Last week I wrote about how much planning was plaguing me and started to write a little about how it is related to my Myers-Briggs type. I thought I’d write more about Myers Briggs today.
Myers-Briggs is a personality test (“MBTI” Myers Briggs Type Indicator). It rates you on four dimensions, described as follows on www.MyersBriggs.org:
Favorite world: Do you prefer to focus on the outer world or on your own inner world? This is called Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I).
Information: Do you prefer to focus on the basic information you take in or do you prefer to interpret and add meaning? This is called Sensing (S) or Intuition (N).
Decisions: When making decisions, do you prefer to first look at logic and consistency or first look at the people and special circumstances? This is called Thinking (T) or Feeling (F).
Structure: In dealing with the outside world, do you prefer to get things decided or do you prefer to stay open to new information and options? This is called Judging (J) or Perceiving (P).
I first took the MBTI in high school, otherwise obsessed with Cosmo’s “Are you a sexy librarian or a foxy teacher?” I also took it a few times in college and in grad school. Every time, I was always the same type: ESTJ. And strongly ESTJ. Not like, E, kinda S, T or N, J, but off-the-charts E.S.T.J.
An excerpt from the description of ESTJ (from the above site) reads “Practical, realistic, matter-of-fact. Decisive, quickly move to implement decisions…Have a clear set of logical standards, systematically follow them and want others to also.” And that was me, for a long, long time.
Can I move the needle?
When I was in grad school, we took several different types of assessments to heighten our self-awareness to better interact with others. When we took MBTI, we also read Type Talk at Work to get some coaching on how to use it as a framework for communicating at work. Unsurprisingly, I was an ESTJ again. But this time, I was going through some things outside of work and school that led me to believe that being so strongly an ESTJ was both an asset and a liability. Though people’s MBTI type typically doesn’t change, I was determined to move the needle on some of my preferences.
In particular, I really wanted to allow myself to make some decisions using Feelings, not just Thinking, and to allow the structure of my world to have some uncertainty in it. While I didn’t turn into an ESNP overnight, I did manage to incorporate N and P into my world more and over time those measurements became much less extreme.
I sometimes have to remind myself of this. Not that I live exclusively in the MBTI world – I recognize it’s just one way to view the world, and a flawed one at that. But it has been a useful framework to remember how to coach myself in a situation. I have to remember that I can make a decision based on a “gut feeling” or “just because” rather than always needing data and analysis to do everything.
Am I really an “E”?
Fast forward to becoming a mom last January. It has been surprisingly exhausting. Sure, it’s also rewarding and sweet and wonderful, but it is also tiring. Now, I’ve always been outgoing. And when I say outgoing, I mean talk-to-strangers-on-the-T outgoing. I didn’t mind being alone – in particular I love to read – but I’ve noticed that since the baby, I crave alone time and silence and quiet to recharge at a level I used to actively avoid at all costs.
I read this article on “Having an Outgoing Personality but actually being Introverted” hoping it would clarify this change for me, but (despite its being interesting) it doesn’t describe me very well.
I think that I’ve turned towards introversion because I put so much energy into babyDiva. When I am with her I am constantly asking her questions, showing her things, reading her books, coming up with “jobs” for her to do around the house with me, taking her places, etc. To me, this is being a good parent – engaging with her, teaching her things, sharing experiences – but I think I’m so focused on doing it “right” that I exhaust my extroversive capabilities with her by thinking I need to be “on” all the time.
I could stand to watch this Upworthy video now and then. It’s a set of short questions with mothers where they critique their own parenting, then a set of questions with their kids about what they think of their moms. It’s beautiful and shows that maybe I am aspiring to the wrong thing.
I don’t think being introverted is bad – I heard Susan Cain speak last year at the Mass Conference for Women about the power of introverts. But I also don’t think being introverted is natural for me, I think that it’s just a coping mechanism for now.