can’t tell you who you are.
Personality tests can’t tell you your purpose.

The dirty secret of personality tests is that they only tell you what you already know about yourself.

There are loads of books5 all about how to trick innocent people into thinking that you can read their mind. The basic technique is to ask a series of questions which lead the person answering to tell you information that you can then reframe back to them without them realizing that’s what you’re doing. To them, it’s brand new information and insights. To you, it’s just what they told you parroted back in a different way.

This is the trick of personality tests. You answer the questions about you using your current understanding of you. The test then reflects your own understanding of you back to you using different language.

There are no new insights in personality tests.

The feeling of “OMG, that’s me!!!!!” is because, uh, yeah—it is. The test told you what you told it you already know about you. That’s why it feels soooooo much like you.

Let me pump the brakes for a quick second: I’m not saying personality tests are useless. They’re not. Personality tests can be very helpful in understanding how to interact with people who aren’t like you. In my life, I’ve leveraged the strength of personality tests (namely, the reframed language they spit back out to you) to help other people better understand me—and me, them.

They’ve actually been really helpful in my marriage. My wife is the exact opposite of me in nearly every way. She’s an introvert; I’m an extrovert. She likes stability; I like spontaneity. She seeks order; I seek adventure. Understanding each other and getting to a level of empathy has been a 13-year uphill climb. But personality tests have been a big help. The language that personality tests use to reframe Sara’s own understanding of herself has helped me understand her better because her values and biases are so deeply ingrained in her that putting language to them is challenging. Personality tests do it for her. That’s incredibly valuable. If you want to better understand your spouse, someone you’re dating, friends, co-workers, or Tim6—personality tests are a fantastic tool.

But keep them in their lane.

If you want to know what you’re made for, the answer can only come from outside yourself.

That means you must have perspective that is explicitly different than your own. In my opinion, the best place to learn who you are and why you were made is from The Original Source: the One who created you. You may not believe it, but I believe it for you: You are not an accident. You were made on purpose by a God who loves you, placed into the arc of history precisely at this moment and has an incredible destiny for you.

Want to know more about it? Borrow this language to start a conversation with God:

God, I’m not even sure You’re out there all the time, but if You made me, I want to know why. And I want to know You. If You have good plans and a purpose for me, let me in on it. I’ll be looking and listening for it.

Second, ask people in your life who know and love you (and maybe even know and love God) what they think you were made for.

Then do it. You’ll be on your way to not only knowing your purpose, but doing it.


1oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo
2Okay, I just want to go on the record and say I feel bad for ol’ Cedric Diggory. First, he was in Hufflepuff (stop it, you know it’s the worst). Second, he—spoiler alert—shows up quickly and then dies a horrible death. Third, I feel bad saying this, but honestly, I’m not even sure Cho liked him that much. Pouring one out for you, Ced.
3Oh, it’s not why it was created? Well, it’s how the robots that run the planet have cleary adapted it then.
4Looking your way, ENFPs, 3s, Gryffindors and Pheebes.
5Go to Amazon and search for “how to read minds.” You’ll find loads. I don’t recommend them.
6Nevermind. You don’t want to learn more about Tim. Trust me.

If you’ve gotten this far, you’ll probably want check out The Journey.

Written by Kyle Ranson on Sep 19, 2019
Process, journal or discuss the themes of this article - here's a few questions to get the ball rolling...

Discussion Questions

  1. What strikes you most about Kyle’s article? And more importantly, which Hogwarts house would you be in?

  2. What drives you to or away from personality tests? Why?

  3. How do you feel about the idea that there’s a God who has a good purpose in mind for you? Do you believe it? Why or why not?

  4. Wherever you are on the spectrum, try Kyle’s three tips at the end of the article this week. Ask a friend to hold you to it, and circle back together to spur each other on towards living a more purposeful life.

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