On Myers-Briggs & Personhood

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type talk and feetI am fascinated by Myers-Briggs. I’ve encouraged numerous people to take the test, which I later found out is actually a joke people make about INFPs (my type). I love learning about the brain and about the way people work, and I love knowing the depths of other people.

But I went a little overboard.

Myers-Briggs (otherwise known as MBTI) is a great tool for understanding the patterns our brains use to function. We call the sixteen combinations of functioning styles “personality types,” but I am learning that can be deeply misleading. When we call them our personality types, we end up subconsciously hinting to ourselves that they are part of our identity. We internalize what we read about our type and start putting ourselves in boxes. Last week, I actually stopped myself from thinking a certain way because, “INFPs don’t do that.” But… I did that.  And isn’t that okay?

“Just because I don’t like something about myself doesn’t mean it’s sin. Sometimes I worry more over those parts than the parts that are sin. Isn’t there enough of the sin to worry about without micro-managing the unique aspects of your personality?”   -Gary Morland

I’m an INFP, yes. I process things internally and look inward often; I use my intuition constantly and connect concepts together; I feel strongly and base many things on principle as opposed to logic; I observe and explore and adapt wherever I am. Those are things I do with my brain often, the functions I use regularly and naturally. But they aren’t the only things I can do. Sometimes I process externally by talking with a friend or writing things like this; sometimes I just purely experience things before I conceptualize them; sometimes I can view things objectively; sometimes I really like to have a plan and a routine. I’m not just an INFP. I’m Tessa. I’m a person. I don’t fit in a box because boxes were made for objects, and I’m not an object. I’m a person.

MBTI doesn’t intend to put people in boxes; it intends to teach us about our brains so we can have a greater understanding of ourselves and be able to grow. The types are not truly personality types as much as they are patterns of the brain functions that we naturally use, and I really love studying them. But I think a lot of us get so caught up in learning about our type that we forget to allow ourselves to be us, to be exceptions… to be different than the world expects us to be.

I know these things now, but somehow I shut them out for a while. And in the process, I think I started putting other people in boxes along with myself. When I learned someone’s type, I would lump them together with the others I knew. Yet I know other INFPs that are a lot different from me personality-wise. Our brains work similarly, so we can have great, empathetic conversations, but we’re still our own people. That is one of my favorite things about humanity, and I’m sorry if you know me personally and I’ve ever seen you as your brain functions before just seeing you, the person I love.

The world will never have someone like you again– so give it the genuine you. We don’t need more versions of other people, we don’t need a watered-down proper version of you, we need you, in your wholeness and uniqueness and brokenness. When we micro-manage and attempt to craft our own personhood, we’re losing the opportunity to be the person the world needs today, the person no one else can be– the person who is fully able to be loved completely as they are. We want to know you. Don’t remove or shut down anything that’s part of you. Allow yourself to be fully loved and alive.

You’re a person, not an object. You don’t belong in boxes.

[Insightful thoughts on MBTI and individuality: “The Biggest Misconception About MBTI Personality Types” by Jennifer Soldner and “MBTI Rant” by Miss Melody.]

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