We’ve all known ourselves since the day we were born. But how many of us really know ourselves? Despite spending every waking (and sleeping!) moment with ourselves, many of us mindlessly trudge through life, stumbling over emotions, stress, and frustrations and never stopping to ask ourselves why we stumbled in the first place.
There is a lot you can learn by flipping on the self-awareness switch. Recently, I’ve developed an interest in taking various personality tests to help me analyze my strengths, weaknesses, happiness triggers, and sadness stumbling blocks. I’ve tried to define aspects of my personality, learning to love the parts I know will never change and trying to work on the parts that might be more malleable.
Of all of the personality assessments out there, I find the Myers-Briggs personality test to be one of the most intriguing. To give you some quick background, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is an assessment based on a theory by the famous psychiatrist Carl Jung. It was developed by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers nearly a century ago.
Your MBTI “type” is defined by one of 16 acronyms, composed of the following traits:
- Extraversion (E) vs. Introversion (I)
- Sensing (S) vs. Intuition (N)
- Thinking (T) vs. Feeling (F)
- Judging (J) vs. Perceiving (P)
Here’s a breakdown with a little more detail.
HOW WE GET ENERGY AND INTERACT WITH OTHERS
Is your focus more outward or inward? Are you an E or an I?
- If you’re an outgoing, social person who gets energy from being around groups of people, you are likely more Extraverted (E).
- If you’re a private, quiet person who gets energy from spending time alone, you are likely more Introverted (I).
HOW WE SEE THE WORLD AND PROCESS INFO
Are you drawn more to specific facts or open-ended ideas? Are you an S or an N?
- If you tend to focus on concrete and practical information and trust in only the facts, you probably favor Sensing (S) more.
- If you tend to generate abstract ideas, imagine the possibilities, and trust your gut, you probably favor Intuition (N) more.
HOW WE MAKE DECISIONS AND FEEL EMOTIONS
Do you rely more on rationality or emotion? Are you a T or an F?
- If you value logic, reason, and justice, you are likely more Thinking (T).
- If you value harmony, warmth, and empathy, you are likely more Feeling (F).
HOW WE APPROACH ORGANIZATION AND PLANNING
Do you prefer more structure or spontaneity? Are you a J or a P?
- If you are a deadline-oriented, organized person who loves to make plans, you are likely more Judging (J).
- If you are a spontaneous, free-spirited person who loves to go with the flow, you are likely more Perceiving (P).
Last week, my colleague Elina and I ran a Myers-Briggs team building workshop at our office using a free online questionnaire from 16personalities.com. The quiz is closely inspired by Myers-Briggs, although they put their own spin on the theory. When you receive your results, you are assigned an adorable cartoon caricature and given a thorough personality description. It makes it totally worth the 5-10 minute investment in answering the questions.
According to 16personalities.com, I’m an ENFJ. When I read the description, the results felt about right to me — I usually enjoy social gatherings (E), trust my gut (N), value emotions (F), and love to plan (J). That said, I also occasionally need alone time to re-energize (I) and appreciate practicality (S). Logic (T) and spontaneity (P) are things I work towards from time to time… but they don’t necessarily come naturally.
This evening I was talking with my roommate Jessica about our results, and she asked me an interesting and potentially important question:
Why do people enjoy taking personality tests?
Is it because they believe they already know themselves, and they are curious whether the test is good enough to define their personality correctly? Or is it because they are honestly curious to learn more about themselves?
In my opinion, it probably depends on your level of self-awareness and open-mindedness. In an effort to look at it both ways, Jessica and I searched the internet for various other free Myers-Briggs-inspired questionnaires to corroborate our results. We found a few, at humanmetrics.com, truity.com, and psychcentral.com. Here’s the interesting part: Jessica got the same (rare!) result three times: INFJ. My results, on the other hand, were less consistent. One test said ENFJ. Another said ESFJ. One was inconclusive (but definitely FJ). The last said ISFJ. Arg!
I’m okay with the fluctuation from Extraverted to Introverted. I’ve considered myself somewhat of an Extraverted-leaning Ambivert for a while now. But the fluctuation from INtution to Sensing surprised me. When I read my ENFJ description last week, I was sure that description was right. So why I was I getting a different result today? Am I actually more Sensing than I realized? Are two of the tests just inaccurate? Or am I just in a more “Sensing” mood tonight?
This bothered me for a little while before I settled on this: it doesn’t matter. I’m a practical dreamer. I’m creatively objective. Sometimes I trust my gut, sometimes I need the facts. It’s not the result that makes us more self-aware, it’s the questioning that comes with it. The results wouldn’t mean a thing if you didn’t also ask yourself “Is that true of me?” and “How does that affect the way I communicate?” and “How does that impact my relationship with So-and-so?”
I am grateful to the test for prompting me to think a little bit more deeply about how I manage my energy and process information, what my values are, and how I organize my life. I’m also happy to have sparked lots of conversations with friends and colleagues to help me learn more about them, and how I can be more aware of their personalities to help us get along better!
What’s your MBTI? I’d love to know! I’ve created some free shareable graphics, which you can download below to help share some self-awareness. I’d love if you linked to this blog post to pose the question to your network to keep the sharing going.