I am a horrible test taker. All of my high school geometry tests are proof-positive of this fact. If my PSAT and ACT scores were my keys into college, that door would have remained dead-bolted. Fortunately for me, those tests did not and still do not indicate my true intellect.
So, why would I expect the MBTI to indicate my personality inclinations?
Yet, I did. For many years, I assumed many things about myself based on a personality test I took in high school. I remember being so excited because of a critical career trajectory listed. I knew what I wanted to be without a test telling me. Anything that had that career listed had to be correct.
I went to college. I learned more than how to be what I wanted to be. I also learned who I am. Let’s just say one of the letters in that original assessment just didn’t belong. Living up to that letter wore me out. Admittedly, I didn’t know at the time I was stressing out my own true self. I didn’t realize that until much later when I took another MBTI.
That time, the results were almost completely opposite! I read the description. And I knew. There was no way I could be the personality type indicated. One thing was clearly missing: the career trajectory. So, how did I figure out my own true self?
I quit taking the test.
(I sort of had to stop taking it. Free internet MBTIs weren’t available then. Now it is quite easy to take the test over and over again if the result isn’t ideal. I’m glad I didn’t have that option. I had no idea that a sub-passion in my life was beginning to surface.)
I bought Gifts Differing by Isabel Briggs Myers and Peter B. Myers, and I studied the types. All of them. I figured out my true self. I figured out other people, too. I bought and studied more books. After many years, I retook the test. This time the results were what I expected. In a sense, I passed.
So, what am I?
I am an INFJ. INFJs are the rarest personality type on the MBTI grid. It’s no wonder that I had trouble knowing which type I truly am. INFJs are a bit beyond compare when it comes to identifying with others in a crowded room, yet we’re not always perfect at identifying our personal needs and wants. So, what do INFJs need to know in order to know who they truly are?
- Know why you avoid the crowded room. Although INFJs are ingenious at being social at the right times and in the right ways according to the place and the people in the room, we know a crowded room is not the right place for us to feel ourselves. That would be our own rooms. Preferably, we are surrounded by our favorite things: books, paper, pens, and pets. INFJs may be categorized as one of the most extroverted-introverts, but we are still utterly and completely introverts. We are re-energized by spending quality time alone. In fact, that first letter in the MBTI is critical to figuring out the others. Remember those college years I mentioned? I suffered under the delusion that I was an extrovert. Even though I told my roommates not to pounce on me the minute I walked in the door, I still thought I thrived on having people around all the time. Sometimes INFJs enjoy sharing the same space with someone. But, we like to be doing our own things in the same room with others. And that other person or people need to be among the list of favorites. Those are the deep, quality relationships that INFJs search for that connect their purpose with others.
- Check your picture by the proof. Back to that second personality test I mentioned. When I tested as an ISTJ, my intuition kicked in. No where in the list of career objectives did the word “writer” appear. In fact, the career choices probably made me visibly shudder. Mathematician? Financial Adviser? Engineer? Actuary? I imagine my inner self fled to my happy place and slammed the door on that alternate reality. So, how could I test as an Se instead of an Ni? Well, for one thing I was sitting next to my husband and many other men in the room who happen to be engineers and math-enthusiasts. I know, I know. But, INFJs are adaptable to a fault when in comes to trying to fit into the current social dynamics. We do want to fit in. We simply don’t. Sometimes, like all INFJs, I forget that. What I didn’t forget was that I always wanted to be a writer, I went to school to be a writer, and it was clear that ISTJs are not naturally bent toward writing. Another thing I have learned since studying personality types is that it isn’t that I can’t do math, I simply don’t want to do math. As a big-picture person, math isn’t only about getting the right answer. It’s also about how to get the right answer and understand why that answer is the correct one. It wasn’t until my youngest son finished up his trigonometry course that I realized why I understood trigonometry. I had all the other mathematical pieces. The same became true as I collected the pieces of my own personality type.
- Thinker? Feeler? Or Both? When I took that second MBTI, my Ti-Fe scores were close as in one number apart. My high school indicator revealed me as Feeler (and an extraverted one) whereas my young-married indicator stated I was a Thinker. It’s important to note here that for an Ni-Fe such as I to type as an Se-Ti shows that I was in a grip. Looking back on my life at that time, I think that makes a lot of sense. I second-guessed my gut-reactions and suppressed my feelings often during those years. I wasn’t simply trying to figure out who I was. I was trying to figure out who I was to, with, and for another person–my husband. Like many INFJs, I had him figured out. Because INTJs also use introverted intuition, it made sense that I could flip between my Fe and Ti depending on the social interactions I was having. But, being in an altogether different role as a wife, I was redefining who I was. At the time I took that second test, I was also a new mom. There was a whole new person to figure out who was sort of like my husband and sort of like me and sort of like neither of us. I was also a stay-at-home mom whose adult, intellectual interactions were minimal and whose creativity and alone-time were restricted to nap time. But, what better way to stimulate my latent intellect and creativity than by investigating these intriguing personality types? So, I spent my free time pouring over these new letters of the personality alphabet. My revitalized Ni-Fe nurtured my lagging Ti and settled Se down for its own nap with the toddler.
- Making the Final Decision In every test, I indicated a strong J component. I love routine, organization, and timeliness. This was that letter I knew belonged and the one that was truly opposite of my husband’s P. (By the way, he is an INTP. The test wasn’t a great indicator for him either because he has a close score that changes just about everything for him in the workplace. But, that’s another story.) My perceiving husband appreciates orderliness, but he doesn’t always initiate it. One of the many reasons we are so compatible is because he brings out my Ti when my Fe needs to take a deep breath. He encourages my J-planning to go with the flow of his P-spontaneity. I think this is one reason why our relationship combination earns us the name of “the golden pair.”
The irony about the discovery of my MBTI letters is that I did what many INFJs do. I put myself to the test. I focused all of who I am into learning more about myself and how my unique gifts and talents fit into the roles within my tiny piece of the world. Somehow that unlocked a door I hadn’t tried to open. Somehow that gave me more courage to face the crowds and appreciate all the intriguing eccentricities filling the room.
Categories: Between the Lines: This Writer's Journal
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