Four Little Letters

I’ve always been drawn to personality tests and psychology and whatever can help me learn more about myself. Some sort of visible evidence that I’m somewhat normal. Whatever that means.

Obviously I’m not going to rely on Buzzfeed-type quizzes to dictate how I understand myself, but more credible sources have actually piqued my interest for quite a while. I also don’t pay much mind to horoscopes, although I do sometimes feel like checking out what Aquarius is up to. Firstly, when I first understood what introversion was and the characteristics associated with it, I was beyond appalled by how well that described my nature. From a first glance, I easily fit the key qualities of introverts to a T.

I now know of a way to go even further when it comes to characterizing my personality, and that is the Myers-Briggs test. Four random letters than from a first glance don’t mean much. In short, “the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is an introspective self-report questionnaire designed to indicate psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions.” (Thank you, Wikipedia, as always.)

The test is in various different forms on the internet, asking questions like any other personality test. While there are only two different letters for each spot, each spot indicates a scale of a certain trait. Even though the test will tell you what you gravitate toward mostly, it’s not as black-and-white as it seems, something I greatly appreciate. For example of said scale, the first spot involves introversion and extroversion. We all know where I end up on that one.

And as an individual, you can believe it as you will. To think that everybody on the planet easily fits into only sixteen distinct personalities sounds absurd, but psychologist C. G. Jung originally proposed that the seemingly random behaviors and decisions we make somehow fit together in a much more organized way. We’re human, after all, creatures of habit, often choosing what’s most comfortable and natural for us.

As I mentioned earlier, the first letter is dictated by a preference for outer energy or inner energy. What drains you? What holds your interest more? More commonly known as extroversion and introversion.

Next letter: Do you prefer to focus on the basic information you take in, or do you prefer to interpret and add meaning? The former is very black-and-white, analytical, and takes things strictly at face value. The latter is more imaginative, will see more of a grey area, especially depending on their own and others’ emotions toward the information. This distinction is Sensing or Intuition.

When making decisions, do you prefer to first look at logic and consistency or first look at the people and special circumstances? (Judging or Perceiving). And finally, in dealing with the outside world, do you prefer to get things decided right away (preferring a structured schedule), or do you prefer to stay open to new information and options? (People who like to be more spontaneous). This is Judging and Perceiving.

And if you’re bored to tears by today’s information vomit, you can, of course, Google search to your little heart’s desire. I just wanted to make the point that even though I can’t expect some test to explain every little detail about myself, I think it’s still important to know who you are, and if taking a test can help explain it, go for it. This particular test isn’t one that works for everyone, as I have heard some people who get a different personality type every time. Personally, no matter what, I always end up with the same one, so I’m sticking to it. I’m proud to say I’m an INFJ. Does it make me feel just a little cool to know I’m in the rarest group of the bunch? I mean…yes.

As I’ve gotten older, I definitely see a difference in how I few myself. I see myself less as a stranger and more as an old friend. I know my instincts, I know how I typically respond to certain situations, and that brings me some comfort. Before when I realized my Myers-Briggs result, I really studied in-depth into it, thinking I was finding some missing puzzle piece to discovering myself. Having a four-letter label does give me some sense of credibility, a sense that I’m not alone, but it’s not the end-all solution. It’s a set of broad guidelines, more educated than a horoscope but still broad. If you’re completely lost as to who the heck you are, it’s a starting place. But in no way should it completely explain or validate you as a unique individual.

There is also an important that I appreciate about Myers-Briggs: no type is better than the other. We can see the clear differences among people, but they entitle anybody above others. There’s no “goal MBTI” to try and become. You are you. Keep doing that. Also, the resulting personality profiles are constantly being updated as research continues to this day, over fifty years since its first publication. We are ever-evolving people, not just a walking set of letters and traits.

The only way to reach a personal “goal MBTI” is to be yourself, whoever that may be. Don’t apologize for not being a certain way. Just live, grow, and love. Each a four-letter word. If only life were that simple.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie



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