Enneagram, astrology, numerology—there are so many systems that aim to sort people based on fundamentals of personality. And in recent years, they seem to have become almost commonplace in our everyday lexicon. It's highly likely that you've been asked at least once, "What's your zodiac sign?" or "Are you an introvert or an extrovert?" or that you've thought to seek this intel out yourself. But beyond having a fun talking point during a first date or the ability to chime in on a conversation with friends, why are we so keen to learn more about ourselves? And why do we use various types of personality tests to do so?
These questions drive the latest episode of The Well+Good Podcast, during which personality psychologist Chris Soto, PhD, astrologer Madi Murphy, and human design expert Jenna Zoe share their thoughts on our interest in introspection. "I think the bottom line is that we're naturally curious about ourselves and we want to figure out what we're like as people and how we're different or similar to other people," says Dr. Soto, professor of psychology at Colby College and director of the Colby Personality Lab.
Listen to the full episode here:
Much of that curiosity is likely driven by self-actualization, or a desire to move toward your full potential as a human. "I find that the people who are drawn to these tools [like astrology and other personality indicators] believe wholeheartedly that they're here for a larger capital-S, capital-P 'Soul Purpose,'" says Murphy, cofounder of spirituality platform CosmicRx. "An astrological chart, for example, can help you understand or put together your unique roadmap of how you get to embody that purpose."
According to Dr. Soto, that desire can be broken down into three key reasons why so many folks gravitate toward assessing their own personalities.
3 reasons people love to use personality tests
If you've ever taken a personality test or had an astrology chart reading and came upon a descriptor of yourself that felt incredibly accurate, or had a "This is so me!" moment, you've experienced the satisfaction of self-verification. "We all have beliefs about what we're like as a person and what our personality is like, and it feels good to have those beliefs validated [by an outside source]," says Dr. Soto. In many cases, personality indicators can provide that third-party confirmation, which entices people to seek them out again and again.
Sometimes, the result of a personality test might surprise you—in a good way. Maybe you looked at your astrological chart and were pleased to find that your Leo sun is linked with being confident, sexy, and glamorous. Or, perhaps you were proud to learn that your type B personality generally makes you a relaxed, carefree, and creative type. "It feels good to say good things about yourself, and a personality test can be one venue for doing that," says Dr. Soto. The result can help reinforce the best parts about you and even help build your self-esteem.
Personality tests, astrological charts, and the like can do more than validate and enhance your understanding of who you are; they can also help you discover qualities within yourself that you never thought you had or point you toward a new framework or language for speaking about a part of your personality that you didn't previously have the words for, says Dr. Soto.
For example, with the Big Five personality test, you might learn that your desire to excel at work is linked to your high level of "conscientiousness" (one of the five traits measured). Or, with human design—which is a spiritual typography that offers insight into your energetic makeup—you could find out that you're a "projector" type, which means that you get the most joy from helping other people move toward their goals and dreams. And putting words to these kinds of tendencies and temperaments could help shape the way you show up in the world.
Generally, though, the results of any one personality test or spiritual reading aren't meant to capture all of who you are or serve as end-all descriptors, since people can contain multitudes. Instead, they're more like helpful guides. Speaking on human design, for example, Zoe describes it as a "soft, gentle reminder to ourselves about who we are," which can help you lead a life that feels well-aligned. "Remembering that and coming back to that is about bathing in our own essence, and allowing everything else to just flow off our shoulders."
To learn more about why people tend to seek out personality tests and the components that shape our personalities over time, listen to the full podcast episode here.
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