If you’re reading this, we can likely agree that having a deep understanding of personality in general, and your personality type in particular, is a really great thing. Understanding personality psychology can help us in almost every aspect of our lives.
But is it possible to take it too far? Can you be obsessed with personality to the point that it becomes harmful? Might putting too much emphasis on personality type be limiting you instead of helping you?
Here are three examples of how personality obsession can be problematic and cause you to overlook other components that make you who you are.
1: You use your personality type as an excuse
- I’m a rational type. I’m not good at expressing emotion and I don’t have the temperament for treading lightly around others’ feelings.
- I’m a creative type. It isn’t in my nature to keep track of expenses or follow a detailed plan for a project at work.
- I'm a supportive type. I’m not cut out to be a leader as I don’t have the charisma to take charge.
If you find yourself saying something like the above statements, you might be using your personality type as an excuse for not making an effort to meet the needs of the situation.
It’s true that certain types of work, lifestyle, communication, socializing styles and so on come more naturally to certain personality types, and you don’t have to be all things to all people. But there are times when, to get the job done, to show kindness to others or just to be a well-rounded person, you have to lean into certain activities and attitudes that don’t come as naturally, at least a little bit.
If you frequently find yourself saying “I can’t do that because I’m a —-”, you may be taking your obsession with personality too far.
2: You let your type put limits on what you can do and be
- My personality type isn’t adventurous. My dream of traveling around the world isn’t something I should even try.
- I’m not a creative type. That painting, cooking, writing or music class just isn’t for me.
- My type isn’t good with people, so I couldn’t possibly be a teacher or manager.
If there’s something you’d really like to do but you're avoiding it because it doesn’t seem to fit your personality type, then you're defining yourself too narrowly. Your personality type is just a description; it was never designed to keep you from trying something new or exploring a side of yourself that’s been dormant until now.
Let’s say your favorite color is blue. You feel good wearing it, you smile when you see something that’s just the right shade of blue, and you’re happiest in your all-blue room.
It’s great to know what suits you, but you might find that sometimes adding in a yellow scarf, a green throw pillow or some pink flowers in your blue bouquet may brighten your life even more. You’re still a “blue person,” but you can enjoy the other colors now and then too, without losing your identity.
But if you tie all your identity up in your particular personality type, you might not be living up to your potential or enjoying life as fully as you could be.
3: You ignore other important factors that affect your character
While personality type is a highly useful tool for understanding yourself and others, it's not the whole picture. There are other important things that make each of us unique, whatever our personality type.
- Your values
Our personal values are what we each feel are important, worthwhile and right. While our personality traits come naturally, we may need to make a conscious effort to live by our values. Living in alignment with our values can often require stepping out of our natural personality traits and stretching ourselves. For example, if your values include being truthful, you may need to step away from your personality type's tendency towards people-pleasing and find the courage to speak up even when it’s difficult.
Resilience is the ability to deal with stress, challenges and setbacks without being defeated by them. In fact, a truly resilient person copes gracefully, bounces back after adversity and possibly emerges even stronger than they were before. Their happiness is not dependent on their circumstances.
Resilience is not something we are just born with. We can learn and cultivate it to become happier and more successful, whatever may happen in our lives. And resilience is not the domain of any one personality type. Anyone can be a resilient person.
- Emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions, as well as those of other people. It’s becoming increasingly important in today’s world, since it helps us to create better relationships with others, handle stress, and understand our own motives and needs. Again, emotional intelligence has nothing to do with our personality type. All of us, no matter what our traits may be, can work on being more emotionally intelligent.
- The choices we make
Whether to go all out for your dreams or take the path of least resistance, stick loyally to your values or take the easy way out – these are all choices anyone of any personality type needs to make. In this sense, our choices are among the most important factors that make us who we are and determine who we can become.
Of course, your personality type will make you more likely to make some kinds of choices rather than others. But they’re still your choices to make, and different people with the same personality type can and do make different choices.
Knowing your personality type – and those of the people in your life – and making good use of that understanding can be immensely helpful. Personality theory is also fun, interesting and can enrich your life.
However, it isn’t all there is to life, or all there is to you. So, rather than letting it limit what you can do or be, think of it as a useful tool, one piece of the complex puzzle that makes you who you are.