Feather & Flint

5 Reasons You Should Know Your Personality Type

April 4, 2017 34 Comments

Myers-Briggs personality type

Everyone who knows me well knows that I’m a big Myers-Briggs nerd. I bug friends, family members, and coworkers to take personality tests—usually to confirm my growing suspicion about what their Myers-Briggs personality type might be. (I’m getting pretty good at guessing.)

So what’s a Myers-Briggs personality type—and why should you know yours? I’ll break down the basics for you.

What’s a Myers-Briggs Personality Type?

There are 16 personality types, each of which is a code consisting of 4 letters: E or I, N or S, F or T, J or P. For example, my Myers-Briggs personality type is INFJ; the opposite type would be ESTP. In order to find your type, you take an MBTI test, which asks you questions like, “Do you find it difficult to introduce yourself to other people?” and “Is it often difficult for you to relate to other people’s feelings?” I’ll direct you toward some tests that I trust later on in this post!

Each letter in your Myers-Briggs personality type denotes a preference that each of us has on a particular dimension. For instance, my type (INFJ) is Introverted-iNtuitive-Feeling-Judging; the opposite type (ESTP) would be Extroverted-Sensing-Thinking-Perceiving. Although each option is binary (e.g. between Extroverted or Introverted), there are some of us who exemplify a preference more strongly than others. We all know people who are very clearly extroverts or introverts; while others may lean more toward one side or the other, but the distinction isn’t as clear.

What Does Each Letter in Your Myers-Briggs Personality Type Mean?

Extroverted (E) vs. Introverted (I)

Which situations do you find energizing, and how do you interact with your environment?

  • Extroverts are energized by frequent social interaction, stimulating environments, and acting on their thoughts. Being alone or inactive for too long drains their energy and motivation. They might be described as gregarious, demonstrative, uninhibited, outgoing, or assertive.
  • Introverts are energized through time spent alone, reflecting on their thoughts in a peaceful environment. In addition, they relish deep conversations with close friends, with time to recharge in between interactions. They might be described as reflective, reserved, thoughtful, introspective, or deliberate. (Read more about introversion in my post, 15 Strengths & Struggles for Introverts at Work!)
  • Common misconceptions: Introversion is not the same as shyness or social anxiety. Our society tends to favor extroversion, but this does not mean that introversion is inferior—it just takes a little more work to make sure that your needs are met.

Intuitive (N) vs. Sensing (S)

How do you gather and interpret information, and where do you direct your mental energy?

  • Intuitive individuals are inclined toward patterns, abstractions, theories, metaphors, and possibilities. They read between the lines, and they remember impressions over hard facts and details. They experience flashes of insight, and they tend to trust their gut feelings. They like to understand the big picture first, then learn the facts.
  • Those with a Sensing preference are inclined toward information that’s concrete, tangible, and in the present. They value their own experiences above all else. They like to understand the applications of the things they learn. They have a memory for details. They like to learn the facts first, then form a big picture.
  • Common misconceptions: Each of us is both intuitive and sensing—it’s just about which mode of information-gathering you prefer and employ more often.

Feeling (F) vs. Thinking (T)

How do you make decisions and confront emotions?

  • Individuals with a Feeling preference are compelled to look at situations from the inside, using their strong capacity for empathy to achieve harmony for all involved parties. They might be described as compassionate, tactful, or sensitive.
  • Those with a Thinking preference are compelled to take a step back from the situation at hand to view things in a rational, objective way, prioritizing truth and fairness over tact. They might be described as direct, logical, or task-oriented.
  • Common misconceptions: “Thinking” does not mean “intelligent,” and “Feeling” does not mean “irrational.” Both types make rational decisions and have the same capacity for intelligence—Thinkers just value an impartial, judicious approach to decision-making, while Feelers employ a great deal of empathy in making decisions. Lastly, “Thinking” does not mean “cold” or “emotionless,” although Thinkers can come across as such if they tend to stave off or devalue their own emotions.

Judging (J) vs. Perceiving (P)

How do you relate to the outside world; and how do you approach work, planning, and decision-making?

  • Those with a Judging preference are inclined toward closure, planning, organization, structure, order, and decisiveness.
  • Individuals with a Perceiving preference are inclined toward open-ended plans, spontaneity, and flexibility. They work in bursts of energy and prefer to keep their options open as they gather information.
  • Common misconceptions: “Judging” does not mean “judgmental,” and “Perceiving” does not mean “perceptive.” The words refer to the tendency to make decisions and seek closure while taking in information (for Judgers), or to stay open to information for as long as possible before ultimately making a decision (for Perceivers).

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Myers-Briggs Personality Type Resources I Recommend

I’m sure that you’re all curious to know your Myers-Briggs personality type and what it means, so here are some tests that I recommend:

16 Personalities

Human Metrics

I strongly recommend that you take at least 2 tests so that you can compare the results against each other. Remember to answer objectively—as you actually are, not as you wish you could be, or feel you should be. If you keep getting different results, or if you don’t agree with your Myers-Briggs personality type, try to narrow down the traits that do ring true for you (e.g. are you definitely an introvert and a feeler?), then read the descriptions for all of the types that contain those letters (e.g. INFP, INFJ, ISFP, ISFJ) until you find one that feels like you. Each Myers-Briggs personality type is more than the sum of its four letters, because each preference influences how the others are exhibited–so if you take the test and the description doesn’t sound like you, it’s because one of your letters is off, and that difference can drastically change your personality. For example, if you know an ENFJ and an INFJ, you’ll know that they are more different than just the introverted or extroverted versions of one another.

Here are my favorite sites for reading about your Myers-Briggs personality type:

16 Personalities

Truity

Personality Page

The Myers-Briggs Foundation

So why is it important to know your Myers-Briggs personality type—and how has my life changed since I first discovered mine?

Myers-Briggs personality type

5 Reasons You Should Know Your Myers-Briggs Personality Type

Reaching Self-Acceptance

We all beat ourselves up about certain qualities that we can’t seem to change about ourselves. I used to force myself into social situations that made me miserable because I thought the opposite of “outgoing” was “antisocial”—a word I did not want to be associated with. Realizing that I was an introvert rather than an awkward ball of anxiety was incredibly freeing. I gave myself permission to trust my own preferences—a glass of wine and an all-night conversation with a close friend rather than a loud, crowded party that would leave me frazzled and drained, for example. While it’s important to step outside of your comfort zone from time to time, you should never feel forced to live your entire life outside of your comfort zone—it’s not sustainable or healthy to be someone other than who you really are.

Understanding Your Relationships

When you know who you are, you’re able to interact with other people from a much more informed, empowered position. Understanding your similarities and differences from the people around you makes it infinitely easier to bridge gaps and connect with one another. For example, I found out that my Myers-Briggs personality type is INFJ, while my husband is an ENTJ. We have two traits in common, and two opposing traits. As iNtuitives, we both value gut feelings and big-picture thinking; and as Judgers, we’ve been known to spend a Saturday night planning our future while organizing our files together (I’m not even joking!). As an introvert married to an extrovert, we’ve found ways to split our time that leave both of us feeling energized. The feeling/thinking difference has been much tougher to navigate, as I’m the most empathetic person imaginable, and he’s even more bent toward rationality and pragmatism than the average T. Knowing our Myers-Briggs personality types has helped me to realize that he’s not a sociopath, just like I’m not an irrational puddle of emotions—and it’s allowed us to learn so much from each other, making us both more well-rounded people. He’s made me more assertive—a trait that I desperately needed so I could establish healthy boundaries in my life—while I’ve helped him to understand himself and other people better, and to be less impulsive when making important decisions. We’re each other’s yin and yang—and the world needs both halves.

Choosing a Career

I wanted so badly to be a professional musician—and I beat myself up when I found that constantly performing and promoting myself completely drained me. I did the same thing by trying to get into social science research, ignoring my desperate need for creativity. Luckily, I ended up in a career in writing, which is an infinitely better fit. You can’t force yourself to go against your core traits for the length of your career. You’ll spend so much time trying to change yourself that you’ll not only burn out—you’ll be wasting the unique contributions that you could have made, had you simply allowed yourself to be who you really are. While some personalities might succeed more easily in certain environments (like my husband, an ENTJ, who can rise up the corporate ladder faster than anyone I’ve ever known—and his type is literally called “The Executive”), the world needs all 16 Myers-Briggs personality types and the gifts and perspectives that they bring to the table.

(P.S. You can read more about my search for a career that fit my personality in these 4 posts: How I Came to Be a Writer, Why I Don’t Regret Walking Away from the Career I Thought I WantedDear Unemployed Recent Grad: You’re Not Alone, and 15 Strengths & Struggles for Introverts at Work.)

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Establishing Healthy Boundaries

Introverts need to accept that when they hit their limit, forcing themselves to remain in a stressful situation doesn’t benefit anyone—and neither does packing their schedule with commitments that they dread, without adequate time to reflect and recharge. Feelers need to accept that they need to retreat from the world from time to time to avoid overextending their capacity for empathy—and this doesn’t make them a selfish person. Intuitives can’t thrive in situations that force them to ignore their gut feelings, just like Judgers can’t thrive in circumstances that force them to leave their plans open-ended for too long. We owe it to ourselves to become the best versions of ourselves. Knowing why you gravitate toward the things that you do allows you to seek out opportunities in a deliberate, intentional way. The opposite is also true—by knowing yourself, you give yourself permission to say no to opportunities that won’t grow you.

Realizing Our Strengths & Weaknesses

Because there are 16 different types of people in the world—each type containing an infinite continuum of variation—we’re called to contribute to society in vastly different ways. This means that we’ll each define success in a different way, which gives you permission to live your life in a way that feels gratifying and fulfilling to you alone. If you spend your time trying to approximate the gifts of another person in a way that doesn’t come naturally to you, you’ll be a second-rate version of a different kind of person rather than a first-rate version of yourself. Meanwhile, the world will be missing out on the unique contributions that you could have made had you paid attention to your natural preferences and talents. While we should each strive to improve ourselves in the areas where we’re lacking, there’s nothing noble about spending your whole life denying your inherent identity just because your strengths look different than someone else’s.

Myers-Briggs personality type

What’s your Myers-Briggs personality type, and how has knowing your type impacted your life? Tell me all about it in the comments!

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34 Comments

  1. Reply

    Dawn

    April 4, 2017

    I have taken the Myers Briggs test and others (DISC) and I love finding out your personality and thinking through the people closest to you. It really helps you know how to deal with your family and friends and the people you meet.

  2. Reply

    Sincerely Miss J

    April 4, 2017

    Very nice post! I feel like I’m a mixture of a few of these. Mostly introverted. I made sure to pin this! 🙂

    Sincerely Miss J
    http://www.sincerelymissj.com

  3. Reply

    Carrie Goodman

    April 4, 2017

    I’m glad you posted this today! I actually just took the 16 Personalities test this morning, and I’m an INFJ (Advocate). I have to say that it was pretty accurate. It was interesting seeing my personality spelled out for me, and it makes it easier to embrace both my strengths and weaknesses, especially the fact that too much in person interaction with other people really wears me out, and that’s ok.

  4. Reply

    Sarah Jean althouse

    April 4, 2017

    I am an INFJ and every day trying to figure out how to fit in to an extroverted world. haha! It’s funny, my mom and sisters are all introverts and we all married extroverts.

  5. Reply

    Divya

    April 4, 2017

    Extremely well-written post and you touched on all the GREAT things about learning your personality type. It was a requirement that we take a personality test (whether it by Myers-Briggs or some other type) before we started each school year. Our leadership team felt that by knowing our strengths and weaknesses, we would be better able to approach the classroom in a way that would benefit students.
    I have always always always been the girl that was the overly emotional, sentimental, relationship-oriented one.

  6. Reply

    Samantha @ Momma Wants Java

    April 4, 2017

    I love all the information you packed in here! I took the Myers Briggs test not too long ago, and if I remember correctly, I was an INFJ, too. It’s so fun reading all the little details about the personalities, and so many of them rang true for me.

  7. Reply

    Erica @ Coming Up Roses

    April 4, 2017

    It really is such a helpful test. I’m an ENFJ!

    Coming Up Roses

  8. Reply

    Talisa

    April 4, 2017

    I found out my personality type some years ago (I’m an INFJ) and boy has it changed how I live. Co-sign on improving self-acceptance. Writing is my “thing” as well and I truly can’t see myself in a career path where I won’t be able to have my way with words. These points are so true!! x

  9. Reply

    Becky @ Disney in your Day

    April 4, 2017

    I do think it’s super interesting – and especially the fact that your Myers-Briggs personality can change through the years as you grow too. So what you were 5 years ago might be different than what it is today.

  10. Reply

    Alex

    April 4, 2017

    I absolutely love the Meyers-Briggs. I have also taken the DISC. I am usually INFJ, and occasionally INTJ. My husband is extroverted, so we are learning how to complement each other nicely!

  11. Reply

    Jocelyn

    April 4, 2017

    I’ve always enjoyed taking personality tests. They are so helpful when reflecting on your own wants, needs, and values.

  12. Reply

    Catherine Short

    April 4, 2017

    I’m an ESTJ. I love talking personality types (and birth order!). I’m pretty introspective so I find all of it really fascinating and helpful when relating to other people.

  13. Reply

    Brittany L Bergman

    April 4, 2017

    Yes, yes, yes! I agree with all of these! Understanding more about my personality through Myers-Briggs helped me find a career that is better suited for me and helps me set healthy boundaries on my time and energy. I’m an ISFJ who was drawn to the mission of teaching but I burned out so fast. Now I work at a publishing house and it’s a much better fit!

  14. Reply

    Bonnie

    April 5, 2017

    We took a personality test at a job I was at and it was so cool to find out. Of course as they were describing them I already knew what type I was, so I wasn’t surprised, just glad there were others out there 😂

  15. Reply

    Anonymous

    April 5, 2017

    Fellow INFJ here! We’re supposed to be incredibly rare, but I find a lot of us in the blogosphere!

  16. Reply

    Abbey

    April 5, 2017

    You make some great points! I took this long ago but can’t remember what I was. What’s funny is my husband and I were talking about personality types this morning (from a different test) and how they help us better understand the people in our families and each other! 🙂

  17. Reply

    Crystal

    April 5, 2017

    I need to take this test 🙂 Very interesting read.

  18. Reply

    Andrea

    April 5, 2017

    I loved the Myers-Briggs test! I took it several years ago (honestly, I can´t remember my results but I have them saved somewhere, lol) and it helped me understanding my personality and even those around me. I even recommended that test to several friends and relatives that weren´t sure of which career path to choose. I believe it´s very important to know all of what this test shows about one´s personality. It was a game changer for me. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  19. Reply

    Meg Smidt

    April 5, 2017

    Absolutely….. happy to be an ENFP! 🙂

  20. Reply

    Kristin

    April 6, 2017

    My personality type was the same as Robin Williams, Will Smith, and Michael Scott. haha. Clearly there are some variances because I do not act like Michael Scott. bahaha.
    But it is helpful to know more of your own personality and see how it relates to others 🙂

  21. Reply

    yvette

    April 6, 2017

    Iove this test also and I’ve actually taken it a few times at different phases of my life. I found it interesting that while most of my traits remained the same, one changed over the last 5 years and it really made sense when I looked back to what happened in my life to bring about that change. I think it’s a great test for everyone to take to gain insights into their decision making skills.

  22. Reply

    Julia

    April 6, 2017

    LOVE THIS! I always thought there was something wrong with me because I HATE group work and I’m so terrible at meeting new people in large groups and I just freeze up, but once I took the Myers Brigg test and understood my personality (INTP), it totally changed how I respond in situations! There isn’t anything wrong with me, I just respond to people and situations differently than other people do.

  23. Reply

    Shani | Sunshine & Munchkins

    April 6, 2017

    I remember the first time I took a test like this. I was really surprised at how accurate it was. It’s been a few years since I took the test, but I generally waver between an INFJ and an INSJ. It just kind of depends on when I’m taking it.

  24. Reply

    Krysten

    April 6, 2017

    I was an INFJ all through high school and college but at some point switched to an ISFJ. I really should have my husband take the test to find out what he is!

  25. Reply

    Sharon

    April 7, 2017

    I took this quiz in college and found out that I am an EFTJ. Not surprised about it, one bit! I have learned to be a little less headstrong, but other than that, not much has changed haha!

  26. Reply

    Rebecca Hicks

    April 7, 2017

    I love this! I’ve taken a Myers Briggs test before, but it was a LONG time ago and I can’t remember what my results were. Just from reading through this, though, I’d guess I’d be ISFP. Now I need to take the test to see if I’m right!

  27. Reply

    Julie Hood

    April 7, 2017

    I just looked up mine last month because I had never done it!! It definitely explains a lot haha.

  28. Reply

    Anonymous

    April 7, 2017

    Love this! I think the more you know about yourself, the better chance you have to create a successful life.

  29. Reply

    melissa

    April 7, 2017

    Great post! OK……I’m convinced. Going to find out my personality type now. 🙂

  30. Reply

    Anonymous

    April 7, 2017

    I have found that N types are much more interested in knowing about personality types and the S people think it is weird.

  31. Reply

    Ana@CelebratingSunshine

    April 7, 2017

    I’ve always considered myself an introvert, but I’m actually an ESFJ. Your post is very well written and it made me better understand some of my personality traits.

  32. Reply

    Anonymous

    April 7, 2017

    Like a typical INFJ, I’m a huge fan of this!

  33. Reply

    Madeleine

    June 25, 2017

    For having a self-declared Myers-Briggs “nerd” as an author, this article displays a shallow understanding of the MBTI framework. The types aren’t built solely on four dichotomies; instead, each type has underlying mechanics called cognitive functions (look that up). The reality of the theory is a lot more intriguing and thoughtful than a misinformed tangent that lumps together differences between perceiving functions and a general misunderstanding of what MBTI really is.

    A word to the wise: the tests linked in this article, especially 16Personalities, are awful. They test the four simple dichotomies and the questions asked make it the single biggest atrocity that’s causing Carl Jung to roll in his grave. Take them with a grain of salt.

    • Reply

      Robin

      June 25, 2017

      Hi Madeleine,
      I definitely think that you could have phrased this comment in a much kinder way. However, I did want to respond to your legitimate criticism of my post.
      I intended this as a beginner’s guide to the very basics of the MBTI framework. My background is actually in social science research; so I can empathize with your frustration at seeing scientific theories boiled down into elementary explanations of their shallowest components. I get frustrated with this all of the time.
      However, I don’t think that it hurts the larger theory to explain the basics to people, whetting their appetites until they feel the desire to dig in deeper on their own. I definitely did not intend to imply that the Myers-Briggs test is a vapid personality quiz asking people to choose between 2 oversimplified options–or that this is the beginning and end of the MBTI framework.
      However, I believe that knowing your personality type can be the beginning of a journey to understand yourself more deeply than you otherwise could–and that that’s the most critical journey that you can undertake in life. So if someone needs to begin by understanding the differences between each letter, then feels ready to dig into the subtler complexities of the cognitive functions underlying each type (yes, I do know about those), I think that’s a good thing.
      -Robin

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