I finally tried the Myers-Briggs personality test, and it turns out I’m an INTJ female. OK – but what does this mean?
In general, I take psychological personality tests with a pinch of salt. A lot of them just seem far too vague and susceptible to confirmation bias to say anything of real value. Plus, how can even a more extensive test using 50, even 100 questions capture anything as complex as a human being? My (uneducated) guess is that it can’t and that you should approach these things with a healthy dollop of scepticism.
On the other hand, I have had good experiences with them. Back in 2008, I decided that I was ready for a relationship and that an online dating platform was the best way of going about the search for a compatible partner. This decision had multiple motivations, including the fact that — left to my own devices — I continually ran after the wrong guys. Outsourcing the task to a platform which would match me up with compatible partners based on a “scientific” personality test? Well, anything had to be better than my own poor judgment, so I gave it a whirl.
Four months later, I got together with The Other Half, who is still by my side after 15 years. For two pretty strong-willed people, we have a very harmonious relationship. Our personalities mesh more or less exactly in the way that the personality test had predicted. And we aren’t the only ones: the more people we tell about the origins of our relationship, the more couples in our circle of acquaintances admit to having met on the same platform. So, despite the scepticism, there might be something in these personality tests after all.
So, I’m an INTJ female
Anyway, I was at a loose end one rainy Sunday afternoon and decided to try out the Myers-Briggs test to see which one of the 16 personality types it would categorise me as.
An INTJ, as it turns out. The first thing that they tell you about this personality type is that it is the rarest of all among the general population. And INTJ females are especially rare, coming to less than 1% of the population.
There are two possible reactions to this:
1) Ohmigod! I’m an INTJ female! I am amazing! I’m a unicorn! I’m an amazing unicorn!
2) Right, so I’m — supposedly — an INTJ female. Fine. What does this mean? Does it mean anything? What am I supposed to do with this information? (Answer: write and publish a blog article).
I’ve chosen path two. Reading through the dearth of online literature about this — there are quite a few things which are spot on with the categorisation. Other stuff — not so much.
But here are some of the things that got me nodding (vigorously):
1) As an INTJ female, I am probably one of the most introverted people out there.
Yeah, no kidding. I’ve always been more than happy with my own company and need a lot of alone time in order to be able to cope with the outside world and the people in it.
I once read that, in 18th century England, rich people used to have “decorative hermits” in their gardens, as a kind of novelty feature to show off to visitors. It is a damned shame that this has fallen out of fashion because that is THE job for me!
It’s exceedingly rare for me to feel fully comfortable/at ease with someone I just met or don’t know well. When it does happen, I feel like I just saw Halley’s comet and think: I HAVE TO KEEP THIS INDIVIDUAL IN MY LIFE SOMEHOW (in a non-stalky way, obvs).
Smalltalk is my idea of absolute hell. That is why I like Finland so much. Lack of small talk is culturally ingrained there. God bless Finland: shining beacon of hope to introverts the world over.
2) I prefer working on my own or in a small group.
INTJs apparently value efficiency over cooperation and that is definitely my opinion on the matter. The scattergun approach to tasks that often results from working in a large team used to stress me out no end when I worked in an office and got co-opted into a “fun” teamwork task. (“How about we all stand up and say a few words about ourselves?” How about no?)
So much time wasted pandering to others’ feelings and small talk when you could be getting on with the task in hand! Other colleagues actively enjoyed this process whereas I felt frustrated as hell — especially if I could already see an excellent solution at the outset. Why not just get straight to it without all of the dithering? I love being self-employed when I can just decide and do.
3) Problems with authority
Oh my good grief — YES. As I have written elsewhere, I never rebelled, or went out of my way to annoy authority or acted with malice towards it. I just have massive difficulty in submitting to leaders I don’t respect or trust or who are constantly nit-picking and micromanaging.
I have always felt that it is moral obligation to question the status quo if it is not working or if you can think of a better solution. Good bosses get this and welcome fresh ideas. Unfortunately, the bosses I had in my pretty unhappy career in regular employment were all deference-obsessed or chronically insecure about what they saw as an insubordinate assault on their authority.
Latest when I found myself literally being screamed at for having — in complete good faith — suggested an alternative solution to a certain problem, I concluded: girl, this is never going to work. You need to stop looking for better bosses and be your own better boss. That was 2015 and I am still proudly self-employed.
I’m never, EVER going back: I would need a shedload of Valium. Or a lobotomy. Or both.
4) Difficulties in understanding people’s emotions
No, I just don’t get other people’s emotions. I often find it hard to pinpoint what people are feeling by just looking at them. I also have trouble understanding why people remain stuck in thought patterns that are plainly driven by emotions instead of applying logic to the situation to rationalise it. Feelings can be powerful, but they are not facts.
I think it is absolutely human to experience a brief rush of emotion and irrationality when a difficult situation suddenly presents itself. I know I do. But then logical, rational thinking and analysis should set in pretty soon after as you try and get a grip on the situation and develop an appropriate response. So many people never manage that switch.
I am consistently perplexed at how people are taken in by flimsy, fact-poor narratives, or decide on their desired answer and rejig the facts to establish a path to it. I’ve known people write whole PhDs in this way.
Whether this is because I am an INTJ female or whether it is the result of my years in the legal sector, which requires a pretty cold, emotionless approach to the facts, I can’t say.
5) An aversion to children
This is probably quite closely related to needing a lot of alone-time and inability to deal with others’ emotional incontinence and irrationality.
Quite frankly, I didn’t even like kids when I was a kid. I utterly dreaded being invited to girls’ birthday parties — all that giggling and getting upset over nothing: it was too much to bear. Can I stay home and read my book instead?
I decided at age 12 I wasn’t ever going to be a mummy and have never wavered from that position. I could never cope with the relentlessness of parenting. The noise. The inability to think a single thought through to the end without a small human demanding snacks. The irrationality of toddler tantrums.
Huge respect to those of you who are out there in the trenches, bringing up the next generation of taxpayers. It’s definitely not for me.
I’m happy to befriend and mentor younger people who have left childhood behind and who are capable of holding a halfway adult conversation. But — given a choice between spending time with kids (sometimes unavoidable if your friends have them) and not spending time with kids, I am going for the latter. And you know what? I think a lot of parents completely get that.
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