Why Personality Types Are Overrated


I’m twenty five, and like many people in their 20s, I have no idea what I am going to do with the rest of my life. It’s the reason I pace around my studio all night, it’s why I irrationally hate young, successful people, and the reason I found myself attending an online course titled “Making the Most of Your 20s.”

This online course, which was hosted by a middle-aged entrepreneur of some regard, focused primarily on what I was told was the most important gadget in any entrepreneur’s toolbox — the personality type. Here’s the condensed version:

Personality types — which there are apparently sixteen of — are a series of psychological classifications that describe every kind of person. Personality types exist to help people understand themselves and those around them. They are the undeniable proof that I am X, Y, and Z because I fall into A, B, and C personality type. As people, we have a compulsion to classify each other and ourselves. It’s why in highschool you were a jock or a loser or a skater or a diva — those being classifications based on our interests. In contrast, personality types are based on our core humanity.

So I take the personality type test (of which there are many online) and discover that I am INFJ or introversion, intuition, feeling, judging. It means I am allegedly gentle, caring, complex, and highly intuitive. I’m never to work with ISTJ (introversion, sensing, thinking judging) because they are apparently too structured and practical for a flighty INFJ like myself.

My classmates start to chime in about their test results, and it’s around this point that I realize I really, really hate personality types.

A conversation in “Making the Most of Your 20s” plays out as follows:

Student 1: “Oh wow, I’m ENTJ. It says here that I don’t handle handle incompetence well. Oh yeah, that’s totally me.”

Student 2: “I’ve dealt with ENTJs before, watch out!”

Here’s the problem: No one handles incompetence well, we don’t need personality types to tell us that when someone screws up it pisses us off. However, by feeding into these personality types, people fall into a very worrisome habit of saying, “well, I’m ENTJ so that’s why I screamed at you when you missed that deadline, it’s just my personality, sorry!”

It’s this idea that our shitty attitudes aren’t our fault, they are just who we are. You’re not going to ask me to change myself, are you? Think back to any reality show you’ve ever watched. Now try to remember a time when someone uttered this rage-inducing sentence, “I’m a bitch and if you can’t handle that then get out of my way.”

It’s not easy taking the hard look in the mirror and realizing that some parts of you suck. Instead, why not just chalk those bad parts up to a semi-arbitrary set of classifications that have existed since the 1920s?

I am not saying that personality types are completely bogus, but we do belong to cultures where self-denial is prefered over brutal, unflinching honesty. Go ahead and tell me this article sucks in the comments. I guarantee that instead of acknowledging that maybe it does suck, I will call you stupid and a troll and probably a racist just to make myself feel better.

We all want to believe that who we are is somehow beyond us. I hate personality types because they are the concrete bounding box that some folks use to lock in who or what they are. Yes, I do consider myself gentle, caring, complex, and intuitive, but that’s not all I am and that’s not how I’ll define myself. I’m also moody and dishonest, I don’t handle authority well and I absolutely hate being talked down to. We’re all very complex as humans, and the moment we ignore that in favor of sixteen bounding boxes is the moment we start slamming doors on relationships that could prove to be life altering.

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