Many times, I thought I understand the world better than I did yesterday. I thought if I did, it’ll help me to better relate to others, but I was fooling myself.
I know it’s humanly impossible to grasp even the slightest idea of how the world works (even though I always try), so the only way to find meaning behind our existence is through the details: its complex inhabitants that is us humans – us as a collective, us as individuals.
My nature tends to look at the outside world in its totality and try to understand it so I can adjust myself accordingly, when instead I should be glancing inward more than I speculate the outside. Since extraverting is a huge source of my stress, given an extended period of time, this constant adjusting always becomes a problem.
For the born-extraverts, it’s usually the other way around.
You thought you know yourself well enough to relate better with the world than before, but you’re only fooling yourself. Because truth is, when you zoom in from the world at large, you yourself as a human being is one of the greatest mysteries in your life.
Personality, Jungian typology, MBTI
I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I first got into MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator), but me and my colleagues at my previous job were surfing the Web (we’ve finished our work for the day). We were reading the Blood Type personality comic series together and laughing around, and I think one of us started searching for other types of personality assessment.
When I found out my tests results consistently show I’m an INFJ1, I knew Isabel Briggs Myers and her mother had done something right about the MBTI model. It’s one that people have been using for decades, though a lot of critics are starting to argue how it isn’t a reliable enough classification system, especially since the model’s design was largely based on Carl Jung’s typology. You see, Jung came up with his typology theories out of his own personal life experiences instead of on real data. It’s a way for him to analyze people and literature, not for psychotherapy, education, career advancement or any other professional endeavors. No one really likes the idea of getting pigeonholed into just one of only 16 personality types after all, but who am I here to judge the validity of a personality test so strictly here, when it has already improved the way I relate to others?
As time goes by, I’ve dived deeper and found communities like the people over at Marissa’s blog and INFJ Christians, where I finally feel I’m not the only weird one around and learned the different ways I can tolerate or try to understand individual differences of other types from more mature INFJs.
What knowing yourself better can do for you
I’ve done the whole treating-everyone-equally all my life, but still couldn’t understand why actions often do not translate well to others. Before I know it, I was drained to exhaustion, more so whenever I think there must be something wrong with me. Now I’ve learned the hard way that the Golden Rule applies only if how I want to be treated is how that person also wants to be treated. This is what personality tests are priceless for.
- World – Extraversion or introversion; where you direct your attention and energy most
- Information – Sensing or intuiting; how you primarily deal with information
- Decisions – Thinking or feeling; how you often make your decisions, objectively or subjectively
- Structure – Judging or perceiving; how you prefer to interact with the outer world, setting things in stone or keeping options open
Out of the many models of personality assessment, the MBTI is one of the most enduring ones and that I personally find most helpful. Whether it’s through the MBTI or other assessments, understanding people’s personality (including your own) just a matter of you becoming more aware of your own stance in the presence of the multitude, and what I like about the MBTI is that it’s revelatory on how people come to a certain end result that either slightly varies or severely opposes from mine. Whether you’re applying for a job or seeking consultations from a therapist, it’s generally required of you to take personality questionnaires so others can get an insight of your tendencies in order to best work with you or help you.
Below here I’ve listed just a few of the many ways the MBTI model has been instrumental for me …
Define your life purpose
As much as it’s opened my eyes, reading Rick Warren’s Purpose-Driven Life wasn’t enough for me to discover my part in the larger God-glorifying purpose, and I know I’ve always felt a calling when it comes to self-expression, especially in art and writing. It comes easy for me, but a classic INFJ tendency is to put too much pressure on ourselves. The danger starts when we overanalyze our “coulds” and “shoulds”. For example with this blog, when I learned that my primary INFJ function is introverted intuiting (foresight) and auxiliary function extraverted feeling (relating to or showing interest in people), I’ve better understood that my purpose isn’t to force my opinions on you, or to argue and support my “right”ness against yours. I try to be as informed as possible with my stances, but I should be using the blog more as a means (and not an end) to relate and connect with you more, no matter what’s the right “what” (or the “right”ness of it) in the end.
Play up your strengths
In the large scheme of things, knowing your primary, auxiliary, tertiary and inferior functions can help you prioritize the tasks that actually makes a difference. Seeing how these “functions” stack up lets you choose important tasks (as opposed to menial ones), tasks that often highlight your particular strengths. Yes, you find out both your strengths and weaknesses in practically all personality tests out there, but with the MBTI, you get to find out your personal preferences, your natural thought processes, how you structure new information in your head and ultimately, how to manage your weaknesses as well. Speaking of which, you’ll also find that you don’t have to be perfect, because everybody deals with their demons everyday – it’s an ongoing battle with our own Achilles heel. This way, you can stay focused and productive being in your ideal modes of working, and you do that by cutting out the many unnecessary time-wasters in your life that do nothing but bring out the worst in you.
About 99% of the time, I feel weirded out to be the only one stressed out so easily among my circles. My INFJ tendencies to think ahead, need to plan, always want to know what to expect, yet isn’t comfortable with the limelight – a lot of different aspects of life drains my energy even when none of them requires any special attention from me. I just feel the need to do more than is expected all the time, whereas with my personal goals, goals that are dearest to me, I find it difficult to push myself to work as hard on them. Because of this, most INFJs I’ve came to know in blogs and forums (I’ve never met another INFJ in my life) reveal a similar struggle I have, that it’s hard for us to balance between catering to the needs of others and our own. The best suggestion out there is to set strict boundaries, which is simpler said than done. It doesn’t please everyone because some people just push, push, push you to open up until they call you weird, but after a while I realized it’s better to leave out people, problems, or things that just don’t align with my personal values – in this case, privacy.
Make better choices
… with your time, energy, and effort. Increasingly, we’re faced with more and more options everyday and they all scream for our immediate attention. Knowing I’m an INFJ has saved me a lot of time when it comes to saving my energy. Like I said, I’ve learned to select tasks to complete and, even though it’s difficult, to let go or simply discard tasks that may be just as urgent, but doesn’t add up much in the long run. Above all, INFJs desire to see their rich inner world materialize into reality, and that calls for doing anything and everything possible until we see it to fruition, even though we don’t always have the time and energy. It’s why we’re easily stressed out, it’s why we have to set boundaries, remind ourselves what’s more important and what’s less, and make decisions (and when we do, it’s like setting them in stone). Our inner monologue? “When you decide on something, you better make sure it’s the right one.”
Carve a fulfilling career
As a Millennial I feel that understanding my own patterns of behavior (and that about 1% of the world population has similar patterns a.k.a. I’m not alone) has taught me a lot in accepting myself the way I currently am and not to sabotage myself for my perceived shortcomings and all these other pressures I’ve put on myself. At work, our generation requires something that energizes us, yet at the same time pays the rent. It’s getting harder to get a job that fulfills both requirements these days. You may be jumping from one job to another to make ends meet, but particularly for INFJs, much more than the salary, we feel the need to understand what’s the connecting dot behind these jobs, where we stand in the bigger purpose (or lack thereof)? And this constant evaluation of our path either drives us to inaction or causes us to develop anger toward society at large. I’ve learned to accept that although I may not wholly understand what’s the big picture behind everything I’ve done and will do, I must move forward and with each step, more intentionally than ever before.
Build stronger relationships
This is a common situation for INFJs: That you have a large, disparate circles of acquaintances, but only a handful of people you call a friend. Ideally, we want people who just “gets” us and our complexities. Truth is, after learning I’m an INFJ, I have no right to expect others, more so with strangers, to be the one persistently peeling the layers off of me for months, or even years. I have to force myself to make the first move somehow, and people that are worth keeping in an INFJ’s life are the ones who can understand our need to “disappear” from the radar once in a while, which is one quintessential way for the INFJ to stay emotionally healthy. Similarly, I’ve encouraged the closest people to me to take the test multiple times like I did (to find out their stable type) so I can better understand how I can compromise for the relationship without sacrificing my principles. This allows a lot of room for us to communicate freely and therefore, agree together that no one person is 100% “right” or “wrong” at a time.
Live to your fullest potential
Never in my 25 years of being a personality-test junkie I’ve ever felt like reading my own biography like I do whenever I read my MBTI test results, which is always an INFJ. There are truths that I’ve grown up avoiding and there are aspects of myself I knew I shouldn’t be giving so much thought about. To be perfectly honest, I am currently not living to my fullest potential. I so want everything in my ideal world to actualize that I drove myself to the edge of the cliff and stayed there for too long of an existential crisis. Upon returning to planet earth I learned, the most important thing is to never lock up and throw your future in the dumpster. I’m at a very different, much more positive place right now than when I first discovered the MBTI2, even if it’s only been a couple of years ago. That glimmer of hope must always be there for you to nurture, develop, and eventually, for your potential to outgrow itself. It’s not some far-fetched childhood dream that’s too big or too late to do something about. It’s just a picture you hang on your mental wall so you’re always reminded to change the things you can, while you can, for the better.