Where did those pesky limiting beliefs come from? You may be surprised to know that one source is the belief that your personality is innate- meaning you were born with your personality. Our society is full of opportunities to type and label from personality tests, trauma experiences, the way you were raised, the life experience you gained both positive and negative. If you have ever taken a personality test or an archetype test and felt unease, perhaps the unease comes from the restrictions of feeling like you were put in a box or that you had to believe in your type. After all-it’s scientific, right? Would you be surprised to know that there is not much science backing most personality tests? And even the most popular are generally deemed to be less than 70% accurate. What if you are the 30% or more that is part of the inaccuracy.
According to Benjamin Hardy in Psychology Today, personality tests can even be harmful if you limited your efforts, dreams, and goals based on the definition of your personality. The author of (amazon) Personality Isn’t Permanent, Hardy, describes how a personality test almost ruined his marriage before it even got started, because according to a test, their color personality types didn’t match. Thankfully, the two followed their hearts instead of their type and enjoy a long, happy marriage.
How many times have you stopped yourself because you thought you just weren’t good at something? Or blamed your behavior or lack of results on type? Personality tests are big business and many businesses and people have used them for hiring decisions and life decisions. Now, there may be some value in the tests because the nature of the questions creates self-reflection and self-awareness, so I am not completely discounting the use of type tests, just encouraging a healthy questioning and challenging of the results. And don’t limit yourself based on the results of a test or a type.
Another issue with personality tests is the fact that they rely on self-reporting. People are emotional beings, how you feel one day may not be how you feel the next. In one test that I took, I came up with three different types on three different test days. Another test that I took when I was in college had completely changed ten years later and then changed again after that with the data results so close, a type could not be definitively given.
A colleague and I were discussing these tests when she came up with the insight that even who you hang around and spend your time with can skew personality test results because you see those people as ideal types and then emulate them. Even what you are reading and studying can change the results.
If you feel that you are limited in any way because of a personality test, it’s true for you because you adopted the limiting belief that it is true.
Due to confirmation bias, if you believe in the validity of a test, you will tend to believe the results are true.
You also may have some limiting beliefs based on comparisons you heard as a child. Do you hear a parent’s or teacher’s voice in your head? You are good at math. You are not good at math. You are musical. You are not musical. You are an artist. You are not an artist. You are shy. You talk too much. And so on.
Here are some important keys to letting go of limiting beliefs:
- Choose to define yourself. If you want to be an achiever, a person who can speak in front of a crowd, a whatever… Define yourself the way you want and let your actions start lining up with your definition.
- Recognize when you say, I am not good at…. Where did that thought come from? Challenge the thought.
- Refuse to let your past define you. (Hardy) Change the story of your past. Remember it is all story. So why not create a new one?
- Go for what you really want, and learn how to do it and get it, Practice a Growth Mindset.
- Let go of the craving to have something or someone tell you who you are. Labels and types can be reassuring and make us feel like we are making sense of the world, but at what cost?
After my brother died suddenly, I was in therapy for quite a while. I was given a personality test as part of my initial evaluation. I was a teenager and thought, well the doctor thinks this is valid so I didn’t think to question anything. When I was in college, I could take a class that administered a personality test and then write a paper about the results. Because I was in my twenties, I didn’t think to challenge the science behind it because it was administered by a college- of course it was scientific?. I wonder sometimes, how the choices I made then were impacted by how I defined myself on the basis of that test? I don’t remember any caveats or warnings. There probably were, but I just remember my type and the description of strengths and weaknesses. When I got older, and would take assessments, I had an intuitive unease. I was uncomfortable with being labeled or being typed. My types never felt completely true to me. People would say, you just don’t want to admit your weaknesses. That wasn’t it. It was my inner, deepest self resisting letting anything tell me who I am or the kind of career I should pursue.
If you have a dream, dare to pursue it. Find a way. Learn a way. Certainly, don’t let limiting beliefs get in your way. We have this life. Make it what you want it to be.