There's a fine line between knowing yourself and creating limiting identities or beliefs.
In the coaching world and the corporate HR world there is a lot of hype around personality types, enneagrams, introversion/extroversion, and other tools used to put people in neatly ordered boxes.
These tests can be useful for us individuals because it helps us feel understood, can point us in the right direction for our current skill set, and even point out our weaknesses and limitations so we can improve.
Managers and executives like these tests because they help them put people into boxes and order us appropriately so that we flourish under their leadership.
So on the surface everyone wins with these tools.
Like everything, there is a downside and these tests often become a problem for people. It becomes a problem because when you put people into behavioral boxes, they tend to accept their new confines and their growth becomes stifled.
That's why you will often hear me say, half seriously, these personality tests are like horoscopes 2.0. Like horoscopes, people will find themselves in all personality types because we all contain many different personalities. And like horoscopes, at least with those who take them very seriously, people will accept things about themselves as true and unchangeable and apply the same set of beliefs to other people.
Whether it is with personality tests or horoscopes, if you believe that you fit neatly in a type, you will start unconsciously limiting the choices you make. Like if you decide that you are an introvert, you may move towards quieter roles at work - avoiding things like networking, public speaking, positions that have lively meetings. Or maybe you avoid leadership because it’s not in your personality profile.
The way I view the world is slightly different but WAY more empowering.
What I do is encourage people to think about what they really want. When they've discovered that, I have them think of the skills they have and the skills they need to develop to get from point A to point B.
When you start thinking of your skills, or lack of skills, not as learned abilities, but as traits with which you were born, you start closing the box that the world wants to put you in. The walls around your potential become tighter.
The more you accept the simple fact that everything is a skill to be sharpened, the more empowered you become. After all, there is a huge difference between "I'm not good in social situations" and "I'm not good in social situations yet." Or "I'm not good at being assertive in meetings" and "I'm not good at being assertive in meetings yet."
So seek to understand yourself where you are today, but don't close the box that you are stuck in, because you're only stuck if you want to be.
Personality types are labels and I always encourage you to be very wary of labels because labels can enslave you just as much as they can serve you.
As an action step, jot down a list of all the labels you give yourself or others have given you that you have accepted. Look at each one and write down how they are helping you and how they might get in your way. Which ones need to shift and which ones need to go away?
Your life coach.
The Andrew Warner Podcast: