Until you understand yourself, you cannot understand others. Understanding others allows you to influence those that are different from you, which provides a sense of empowerment and confidence in your ability to impact your life. Therefore, self-awareness is a critical part of personal and professional development.
There are numerous personality tests designed to improve self-awareness but with varying levels of validity. For example, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, though a popular instrument, does not have as high of validity as the Big Five. StrengthsFinders (one of my favorites) has been extensively studied but by the Gallup organization that sells the instrument, leading some to question its validity.
Regardless of degree of validity, I feel the concepts themselves are helpful to understanding oneself and each other, and using that understanding to grow and improve. For example, the MBTI tells me that I have a preference for closure compared to others that have a preference for staying flexible and open-ended. I never really thought about those differences prior to taking the MBTI except to judge the flexible-minded as being indecisive. After learning about this style difference, I have since noticed instances where making a fast decision led to a less-than-stellar outcome. I’ve learned that creating a more balanced approach by judiciously and selectively employing the opposite style allows me to become more effective.
In essence, being aware and understanding the advantages and disadvantages of my default style allows me to be more mindful and intentional about my decisions, perspectives and approaches. Learning and understanding others’ styles also helps me to appreciate their unique talents and perspectives instead of judging and criticizing them. By appreciating and employing, not judging, those differences, we create a more harmonious and effective group.
But self-awareness is hard. After all, a blind spot by definition means I lack awareness of a certain aspect of myself. Excavating those blind spots is scary. What if I find something terrible?
There is nothing to be afraid of. When we understand the facets of our personality, we find that we have the same traits as other people. Sometimes we struggle with our traits, just like everyone else. Shining a light on them allows us to understand and optimize, whereas ignoring and hiding leaves us stuck and unable to grow.
So be brave. Explore. Learn. Be open to even subtle feedback from others. You may even find an amazingly wonderful You that is waiting to be discovered.