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Breaking Out of Personality Test-Induced Limiting Beliefs

By Audrey Weatherstone, MusicWorx Intern

My first day as a MusicWorx intern, I took several personality tests. The results were “melancholy phlegmatic” and “golden retriever.” I took strength tests, telling me I’m an empath, a developer, and a relator. I’m an Aries with a Leo moon sign, and an ISFJ. All these words, meant to be helpful insights, also placed me in boxes. I found myself being compared to others with the same results, and labeled with strengths and weaknesses. After several months doing the work of a music therapist, I discovered that I had put myself on a very narrow path towards a very specific future. My path was curated by limiting beliefs about myself, and how others had always identified my skills and flaws.

I have recently been finding myself breaking out of these boxes and am figuring out my personality for myself. Through this process, I have surprised myself in more ways than one, and developed a much stronger sense of self confidence by using my natural qualities to my advantage. Taking time to discover and let go of my limiting beliefs has taught me about myself, and how I show up in the professional world as a music therapist. 

 

Why All The Personality Tests?

Personality tests hope to tell us what kind of person we are. We feel the need to label ourselves and categorize personalities to understand who we are and how we fit into the world. These labels extend much further than online quizzes as well; are you a night person or a morning person? Dog person or cat person? Zodiac signs, and even Hogwarts houses “offer insights into why we behave the way we do. They offer us guidance on how to navigate a complex world” as explained on the Hidden Brain podcast by NPR. Taking an online quiz is a quick solution, much easier than doing the dirty soul searching work ourselves. The desire to understand ourselves with clear cut answers has resulted in an entire industry of personality tests, diagnosing our character traits. While many evaluations have tested validity, reliability, and positive user reviews, these classifications can come with dangers. 

Companies and employers continue to use personality tests to offer a more thorough hiring process, and build teams of employees who compliment each other in a work environment. Evaluating personality test results is a quick way to get to know potential employees on a deeper level than a resume and interview. While these reasons to use personality tests are valid, they should be considered surface level, and not replace time taken to get to know ourselves and each other. Test results can be wildly inaccurate, differ at different stages of life, and rely heavily on context. 

Evaluating what we consider strengths and, especially, weaknesses is also important. For example, the “Personality Profile” created by Flourence Littauer places “introvert” and “stubborn” in the weaknesses category. I identify with both of these traits, and do not consider weaknesses in myself. The test also negatively considers other characteristics such as “headstrong” and “critical.” I believe these words can be both strengths and weaknesses, depending on context and how they are used. Being stubborn could lead to conflicts with others, or lead to standing up for oneself and being determined. Labeling character traits as either bad or good leads us to believe we should be less ourselves.

Consider why you are taking searching for these answers, and to what extent you rely on the results. A job application is one thing, but looking to get to know ourselves is a deeper venture than a 30 question multiple choice test. In my personal experience, even when test results are accurate, the labels have only helped me cultivate limiting beliefs about myself. Letting go of the labels and doing the dirty soul searching work myself not only helped me understand who I am, but learn to either embrace or overcome what I might have written off as intrinsic weakness.

Limiting Beliefs

Limiting beliefs are thoughts about ourselves that hold us back from our true potential. Just by thinking and believing them, we manifest them as being true. Limiting beliefs often relate to our abilities, identity, rights, and how others perceive us. Thoughts tend to begin with “I am/am not, I can/can’t, and others are/will.” These thoughts are very powerful, as what we repeatedly think and believe can become reality. Based on my personality test results, some limiting beliefs I have found in myself are:

  • I am shy and too quiet
  • I am not a leader
  • I am not good at asking for my needs
  • Others find it difficult to get to know me
  • Others think they have to be extra nice to me because I am sensitive

So how do we break out of these limiting beliefs?

Identify and defy

If you’re like me, it may take a lot of time and careful thought to identify limiting beliefs, and even more to have the confidence to defy them. Aspects of ourselves can take years or decades to surface. The first step to breaking the cycle is to gain awareness of your thoughts. Isolate them into concrete, tangible statements, as listed above. Once your thoughts have been identified, you can begin to defy them. Rewrite these negative statements, and replace them with enabling beliefs;

  • There are many ways to be a leader, and these are my unique leadership qualities…
  • Others take comfort in my quiet personality and it is a quality that benefits my work in these ways…

Mindfulness and Self Care

I interpret self care as the actions taken in response to what surfaces during moments of mindfulness. In order to truly care for ourselves, we need to go deeper, and be willing to make changes that allow for healing and evolving. Mindfulness has been crucial in my process of identifying and defying my limiting beliefs. When we tune into ourselves and really listen to what we are feeling and needing, we can take action. I highly recommend these two blog posts written by former interns for more information on this:

An Intern's Guide to Self-Care

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Getting Through the Muck

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So, what have I learned?

My current limiting beliefs boil down to my dependence on my labeled strengths and weaknesses, at least partly as a result of personality tests. In terms of music therapy, this mindset has manipulated what populations I was interested in, my style as a music therapist, and inhibited my confidence. Through my consistent mindfulness practices, I have been able to identify what is holding me back, rewrite my thoughts, let go of labels, and discover new aspects of myself. Here are some lessons I have learned along the way:

  • Don’t ever put yourself in a box.
  • Take personality test results with a huge grain of salt.
  • “Weaknesses” don’t have to be deficits. I have spent my whole life trying to be less shy and more extroverted, but being naturally quiet and gentle has many benefits when working as a therapist.
  • Don’t knock it until you try it. I found myself falling in love with working with adolescent psych groups, while simultaneously telling myself I wasn’t good at it or interested in it, which was confusing. 
  • I can clearly find my areas of need, and write clear goals and objectives to address them.
  • There are many ways to be a leader

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