Ever caught yourself wishing you could trade your personality results with a charismatic friend? Or yearning for the same four-letter code as a determined, ambitious coworker? 

You might be suffering from personality envy.

Personality tests are meant to be tools for self-discovery, helping people to better understand their strengths, weaknesses and how they relate to others. But while many individuals find reading through their results enlightening and empowering, for some, learning more about themselves dredges up a lot of negativity. 

Rather than feel seen, heard and understood by the words on the page, they fixate on the aspects of themselves they don't like and long to change. In fact, they may even reject their result altogether, taking the test multiple times to try and get a ‘more desirable’ type.

Of course, no one type is any better than another. So, what is it that makes some people develop personality envy? We spoke to two personality coaches to find out. 

Personality envy: the symptoms 

Within the Myers and Briggs personality system, individuals are assigned one of 16 distinct personality types. The qualities between each vary widely, from Extraverted, gregarious ENFPs to fastidious, logical ISTJs

While every type has strengths and blind spots—for example, ESTPs can find it hard to value emotions and ISFPs can be unpredictable—some people are far more likely to view their strengths and weaknesses through a negative lens. 

Rather than use their personality results to learn more about themselves, they criticize their traits, wishing instead that they could be more ‘outgoing’ or ‘logical’ and less ‘rigid’ or ‘flighty.’

Envy, of course, is wanting what someone else has. Personality envy is wanting someone else’s personality traits. This isn’t run-of-the-mill “I wish I was more confident / organized / decisive” thinking. It can manifest in a desire to change who you are entirely, to become someone completely different. 

And it has everything to do with self-worth. 

As research shows, people with high Neuroticism scores and low self-esteem are far more likely to engage in frequent, futile social comparisons. Neuroticism is one of the personality dimensions of the Big Five system, and individuals who score highly tend to experience negative emotions including sadness, anxiety, guilt and shame.

According to life coach Allison Fisher, these traits can cause envious and self-critical thinking such as, “I wish I was more talkative” or “I'd like to plan ahead more but I don't.” 

“Comparing yourself to others means not accepting yourself and your wonderful personality, thinking that someone is 'better' than you,” Fisher explains. “This constant criticism could really impede your ability to enjoy who you naturally are," she says, warning that berating and finding fault with yourself can negatively impact mental health. 

Is society a little bit to blame? 

While low self-esteem undeniably plays a role in how people perceive themselves and their personality results, societal expectations could also have an influence. One study from the 1990s found that Extraversion is deemed a more socially preferable trait than Introversion in the Western world. 

“Because Extraverts find it easier to approach new people, are more talkative and comfortable speaking up at meetings, they are seen and heard far more," says Fisher. This means that an Introvert can often feel invisible and unheard, a situation that psychologist Ty Tashiro, PhD, explores in his book AWKWARD: The Science of Why We’re Socially Awkward and Why That’s Awesome.

Generally speaking, people feel awkward when they experience “deviations from small social expectations,” Tashiro explains in his book. If society is laying down expectations for Extraversion, Introversion or other personality traits, then it follows that individuals with a different type than expected—an ISFP in the boardroom or an ESTP at a book club—will feel out of place.

In this state of mind, it's easy to be swayed by the comparison trap—in other words, wishing you were like others you deem ‘better’ or more included than yourself.

But to view personality theory in such binary terms would be a mistake. 

Even the most Introverted person can become animated when impassioned or among friends and family. In the same vein, no one person is 100% logical or emotional, nor Sensing or Intuitive. 

“We all display aspects of each of the 16 personality types,” says career coach Kyle Elliot. “These assessments aren't labeling you, but rather providing an opportunity to better understand yourself and those around you.”

“Anyone can speak up and use logic, regardless of which type they possess. Each type has its own strengths and unique advantages. No one type is better than another."

From envy to self-acceptance

If you are struggling to accept your personality results, carving out a new perspective is critical. Instead of criticizing yourself, you can use your feelings of envy to become aware of areas where you need to be more self-accepting. 

And the 16-type system is perfect to do that. 

“Rather than labeling yourself as an ‘Extravert’ or ‘Introvert’, it can be helpful to shift your thinking to, ‘I tend to direct energy outward’ or ‘I tend to direct energy inward,’” Elliot says. “With this shift in how you describe your personality, you're focusing on your natural preferences rather than assigning judgment."

The cure to envy, then, has nothing to do with trying to change your result or act differently. Instead, it's about recognizing you are enough just as you are. 

“Comparing is very dangerous. It infers that one type is better than another; as we know, this is simply not true,” notes Fisher. “Type is intended to identify the strengths of people so they can utilize them. The world is made of many different sorts of people with many different gifts, all contributing to the whole.” 

“Type is never about 'being better' than. It is about finding out who we naturally are, using those talents and developing skills in other areas if there is a desire or need.”

Hannah Pisani
Hannah Pisani is a freelance writer based in London, England. A type 9 INFP, she is passionate about harnessing the power of personality theory to better understand herself and the people around her - and wants to help others do the same. When she's not writing articles, you'll find her composing songs at the piano, advocating for people with learning difficulties, or at the pub with friends and a bottle (or two) of rose.