Personality Test, Smershonality Test

Jamie Hughes avatar

by Jamie Hughes |

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Recently, I was required to take a “quick” 100-question test to determine what my Enneagram number is. (I’m a 5, in case you’re curious.) These questions — answered by clicking “agree” or “disagree” — weren’t complicated in any sense of the word. I honestly think I learned more about myself by the way I read a “Choose Your Own Adventure Book” as a child. However, according to its proponents, the “Enneagram is a blueprint for developing character that each of us carries throughout our life, but one that we don’t open until we discover our type.”

I’m going to have to throw the BS flag on that one.

Like you, I have been building my character consciously and unconsciously since the day I was born, making choices both good and bad and learning from mistakes. This hard-won knowledge has come via many years of education, people I’ve been blessed to know, jobs I’ve lost and found, books I’ve read, and experiences I’ve had — including my MS diagnosis.

You want to learn something about who you are? Sit in a hospital bed and let a doctor with the bedside manner of a damp rag tell you that you have multiple sclerosis and then encourage you (not kidding) to do some research on the internet. Yes, the internet. That will rattle your cage, believe me.

Sorry to kick sand in the face of that Enneagram devotee, but I didn’t magically “discover myself” a few days ago. The secrets of the universe weren’t revealed, and no scales fell away from my eyes because of a personality test based on some mystical system.

This isn’t the first of these kinds of tests I’ve endured, nor will it be the last. I’ve already been quantified, categorized, and stamped by the DISC test (S), the $50 official Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator (INFJ), the Clifton StrengthsFinder (Learner, Achiever, Input, Positivity, Developer), the Gary Smalley Personality Test (Lion), the RightPath 4 and 6, and a few others I thankfully can’t remember.

I don’t like these labels for the same reason I hate being written off as “handicapped.” It’s limiting. It colors the way people see me and puts me in a box. Same goes for being forced to make binary choices like Republican/Democrat, being asked which Christian denomination I belong to, or being called a rebel because I’m Generation X.

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I don’t want to be a “female writer” any more than a person of color wants to be known as a “black lawmaker” or a “Latinx thinker.” No one likes being labeled, but we keep on classifying because it keeps things simple. They allow our unconscious biases to quickly judge others and free up our brains.

But more often than not, labels are flat out wrong. Consider Laurent Duvernay-Tardif of the Kansas City Chiefs. Bias tells us that football player = dumb jock who only went to college because he was athletic. In Duvernay-Tardif’s case, however, that couldn’t be further from the truth. He just graduated from McGill University School of Medicine. This dude started at right guard for a majority of his team’s games and went to medical school at the same time. Nothing dumb about that.

Søren Kierkegaard is commonly credited as saying, “Once you label me, you negate me.” I couldn’t agree more. Why? Because none of the scores from any of the aforementioned tests are set in stone. I could be a “D” or a “Golden Retriever,” had I taken those quizzes on a different day. I’m introverted or extroverted depending on the social situation.

Things like the Enneagram have no more authority to control my life than the horoscope in the local newspaper or the fortune cookie that came with my Singapore noodles last night. I’m dynamic and growing and moving on up — regardless of what they say. MS doesn’t boss me around, and I’ll be damned if I let some test dictate who I am or what I can do.


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


Gwendolyn E Mugliston avatar

Gwendolyn E Mugliston

Seldom have I read an "introspective" and agreed more. I am an INTJ and usually I can spot BS from miles away. None of us can be categorized strictly by a test or tests. Then I must say, I think MS is difficult to diagnose and treat and having it is not dependent on our personality, IQ or psychosocial history.
After talking with people with MS it seems most of us spent years undiagnosed with it "all in our heads" (which it was, of course). Having an unpredictable disease often subtly affecting our muscles and ability to sense the universe within which we live and living with various degrees of invisible pain is difficult at best. When we are struck helpless and in bed with no explanation for incredible weakness is actually a horror. How does one explain these issues to a person we have begun to love without sounding like a certifiably insane person? How can we do that?
My own problem with MS began when I was 27 and beginning my academic career while sitting at a library table. Suddenly my eyes were looking at two different places at the same time. Shocked, I waited for it to "quit" as I closed one eye and "looked" and read with the other. The medical explanation was I was "tired" (true enough) and "not to worry". Within two months I couldn't walk in a straight line. Medical explanation "You've taken on too much and need to lighten your academic load." I called it BS.Academics were easy to me and my husband and I shared child caring and the house.
My husband and I decided to attack each deficit with a "counter" activity. I followed the beam of a flash light as he jerked it around on a dark wall every night for weeks. To increase my walking linearity I balanced and walked on the edge of sidewalks on the narrow strip of concrete and did that off and on eventually for years when my sense of balance was "off". Every time I lost a capacity my husband and I worked on developing an alternative.
And so it has gone for years as I carefully kept my physical strength up and remained very active in challenging sports like running and swimming.
Only in the last 10 years, from 70 to 80, have I not been notably successful at this...and that is due to having rheumatoid arthritis. It seems being clobbered with two autoimmune diseases set my internal resolve back. I have not recovered and am unsure how to deal with it yet. But, and this is a surety, I have had a wonderful living a human life trip and I'm not through yet!

Jamie Hughes avatar

Jamie Hughes

Gwendolyn, I'm glad to see I'm not the only one. You rock on, my friend!

You know what though? I was one of the weirdos they diagnosed on the first exacerbation! I've heard that's very atypical.

Lamar Freed avatar

Lamar Freed

As a psychologist, I generally bristle when people attack tests of personality. However your point directly distinguishes why test of personality so often fail. If they are used properly, they are integrated with interviews and other tests to describe the unique perspective and quality of the person taking the test. This is done with the collaboration of the person who has been tested.

Sadly, many contemporary psychologists do not have the time to perform this kind of testing. Insurance companies don’t pay for it, and people no longer value it. Instead, we are inundated by Facebook facsimiles of personality tests and Psuedo-tests like the Enneagram.

I am an INTJ, and I have MS. But that’s not all I am.

Jamie Hughes avatar

Jamie Hughes

Lamar, I know exactly where you're coming from. Many tests are very useful when it comes to counseling and advising those in need. However, I feel like these tests in a workplace or team can sometimes be limiting. In fact, I had a friend who was perfectly qualified for a job not get it because she was a C according to DISC and they wanted a D. That's the thing about it that irritates me.

Grant Madden avatar

Grant Madden

A test for your personality?How silly..Dont waste your time.Takes a whole lifetime and even then,who knows.Certainly not someone who makes up bullshit quizzes like that!!

Jamie Hughes avatar

Jamie Hughes

Some of them are interesting, and I've had several things pointed out to me with their results. However, too often, people transform them into holy writ. And that ain't cool...not none.

Dr. Shara Sand avatar

Dr. Shara Sand

I’m a clinical psychologist and can tell you there is no validity to the Enneagram test and have no idea why you would be required to take a test that is not used by any licensed clinician in the field. There are many valid personality tests, but this isn’t one of them. Whomever told you that you “needed” to take it is either a charlatan or a terrible clinician.

Jamie Hughes avatar

Jamie Hughes

It wasn't for any official reason, so that's why I did it. My hesitation came from the fact that I believe people put far too much weight on these things.

Ann Zabaldo avatar

Ann Zabaldo

As I understand it, the Myers-Briggs shows "preferences" and only "preferences" -- it is not determinate of anything. It doesn't say: "this is who you 'are'" -- only that given a choice you will show a certain preference. I've taken the M-B several times over a span of years. The interesting thing is ... it's stable over time. I pretty much show the same preferences as I did some years ago.

Like all tools, these tests need to be used properly by skilled people who understand what they are doing. Not by people who want to categorize, box and label people.

Jamie Hughes avatar

Jamie Hughes

Right on right on, Ann. Mine has changed over the last several years, but then again, so have I. :)

Robert Campbell avatar

Robert Campbell

My wife and I discovered the Enneagram about 17 years ago by attending a 2.5 day conference at a Roman Catholic retreat center. This was among friends and we didn't have an impression that it was going to solve problems, but just how people have different patterns of being, motivations, and anticipations. Later my wife developed MS at age 52. Her initial neurologist had an attitude of ho-hum. So, she went on-line and discovered a neurologist who was doing studies of MS. She got into one of his studies and her progress was very good and it became more or less stabilized to this day. She has had a therapist in most of her years and no one thought the Enneagram was an entanglement.

Jamie Hughes avatar

Jamie Hughes

Robert, I wouldn't call it an "entanglement." I'm just fatigued by all these tests and how each one is touted as the "solution" to interpersonal problems and misunderstandings. Sure, it helps knowing what makes someone tick, but the only way we develop true relationships is by being in community with one another. I cannot be reduced to a 100-question test--no one can--and quite frankly, the way some people insist that I can is downright offensive. Tests are helpful tools perhaps, but we are so much more than our results.


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