How to make sense of personality tests

Something to reflect on

Have you taken the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)? It is a simple, questionnaire-based personality tool, which uses your responses to sort you into one out of 16 personality types. In theory, you end up with a description of who you are as a person – often to a degree that can almost seem scarily apt.

In the first iterations of our Thriving Life Retreats, we had one exercise delivered by a Dubai-based UK psychologist that used the MBTI. He invited me to join and I typed as an ENFP: Extraverted, iNtuitive, Feeling, and Perceiving, often dubbed The Campaigner and a “true free spirit”.

At first, this seemed to make a lot of sense. I was super out-going at the time and in the process of working through a lot of my emotional baggage. I certainly led an unorthodox lifestyle, as well.

“Sure, ENFP.”

When I randomly bumped into Micah in Bali for the third time before we were a couple, I excitedly told her about my result, and she just smiled and basically said, “Isn’t that nice?” Later, it turned out that she smelled a rat but didn’t want to try and convince me away from my results, knowing that these things can’t be forced.

The first cracks started to appear during the very event where I found out about my supposed personality type. The psychologist wondered if I was really sure about the results, given how I often seemed to like sitting by myself during breaks and after-hours, and how I generally tried to make sense of things. Me, confident with this brave new version of myself, shrugged it off for the time being.

Eventually, once my internal dust had settled a bit, I reconsidered my results. And as it turned out, there is a personality type that wonderfully fits with who I am: The INTP or the Logician. The love of questioning things, discovering unique perspectives and a knack for spotting inconsistencies got me to a “t” – and suddenly, things started making a lot more sense.

Why am I telling you about all this? Because I think it illustrates an important component of personality assessments. All too often, the MBTI and other assessments like it are taken as a prescriptive, definitive thing. This can lead to people feeling stuck with a personality they have supposedly been prescribed, or even turn off people from taking such an assessment in the first place.

Stride on more confidently.

However, as my experience shows, this is not what personality assessments have to be. Quite the contrary: They can be a tool to delve a little bit deeper into who we are as a person. And like any tool, their effectiveness depends not only on the quality of the tool itself but also on the person using it.

In order to use the tool of personality assessments right, it is important to reflect and question it rigorously. The assessment gives you a suggestion about your psychological profile. Many things will feel right, but many things may not – and both are equally valuable.

The things that fit helped me a lot in coming to grips with myself, by showing me that I may not be as weird as I always thought. Everything else opened up avenues for further exploration that I would have missed otherwise.

So, I guess I just got reminded of the time I took the MBTI, and of the positive effect, it had on my life. Maybe it can have the same effect on yours, too – provided that you use it as a tool, and not as a prescription.

Have you taken the MBTI and what was your result? How do you feel about it?

42 thoughts on “How to make sense of personality tests

  1. I honestly don’t know how to feel about it, people are so complex and yet so many of us have similarities, something that categorizes us like the test, seems hardly convincing. But I liked it when I considered it as one of personality guessing quizes. I personally got ENFJ and INFJ both. 😅

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    1. Yes, that’s why they only really work as tools to gain more insight about oneself, not as determinants of an undeniable truth or anything. Funny you got both E and I! Would you say that being with people a lot is something that energizes you, or does it cost a lot of energy after a while?

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  2. Very wise post. Things change all the time. Some people solidly test the same thing, but others shift as their life circumstances do. I think I tested introvert, intuitive, feeling and perceiving…but I COULD have tested extrovert, not sure. My friend said that if you’re introverted you get charged up with energy being alone, and if you’re extroverted you’re charged up by other people. I definitely need alone-time to charge. Thanks for sharing this!

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  3. I’ve taken it and as you said, it’s accurate to an almost scary degree. My results show that I’m an INTJ. I’ve taken it a few times and I always get this. It’s helped me in reasoning a lot of my words and deeds, especially since a lot of introvert characteristics are misunderstood as rude. But I agree they should be a tool to learn more and not a prescription.

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  4. I’ve consistently tested as INFJ-A/-T, the “advocate.” I’d say it’s spot-on. This has helped me acknowledge aspects of my personality – especially my introversion and empathy – that explain how I interact with others and the world.

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  5. I have never taken the test, but it sounds interesting. I need to look into this. I have taken other personality and IQ type of tests tho. I definitely agree that we should not take these tests as a means to determine who we are, but use them as a tool to find out more about ourselves. It can stir up some things within you.

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  6. Aaah I love this test! I’ve done it multiple times (just for the sake of it) and always end up being an INFJ, which is almost exactly me. I agree that we should think about about the type we are assigned to check if it’s really ours though! However, once you figure out which type you are, I think it is really helpful, and for me it helped me to understand why I reacted a certain why in certain situations for instance 😊 Which type did Micah get ? 😊

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  7. I haven’t taken this specific personality test but I have taken several others through school, work and just curiosity. I think it’s important not to put our own selves in a box and say, “oh I guess I can’t do that because I’m xyz personality type.”
    Also, I love your photos! 🥥🍃🌴☀️

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  8. I had a personality test at work once upon a time. It was colours based, green was logical, yellow was creative, red was leadership and I’ve forgotten what blue was, it wasn’t a personality that is coming in the financial world. I came back red, very red, so red the tester said people would follow me off a cliff like lemmings and I need to act responsibly. A strange result as I am a loner and don’t like working in teams. As for being weird, there is an English saying: “Them’s all weird, except you and I, and youse a bit odd.” If being weird means that I am creative and happy, then that’s fine in my estimation. Hugs.

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    1. My father told me about this kind of test once. I suppose leadership doesn’t have to mean “loud and bossy”, but can also be “inspiring and trustworthy”, for example. I hope you use your power responsibly! haha

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  9. I have not taken it but you definitely have me curious about it. I have read Gretchen Rubin’s book “The four tendencies” and gained some very valuable insight on people’s tendencies. It has helped me to understand why I do things a certain way and why my husband (a different tendency) does things in a very different way. Before reading that book I never understood if I could do something why other people also couldn’t do it. Very informative!

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  10. I’ve taken the Meyers-Briggs test a few times over the years. Each time I’ve gotten different results, but I have changed/grown/evolved over time so I figure that makes sense. Currently, I am INFP which suits me the best. Can’t remember the exact ones I was before, but they always involved an E… which I don’t relate to at all anymore.

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    1. Yes, funny how the results can reflect our states of mind, no? E vs I tends to be much clearer when you ask: “Where do I get my energy from?” If the answer is social interactions, then you’re likely E. If the answer is alone time, then it’s likely I. This made it obvious to me that I’m I, even if I also enjoy group settings at times.

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