HAVE YOU EVER TAKEN A PERSONALITY TEST?
Attachment styles, MBTI, enneagrams, Gretchen Rubin’s four tendencies, etc…a lot of you who are interested in self-awareness love to use personality tests as tools to learn more about yourselves.
It can be comforting to take a quiz and get some degree of validation for why you feel the way you do.
It can help dispel shame to identify with a category of other people who have similar “personalities” (you’ll find out why that’s in quotes in a minute).
Categories can be useful in helping us understand ourselves and the world around us. But there are limitations to categories when we apply them to ourselves. Because when you identify as a certain “type” of person, that identity can calcify.
The foundation of thought work is that you create what you believe. If you believe you’re a certain type of person, your brain will seek out evidence that supports you seeing yourself as that type of person and will then take action that solidifies that identity. You will become that person.
And personality tests are essentially a survey of your unconscious, unmanaged mind. To use a medical analogy, personality tests “diagnose” you with a lifetime disease based on a symptom that’s actually totally “curable” (i.e. your thoughts).
The appeal of these tests is that they evaluate you and tell you who you are. But who you are is not an immutable circumstance. Who you are is just a collection of thoughts you currently have.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you have to (or even should) change your thought patterns! It just means that whether you’re into personality tests or not, it’s helpful to know that you can change your “personality” if you want to.
When you identify deeply with a certain personality “type,” you may be less likely to see the potential for change in yourself.
When you view your identity as a collection of thought patterns, then your personality becomes a choice. If you want to change your attachment style, you can observe the thoughts that are contributing to it and practice new ones.
Personally, I don’t want to identify with any thought pattern of mine. I like knowing that my thoughts (and thought patterns) are optional, even when I choose and like them.
I’ve actually shifted both my MBTI “type” and my attachment style pretty dramatically over the last 5 years by learning to change the thoughts that created certain feelings and actions for me. That wasn’t the goal of course, it’s just something I noticed happened after several years of thought work.
It’s freeing to know that I could make a different choice about my thought patterns at any time if my thought work goes in a different direction.
Even traits we tend to think of as fixed, like introversion and extroversion, are created by our thoughts and can change with thought work.
For example, I now consider myself more extroverted than I used to be because I don’t have social anxiety anymore, and I don’t believe that other people can drain me. I enjoy interacting with other people much more than I used to.
I also consider myself more introverted than before, because I’m more willing and able to enjoy time alone without needing other people to distract me from my thoughts.
You can choose on purpose what kind of person you are. What kind of person you want to be.
Isn’t that amazing?
Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to reject everything (or even anything!) about yourself. You can embrace your current thought patterns, I just recommend doing so consciously.
I have traits that others may find problematic, but I don’t particularly want to change.
I don’t like giant crowds like sports games or music festivals. I’m ok with this preference.
But I also know that I can change that if I want to in the future. If I fall in love with a sports fanatic, maybe I’ll want to learn to appreciate football! If I become best friends with a rock star (heyyyy Beyonce), maybe I’ll want to enjoy going to their concerts.
That, my chickens, is the ultimate freedom.
The freedom to make a conscious choice about who you want to be, rather than accepting that your unmanaged mind determines who you are.
You always have a choice about who you want to be. You just have to make it.