Have you ever managed to even confuse yourself… As in your interests and behaviours are hard to explain to others? You simply feel that this is the way you are wired?
Your delight in being alone, your tendency to fix other people’s problems, or your innate difficulty in staying organised – all of these are examples of personality traits that you may well have lived with your entire adult life.
Of course, there are both positive and negative traits we all possess – the key is understanding your core traits and how you can use them in your favour. For example, by seeking relationships, careers, and hobbies which are in line with these inner workings of your personality.
This is where the Myers Briggs (or MBTI) personality types come in.
What are the MBTI personality types?
The essence of the MBTI personality paradigm is that many seemingly random variations in our behavior are actually quite consistent when you delve deeper. In other words, even our most random traits are due to basic differences in the ways individuals prefer to use their perception and judgment.
“Perception involves all the ways of becoming aware of things, people, happenings, or ideas. Judgment involves all the ways of coming to conclusions about what has been perceived. If people differ systematically in what they perceive and in how they reach conclusions, then it is only reasonable for them to differ correspondingly in their interests, reactions, values, motivations, and skills.”
The initial aim of Isabel Briggs Myers, and her mother, Katharine Briggs, was to make the insights of type theory accessible to the general public, by breaking down the key elements of human behavior and developing a way to categorise all possible combinations of these traits. Since they boiled down our personalities to 4 main traits, there are 16 possible combinations, a.k.a. personality types. For instance, “ENFP”, or “ISTJ.”
MBTI: What are the 4 traits?
Each of the 4 traits has 2 possible options, each represented by a letter. You could perhaps have a go at guessing yours, but then be sure to take the quick online test too, to confirm your results!
INTROVERTED/ EXTROVERTED: This is, for many of us, the easiest to answer. As discussed at length in my article about being an introvert, (taking the letter I) this means you feel that time spent alone is a blessing, allowing you to be creative, self-reflective, and recharge your batteries. On the other hand, if you are more on the extroverted side (taking the letter E) then you feel most energised and yourself when with others. You buzz off group outings and parties, and time spent alone tends to make you feel unstimulated, drained, and lonely.
SPACIAL/ INTUITIVE: This is perhaps a little more tricky to see in yourself off the bat, but to simplify things, those donning the letter S are those who can find their way around a city they don’t even know. They tend to be better at science and maths than the arts. And they see the world as a science to be learned. On the other hand, N’s tend to see the world as more of an adventure or a work of art. They are easily lost, though, and aren’t so good with the equations – at least not without a lot of effort. Instead, they are natural when it comes to reading people, knowing what others around them are thinking and feeling, and for this reason, are more drawn to humanities such as literature and the arts.
FEELING/ THINKING: Similar but still different to the last categorisation, if you are more Feeling dominant (F), then your decisions are mainly based on your emotions and gut instincts. However, a more factual leaning person (T) sees things as more black and white, letting logic lead their life’s biggest decisions. Although you may imagine that N and F go hand in hand, as would S and T – this is not always the case! For instance, you may be a very scientific person, but still base your decisions on your emotions. Likewise, you may be a very intuitive person, but still live your life by the book.
JUDGING/ PERCEIVING: The last fragment of your personality depends on whether you are a judging or perceiving person. For instance, do you have to plan things in advance to avoid feeling out of your depth (J)? Or, are you a go-with-the-flow type, who prefers to live in the moment. Similarly, are you most at ease in an organised, tidy, environment (J), or does this make you feel uptight, and lacking in warmth and comfort (P)? Lastly, do you make snap judgments about situations and tend to immediately form opinions (J), or are you someone who waits to know the full story before deciding what you think about a person or situation (P)?
Bear in mind that all 4 of these elements are a sliding scale. You may feel 100% one way or another, but some may leave you feeling somewhere in the middle. That’s why the test is important to see which side you lean to the most! And of course, those who find themselves on one extreme of the scale will relate more to their final result…
Possible Pros and cons of each trait you should know
Pros – Self-aware, gentle, creative. Sensitive to others and your surroundings.
Cons – Shy, self-absorbed, timid to leave your comfort zone or to voice your opinions, hyper-sensitive to (and easily thrown by) criticism.
Pros – Sociable, vivacious, energetic, daring, and confident.
Cons – Loud, low self-awareness, dependent on other people and/or external validation for happiness, can come across as arrogant.
Pros – Hard-working, intellectual, logical. Will always know their way, and often good with technology or at fixing appliances.
Cons – Unimaginative, dismissive of alternative ideas, can’t read or understand other people well, always needs the instruction manual or recipe…
Pros – Artistic, good at listening to and understanding other people, good at recognising someone’s intentions. A good communicator.
Cons – Easily confused, distracted, or lost when presented with too many facts, can be irrational. Often struggles with reading maps, manual tasks and technology. Can’t deal with strict instructions or following recipes…
Pros – In touch with their emotions, bears a strong sense of self, and is considerate and sensitive to other’s feelings.
Cons – Can ignore logic in favour of their feeling, can be overrun with emotion and blinded to facts, can get over-emotional.
Pros – Honest, direct, stands up for their opinions, and is usually self-assured.
Cons – Can come across as inconsiderate or offend others unintentionally. Struggles to show warmth and affection. Stubborn and often not open to others about their own feelings.
Pros – Organised, plans ahead, tidy, and self-driven. Was probably an over-achiever at school… and the teacher’s pet.
Cons – Can be too uptight or even become obsessed with keeping order or achieving their goals. Easily shaken up by disruptions in their routine, and finds it hard to relax and unwind. (Watch out for burnout!)
Pros – Creative, a dreamer, easy-going, and adaptable to changes in plans or circumstances.
Cons – Messy, disorganised, bad at planning, and often makes mistakes or errors of judgment due to this inability to plan ahead. Lack of self-discipline or drive to make their (many) dreams into a reality.
MBTI personalities and being a Selfish Darling
Overall, although these analyses shouldn’t, of course, be taken too seriously – it can be a great way to learn about and accept the traits that make you… well, you!
As you have seen, there is no better or worse trait to have – all of them bring both perks and weaknesses – but to be honest, even these are subjective, as one person’s flaw is another’s greatest strength.
The key takeaway from this is to become more curious about your own MBTI personality type in order to become more accepting of both yourself and others in your life. Although we can all change to an extent, and self-improvement is always a good idea, much of what we think and do comes from these intrinsic traits that arguably will stay with us throughout our lives. So it’s not these traits that we should try to change – but how we adapt to them.
That’s a wrap on this quick introduction to MBTI personalities. If I have whet your appetite for more MBTI wisdom, stay tuned for the rest of this series, where we will delve into the ideal career paths, relationships, and self-care rituals for each type.
(So in the meantime – take the test! I’ll wait…)
What result did you get, and did you feel it was accurate? Mine is INFJ and I feel that it reflects me with spooky accuracy…