What is Personality? Definition, Types, and More

For better or worse, why do we do things in the way that we do? If you’ve ever looked in the mirror and asked yourself who you are, you’ve wondered about the definition of personality.

Personality definition can be as specific as a fingerprint or as global as the recognition that everyone has emotions, temperaments, and patterns that shape the way we go about our lives.

Personality is the term we use to describe someone’s pattern of thinking and behavioral characteristics across various external situations. If we say someone is “usually” meticulous, we can assume the person is detail-oriented whether they are working, playing, or traveling. Someone who has a reputation for having a good intuition will generally apply it no matter what they are doing.

Seen as a whole, a person’s unique cluster of characteristics is informally called their personality, and it shapes how we relate and refer to ourselves and each other.

How can you measure a personality?

There are two basic types of personality tests used to help define someone’s main characteristics.

1. Projective tests, such as the Rorschach Inkblot Test or the Thematic Apperception Test, are typically used in psychotherapy settings to allow therapists to quickly gather information about a client in real time. They would include a holistic view of body language, tone of voice, etc. that forms the springboard for long term therapeutic analysis.

2. Self-report inventories, such as Typefinder which is based on the Myers-Briggs system, DISC, or Enneagram, ask the individual to answer a series of questions that narrow down the main patterns of behavior and identify them. These measurements can be standardized and use established norms as a place to begin self-analysis.

Personality tests are widely used for putting together work teams, diagnosing changes in personality, relationship counseling, and career recommendations. They form a foundation for self-acceptance and a framework in which to measure personal growth.

The basic personality definitions

Personality tests rely on specific categories that help to type personalities. For example, the Typefinder results place test-takers on a scale between opposite ends of a spectrum or traits in four main areas:

  • Introvert vs Extravert. Knowing whether you are more of an Introvert or an Extravert would tell you how you manage your energy and what it takes for you to feel and function at your best.
  • Sensing Vs Intuition shows you how you process information. Sensors rely on their five senses and Intuitives use abstract thinking that involves theories and patterns. The scale moves between the practical and creative types of approaches.
  • Thinking vs Feeling balances the way we make decisions. Thinkers tend to use logic and reason when making choices while Feelers follow their values and assess how they might affect others.
  • Judging vs Perceiving. Finally, the test will assess how you approach structure in your life, and whether you are more of a Judger who likes plans, order, and stability, or a Perceiver who prefers flexibility, spontaneity, and fluid plans.

Other tests, like the DISC, profile personalities into the four areas of Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Compliance. The Big Five personality test will assign test-takers among the five broad domains of Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. You can read more about the DISC test here and the Big Five here.

In addition to main groupings, most tests give you insight to sub-categories or sub-types, lending  insightful complexity to your dominant type. For example, the Enneagram test measures nine personality types and, after identifying your basic personality type, provides you with a whole series of influencers, such as wings and arrows, that round out the total picture of who you are.

No matter which test you choose to take, you will be closer to learning about your personality characteristics and gain a deeper understanding about what defines your own personality.

Why should I define my personality?

Personality tests teach us about ourselves in a fun, safe, and constructive way. Discovering what your personal strengths and weaknesses are can be the beginning of personal growth and transformation. Realizing that all personality traits are a positive part of who we are can be the encouraging message that brings self-confidence to every area of our life.

Once you understand that you are introverted, for example, you can plan ahead for a small break during the big party you are going to, knowing that fifteen minutes of fresh air will revitalize you more than caffeine ever could. You will be your best self.

If you can understand why your partner does things in a particular way, it fosters new ways of approaching joint ventures. If a Judger and a Perceiver come together to make plans they can take their personalities into account and include elements of both order and flexibility. It isn’t personal…it’s personality!

Defining your personality can help explain your behavior toward others and in the everyday things that you do. It’s an easy way to gain insight to the ways you approach life and invites you to look into ways to improve yourself.

You have a big personality

Most movie stars, social media mavens, authors, or presidents rely on a particular style to create what we’d call a “big personality.” They are famous. Or infamous, according to their spin. Don’t confuse a marketing ploy that capitalizes on a single aspect of a person with the real personality that sits behind it.

It’s easy to mistake caricatures for character.

As attractive as it is to simplify ourselves into a “larger than life” persona, everyone knows better. We are complex, compelling creatures and understanding the moving pieces allows for deeper relationships and personal satisfaction.

Reputations, generalizations, and tendencies are just the beginning buzzwords that open the conversation around personality definition and discovering the whole human. The definitions are a place to begin learning about who you are and a powerful tool that can help you navigate your life with character and confidence.

Jolie Tunnell

Jolie Tunnell is an author, freelance writer and blogger with a background in administration and education. Raising a Variety Pack of kids with her husband, she serves up hard-won wisdom with humor, compassion and insight. Jolie is an ISTJ and lives in San Diego, California where she writes historical mysteries. Visit her at jolietunnell.com

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THE FINE PRINT: Myers-Briggs® and MBTI® are registered trademarks of the MBTI Trust, Inc., which has no affiliation with this site. Truity offers a free personality test based on Myers and Briggs' types, but does not offer the official MBTI® assessment. For more information on the Myers Briggs Type Indicator® assessment, please go here.

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