A Cult of Personality Tests

Remember when we drilled holes in a person’s skull to release demons?  Or when we used to rip out parts of people’s brains in order to bring them back to sanity?  Seems legit, right?  How about bloodletting; you know, because having a fever meant we had too much blood in our, uh … blood supply.  And then there’s animal dung ointments.  Mmm, mmm!

And then, personality tests.  A test used to determine, pigeonhole, and pinpoint another human’s personality traits, character, and even our aptitude for success (or failure).  A standardized test when humans are anything but standard.   

In fairness, most personality tests come with a disclaimer that says, “This assessment should not be used as the sole factor in making employment related decisions such as hiring and promotion.”  See what they did there?  “Sole factor” implies that it is valid to some extent. 

The problem is that once a label is assigned to someone, it’s impossible for us to not think of that person as being that label.  “She’s a narcissist”, “He’s an introvert”, “That dude has crazy tendencies”, and so on.    

Instead of providing an accurate depiction of part of a person’s personality, they provide a distorted and completely inaccurate version of the whole human. 

The best way to take one of these tests is don’t.  But if we do, our answers should always be “it depends”.  It depends on reality in real time, with its infinite number of variables, circumstances, situations, context, and the number of humans actively and inactively involved, each with a myriad of psychologies, personalities, character traits, beliefs, philosophies, and our moods that can change at any given time. 

Imagine taking one of these tests, when we really need a Snickers and on the way in, we stepped in a freezing puddle of slush.  Ugh!  This day sucks!

Reality doesn’t exist in a vacuum.  However, these ridiculous questions with their even more ridiculous answer choices attempt to put us and reality in a vacuum, attempting to put our very being in a closed drawer.  Again … no human is standard. 

Some tests give ridiculous answer choices that force us to pick one, even though neither is relevant in any way.  “Would you rather be covered in fur or covered in scales?”  Wait, what?!

Other tests are typically measured on a 1-5 scale with the following fill-in-the-dot-choices: Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Neither, Agree, and Strongly Agree.

“I enjoy working closely with others.” Well that depends; if I’m playing beach volleyball, I strongly agree.  But, if I’m heading to the men’s room, not so much.

“I want every detail taken care of”.  If I’m having my hip replaced, I “Strongly Agree”.  However, I’m not so much a stickler when it comes to getting drive-through tacos.  I go into that situation with an understanding that it’s not cuisine.

“I do not enjoy reading poetry.”  I mean, who does?  Actually, I do like Poe, but that’s the extent of it.  You just can’t spell “poetry” without Poe.  But, what does any answer to this question determine?  If I fill in “disagree”, not “strongly disagree”, but just “disagree”, it still says I enjoy reading poetry.  I don’t!

If I say “neither”, that shows I’m apathetic to poetry, but now I’m labeled with apathy, in which case I don’t f*cking care.  See?  If I say “disagree”, now I like poetry and if I “strongly disagree”, I’m a psychopath. 

Hmm; the next time I have a headache, I’ll take Advil and forego the hole in my head.  If there are any demons left after that, I’ll call an exorcist.  Instead of opening a vein the next time I feel a little warm, I’ll probably remove my overcoat.  After all, it is late August at the Jefferson/Madison debates.  Whew!  Why did they were so much clothing?

And … when I want to get to know someone, I probably won’t hand them a standardized test: “Just fill this out.  Should take about 40 minutes.  When we get the results, I’ll let you know if we can be friends.”

Wait … I hear Living Colour playing in the background, “Look in my eyes, what do you see”?  Yeah, what happened to real human connection, engagement, and understanding through genuine interaction?  Connection, intuition, emotion, feel, and instinct honed over time through multiple engagements.     

We are perfectly imperfect, complicatedly simple, and simply complicated.  We are human, not standard issue. 


Photo by Дмитрий Хрусталев-Григорьев on Unsplash

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