I know personality tests are inherently flawed. They all are. Even if you are the most introspective person in the entire universe I don’t think they capture who you truly are personality wise. For many reasons.
One is that they are limited to broad strokes rather than nuances.
But mostly because who you perceive yourself to be Isn’t All you Are.
Yes, if you are introspective who you perceive yourself to be is going to have a lot of insight into your values, your flaws, your good traits and how you react and act. But it misses some things. And it always will.
We all have a Self-Concept. Some of us have a very complex self-concept. And I suppose for some of us this could be less accurate if it is distorted in some way. Or more accurate if we are extremely introspective. But in general, our Self-concept is our knowledge about ourselves that includes beliefs about personality traits, our physical traits, our values, our goals, our roles in life, and our abilities.
In addition to this, we have a Social-self and that is our awareness of how we are in various social situations. We all have different ‘selves’ we present to the world in different environments. Our work persona. Our hanging out with close friends persona. Our being around family persona. Being around strangers persona. Being around authority figures or professionals. Or whatever. We present different Aspects of ourselves. I notice it a lot because while I am most definitely an introvert some people would think otherwise because in certain social contexts around specific people I am actually More extroverted than normal. It makes me sort of an ambivert but one that needs down time and alone time and can go long periods of time without any social interaction. And personality ‘Type’ wise it is common for my personality type to be this sort of ambivert… and be able to turn on ‘extroversion’ when we wish to.
BUT then comes along the good old Self-serving bias
We have to preserve our self-worth. The brain knows how to do this. It will basically attribute positive traits and things to themselves and negative things and traits to other people or external forces to help maintain their positive self-image.
The concept of self-enhancement applies to the need to keep up one’s self-worth. If an individual uses the self-serving bias, attributing positive things to themselves and negative things to outside forces helps them maintain a positive self-image and self-worth.
But also as a way of self-presentation… we want to be perceived a certain way. So we will make excuses why something that happened wasn’t our fault… but some other external cause. And some people really do this a lot and have absolutely no awareness they are doing it. And some of us find ourselves doing it but are aware we are.
It is a defense mechanism really. Especially if you have an external locus of control instead of an internal locus of control (Things that happen have to do with what you do, your abilities and your skills and not external factors is an internal locus of control).
The Actor-Observer Bias
This bias is pretty common really. We often tend to attribute our actions to some external force we are responding to but with other people, we attribute theirs to internal forces.
So we believe they did something with some sort of conscious intent. But when we did something, well, we were just reacting to what was going on… not with any malicious intent or anything.
Hindsight bias is another funny one because we can trick ourselves into believing retroactively that we knew ALL ALONG that something was the case AFTER THE FACT. When we never actually did but because we thought about it a lot our memory sort of can distort things like that.
Misinformation Bias/malleable memory
We seem to think our memories are like facts. But they are not. Every time we Recollect something our brain can alter that memory. And it can be very subtly influenced by many factors which is why eyewitnesses are actually not that awesome. So after an event our memories can be alter a whole damn lot by why happens after the fact and that can be then encoded permanently into that memory- which we then believe is True.
What we miss in our perception of self is:
- How others perceive ourselves to be. There is an aspect or facet or yourself you do not know that other people actually Do know. You can’t see it because you are in your head, in your thoughts and not seeing your behaviors, expressions and reactions as they are. Literally the only way to gain insight to this facet of yourself is to ask other people how they perceive you. And you will learn facets of yourself you were unaware of.
- Your hidden self. There are aspects of ourselves that we literally hide from ourselves. Sort of to rationalize or maintain our core sense of self. Things we often do not consciously acknowledge but affect us in many obvious ways and many of the actions and choices we make. Like many of our limiting beliefs we may not even be aware of. And we have to dig pretty deep to find all this stuff. This isn’t on a personality test. Although, a good start would be the Enneagram test which does look at internal motivations and fears.
Unfortunately, although most tests are basically a mirror to our self-perception of our selves, we may not have an accurate Picture of Our Selves either. We may want to be a way we simply do not manifest. We may act in a way we do not think. We may be more emotional that we claim. We are not as introspective as we may think to our own behaviors.
Can we accurately tell our own story?
Humans are exceptionally great at fooling ourselves. I don’t think we have an accurate perception of Who we are. I don’t think we even have an accurate perception of our actual memories either since they can warp and change and contort with time. That is why witness reports are not exactly the best. Hell, five people can witness the same damn thing and have a different perception of it with totally different details.
We often mistakenly believe our self-identity is this solid thing through time but it is very fluid. So when we look back at ourselves we are not even close to who we are now but we seem to look back at ourselves through the lens of our current self.
We often rationalize our behaviors and actions to fit into our perception of self as a form of self-defense and self-preservation. No, you didn’t act like a dick because you were afraid of looking bad in front of others… you acted that way because that Other person said such and such and it was totally Reasonable for you to respond the way you did. Ah, sense of self remains intact. Good job, brain.
Most of what we do and think is pretty much on autopilot. Habitual thoughts. The same limiting beliefs. A whole lot of subconscious automatic thought processes we have no control over at all.
We do the same thing and get the same results and never seem to notice the patterns we are making. Over and over again. Because we often look to external factors to explain our actions.
Are we good narrators of our own story?
I’m an INFJ maybe.
I’m 5w4 maybe.
Are those personality tests telling me anything about myself? Or just my perception of myself? But if they are a perception of myself that is also fine because they so point out my potential strengths and weaknesses and that can help with personal growth. But I would not believe these are set in stone – although statistically with the Big 5 some things are pretty consistent over time, like Introversion.
Source: Check out some other cognitive Bias : List of Common Cognitive Biases