For years, I thought I knew my Myers-Briggs personality. I never formally took the MBTI test, but Facebook and Buzzfeed quizzes told me I’m an ENTJ. I read up on my personality and my compatibilities with other personality types. I became accustomed to understanding myself, at least through some lens, that I am the direct, efficient, competent, and natural leader in many settings. I used to squirm at this assertion, but just look at my resume. I always end up being the president, the chair, or point person for projects I’m involved in.
In undergrad, I discovered personality tests: True Colors, StrengthsQuest, DiSC, and the pinnacle one, MBTI. I became fascinated by what they told us about a person, how tests could categorize people into personality boxes, and how they could guide relationships. I accept all this with a dash of salt and pinch of cynicism. I will be the first to say personality tests are not definite, your personality can change, there are not only four or six or 36 personalities in the world, and maybe there are misdiagnoses—but they can also help us! It’s nice to know who thinks more with their heart than their head…so I can make them agree with me in any way I have to. Insert sly smile emoji.
I value order. It’s the J in my personality. Classifying people into pigeonholes is calming. Finding the nuances within those pigeonholes is more intimidating. And people who tell you that MBTI is a false science are probably just bitter about their personalities. (And are ISTJs.)
Also, reading about your traits—your strengths and your weaknesses—is helpful. I introduced Sara to these personality tests a while ago, and she found similar value in knowing she’s an ENFP.
But until this week, my assumed personality had been based off free online Q&A black boxes. Through Career Services at my grad school, I had the opportunity to take the official MBTI test. Eagerly I signed up. Then the worry began.
Namely, what if I wasn’t an ENTJ?
Of course, I knew some things the tests told me weren’t going to be false. I’m definitely an extravert. Well, right? I mean, I like taking solo trips. I don’t need to be around people. Oh my Gawd. What if I’m introvert? Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but that would somersault my entire world view. What is an introvert if I am an introvert?
Worse, what if I was a feeler? Can you imagine—that I could possibly make decisions with my heart and not my head? I’m a logician. I value rational thought. I can’t possibly think with my emotions. But what if…
And maybe I’m a P. J vs. P is the last letter in the MBTI personality and indicates whether you like things open- or close-ended. Do you like schedules? You’re a J. Do you never have any idea what you’re doing in an hour, let alone tomorrow? I need to sit down to even grasp that style of life, but you’re a P.
And, quite possibly, I could be a P! How? I’m so type A! But I value spontaneity. Because I am so type A. So I’m going to be a J…right? Right?! But I like impromptu trips abroad! WHAT IF!
By the time my appointment with Career Services arrived, I had cavorted my psyche into imagining I could arguably be an ISFP, the exact opposite of the existence I knew to be true. But it was possible.
I walked into the office. She had my results on her desk. She started by telling me Myers-Briggs does have some basic in science and statistical measurements, which, hello, I study statistics.
“Tell me the truth! I’m a monster,” I sobbed internally.
She flipped the paper over. Before she said it, I saw the circled personality. I was—gasp—an ENTJ.
Wait, I’m not an ISFP?
I audibly laughed. I explained I had been experiencing “some” anxiety that maybe I wasn’t who I thought I was, that I had taken a few clickbait quizzes and they all told me this, but I just wanted to be sure.
“Well, you’re pretty high on all the measurements, so the free quizzes were probably accurate for you,” she said.
“You mean, my personality is to be a dictator?” I clarified.
When people translate Myers-Briggs personalities into animals, I am the lion. In Harry Potter, I am James Potter (who the heck knows what James Potter is? I don’t know where this one comes from). In Games of Thrones, I am (dear God) Cersei. Actually worse…I Googled famous ENTJs: Donald Trump is on the list!! But so is George Clooney, Bill Gates, Napoleon Bonaparte, Julius Caesar (et tu, Brute??), Nancy Pelosi, Dick Cheney, and – STOP IT – Joseph Stalin.
“Okay, so am I a dictator?” I asked.
“We all decide who we want to be in this life,” is the short answer.
No, what she really said is, ENTJs do gravitate toward leadership positions (aka dictatorships?). We value competency. Because of that, we value our competency.
Again, I laughed. Before I even knew my Myers-Briggs, I told people competency is the number one thing I value in a person (insert citation to Sara’s former blog post here).
The public sphere spends a lot of time discussing introversion vs. extraversion, so I won’t spend a lot of time discussing what it means that I’m an extravert. My one takeaway is that I need to practice silence and waiting when having conversations with introverts. I can leap to opinions and decisions much faster than an introvert. Just like a lion. Amirite?
But the NT of my personality – intuition and thinking – means I am always thinking ahead. This is not a surprise to me either, but is also affirmation. I usually find my thought pattern is several steps ahead of the group in terms of planning. Friends will say, “Why are you even thinking that far ahead?” But literally, I am 20 years down the road considering the consequences. “If we do this,” I say between clapping my hands, “the world will explode. Don’t you see that?”
No, they don’t. They haven’t thought that far.
Also, as an intuitive personality, I jump outside the box in my thinking far faster and far more frequently than the typical person. I rarely see things as black-and-white. If I was a professor, a student could ask me if I wanted the report double- or single-spaced, and I might say, “Why write it on paper?”
“It’s important to remember this,” the career specialist counseled, “and recognize that sometimes straightforward solutions do work. Being inside the box is not always bad.”
Me: Can we at least think inside a cube?
Finally, I asked the most pressing question—the reason that I had decided to get my personality officially diagnosed. “So when I graduate this year,” I said, “is there a wrong career path? What should I do with my life?”
“A personality can do anything they want. This doesn’t answer that. There are some careers you probably prefer, but you should do what makes you happy.”
As good as ENTJs are at making decisions and at looking ahead, I am an ENTJ that is not so good at this. And there’s the nuance all the doubters are looking for! It’s a science, but it’s not exact.
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