(aka Why You May Not Be Finding Your Personality Type)
Sometimes when talking about personality typologies, I have heard the response “I don’t connect with any of the types.” Or another similar response of, “I see myself in many of the descriptions.”
As I have been thinking about it, I have realized that there are a few different reasons as to why these responses come about:
1. Incomplete (or inaccurate) information
There are a LOT of online tests and quizzes, websites, articles, books, and podcasts about personality typology. It is very easy to go online, take a random quiz that “tells you your type,” read the description, think that it doesn’t describe you at all, and declare the system stupid. The problem is, most of these systems were not designed to be reduced down to ten multiple choice questions analyzed by a computer. Psychologists have spent decades writing books upon books about these topics and so if you are relying on a 5 minute quiz, it’s very possible that it will (a) not give you an accurate result or (b) describe the type in a quick, shallow way that feels oversimplified. None of us like being reduced down to a number or combination of letters. I know I even resist tests that seem to categorize based solely upon external behavior. And rightly so! We are so much more complex than that! My husband and I can both agree to go to an event, for example, and it be for entirely different motivations. Our behavior may look the same, but the complexity of our decision isn’t necessarily outwardly reflected.
So, what to do in this situation?
Do More Research. I suggest, if you are really serious about determining your type, that you look for some resources that are less pop psychology and more academic. I’m not saying you have to go read the original writings of Carl Jung, but maybe find someone who has. Find a book/site/podcast that specializes in the system you are looking into. Better yet, find a few. Compare and contrast the ways they describe the types and take note of the depth of their analysis. (Note: be prepared… you will actually have to READ, not just take a quiz.)
Look for Subtypes. For example, some people who study the Enneagram (a typology system) have different ways of looking at subtypes. One may focus on your wings (the types adjacent to yours) and the other may focus on instinctual variants. Is one more accurate, nuanced, detailed? Is one more helpful? More beneficial to your understanding of yourself and others? Or even, is there a way you can synthesize the information and learn from both? I can’t give you the answers… That’s something you’ll have to decide for yourself.
Not physical blindness, but a blindness to your own ways of operating, your internal mechanisms, your wiring. Some of the typology systems deal with things you may have never thought about before (your way of taking in information, for example. See the perceiving functions in Myers-Briggs) or emotions you may be avoiding or repressing. We all repress, to some degree or another, certain thoughts or feelings. Subconsciously we may deny our loneliness, shame, anger, neediness, etc. because they are not enjoyable feelings. This can make it very hard to fully identify with a type if it is describing struggles you deal with but don’t consciously recognize. If you aren’t connecting with any specific type in a system, consider that it may be your understanding of yourself that it causing the disconnect. Thankfully, this is one that doesn’t require a library full of psychology textbooks…
So, what to do in this situation?
Pay Attention. Start to cultivate self-awareness. Watch how you interact with the world and pay attention to what is going on behind the curtain. Try meditation or journaling. It can be quite difficult to see your subconscious motivations, to be self-aware of your triggers, emotions, thoughts, etc. We pick up so many habits and automatic ways of functioning from childhood that often times we really have to dig into ourselves to see them. Plus it can be really intimidating to get in touch with these parts of yourself! And so my next suggestion…
Find a Counselor or Therapist. Seeing a mental health professional can be incredibly helpful for unearthing the deeper parts of yourself. It can provide you with a safe space to explore and a guide to come alongside you through the process. Sometimes having someone else there can bring a lot of clarity and point out things you may have never seen (or acknowledged) about yourself before. You may even be able to do this with a spouse or close friend, just make sure it’s a safe and honest place. And at the end of the day, it is you who has to see (and accept) what is going on inside of yourself. Again, we all do things for different reasons. Other people can guess at what is going on in your mind and heart, but only you can truly discover and know that.
3. Type Transcendence
If you are having trouble identifying with a type in a system, and have already fully and honestly considered #1 and #2, there is a possibility that you have transcended type! I believe that one of the primary aims of systems (like the Enneagram in particular (yes, I know I am bringing it up a lot… it’s the one I am currently deep diving into so it is on my mind!)) is to identify areas of growth in order to work towards developing balance. Theoretically, with real and sustained personal development, one would successfully transcend type. I personally haven’t known anyone who is at this place, just given the fact that it would take immense amounts of courage, self-awareness, persistence, and time to achieve this state, but I definitely won’t deny the possibility!
So, what to do in this situation?
If this is you, honestly I am surprised you are on this little blog of mine! You probably have read quite a bit about personal development and therefore know a lot about yourself and humans in general. In this case, maybe you should consider starting your own blog/website/podcast/book. You could share the things that have been beneficial to your journey and come alongside others (myself included) as we try to work towards a whole, balanced, and healthy self.
There is one final reason I have been able to think of for why you may not identify with a certain type in a personality typology system…
4. It may not be a useful system.
All personality psychology up to this point is theory. And sometimes theories are wrong. It is entirely possible that you can’t find yourself in the system because the system is an outdated or incomplete way of looking at humanity. Because in reality, of course all of these systems are going to be incomplete. Humans are incredibly complex. However, I would recommend using this reason as a last resort. Before you write off an entire system, make sure you fully understand the nuances (NOT the pop psychology version), make sure you have taken an honest look inside of yourself to see if you are overlooking or suppressing anything that may be linked to the disconnection, and understand that growth, balance, and transcending type can be a marker of a healthy person.
And a final note, while it is completely okay and understandable to not find a certain system beneficial for you, remember that other people may be growing and developing because of it. And isn’t that what this is all about?
(Actually, you may find yourself wondering, what are typology systems about? Check out this post for my view on the subject. Thanks for stopping by!)