Saturday, January 4, 2014

Why I like Myers-Briggs

Last year, as part of my obsession with immersion into all things The Art of Simple (formerly Simple Mom), I listened to Tsh's podcasts on my commute to and from work. One of the topics she talked about was Myers-Briggs personalities.

I took a little psychology in high school, but I had never heard of Myers-Briggs. I decided to take a test to find out what my type was. I assumed the personalities wouldn't be that much different and it was possible this was another pop-psychology personality test. Like those quizzes in magazines in which I would usually find myself answering with all Bs and the answer key would tell me I am smack-dab in the middle of everything. Yawn. Oh, but I was wrong. And learning about Myers-Briggs and my personality type has actually helped me dramatically in finding out more about how I function, as well as how I thrive in certain environments and feel uncomfortable in others.

The online test I found was a little jarring, since there was no "sometimes" or "maybes." But once I found out my personality type and did some reading, I realized I enjoyed the test and the knowledge that came from it. The test indicated I was an INTJ, which stands for Introvert, iNtuition, Thinking and Judgment.

From Wikipedia:
  • Introversion preferred to extraversion: INTJs tend to be quiet and reserved. They generally prefer interacting with a few close friends rather than a wide circle of acquaintances, and they expend energy in social situations (whereas extraverts gain energy).[8]
  • N – Intuition preferred to sensing: INTJs tend to be more abstract than concrete. They focus their attention on the big picture rather than the details and on future possibilities rather than immediate realities.[9]
  • T – Thinking preferred to feeling: INTJs tend to value objective criteria above personal preference or sentiment. When making decisions they generally give more weight to logic than to social considerations.[10]
  • J – Judgment preferred to perception: INTJs tend to plan their activities and make decisions early. They derive a sense of control through predictability, which to perceptive types may seem limiting.[11]
Once I read more about my personality, I realized I related so much to other INTJs and, since it's one of the rarest personalities, especially for women, I couldn't believe how just seeing statistics like that made me feel better and even more comfortable in situations in which I normally wouldn't feel comfortable, just because I was aware that certain situations made me uncomfortable and I could prepare for them more.

One thing about being an Introvert is most people don't think I am, since I do have an outgoing personality. Fake, I tell you, it's all fake. I can act extroverted because my mom was an extrovert and she would try to make me one and I hated it. But, being an INTJ, I was able to observe and mimic it -- much like the common sociopath, so that's always a good comparison ...

As recommended by Tsh, I got a used copy of MotherStyles from Amazon and realized how my personality affected my relationship with not only my mother, who's an Extrovert, but also L., who is an introvert like me, but she has some opposite traits that I don't understand sometimes.

Sometimes, I have to appeal to L. on a level that seems completely foreign to me. Although, I assume a lot of that has to do with the theory that toddlers and children up to the age of 5 don't really have impulse control, which is difficult for me to grasp anyway.

The book was really an eye-opener and I even lent it to my mom, basically as a way to tell her, "See?! This is why we used to fight for hours in high school! This is why I can't pick up the phone and have a 20-minute conversation with small talk! I just can't!"

One thing that's helpful with the book, as well as the website, is it gives suggestions for how different personality types can take care of themselves. For example, since I'm an INTJ, the suggestion in a parenting book to make time for me was much appreciated. I never noticed that I do, in fact, need just time to sit quietly, especially after large social gatherings. I gain energy from just being by myself. I enjoy things like going to the grocery store by myself or my commute because it was time with myself where I could properly analyze and organize the thoughts in my head. And one thing the book helped me with is I stopped feeling guilty because I needed that time to myself, when I felt I should be spending every moment, every second with L. when I had her, even though by naptime, I would be exhausted and I couldn't figure out why.
Portrait of my INTJ train
 of thought being
 rudely interrupted at
the gym by someone
wearing strong cotton
candy body spray.
Oh, the contempt!

Because of that, I began relying on the fiancee more (who also happens to be an INTJ, which means we can be perfectly happy in separate rooms, doing separate things, without feeling like one is abandoning the other). He started watching her while I would go on an errand or go to the gym for an hour. And, despite doing those things, I would come back refreshed and make it through the rest of the day.

Even now, I appreciate the fact that I woke up early (mostly to try to set my internal alarm for changing over to a job with a day shift in a few days) and I now have the living room to myself to have a cup of coffee and blog.

I use my personality type to explain a lot of things in my life I didn't have the words for in the past. I won't go into too much detail because, as is part of my personality, I'd sound like a know-it-all supervillain if I did. (INTJs are basically the ideal villain in pop culture. Personally, I think they're just misunderstood.)

That said, I highly recommend taking the Myers-Briggs test, if for nothing else than to look at all the fun pop culture references and images are out there that correlate with each type. I even started a board on Pinterest for fun INTJ pictures I've found. In a weird way, it's nice to have that "I know, right?" moment when I see something that totally resonates with me.