Before I tell you what the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is about, let me show you why I’m fan and why I think everyone can benefit from it.
When I found out I was an ISTJ, the duty fulfiller or the inspector, I had a light-bulb moment. I used to think there was something wrong with me because I had a combination of traits that made me different to most people I knew. To name some of them: I’m an introvert, I love studying and doing assignments, I enjoy hard work and painstaking, meticulous work that other people shudder at, I love deadlines and submit everything early, and I’m an organized freak who is incredibly structured and plans everything.
Now, being the introspective, metacognitive person I am, I knew all this about myself, but I thought I shouldn’t be all these things because other people thought my traits were odd.
That was all until I discovered MBTI and that I was an ISTJ. The profile fit me to a T and it was like I was reading myself on a page. It was amazing! It showed me that there was nothing wrong with me; I just had a particular personality caused by the way I saw the world, processed information and made decisions, which is something I don’t do consciously but could now understand.
I was worried when I told a friend my life motto was, life is about things to do and getting them done, because she just laughed and told me I was a workaholic. You’d think I would have worked that out for myself but I missed that fact. The motto isn’t what I thought life should be about; it was just how I saw life. I couldn’t help it and I thought I should get a new motto. But it reassured me when I found the name of the ISTJ is duty fulfiller. That sums it up right there and from then on I was okay with my hard-working nature and my tendency to state facts rather than inspiring idealisms.
Being an ISTJ, I got all the, what I call “hard” traits; so I’m a justice over mercy type person who likes rules. It’s why I love structure and don’t have a spontaneous bone in my body. I work well with details and facts because I take in things via the five senses so I excel in those areas, but even though I adore thinking about concepts and big-picture things, I don’t work well with those things. I would get frustrated when I had to work with big-picture things and didn’t know why before I knew I was an ISTJ, and now that I know, so much frustration is avoided.
Now, that’s only the tip of the iceberg in what I learnt about myself and how it helped me practically. I’ll give one more example of how it helped, and I use this one to show how knowing your personality is valuable because you can mould and manage it when you understand it.
As I said, I got all the “hard” traits. This was something I didn’t particularly like about myself, because I knew the importance of caring about people and not just doing things the way I liked them with rules, structure and cold hard facts. I knew there were also things called feelings and intuition, and I worked to develop my softer side.
That’s one of the great things about being an ISTJ: once we see the value of something, we wholeheartedly run with it. We’re not stubborn and don’t cling to our own ways when we see the validity of something new or different. So now I can be a mercy over justice person, not because that’s what I naturally go towards, but because I’m aware of other factors that might override justice, things that have become important to me since learning about my personality.
And now I can come out as an ISFJ with my feeling trait more developed. The profile doesn’t fit me as well as the ISTJ one and I will always naturally tend towards thinking over feeling, but because I’m aware of this, I can override it and use my feeling side. So you see, without knowing I was an ISTJ, I wouldn’t know that I lacked this feeling trait or that I was a thinker, so I wouldn’t have known how to do anything about it. All I had was this vague idea that I was a hard person who wanted to care more but couldn’t bring myself to do so because I didn’t know how I worked.
Now let me qualify this by saying, there’s nothing wrong with being a justice over mercy person and if that’s the way you want to stay, go for it. There are many other traits I have that I’m perfectly fine with and even though others might look down on them, I won’t change them because I’m cool with it.
The key is that MBTI can help you accept all of your traits and you can either love them or change the ones you’re not so keen about. I’m not sure I believe you can change your underlying preferences, but I do think you can override them if you understand them and work to develop the other preferences.
I will rave about MBTI because it helped me understand how I see and do things and I’ve benefited so much from it in so many practical ways. Have you ever had a light-bulb moment from understanding something about your personality? Maybe you’ll get one when you do the test. Here it is: MBTI
In my next post I’ll give an overview of the MBTI so you’ll have a better idea of what I mean when I talk about traits, preferences, etc.