Did you ever have to take an aptitude test in school when you were a kid? These personality tests were supposed to help you learn what you’d be good at and narrow down your list of potential occupations to ones you were most likely to enjoy. Sounds great, right? Take a 30 minute test that can help me plan my whole life? I’m in!
Trouble is, I never felt they got me right. Ever. One even said I might enjoy being a used car salesman because I like manipulating people. Uhhhh, no…? After taking a gazillion of these and failing to find one that even came close, I was ready to write the whole concept off.
And then I met Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers. Or rather, I met the personality test they designed way back in 1944. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is based on the idea that our individual experience with the world is driven largely by
What energizes us
Extroversion (E) or Introversion (I)
How we gather or perceive information
Sensing (S) or Intuition (N)
How we prefer to make decisions
Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)
and How we interact with the world around us
Judgment (J) or Perception (P)
This methodology isn’t without its critics, but it was the first personality test that matched me perfectly, so I’m a staunch believer. According to the MBTI, I am an INFJ. We’re often called Advocates or Counselors, and we are known for having a great love of wisdom and beauty. Some sources even indicate that INFJs make up less than 1% of the population—but lately, we seem to be everywhere, so either we’re not as rare as they say we are or we’re currently having a bit of a heyday. (Or maybe our natural tendency toward introspection means that we’re more likely to seek understanding of ourselves through finding our MBTI type…)
And not only did learning my MBTI type mean I’d finally found a personality test that got me, it also had a huge impact on many areas of my life.
1. It helped me feel understood
Reading through personality profiles for INFJs is a surreal experience because how in the world did a stranger know me well enough to read my mind? Seriously. It’s uncanny how perfect these type descriptions are, and it’s nice to know that the things I do and the way I feel are understood and validated. Like most teenagers, my adolescence was defined by the feeling that no one understood me, like I was some enigma that could only be figured out if someone would but take the time to do so. And whaddyouknow? SOMEONE DID. Words cannot describe the feeling of relief I felt when I realized that.
It’s also really nice to know I’m not alone. There are other INFJs (not many of us, but still), and we share similar traits. We understand each other. Learning my personality type was like joining a super top secret club that only INFJs could be a part of, and we’d see each other across the interwebs and wave, but that was all that was expected because, helloooo, introvert. They get it.
2. It gave me permission to be myself
For most of my growing up years, I was a closet introvert. I acted like an extrovert because I saw early on that extroverted people are fun, respected, popular, trusted, and carefree. But while I wanted to be all of those things, I also wanted my space. I enjoyed reading and writing over going out with friends. I hated group projects. I excelled in school but rarely commented in class. Lots of people liked me, but I wasn’t part of any group because I didn’t need to be.
And I wondered what was wrong with me. When all of my friends were eager to go to parties, why was I more content to stay home and read? Why did I have to give myself a pep talk every time a friend invited me over? Why did I feel the itch to leave social functions (or even conversations) early when other people seemed to be having more and more fun as the night wore on?
Learning that I’m an INFJ helped me recognize that being an introvert is okay. Actually, with introverts comprising up to 50% of the population, it’s not just okay, it’s perfectly normal. Learning to be okay with being an introvert is an ongoing process for me, but I find it liberating.
3. It improves my relationships
Knowing my MBTI type helps me identify different things about me that can affect my relationship with family, friends, and coworkers. For example, INFJs have a tendency to value diplomacy and sensitivity in every setting. When dealing with Thinking types, which are common in my family, I often find that their straightforward communication style feels tactless while they feel that I’m being too sensitive. I also know that we INFJs tend to be fiercely independent and rely more on my own intuition than on the influence of others. While this can be a good thing (I’m not easily persuaded into doing things I’ll later regret, for example), it can cause others to feel like their opinions don’t matter or like I don’t need them. Acknowledging these aspects of my personality helps me be more patient when I think someone is being insensitive, causes me to be more open to the thoughts and opinions of others, and reminds me to make sure others feel valued and appreciated. I’m certainly not perfect at any of these things, but learning about my personality type has definitely made an improvement.
It can be especially helpful to know the other person’s MBTI type and whether they think it’s accurate or not. There are countless resources that can compare personality types and explain where difficulties may arise, which can help mitigate frustration and foster mutual understanding.
Just remember that the MBTI types and resources are guidelines. They shouldn’t be treated as law, and they don’t always get things right. Before I got married, I checked the compatibility of my personality type with Brett‘s. It said that because we’re both introverts, we’d probably have trouble keeping a conversation going. While we definitely both like our quiet time, we share a lot of common interests and can also talk for hours—which is why I haven’t gotten a full night’s sleep in the past year… 😉 So while they can be helpful, I wouldn’t advise making life-changing decisions based on the results of your MBTI tests.
4. It helped me find the right career
Once upon a time, I had a job that I hated. It had great benefits, the pay was excellent, and it was in my chosen field. For all intents and purposes, it should have been perfect, but it wasn’t. I stuck with it for an entire year—almost to the day—but my heart really wasn’t in it, and my employer knew it.
The thing I struggled with the most in that job was that I was legally prevented from helping people. I was a state organic inspector, and my job was to make sure that people were following the National Organic Program regulations. To prevent any conflict of interest issues and to protect the integrity of the program, I was not allowed to impart any advice. I understand the need to keep the roles of regulator and advisor separate, and I fully support that separation. But as an INFJ—the counselor, the advisor, the advocate—I was on the wrong side of that divide for my personality type.
My MBTI type is one that thrives in situations where I can help people, and we are known for being highly creative individuals. These days, I work as a freelance marketing and media consultant in the sustainable agriculture industry. I’m able to combine my creative skills with my degree in agriculture, and I love it.
I spent a lot of time feeling like a failure because I didn’t last in that paper-perfect job. But I’ve come to realize that sticking around any longer wouldn’t have just been detrimental to my physical and mental health, it also would have been a disservice to my employer and the farmers I served. I strongly believe that if you’re going to spend a third of your adult life working, you should find a job that brings you at least some semblance of satisfaction and fulfillment, and it is perfectly okay to not be perfect for every job you’re offered. Knowing your MBTI type can help you identify careers that will be a better fit for you.
5. It helped me identify ways I can improve
I love knowing my MBTI type, and as I mentioned earlier, I feel like it’s a spot-on description of me. But I’ll be the first to admit that INFJs aren’t perfect, and neither are any of the rest of the personality types. Each type has strengths and weaknesses. We INFJs are emotionally guarded, perfectionists, and prone to burn-out. We set high standards for ourselves and for others, which can cause issues with self-esteem when we fail to live up to those standards and conflict when we expect others to conform to our ideals. We can take things personally. We can be stubborn. We can find it difficult to create meaningful, lasting relationships.
But I don’t just have to accept the weaknesses inherent in my type. Identifying my personality weaknesses helps me know which aspects of my life I need to work on improving. It gives me specific things to work towards, and honestly, I’ll be okay if one day, I read the INFJ description and it doesn’t fit me as perfectly as it does today. That’ll (hopefully) mean that I’ve successfully overcome some of the negative aspects of my personality. It’s a daily struggle—and since it’s part of my personality, I suspect that will probably be the case for life—but it’s one that I’m willing to make. I’m grateful that my MBTI type gives me a good place to start in my quest to become the best version of myself that I can be.
How to Find Your MBTI Type
If you’re interested in learning what your personality type is, I highly recommend the test and resources at 16 Personalities. Of all the MBTI resources I’ve seen, this one is the most straightforward and comprehensive, and it’s free. It’s not the official test, however, so if you’d like to take the real thing, check out the Myers and Briggs Foundation, where you can take the test for about $60.
What’s your MBTI type? How has knowing your type affected your life?
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 Psychology Today