There are two types of people in this world: those who have faith in personality tests and those who do not. I happen to be the former, while my husband, who hates labels and finds all personality tests restrictive, is in the latter camp. I understand that human beings are complex and it is impossible for us to be rigidly constrained into neat and tidy little boxes, prescribed by some dissertation-driven psychology student or over-eager human behavior analyst. People can, do, and should change throughout their lifetimes. However, I have found personality tests to be quite helpful, and think they can be fascinating and important tools for self discovery. Socrates famously beseeched his students to “know thyself.” The examined life is a deeply fulfilling one. Many of us go throughout life not knowing who we really are. We are often out of touch with why we feel the way that we do. We live with labels that the world haphazardly thrusts up on us, so why not take time for some introspection and reflection and see what these “experts” have to say? To find out who we really are? And if the shoe fits wear it. If it doesn’t, buy a new pair. And honestly, if you eschew personality tests, then we just can’t be friends…I’m kidding! (Sort of.)
Of course, there are downsides to all of this navel-gazing. Our feelings should never rule us. And whatever classification we find from a personality test should never restrict us or hinder us from growing and changing into the people God created us to be. In other words, if it helps use it, if it doesn’t throw it out! I have heard it said that ‘A caterpillar who seeks to know himself would never become a butterfly.’ But I wholeheartedly disagree. A self actualized caterpillar who has taken a few personality tests would truly know that he was capable of more than his grounded status, and he would know he is meant for so much more. He would understand that his whole business of cocooning isn’t some rebellious act of laziness and procrastination but a vital and necessary step to his becoming a butterfly. And knowing all of this would help him yield to the process instead of fighting against it and declaring the need to just be more productive.
So while some find these types of tests limiting and hate the feeling of being constrained, I actually find them quite freeing. I find that I actually function better with constraints. It helps me stay focused on who I am, rather than get all caught up in who I am not. For instance, I am a fiery hot mess without enough sleep, a good diet, exercise, plenty of water, etc. *Side note* I absolutely cannot function with alcohol in my system. I learned this the hard way after wrestling with Jesus about it for decades, but that’s for another post. But it took me years to discover all of this. I was also painfully reminded of some of this just last week. My husband was out of town for work, it was production week for our community play, my back had been hurting so my normal exercise routine was thrown off schedule, and I was just feeling incredibly overtired, overstimulated, and grumpy. What felt to me like the world caving in, was really just me needing a smoothie, a good run, and a nap. After which having all three, I felt much, much better.
The two personality tests that have given me the most insight into who I am are the Myers-Briggs and the Enneagram. I am an incredibly sensitive, empathic Type 4 on the Enneagram (otherwise known as “The Individualist” – sensitive, introspective, expressive, dramatic, self-absorbed, and temperamental), and an INFJ (“The Advocate”) on the Myers-Briggs scale, who functions like a human barometer to whatever environment I am in. I often suffer from sensory overload and I burn out easily, contrasted with my Type 8 husband (“The Challenger” – powerful, dominating, self-confident, decisive, willful, and confrontational) who doesn’t have an off switch and can keep plugging away for hours on end because he functions much like a computer. He is also an ISTJ (“The Logistician”). He processes facts and data and sensory input instead of feelings and makes decisions based on logic. How boring is that?! But our marriage is totally not boring. Imagine if Mr. Spock were married to Deanna Troi and this is us. If you are a Trekkie you will totally get this, and we CAN be friends (even if you don’t like personality tests).
Because I am not Vulcan like my husband, I truly do need a Sabbath (turns out the LORD totally knew what He was doing with that one, ay?), in which I literally do absolutely nothing, but read, eat, and rest, and maybe occasionally get up to use the restroom. I require a true recovery day. The problem with that is in our society that looks lazy and unproductive, and I have functioned without these things for so long, and sometimes even still forget, that I have failed to see the importance of implementing such structure and discipline in my life. Imagine how much time I could have saved, how much burnout I could have avoided if I had known what was really going on internally.
Admittedly, as an INFJ/Type 4, I am gloriously odd. I was the theater kid in high school, and still actively participate in community theater as an adult. I love people and crave social interaction…up to a point. But then it’s not uncommon to see me fold inward in certain social settings and completely tune everything else out, tuck in to a book or even find comfort and solace in a plate of food. This personality combo is quite common for a lot of writers. I am a VERY high scoring introvert, and I require massive amounts of downtime which can be a challenge while homeschooling 4 outgoing children. But let me clarify something. There is this misconception that introverts hate being around people. THIS IS WRONG. So, so wrong. So wrong in fact, that you run the risk of me never speaking to you again if you even insinuate it. Many people, assume (very incorrectly) that I hate people, and I hate being around them. I actually love people and crave deep, meaningful one-on-one interactions with certain people. This is true for all INFJs. (See? They are incredibly accurate!) Superficial get-togethers with 50 people present where we talk about shoes or the weather, I can only take so much. Take me out for coffee one on one, however, and I will help you solve all the worlds’ problems. After I have had time alone in my closet. I seriously need one of those sensory deprivation tanks like Eleven in Stranger Things. #heaven
The problem with being an introvert is not a matter of me liking people, its honestly how I process things. I have noticed that with most of the extroverts that I know, they are still talking (AND TALKING AND TALKING AND TALKING AND TALKING) while I am still processing and ruminating on something they said 20 minutes ago. People, particularly extroverts, can drain me, if I am not careful. I have a very vibrant, inner dialogue happening with myself pretty much 24/7. I am just as happy talking to myself as I am with you in small doses. I am like a battery that needs recharging. I simply run out of juice and have nothing left to give after a certain point. Recharging becomes crucial then, a matter of emotional and spiritual life and death.
I remember feeling rather deficient one day because how much peace and quiet I actually craved, but then the Lord comforted me by showing me while I was praying that this was exactly how he created me. How I was wired to seek Him in the quiet, longings of my heart. And that I wasn’t deficient, but rather hardwired to spend massive amounts of time alone in prayer. So that’s what I now tell people to make them feel guilty when they try to shame me for being an introvert! So take that!
I have four, amazing kids. Whether the reason for that is simply a fluke, found in their DNA, God’s grace, or something we are actually doing correctly remains to be seen. But just because I have four kids, and love them very much, does not mean I want to be surrounded by children, even my own children 24/7. I need breaks. I homeschool, y’all. Which means I am with my kids A LOT. I think people often assume that homeschoolers just love being with children all the time, when the reality is I DO NOT. We homeschool for various reasons, and while I truly do love them, right now I am sitting outside in the gazebo BY MYSELF. ALONE. While they are having to fend for themselves inside watching hour after hour of Toddlers and Tiaras. 1. It’s summer so give me a break. 2. They have already been outside swimming today, so do I care? NOPE. In fact, this is pretty much how I feel right now if they dared to approach me and ask me for anything:
That was an actual clip of me in my backyard. Singing. BY MYSELF.
The reality is I am not that mom wearing aprons baking cookies surrounded by a gaggle of smiling children while birds sing melodiously in the background. Ok, so I am actually *that* mom on some days. But I can only be that mom if I have built-in days off. Even from my own beloved spawn. So while I love meeting up with other moms, I have often declined playdates with 1000 children when presented with the opportunity, opting for solitude. This isn’t me being unfriendly. It’s a necessary function of preserving my sanity. Trying to talk to another mom (while trying to solve all of the world’s problems, remember?) while being interrupted by kids constantly is a surefire way to put me in a bad mood. For the rest of the day. I have to gear up for the entire week for that kind of sensory warfare, and then it takes me a full week to recover.
One more paragraph about all of this and I am done. For now. I mentioned earlier that my husband is Type 8 on the Enneagram, and I am a Type 4. Here is what the Enneagram Institute has to say about our marriage in a nutshell:
“This can be one of the most creative relationship couplings, although it is also one of the most inherently volatile.”https://www.enneagraminstitute.com/relationship-type-4-with-type-8
Y’all. My entire life is warfare!
I asked my husband (who hates personality tests, remember) to take the Enneagram quiz. Because I was already familiar with the Enneagram, the types, etc. I already knew that my husband was an 8. I called it long before he even took the test. Except I didn’t tell him this. He proceeded to take the test, which took him two hours to do because he LITERALLY ARGUED WITH AND CHALLENGED EVERY SINGLE QUESTION, muttering loudly to himself (and to me so I could hear) how stupid he thought this test was. Marriage is fun!
So as you can see, just being alive makes me tired. Being married to my challenger of a husband makes me tired. Being a homeschooling mom to 4 outgoing kids makes me super tired. So if you are talking to me and see me zone out for a moment, I am daydreaming about hanging out with myself. It’s never you. It’s me, constantly pining for solitude which somehow always eludes me.
Are you a personality test junkie like me? Let me know your Enneagram and MBTI in the comment section!