I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard this question, and for a variety of reasons! For example, Introverts (I) may think that Extraverts (E) have more fun and they get more attention. Feeler-Perceivers (FPs) struggle in structured environments, believing that Thinker-Judgers (TJs) were the ones who unfairly created them. Sensors (S) just don’t get why Intuitives (N) often seem to be in positions of leadership when they’re just “winging it” and not looking at the data.
I get it. We’re looking for insight into who we are so we can better understand ourselves. Many believe, “Maybe if I can see my results, see how I compare to others in the population, and learn about individuals who have the same results, then that’ll help me figure out what I should be doing.” And whereas I encourage each of us to dig deeper to really understand who we are so we can live life on our terms, taking a personality test is not going to give you all the answers.
Personality tests are powerful tools. They give us insight and new perspectives into ourselves. It’s fun and eye-opening to learn about others who have similar results and see what they are able to do. But don’t let what you learn limit what’s possible for you. Each one of the four personality type dimensions developed by Myers and Briggs can be expressed in a variety of ways. Take two people with the same type and sure, they’ll have qualities in common, but they’re not the same person and their experiences (and outcomes) will not be the same!
So, let’s dig a little into your results. Not in the context of who you are, but who you want to be.
Who do you want to be, and where does that idea come from?
So, is there a specific personality type you were hoping for? Which one(s) and why? I’m trying to understand what makes you want to have a different result or be a different type to the one you got on your test results.
- Did you look at research that stated that certain types would be more successful at something that’s important to you? (Examples: earning potential, leadership roles, creative expression)
- Do you imagine that a different result would be more fun or would allow you to connect more easily with others?
- Do the people you look up to have different results and you want to be like them?
- Did you look at research about your personality type and didn’t think there was anything particularly special about that type that stood out?
These are just a few questions. Maybe your reasoning for wanting to be another type is completely different, and that’s OK. There are no right or wrong answers. The intent here is to get clear on what’s making you wish your results were different. And if you’re reading this article, on some level this difference matters to you.
Is external pressure influencing you?
The first thing I’m wondering is whether the idea of who you want to be is coming from you or from elsewhere, such as someone you value, or cultural/societal expectations. Again, there are no wrong answers. I just don’t think that anyone is disappointed because you’re a specific result (such as an I or an N). The issue is what someone believes the results mean. For example, what someone believes it means to be an I, or believes it means to be an N. I understand that the external pressure can be challenging. Fortunately, you can do something about it.
Does the data discourage you?
Once you know your results, it’s interesting to see how your type compares to others in a variety of arenas. Depending on what those charts and graphs show you, you can easily feel encouraged or deflated. But here’s the thing to remember – those charts are based on two things: statistical averages and the past.
- Averages: You are not sentenced to be average. There are outliers in all data. And by investing the time to learn about yourself and choosing to use that data to better yourself, you are on your way to becoming above average (or even an above average outlier).
- The past: Achievement or success in an area is defined and measured by the values at the time. These values change over time with each generation. For example, in business, emotional intelligence is a recently valued quality as compared to the traditional, strong leadership styles of the past. As time progresses, the dimensions that make up who you are may be the next aspirational personality type.
Were you hoping to be like someone else?
Is there someone who you admire or someone who just exudes qualities that you wish you had? Does that person have a different personality type? If yes, let me ask you: do you really want to be that person? Or do you want what that person’s qualities help them achieve?
Let’s use more specific examples. Does that person connect easily with co-workers and customers? Does that person have a talent for influencing others? Does that person have a talent for strategic thinking? What does the person have (that you believe you don’t) that makes you wish you were a different type?
Once you identify that, then you’re a step closer to identifying what you really want in your life. And achieving that is not solely dependent on a personality type result.
Discover the power of who you are
Most of us undervalue who we are. We compare ourselves to what others tell us, what we see publicized, and what goes viral on social media. We focus more of our attention on external messages on who we should be rather than developing a healthy relationship with ourselves and listening to the messages from within.
Ultimately, we hurt ourselves by:
- Jumping to conclusions on the perceived differences between who we are and who we want to be
- Imagining how much better it would be to be someone else without considering that often those people feel the exact same way about someone else (or even you)
- Taking score too soon on who we are and not giving ourselves a chance to grow and develop through experience
- And most importantly: not valuing our unique perspectives, and not truly understanding our natural talents and how to effectively use them
The most common mistake I see in people is that they do not see, appreciate, or value who they are. If you read your personality type result and thought “So what?” you’re likely taking your talents and perspective for granted. You’re so close to your own thoughts that you believe that those thoughts and ideas are common. You likely assume that everyone else thinks that way. You may even be holding yourself back from striving for more or even speaking up because you fail to see the value and strength that you bring to every situation.
The funny thing is that people look at data in order to understand what’s possible for them. But the data only tells them what’s been done, not what’s possible.
Explore other ways to accomplish what you really want
Not getting the result you want may actually be an advantage for you. Sometimes we believe that we need to be a certain way to achieve a desired goal. But the truth is that we can accomplish that desire in a completely different way using the innate talents within ourselves.
For example, let’s say that you want to be seen as outgoing, popular, or outspoken. You may think “But I’m an I! I’d need to be an E to be those things.” The truth is that none of those qualities are exclusive to Es. An Introvert can easily be seen as outgoing, friendly and approachable, though likely in familiar environments or among smaller groups. Popularity is not limited to social interactions. Popularity can come from creating a broadly appreciated idea, solution, technology, or even a song. And being effectively outspoken comes from conviction to the topic at hand. A person doesn’t need to be regularly vocal to be outspoken. A person can be outspoken through writing, creating, and connecting – all things that Is can effectively do.
Plus, no matter what your personality type results are, the results for each dimension are on a continuum. You may naturally lean towards one end of each dimension, but that’s not an all-or-nothing result. You can learn to intentionally draw from the other side of the continuum as needed.
Choose to be a trailblazer
I’m a fan of using personality tests to learn about yourself. I believe they’re incredibly powerful tools and a springboard to help you see yourself differently. However, remember that these tests are tools. Don’t let them define or limit your beliefs on who you are and what you can do. Think about the pioneers, trailblazers, disrupters, and outliers out there. These are people whose personality test results likely didn’t match the results of those around them. They most assuredly had major moments of self-doubt and loneliness. But it’s those differences (combined with their commitment to strive forward) that allowed them to stand out, achieve something new, and ultimately make an impact and a difference.