I do not know myself sometimes, or how to measure or name or count out the grains that make me what I am.
Virginia Woolf, The Waves
When I discovered the Personality Café, I discovered I wasn’t alone.
I’m not one for joining online communities, but I joined Personality Café because I was so surprised and excited to find other ISTJ’s on there; people like me. I don’t know many people like me in my own network; I might share some characteristics with others, and it’s a bit of a thrill, but here online, I found people who were like the same person as me. I couldn’t believe I’d found people who actually liked and didn’t like the same things as me. I found people who reasoned and behaved the same way I did. It was amazing.
When I found out my personality type, I didn’t feel so weird, but when I found these ISTJ’s online, I felt even less weird.
I knew I’d found my kin when I read the first reply to a post about things you would rant about: “Loud people. Loud music. Loud cars with unnecessary modifications to the exhaust system.” I couldn’t help but laugh. I know exactly what you mean. When I added to the conversation by posting that I didn’t like microphones, vacuum cleaners or power tools, my fellow ISTJ’s were very enthusiastic in their agreement. Wow. I felt understood.
There were people who turned their mobiles off like me because we don’t like phones. There were people who made lists, turned up early, thought too much, planned everything, loved tradition and facts – like me. We are no fuss types, just get on with it people who forget to eat, sleep and socialize when we have something to do. We love rules, details and painstaking, meticulous work. We love working hard. We are the duty fulfillers!
Before, if I told you my personality type, I would have said it half apologetically, but with these fellow ISTJ’s, I was proud to be one of them, and they were glad to have me. I’d write posts, and they’d reply saying that when they read them, they thought they were reading about themselves.
I spent a lot of my time in the ISTJ forum because I felt at home there, and even now when I feel like I’m the only ISTJ in the world, I can go back to that forum and remember there are others like me and we’re all okay; we don’t have to change into a different personality type to fit in.
Not only do I appreciate the ISTJ community, I appreciate the shared interest in wanting to know how people work. We want to understand the way people think and behave and like to think about the differences and similarities between people. They don’t just focus on MBTI but other personality tests, and they are interested in other topics such as philosophy, science and religion. It’s always great to find people who have the same interests as you, and it’s a good resource to learn more about personality.
Is anyone completely honest? Is it even possible for anyone to be that transparent? Or does everyone have, for whatever reason, at least a few things they hide?
It might be because they’re ashamed to share something, whether it’s something they’ve done or something they don’t like about themselves. Or it might be because it’s better for everyone else that they don’t reveal something: they saw something they shouldn’t have or they know something no-one else knows. I’m thinking about things that don’t harm anyone if these things aren’t revealed; so it’s no moral code that’s being broken here. The only thing that’s being broken is the ability of a person to wholeheartedly reveal all of themself to another person.
Of course, none of us can completely share everything with another person due to our brains being encased in our bodies at a ratio of 1:1. No matter how much you share and how well you share it, I will never be able to understand it or experience it the way you do. We have the gift of communication and as relational beings we can relate to each other, but I will never know if what I experience is exactly the same as what you experience, close though it may be. It’s the whole when I see blue you may be seeing purple scenario, and even if we both saw blue, we may be seeing different shades of blue and never know.
Excluding the limitations of the physical design of our bodies and things like time and memory, I wonder if there’s anyone who is known completely by another person. I naturally think of people who are married or who have been with someone for many years. I used to think going out with someone meant they would know everything about you. This terrified me and it was the reason I thought I’d never go out with anyone; not because I didn’t want to, but because I didn’t think I could share everything with another person. If a prerequisite for going out with someone was you had to tell them everything – as I thought it was – then I was doomed to be alone forever.
I’ve come to realize though, that even marriage doesn’t mean two people will know everything about each other. Sure, they will probably know each other more than any other person, but they’ll always be learning new things about each other. People can go into marriage thinking it will fulfil them because, “At last I will be known completely,” only to realize that’s not how it works. I’m okay with this. I know not to look for fulfilment from another person; that’s too high a pressure to put on someone.
I had a friend tell me, “It’s not like that,” when I told her my fears about having to share everything with a guy if we were to go out. This made me wonder, “Well, what is it like then?” Because as much as I feared having to share everything, I also desperately wanted to. In one way I was relieved that I don’t have to reveal everything, but in another way I was kind of disappointed. I wanted to be known by someone, and now I found out going out with someone and even marrying them wasn’t going to guarantee that. Was there no hope for me to be known?
This wouldn’t be an issue if I was honest with everyone and had nothing to hide. I wouldn’t have this need to be known and this desire to share everything if I was already known. And it is this that brings me back to my original question: is anyone completely honest? Or is it just me who feels like no-one truly knows me?
Maybe it’s okay to not reveal everything. Maybe it’s just a personality thing. Some people are open books; others keep things inside. I’m quiet and introverted so maybe that explains why the thought of sharing everything terrifies me and why I feel like no-one really knows me. This would all be fine except I have a need to be known. Is this something of the human condition that we all simply want to be known? And is this because we were made to be known? I don’t mean that we’re all made to be famous, just that people will know us for who we really are.
I don’t think it’s just a personality thing for me, though, because it’s only certain things I don’t feel I can share: things I’m ashamed of, things I don’t like about myself, my fears and insecurities. Do I have more of these things than other people, or do I just fear sharing them more than other people? I worry about what people will think of me. I worry they’ll think badly of me. I worry they’ll judge me.
But I want to share these things because if I don’t, no-one will ever truly know me. Maybe all the things I want to share don’t need to be shared, but I always thought if someone wanted to really know me, they’d want me to share everything. Maybe other people don’t think people are hiding anything, because they themselves don’t hide anything. I, on the other hand, know I hide things so I assume others hide things too and I want to know them. It matters to me.
I want to know people and I want them to know me.
I love it when something can completely change my perspective. And I love it when that change in perspective has a good impact on my life.
This happened to me when I watched another marvellous TED talk—this one was on vulnerability.
Sometimes we have a certain idea of what we should be like and when we don’t live up to this idea, we can feel disappointed, guilty, depressed or angry. I used to feel so guilty that I wasn’t what I thought I should be. I was hard on myself; I mentally berated myself all the time. Telling myself I didn’t need to be perfect didn’t work because deep down I still wanted to be perfect.
But after watching this video, something clicked. Now I believed that I didn’t need to aim for this perfect idea of myself. Instead, I’ve come to accept the me with all my flaws because I’ve learnt that having flaws isn’t a bad thing.
I’m okay with being imperfect; I’m okay with me. It was such a relief when I learnt this lesson and my perspective changed. It was like the guilt just lifted off me. There’s still things I don’t like about myself but that doesn’t mean I don’t like the whole person. Having things I don’t like about myself isn’t a reason to think the worst about me. Instead, I can accept I have things that aren’t great in my life and still say that I’m okay.
The goal isn’t to have the perfect personality, appearance, job, skills, etc. The goal is to love and be loved. Think about it this way: we can be perfect and not loved or we can be imperfect but loved. All my life I’ve wanted perfection over love. Now I want love over perfection. That’s the key difference in my thinking. I believe people can be loved even when we’re imperfect. So there’s no need to strive for perfection anymore, unless you want perfection for perfection’s sake.
I wanted perfection because I thought it would make people, including myself, like me better. Now I just want to be myself. How amazing that when we are ourselves, people can love us more. And when we like ourselves, we’re free to love others better because we’re not worried what they’re thinking of us. We can just see them and love them, instead of see ourselves through their eyes.
I hope this helps all the people who think they need to be perfect, simply be me sharing what changed for me. I couldn’t force the change; it just happened. I hope it happens to you too.
Let go of who you think you should be, and just be. Take that burden off your shoulders of who you think you should be. Just be. You don’t have to be anyone else than who you are.
In the movie Never Been Kissed, Drew Barrymore plays Josie, a journalist who goes undercover as a high school student. In her disguise as a student she is able to deal with her identity issues while falling in love with a teacher. This idea of being in disguise is paralleled by the story her class reads, Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It,’ where Rosalind was able, through her disguise, to express her love for Orlando. The teacher makes the point that there’s a freedom that comes from being in disguise.
What the teacher said resonated with me because I can relate to it. For example, when all my friends are tipsy or drunk, and I’m the only sober one, I am so much freer because I’m not worried about what anyone thinks of me; no-one’s thinking clearly, and they’ll probably forget anyway. The disguise in this case is alcohol, and I can say what I really think and be more open. I’m the definition of cool, calm and collected but in disguise I’m free to be anything I want to be.
The same kind of thing happens when I meet a stranger or am in an environment different to my normal day-to-day life. I feel I can be whoever I want to be because the stranger or the people in the new environment don’t know anything about me. That’s why sometimes I share things with a stranger that I wouldn’t normally share with anyone else, because I feel free to be me around them. They have no expectations of me, and I probably won’t ever see them again so I’m not worried about what they’ll think of me.
So while I understand this concept of freedom coming from being in disguise and wearing a mask, there’s another part of me that wonders if a disguise is really just a disguise and a mask is just a mask. What happens when you become the disguise and you start to live a lie? There’s no freedom, just a prison.
Sometimes I feel like I’m in a prison. Have I done such a good job at being the person everyone sees, that I’ve come to believe this is who I really am? How do you know who you are when the masks you wear never come off? The mask becomes real and you become the mask. Sometimes I don’t know the difference between the mask and me. It seems like the mask and I have been moulded together over the years, and they are so deeply entwined with each other that they’ve turned into something that has become who I am, leading me to question if there is even a mask at all.
Sometimes a mask gives me freedom to let my real self come out; other times it’s a prison and all I do is hide.
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a personality test based on Carl Jung’s theory of types. The test determines the preferences people have in terms of how they see the world and make decisions. These preferences are what shape a person’s interests, values, motivations, skills and needs.
There are four sets of dichotomies that are measured on a scale:
All eight are used but people differ in which ones they prefer to use. We might not know we prefer one trait over another but it’s the one we naturally do without even thinking about it. The trait that is preferred tends to be more dominant and highly developed than the other trait in the dichotomy.
Here’s a brief explanation of each trait:
Extroversion- Focus on the external world of action, people and things
Introversion- Focus on the internal world of reflection, thoughts and ideas
Sensing- Perceive the world through the five senses and what is present
Intuition- Perceive the world through insights and possibilities
Thinking- Objective decisions are made based on logic
Feeling- Subjective decisions are made based on values
Judging- Approach the world in a structured, planned, organized way
Perceiving- Approach the world in an open, flexible and spontaneous way
Once you know which four preferences you have, you know your personality type, which is expressed as a four letter code. There are sixteen types:
All types are equal and valid. There is no best type. They are simply different ways of seeing the world and making decisions.
Get to know and love your type but remember you are not just your personality. Personality makes up a part of you, and your MBTI type is only a part of your personality (other personality tests may show you different things about yourself). There is more to you than your type and there will be unique things about you that don’t match up with your type. No personality test will be able to describe or explain you completely, but I still see their worth for the small measure they do help you to know yourself better.
I have found the MBTI personality test to be the best because it has helped me understand myself better than any other test. You can read about that in this post: MBTI and Personality Enlightenment.
How well do you know yourself?
Once you’ve found out your personality type, go to this personality profile page and click on your four letter code. I have found these particular profiles to be the most useful but you can also type your type into Google and check out what other profiles say about you.
Leave a comment with your type and the name for your type – I’d love to know how accurate you think it is for you and if it helped at all.
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.
I’m an advocate of the personality test because understanding yourself and others are always a good thing. Knowing your personality can be helpful for many reasons including:
I’m not about personality being a box people are put in and being something that is restricting. Personality is dynamic and the personality test is simply a tool to know yourself better. It allows you to know what you’ve got so you can work with it.
Knowing about personality also helps you to understand, appreciate and get along with people of different personality types. The first step is being aware that differences exist and the second step is understanding those differences. Conflict can be avoided by understanding how other people see things since we all think differently and value different things.
Get to know and love your personality but remember you are more than your personality, and personality tests will only reveal a part of your personality. Different tests may show you different things about yourself but there will be unique things about you that don’t match the personality profiles. No personality test will be able to describe or explain you completely but their worth comes from the amount they do explain.
Here’s a selection for you to try:
I know not everyone is a fan of personality test but they’ve been very valuable in my life. What do you think of the personality test and which ones do think are most accurate?
Stay tuned for a post about MBTI – the best personality test I’ve found that has helped me so much.
In the book Eat, Pray Love, the author Elizabeth Gilbert, writes about people and places having a word that defines them and drives them. In the book, she lived in Rome for a time, and Rome was said to have the word SEX. Elizabeth loved Rome, but she knew it wasn’t where she would live forever; it wasn’t her city because she didn’t feel like it belonged to her—SEX was not her word.
She had a think about what her word would be. She thought about the word for her family when she was growing up—FRUGAL, IRRERVANT—and the word for her own city she lived in—ACHIEVE.
I thought this was an interesting concept and think you can apply it to many things: school, friendship groups, workplaces, etc.
I tried to think of my word when I was growing up: INNOCENT? SHELTERED?
I tried to think of my word at school and in my town: WORK? MONEY? POSSESSIONS? APPEARANCE? I think it’s STATUS.
I tried to think of my word for me all my life: RESPONSIBILTY, DUTY, RIGHT, PERFECT. I’m not saying these are words that I am, but they words that drove me.
At the moment, the word everyone else seems to give me is: TEACHER or WISDOM.
Then I tried to think of the word I wanted to be: PEACE? FREEDOM? PASSION? MEANING? PURPOSE? I’m still working on it.
I guess the idea is to find out what your word is and see if it matches up with the word you want to be. Take a hard, honest look at yourself and find out what really drives you. Now, hold onto that honesty and find out what word you want to be. When you’re word matches up with what you want to be defined and driven by, I guess that’s the equivalent of the inner life matching the outer life.
And once you know your word, I guess the idea is to find people and places who have the same word as you. There’s your match, where you belong. I’m not saying you shouldn’t branch out and only stay with your those who match your word, but when you’ve found those people and those places who match your word, you’ll always have a home to go back to.
Do you know your word? Does it match the word you want to be?
You don’t have to be perfect, and you don’t have to know it all, or have it all together to be loved and accepted. You don’t have to hide your insecurities, your fears, flaws and faults. You don’t have to be strong, in control or confident to be of worth. You are worthy just the way you are. I will not run from you or think less of you if you show me your weaknesses and let me see your dark side. No, as long as you aren’t proud of the darkness and are always wanting the light to take over, I will respect and admire you for being brave enough to be vulnerable and honest. I won’t reject you, because I know the darkness in you is the same darkness in me. We may have different shades of dark but we all have darkness in us.
The darkness isn’t a reason to hide. The darkness doesn’t mean we are dark, but we are aware of a darkness in us. It may come in the form of an anger problem, a greed tendency, a selfish streak, a suicidal past, a criminal record, or any number of other sources of shame and fear. They can make us think no-one can know about them or else people will look down on us. They can make us hide ourselves so we feel we can never be honest or loved. They can make us feel like we have nothing to offer and that we shouldn’t be listened to. But these are lies. We all have something to offer the world; we all have ourselves to offer.
I believe we all have a light and we are all meant to be seen. I believe we all have darkness in us but that isn’t a reason to hide our light. Don’t let your weaknesses stop you from using your strengths. Don’t let your insecurities stop you from being sure of what you do have to offer. Don’t let your darkness grow darker and darker by hiding it for longer and longer. Always hope for and work towards turning your darkness into light. Show both your darkness and your light with humility. Share your light as though it is a gift for someone else. I believe we can all accept each other and what we have to offer even with our darkness. I will accept you with your darkness; I hope you will accept me with mine.