“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” ― Ernest Hemingway
Quite a few years ago I took one of those many dreaded tests that psychiatrists love to a disturbing degree. Like usual, I didn’t know what it was for or what the point of it was. I live to make shrinks happy so I gritted my teeth and did it. I am such a good boy!
I get the results and with much pride, he says: “You are an INFJ, it is quite rare but I am not surprised”. Me: “Um okay, if you knew, why did I waste my time taking your precious test?” *loudest sigh in history* He rattled off things that I knew about. “Hey, You are an introvert!”, “Gee thanks doc, I am glad I am not paying for this”. I need a lot of downtime also. *Where would I be without being told that*? Despite being an introvert I can come off as an extrovert in certain circumstances. *Yup, that is me, my sisters enjoy pointing that out to me*.
I was also told that I can be very passionate about people and things I care about and when I make a goal I am very determined to reach it. Okay, yeah that is more or less me. I was also told that mental issues are prevalent in my personality type and can overly affect me. Sure, that is fairly accurate but I am sure that an extrovert with similar issues will struggle as much as I do. I also learned that people that hurt me end up getting ignored by me sooner or later. Okay, doesn’t everyone ignore toxic people?
I really didn’t see the point of taking a test to confirm what I have observed in me so I ignored and forgot about it until recently. In fact, I forgot about it so quickly I am not sure the above conversation is entirely accurate, it could have just happened in my head. I am unfailingly polite after all. It is possible I was just given all the information on a sheet of paper but it makes for a better story that I gave my shrink a minor amount of grief. I seriously did not see any value in it. Lately, I have been reading much on it since I am working hard to get myself in shape to be seen in polite society.
INFJ is part of the Meyers-Briggs Personality Indicator. There are 4 attribute pairs where you can be all or mostly one of them making 16 allegedly distinct personalities. I am very skeptical that all of humanity can fit in one of 16 boxes. I believe we are much more diverse in our personalities than that. There is much written about Meyers-Briggs and I could write for the next 2 years and not cover it all so if you are interested in learning more I will be kind and Google it for you or you can use your preferred search engine. I like Start Page for search results and privacy.
INFJ stands for Introversion iNtuition, Feeling, and Judging. Right off the bat, I have issues with this. The opposite of intuition is sensing and feeling’s opposite is thinking. The computer scientist in me says that sensing and thinking match better with how my mind works intellectually. Those imply among other things that I would pay attention to details and be more liable to use logic. This is my main objection, I fit bits and pieces of all 8 personality categories. Of course, it does cover it by having secondary and tertiary attributes but that makes it messy. As a programmer, I like clean designs so this makes me nerd-rage just a little. Why can’t people be simple? I am very simple.
The more I think about that I realize that my personal life does use more intuition and feeling to get by. Getting by might be a strong description of my life. I do pay attention to details, that was ground into me in the military but that is a habit not a personality trait of mine. It does not come naturally. I realized that I rarely use logic in my personal life and I am pretty good at figuring people and their motivations out. There are two attributes that sell me on the possibility that I am an INFJ. First, is that for as long as I can remember I have felt out of place like I do not belong here. Also, my mood can change very quickly depending on the mood of people around me or whom I am conversing with, even across 10 time zones. I can feel their mood and it imprints on me. I am not a fan of that, it can mess up important things like my sleep.
“Make the most of yourself….for that is all there is of you.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
An annoying thing is that many articles say that INFJ’s display A, B, C, …, Z personality attributes and to get along with them you better do this and that and certainly never ever do these certain things or face their quiet wrath. Even more annoying are the comments. 1000 comments of various permutations of “Yes! That is me, are you spying on me?” *groan* I see people using their personality type as an excuse for poor behavior, much like I occasionally see people use things such as anxiety to do the same. Maybe it is the INFJ-style perfectionist in me to not accept that in myself or others. None of us are perfect and we all screw up but these kinds of excuses are too easy and shifts responsibility. Self-improvement is one of my things, even if it happens so slowly no one can notice it. As Popeye says “I yam what I yam” and a particularly smart and kind redheaded Russian told me that I can’t change who I am. That is probably true but I am stubborn and try to do things even when I am told I can’t. Especially when I am told I can not. I probably need to change more than is possible but I am not so much of a perfectionist that I would try to do the impossible, maybe. Perhaps I can be an improved me? I think anyone who knows me or has just read all my drivel here would agree I need to improve myself.
If it can not be done, what is the point of cataloging personality types and the entire psychology and self-help industry? Well, other than generating as much money as possible.
“Understanding our personalities makes it significantly easier to change the things within our grasp. This is the whole point of studying various frameworks! Some people resist personality frameworks because they say such frameworks put them in a box. I’ve found that understanding my personality helps me step out of the box I’m trapped in. When I understand myself, I can get out of my own way.” ― Anne Bogel, Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything
The non-INFJ in me says why bother? I am kind to everyone I interact with and that hasn’t helped me much. I have been told that I am more than I give myself credit for and a few people have said they see me very differently than I see myself. They never enumerate those differences. They all meant it in positive ways but I can count in decades instead of years, months or days since I have had friends in real life of any type. Clearly, I am getting in my own way, maybe. I am not sure. Is self-doubt my friend or enemy? Minds have been known to be very protective of itself. If I have a wrong self-image is it possible to accurately evaluate myself? If my self-image is correct, even if it is negative, is it possible to correct both my image and the reasons I might think poorly yet accurately about myself? There is always a creature in my mind that is pulling me down and that might just be where I belong.
Still, there are some bits of wisdom to be gleaned from the articles but what is lacking are ways to mitigate personality quirks. Like mental illness symptoms, there is value in realizing what personality quirks can cause issues and how to minimize them as much as possible. I wish I knew exactly how my personality flaws trip me up daily. Those flaws also become magnified when mixed with my anxiety, depression, and paranoia. I am working on methods that I can use to do just that and will report back if I have something workable.
What I have learned so far is that there actually is some value in understanding my generic personality type. Knowing why I do something or act a certain way is the key in honestly evaluating me and trying to change what needs to be changed if it can be. There are various online tests and I would recommend that everyone takes several of them. I am not sure how valuable it is taking just one of them but if you can get a cluster of data you might have a good starting point.
If I could remember the name of the psychiatrist, I would write him a letter of apology for thinking all those sarcastic thoughts.