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The Mirrored Microscope: Self-Examination by Personality Type

1 year ago 6 comments

Personality typing is a fantastic tool for self-examination. It can reveal broad patterns and truths about who we are, from an objective perspective. Not everyone, however, may be interested in putting themselves under a microscope, nor in seeing what is reflected back in a mirror.

Self-examination can help us optimize our potential, just as a good mechanic can inspect a car and tune things up for better performance. But self-awareness is hardest when we are confronting our flaws. Just as many of us would prefer not to get our cars serviced when they seem to be running well, some of us may not want to assess ourselves in a way that could stir up inner issues.

To learn which personality types might feel this way, we asked our readers whether they agreed with the statement, “You don’t enjoy engaging in self-examination.” A minority of respondents (43%) agreed overall, but the results demonstrated some noteworthy differences among personality traits. Individuals with pronounced Prospecting and Observant traits may be slightly more resistant to self-examination, but those with Turbulent Identities, vulnerable as they are to emotional instability and self-doubt, were the most likely to dislike critiquing themselves.

Agreement with “You don’t enjoy engaging in self-examination.”

Let’s examine these results in further detail below.

Roles

Agreement with “You don’t enjoy engaging in self-examination.”

Explorers (48% agreeing)

Although the overall response of Explorers was rather neutral, it was the highest of any Role. We can attribute this to their combination of Observant and Prospecting personality traits. The Observant trait makes Explorers highly pragmatic and focused on what is happening now in the real world, rather than on hidden meanings or future possibilities. Self-examination may not seem necessary to many Explorers, because they tend to be accepting of themselves. Explorers are doers. Due to their Prospecting trait, they like to keep themselves open to new opportunities, and they would rather improve themselves through practical experiences than by passively contemplating the “why” behind things.

Diplomats (43%)

Diplomats, as Intuitive and Feeling types, tend to question and examine everything, with an emphasis on emotional development and fulfillment. So while most Diplomats value the opportunity for personal growth that self-examination can present, some may be averse to digging too deeply because of the negative emotions that can arise when assessing oneself critically. Diplomats also tend to be altruistic personality types more interested in helping others than in helping themselves, so some may prefer to prioritize activities like mentorship or social activism over self-reflection.

Analysts and Sentinels (41% each)

Analyst and Sentinel personalities share a desire for effectiveness and may be least resistant to engaging in self-examination because they see it is a way of working toward a goal. Analysts, with their strong Thinking trait, may additionally be able to distance themselves from the emotional aspects of self-examination, making it a little easier for them to be objective in their self-criticism. Sentinels, with their core Judging trait, value clarity and closure, so it’s natural for them to assess strengths and weaknesses in order to move on to the next task efficiently and perform it more effectively.

Strategies

Agreement with “You don’t enjoy engaging in self-examination.”

While the responses of each Role were fairly similar, we see greater variation when we look at Strategies. Turbulent personality types were 9% more likely than Assertive types to agree with our statement (47% versus 38%, respectively), while Introverts were 6% more likely than Extraverts to agree (46% versus 40%).

Constant Improvement (49% agreeing)

Constant Improvers, who agreed at the highest rate that they don’t enjoy self-examination, are, ironically, the most likely personalities to worry about their faults and to want to improve them – something that can really only be achieved through self-reflection. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they enjoy engaging in it.

As Turbulent personalities, Constant Improvers are self-conscious and often emotionally volatile, and as Introverts, they prefer to be alone, leaving them plenty of solitary time to stew in those emotions. Perfectionists to the core, they tend to be hard on themselves and to focus on the negatives. Acknowledging their potential limits or flaws may feel like admitting to failure, and no one likes looking at themselves in that way.

Turbulent Virtuosos (ISTP-T) (59%) agreed at the highest rate of any personality type. As Explorers, Virtuosos would rather put their strengths into action than focus on their flaws. They take pride in their ability to master a variety of skills and are always eager to move on to the next challenge, but the perfectionist tendency of Turbulent Virtuosos can sometimes conflict with that eagerness. They can get bogged down in self-criticism as they attempt to perfect every detail, and that can block their creative energy. So while they may recognize the benefits of self-examination, the process itself can often be frustrating for them, and it may not feel like a productive use of energy.

Social Engagement (44%)

Like Constant Improvers, Social Engagers are Turbulent, emotionally sensitive perfectionists who often struggle with self-esteem, so self-examination is both a natural impulse and a process that is not always pleasant. But as Extraverts, Social Engagers prefer to establish positive feelings about themselves through social relationships and to improve their self-image through the approval of other people. This social factor takes some of the pressure off of themselves to identify their own strengths and weaknesses, so they may feel slightly more comfortable than other personality types with self-critique.

Confident Individualism (40%)

Confident Individualists are defined by the Assertive and Introvert personality traits. Assertive types generally feel good about themselves, and the Introverted Confident Individualists are so self-assured that they prefer to be alone, because they believe they’re better off relying on themselves. Refusing to worry too much about what others think of them, they may feel less motivated to assess their own weaknesses. When they do engage in self-examination, however, they’re not afraid to see what lies inside, and they don’t find the process as stressful or daunting as Turbulent personality types do.

Assertive Architects (INTJ-A) tied with Assertive Commanders (ENTJ-A) (see below) as the least likely personality types to agree with our statement, at 30% each. Although Assertive Architects, confident and fiercely independent as they are, are usually quicker to find fault with others than with themselves, they may also recognize self-examination as an important tactical move, a strategy for honing their abilities by correcting their flaws. Architects want results, and since they often prefer to work alone, the ability to critique themselves is sometimes essential to getting those results.

People Mastery (36%)

With the lowest overall agreement of any Strategy, People Masters proved to be the most open to self-examination. As Assertive personalities, People Masters are not easily intimidated by the emotional chaos that might result from looking deep inside themselves, when they deem it necessary to do so, and as Extraverts, they have a strong social network around them to help them affirm their positive qualities. Interested as they are in understanding what makes other people tick, they may feel that examining their own motivations and emotions can help them better relate to others, or more effectively lead and direct them.

It is interesting to note that Assertive Commanders (30%) contrasted sharply with their Turbulent, Social Engager counterparts (55%), who agreed at a rate 25% higher – by far the most drastic division between the Assertive and Turbulent variants of any personality type. While Turbulent Commanders may view self-doubt as a form of weakness and dread the process of overcoming it through reflection, Assertive Commanders are inherently more self-assured to begin with. They engage in self-examination not because they are focused on their own flaws, but because they want to determine how best to command others in order to achieve goals.

Conclusions

Despite some variances, most notably between Turbulent and Assertive Identities, the overall response to this topic was relatively consistent across personality types.

Perhaps this is because the rationale for and against self-examination is somewhat universal. We all want to increase our happiness and improve our personal abilities, but rarely do we find it comfortable to confront our weaknesses and flaws. Nevertheless, the path to self-improvement requires not only the ability to see and acknowledge our own problems, but also the strength to deal with them.

What about you? Do you enjoy engaging in self-examination? Let us know in the comments!

You can see the full set of data, including correlation coefficients, in the Academy. If you have a minute to help us with our research, check out our Member Surveys.

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