What does your personality say about you?

You may have, at one time or another, referred to yourself as an introvert or an extravert.

You may not know what it means to be an introvert or an extravert.

You may have taken an online personality test and come back with some series of four letters that supposedly identifies you as some personality type. Some people call it the Meyer’s-Briggs Type Indicator. Some refer to it as Keirsey temperaments. Some people call it that fun quiz on Facebook.

The question for me is, What does your personality say about you?

I’ve taken the test. Several times over the last 10 years. My general results are the same, but I’ve had a few changes occur. For example, over the course of time, I’ve gone from E to I. That is, I’ve gone from Extravert (getting my energy from being around people) to Introvert (getting my energy from being alone or with a few people). Also, I’ve transition from P to J, or Perception (laid back, go with the flow) to Judging (organized, scheduled, etc).Image

Overall, I now test as an ISFJ – Introverted, Sensing, Feeling, Judging. I am a Guardian type and my personality is called the Protector. So why is it important or useful to know this information about myself? Well, the Meyers & Briggs Foundation states several reasons for why this knowledge is useful: Relationships, determining careers, and educational preferences, to name a few.  My husband, who likes reading up on all of this stuff for fun, says its a way to determine your decision making process. I say that it’s good to know yourself, but not let that determine your decisions or your actions.

According to my MBTI, ideal careers for me would be nursing, social work, administrative assistant, shop keeper, book keeper and home economics. Well, guess what? I’m a social worker by training, and have interests in three others in that list. People with the same personality type as I are 1) extremely interested and in tune with how other people are feeling and 2) they enjoy creating structure and order, and are extremely good at it. In an ideal world, the ISFJ will chose a career in which they can use their exceptional people-observation skills to determine what people want or need, and then use their excellent organizational abilities to create a structured plan or environment for achieving what people want.

At this point, I’m lucky if you’re still reading. You’re probably waiting for me to get to the point.

My point is this: At what point is too much “self analysis” just too much?

As I said above, my husband said that it clarifies a decision making process. However, I believe that, while it is good to know how your personality traits affect your life decisions, you always have a choice. I think that with the MBTI/Kiersey/Meyers-Briggs Jung/etc.,  people can create the out they may be looking for. Something people want to hide behind as a “Well, my personality is this, so it’s okay for me to be a jerk because that’s what my personality type makes me look like anyway.” Or, “I can ignore people in this situation, because my personality says I am going to be more focused on this alternate population anyway.”

However, it’s all about the choices you make. I may not gain energy from being in a large group of people, but I may miss out on some cool opportunities or events if I choose to stay with a small group. Or the reverse – you may be enjoying time spent with a large group, and missing out on the smaller things in your every day life. Being aware that you are a “P” may make you feel like you have the freedom to shirk responsibilities, or that you can plan things without worrying about responsibilities such as having time to find a babysitter. Being aware that you are a “J” can make you seem over-structured if you don’t find a balance.

I also am of the believe (opposing that of my husband in this regard), that your results can shift as a result of life experiences. If you experience trauma at the hands of someone, it may cause you to no longer seek attention of other people to be at peace. If you become a parent, it may cause you to be less free form and spur of the moment, and have to develop those “J” aspects of organization. I don’t believe that your entire personality type can change – I don’t ever foresee my life causing me to be a “Thinker” rather than a “Feeler.” But I think it is important to be open to the idea that some of our letters can indeed change over time.

Personality profiling can be a double-edged sword. But, it doesn’t have to be. It all depends on how you intend to use it. This type of testing can help identify people’s tendencies but it doesn’t provide the absolute end all be all truth about people and what they can ultimately do and accomplish. It’s not designed to test peoples skills or character. It is merely designed to allow people to discover and work around the “quirks” we all have. If you and an opposing personality type have to work on a project together, or live in the same family, your differences can be irritating to one another. This is when knowing about personality type can help. You can accept his way as valid, and he can accept yours.

We perform the Kiersey testing at my work, with the intent of encouraging people to find what they are interested in doing, as well as how they may handle themselves in certain ways. Keirsey looks at Temperament; personality traits, such as habits of communication, patterns of action, and sets of characteristic attitudes, values, and talents. It also encompasses personal needs, the kinds of contributions that individuals make in the workplace, and the roles they play in society. Each temperament has its own unique qualities and shortcomings, strengths and challenges. There is more information about difference between the MBTI and the Keirsey available online, but the long and short of it is that they have different definitions for the functions.

Keirsey says that:

Introversion=reserved
Extraversion=expressive
Sensation=observation
Intuition=introspection
Thinking= tough-minded
Feeling= friendly
Judging=scheduling
Perceiving=probing (keeping eye out for emerging opportunities)

While Myers-Briggs say that:

Introversion= drawn to the inner world of concepts and ideas
Extraversion= drawn to the outer world of people and things
Sensation= perceiving the actualities
Intuition= perceiving the possibilities
Thinking= impersonal finding by a logical process
Feeling= bestowing on things a personal subjective value
Judging= coming to conclusions readily
Perceiving= collecting infomation, the shutting off of judgement

So, where am I going with this? Take from it what you will. Just remember, as interesting as the results may be, they have a place and a reason. They are not designed to serve as a mask for your choices, but rather, a way to help you understand why you prefer the things you do.

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6 thoughts on “What does your personality say about you?

  1. I get your point! For me personality tests like the Myers-Briggs and the Kiersey are helpful in understanding my responses to the world (they’re also mad helpful for character development). But it’s ALSO important to know that they don’t DEFINE your choices FOR YOU. Like, I’m an introvert, which is helpful to know, because it explains why I feel more charged when I have time alone. But it also does NOT mean that I can’t have fun with people, or that I shouldn’t. I’m a P (perceiver/procrastinator), which is helpful to know, because it’s a way of clearly articulating that my strongest talents come at the “make it up as you go along” line, which comes in real handy in live television and working with young children and writing off the cuff. But it sure as hell DOESN’T mean that I get a free pass for not getting stuff done when it needs to get done.

  2. Your relative strengths toward each type play a huge part as well. I’m also a procrastinator but 90% of the time test slight J because of my need to think before I act and plan things out in advance. What’s also interesting is that for I (introvert) types, their dominant function in decision making is the OPPOSITE of their last letter!!! So, as an INFJ, I’m actually a dominant PERCEIVER, which makes total sense to me now! My INFP friend is very much a “judger”, so learning that fact about functions clarified a lot for me. And to piggyback on Karen, I agree that being an I/E has nothing to do with having fun with people, but as an I you probably don’t enjoy situations where there’s a LOT of people draining your energy.

    Some people say people can go through noticeable change every 7 years, when your complete cellular makeup changes. So while I often state that people can’t change, I suppose what I really mean are that I believe there are fundamental roots in who you are once you reach a certain point in your life. I would argue that my wife has always been ISFJ, but that her auxiliary Fe (Extraverted Feeling) has led her to be a very social person throughout most of her life, because Fe desires a strong connection to others. It is said that one can not fully get a true result on MBTI testing until about their mid-twenties, when the inferior function has had time to fully develop.

    I also agree with my wife that MBTI is not an excuse. Thought I do believe it provides great insight. Your choices are your choices. I’m Ni dominant with Fe auxiliary, and can use those forces for good or for evil. I can use those 2 functions to piece together tremendous connections about people and use them to improve their lives, or I can use those 2 functions to manipulate life’s situations into achieving my dreams and ideals.

    I love seeing my wife get into this stuff and love being able to talk about it with her! 🙂

  3. I agree with you!! We actually use to test the students at the beginning of the year to give them, and us, some insight into how they operate. We always found it to be helpful and it encouraged some thought-provoking conversation as well.
    My results haven’t shifted much over the years. For example, I always hate being in big crowds but if the crowd includes two or more close friends then I’m OK being there. If those friends go off and hang out with other people I feel a tremendous amount of anxiety but have learned over the years how to handle those feelings in a healthy way. I force myself to say hello to people I don’t know. Sometimes this has led to new friendships! I would have missed out if I hadn’t gone outside my comfort zone.
    These tests are very helpful in learning who we are, what we prefer, and what we need to work on. I think the last part is important. Like you said, it’s easy to say, “This is me and that’s that.” I don’t think so. I don’t think that’s healthy to put yourself in a personality box and never try to improve. Our entire person is a work in progress throughout our life time. How boring to limit who we are. It’s variable from one decade to another, not as static as we might think. I like to think we are the sum of our experiences.
    When I was in my 20’s and in college I had friends call me “Momma Deb.” I always thought it was sweet. Over time I have realized it was their way of telling me they loved me but thought I could be a pain in the butt. Ha! My natural tendencies are to nurture and protect those I love. When people come to me with problems my first instinct is to fix and/or offer advice. And many times I would do that even without prompting. I loved so much and just wanted people to be happy. I thought I was helping. My own family came to me all the time as the “family counselor” so wasn’t it normal for me to do the same for my friends? Isn’t that how life worked? I really thought so!
    It took a long time, and a few failed friendships, for me to understand that sometimes being there for someone just means offering a shoulder. That sometimes a person’s own journey through their struggles is more strengthening for them then having someone tell them how to fix it.
    I have often looked back and wished that I could have told myself then what I know now. Maybe some of those friendships wouldn’t have ended, but I also know now that friendships take two people. Both are responsible if those friendships fail or succeed. I still have those instincts, and attribute them to my personality type, but have learned to be better in spite of them.

    • Those two functions you’re describing sound like you may be ISFJ like Melissa! 🙂

      • Very much so! Although the J side tends to overwhelm me. I feel anxious when things aren’t organized/planned, etc, but also invest far too much time in those tasks when I do them. I also have a hard time focusing on one thing at a time when there is always SO MUCH that needs to get done. I will literally clean half the bathroom before I feel the compulsion to re-organize my closet or something. Ha! The F is the dominant for me in both good and bad ways. Far too sensitive and insecure at times but very giving and loyal too.

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