For some reason, I have always loved personality tests. I even love the silly online quizzes that tell me which Disney princess I am or which Hogwarts house I belong in (Ravenclaw, just so you know). I always take the results with a grain of salt, but I’ve taken several personality tests that have provided real, valuable insight.
After my sophomore year of college, I had a summer internship at a church in Greenville, South Carolina. Part of our training included a personality test called StrengthsFinder. It seems like hyperbole to say that this test changed my life, but it really did. It helped me understand myself better, and it helped me to be more confident about my unique skills and abilities.
StrengthsFinder draws its results from a list of 34 potential strengths. After completing the test, users are presented with their top five talents along with in-depth descriptions and advice about maximizing those strengths.
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I loved this test because it made me feel incredibly validated. Throughout my life, I have had a tendency to feel different. I can be quiet and introspective and awkward. I have a wild hairstyle and a weird sense of humor. Sometimes I don’t mind feeling like an outlier, but other times it makes me feel distant and alienated from the people around me. I find hospitality exhausting. I’m not naturally chatty and social. Especially in a church context, I often compare myself with others and find that I fall short and don’t fit in.
When I received my results from the test, I also received confirmation of what I had always suspected: My top strengths aren’t related to relationship building. My strengths are related to strategic thinking and creativity. I always thought my introversion and my struggle to be social were huge flaws in my personality. I was never able to focus on the things I was good at because I was always trying to be someone I wasn’t. After this discovery, I felt like I finally had permission to shift my energy toward cultivating these strengths rather than struggling with skills that don’t come naturally to me.
Of course it is good to improve on weak areas, but it’s important to embrace strengths so that we know how and where we will thrive. Learning the results helped me to feel more confident about my gifts and skills. They taught me about myself, and it gave me language to describe things I knew but couldn’t articulate.
Since that first experience, I have taken many personality tests. Myers Briggs helped me understand my introverted tendencies. The DISC Profile made me realize that I like to work in a precise and methodical manner. The Enneagram revealed that my quiet introspection can make me seem moody and melancholy when I’m in a group. These personality tests have been very positive for my personal growth, but I have also gained valuable insight about how I function as part of a team.
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My supervisor at my last job used personality tests to help initiate conversations about communication. Our team took the tests individually and then sat down and talked about our results together. It was a very healthy and productive way to discuss our differences. It made us more patient and understanding. It also improved communication and made later conflicts easier to solve.
Personality tests have also helped me appreciate other people. I am more mindful of potential conflicts, and I am more able to see personality differences as an asset. When I see a person with skills that I admire, I am now more apt to appreciate those skills rather than feel threatened by them. When I can think of gifted people not as competitors but as potential collaborators, I am inviting connection and positivity. I am learning not to compare myself with others but to rejoice in the variety of skills and personality traits that I encounter in people every day.
I know that personality tests are imperfect. They are not magical or prophetic, but if you take them with an open mind, you may learn something about yourself.