I hate personality tests.
They seem far too close to horoscopes to me, except of course that horoscopes are based on the alignment of the stars while personality tests claim to be based on psychology and research into human behaviour; for decades though I have rejected both of them as being more on the side of worthlessness than worth.
It really is just a personal quirk, as millions of other people, including those who work in HR departments, find these tests both informative and fascinating. And perhaps it is just in my nature to object to these tests at all, because according to the one I completed most recently, being put in a box of any sort drives me bonkers.
Yep, I took a personality test recently, and while the results seemed quite accurate, I was perhaps most astonished in that I have taken this test a few years ago, and it seems, somehow, my personality has changed in the intervening time.
This time my tests revealed me as an adventurer, someone who is fiercely independent and yet an introvert. It showed me to be unpredictable and someone who rejects tradition, convention and normalcy in favour of the untried, the untested and the unusual.
This is a far cry from what my test showed five years ago. And perhaps that is what bothers me most about these tests, as our answers very much depend on our true understanding of ourselves.
Five years ago I doubt anyone would have called me independent, let alone fiercely so; I was quite predictable and had been for years. I lived a very traditional and normal life, happy to be considered quite usual as opposed to someone who seeks things that are beyond the norm; and as such I expect I answered my personality test questions in that manner.
Five years ago, I may have still been an adventurer, but I suspect it was cloaked under who I “thought” I was or who I was expected to be; the wife, the mother, the quiet one who stayed at home.
And then, one day, almost as if a light bulb that had been dimmed for a very long time suddenly brightened, I began to remember who I was a long time ago, when I was far younger.
Unpredictable. Adventurous. Spontaneous. And frankly, always wise enough to know the consequences, but on occasion risky enough to play with them just to see where things might end.
I think that is the real trouble with personality tests; they require a firm enough understanding of oneself to answer not only honestly but with self-truth rooted in knowing who you really are, not who you may appear to others to be, or who you pretend to be.
Even when I did the recent personality test I objected to the idea of my unpredictability, arguing I was far too staid and set in my ways to be unpredictable; and then I reflected on all the crazy-ass, spontaneous, absurd, slightly bizarre, carrying-the-secret-to-my-grave things I have ACTUALLY done in my life and realized the truth of this trait, even if I was tempted to deny it.
And so, perhaps now, after fifty years on the planet and a difficult, occasionally painful but equally joyous journey of self-discovery and learning, I have learned who I really am, fiercely independent, unpredictable, adventurous and yet deeply sensitive.
Perhaps it is in learning who we are not that we learn who we are; this seems to have been the path I had to follow.
And while I now, grudgingly, accept that personality tests may well have some degree of accuracy, I have an even firmer belief that they are only as good as our self-knowledge, coloured by how we see ourselves and whether or not that point of view is accurate.
But unlike horoscopes, which will for me forever remain in the land of worthlessness, I can now read my personality test results and find some degree of worth, as glimmers of who I am shine through.
Do I think I – or anyone – can ever really be captured entirely in a personality test?
No. But do I think there is a chance that on occasion they can capture a glimpse of who we are, and perhaps even help us to see how we have changed?
Yes. And for me, that is a most unpredictable answer, too.