Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Why Personality Assessment is Bullshit

In my last exceptionally long post about finding the right gym, I went through a very lengthy discussion on finding the ideal gym based upon personality types, including a long assessment of my own weird-ass personality. The point was to get you to start thinking about how you match up with the culture of the place you decide to train. 

Now I'm telling you personality tests are bullshit.

Welcome to El Diablo Jiu Jitsu! ;-)

Okay, maybe not "bullshit" per se, but personality tests can be be problematic. Why? They could limit your potential for growth. The problem comes from the certainty of tests and how we perceive them. Once we determine our "type", we may not try quite as hard to improve on elements of that personality type that may be construed as negative. 

Certainty is the enemy of growth

How does this work? Let's say you take the Neris Types Indicator test over at 16personalities.com, the test that was the basis of the prior post. And you get the INTP type (the type I get approximately a quarter to a third of the time depending on mood.) Part of this personality type is a disdain for rules and guidelines. You already have a tendency to ignore rules and such, and the personality type just reinforces your behaviors. Nevermind that you JUST answered questions in a way that resulted in you getting the INTP type results. For the next few weeks, months, or even forever, you now feel justified in bucking all rules and guidelines, even those which may cause harm to yourself or others. Boss doesn't let you eat at your desk? Screw him, I'm an INTP! Stop light turned red? Suck it, cops, this is just who I am! The sign says "Keep your hands off the dancers"? Ain't no bouncers gonna stop me! You get the idea.

Why does this happen?

Because the test told you this is your personality. 

We assume the results are innate and unchanging, so we don't bother working to improve or change them. This is how personality tests can be dangerous - they close us off to self-improvement.

This is exactly what has happened to me in the past. Despite being an outgoing, sometimes-over enthusiastic teacher who loves interacting with others, I'm somewhat of an introvert. I need regular periods of quiet and solitude, usually to recharge and do some deep thinking. Over the last few years, I've learned to regulate this quite well, to the point where only my good friends know I'm an introvert. 
This wasn't always the case. 
Back in my younger days, I read a book about introversion and extroversion. I immediately identified with the former. The book went on to describe the elements of introversion, which included shyness and social anxiety. After reading the book, I started noticing those traits in myself. Interacting with others seemed to make me kinda nervous, and I started having difficulty approaching strangers... especially women. Why? Because I was an introvert, and that's what introverts did

Thanks to that wonderful phenomenon we call hindsight, I now understand I was experiencing a self-fulfilling prophecy. After reading about the symptoms and behaviors of introverts, I became hypersensitive to my own behaviors in social situations. It's kinda like when someone asks you if you feel itchy, and all of a sudden all you can feel is itchiness. Our brains attune to the faint sensations we'd normally ignore. When I was approaching strangers, I suddenly noticed twinges of anxiety... which produced more anxiety. That anxiety then led to shyness, something I had rarely experienced before. I spent years experiencing this all because of that stupid book. 

Don't fall into this trap

Here at the El Diablo Jiu Jitsu project, I'll talk a lot about self-improvement. Both Shelly and I have been on a perpetual quest to fix our shit ever since we got together a decade and a half ago. And we've made incredible progress. Over that time, we've gained some incredible insight to human psychology in general and the factors that lead to positive, measurable change in particular. 

We're not self-help gurus. We're not life coaches. We're just normal folks who continually seek out the best methods to grow and learn. One such lesson- don't let personality tests pigeonhole you into believing you can't change. 

Now get out there and train!


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