Remember the short-lived but passionate Internet obsession over Myers-Briggs personality types, the personality typing system created by Katharine Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Myers? If you don’t, it’s a pretty easy concept to grasp.
Sixteen possible combinations of four traits make up 16 personality types. One of these types can predict and explain everything about you, from the hobbies you choose to the people and jobs you gravitate toward and the way you function in the world.
Sound too crazy to be true? I thought so, too, until I took a test and discovered everything I had ever observed, wondered and questioned about myself on a screen in front of me.
Now, I’m not saying the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is an exact science, or that Isabel Myers can see into my soul. Recognizing that you are more complex, adaptable and resilient than a profile on paper is one of the most important rules, in my opinion, of studying MBTI.
But that doesn’t mean this system can’t change your life. Below, I’m going to share with you 10 ways that understanding my personality type has made me a happier, better and more fulfilled person.
If you want to find out your own personality type afterward (or before), here is a link to a free test.
1. It helped me to embrace my full self.
In this age of LinkedIn résumés, Facebook profiles and online identities that often seem more important than the real thing, it is easy to view yourself as a compilation of good parts and bad parts. You proudly show off to the world the good parts, and you desperately hide the bad ones.
Personality typing will teach you that, in truth, everything about you is interconnected. You can’t be fully secure in your strengths without being secure in your weaknesses, too. Sometimes, I can be oversensitive about little things, but without that sensitivity toward others’ thoughts and feelings, I would not have compassion.
Embracing your flaws does not mean you shouldn’t work to change them, but it does mean you view yourself as a full person who doesn't need to be disguised.
2. It helped me to narrow my focus.
I have always loved reading and writing, but there have been times when I put my natural instincts on the backburner for other pursuits, pursuits I couldn’t seem to muster up a genuine passion for.
It turns out those instincts aren’t just random, and there’s science to prove it.
You are naturally drawn to the things that best suit your personality. Reading about the types of interests likely to thrill you and the environments you are likely to excel in through Myers-Briggs feels almost like a blank check.
It gives you permission to follow your heart by telling you what you should have told yourself long ago: Your true self is your best self.
3. It showed me I’m not alone.
It's easy to feel misunderstood or different if the people around you seem to have different goals, values and personalities from you. The truth is the world is an enormous place, and there are so many people out there who think and feel the same way you do.
Just reading about other people with your personality type, even famous people whom you might recognize, will prove that. The key is then to take the security you gain from knowing you’re not alone and carry it with you always, no matter what environment you find yourself in. That way, you can be open-minded and learn all you can from other people’s world views, too.
4. It helped me foster better relationships with the people in my life.
People are different; we’re taught that from an early age. But understanding how and why people are different can be eye-opening and crucial for your relationships.
Realizing your introverted friend likes to spend time alone to recharge her energy, not because she’s antisocial or doesn’t want to hang out with you, may help you be a better friend to her. Your friend could do the same for you by understanding and respecting the way you function as an extrovert.
Understanding and mutual respect are the keys to healthy relationships because everybody’s different. And let’s face it: The world would be boring if they weren’t.
5. It made me less judgmental.
The world is comprised of people with a million different world views and value systems that, as long as they are not damaging to others, are valid. Your value system may influence how you shape your life, but it doesn’t have to lead you to judge others.
Understanding that people have different motivations and desires in life can help you to become a more open-minded person.
The brilliant CEO whose career revolves around productivity and the passionate artist who doesn’t care how much money he makes can be great friends, if they respect each other’s differences.
6. It helped me cope with adversity.
Not everyone deals with challenges the same way. Some confront them head on; some avoid them; some get angry, and some fall into despair. This goes for all of life’s challenges in your career, with your friends and in your personal life.
Understanding the way you respond to adversity, and learning how to cope with it in a way that best suits your personality, can help you sail more smoothly through life’s rough waters.
Your Myers-Briggs personality type has a lot to teach you on this score.
7. It helped me define my goals and dreams.
The terms “goals” and “dreams” tend to bring to mind grand achievements, but that is not necessarily the case. I’m talking, very simply, about the things we want out of life. They're the things that make us happy, the things that make us fulfilled and the things that make us our best selves.
It could be starting a business, raising a family, getting an education or working at a pet shelter. Whatever it may be, it is a wonderful feeling to know what you want and to consciously move toward it, rather than eventually doing things like “get a job” and “get married” because it’s what we’re “supposed to do.”
You’re supposed to do what is right for you. The norm has changed drastically over the past few decades, and it is drastically different across the many regions of the world today.
So do yourself a favor, and don’t follow it "just because." The norm isn’t real, but your own path through life is.
8. It made me a better person.
We all have behaviors and habits that do not always make us proud. Sometimes, for instance, I have had a tendency to neglect other aspects of my life, like schoolwork, personal health and responsibilities, I did not feel were important in favor of a project I am excited about.
I wondered where this attention deficiency came from, until I learned people of my personality type are primarily motivated by passion. I was then able to tweak my other life activities and find reasons to care about them.
I, therefore, become a better and more balanced person.
Understanding myself and the way I function has made me a better friend and citizen of the world. For this reason, I recommend taking some time to learn about the way you function, both as a gift to yourself and to others around you.
9. It taught me to trust myself.
We all hear a plethora of advice over our lifetimes. More often than not, the advice conflicts, depending on the source.
“Don’t worry about grades; college is about the experience.”
“Keep your nose down, and you’ll be grateful later.”
“Follow your dreams, no matter what.”
“Choose a steady career. Passion is for weekend hobbies.”
Eventually, whether on our own or with the help of the Myers-Briggs, we all come to a crucial realization: There is no piece of advice that is right for every listener because every person is different. No one can know what is truly right for you better than yourself.
Once you reach this milestone of self-actualization, you can then filter people’s advice through your own set of values, learning what you can from others, while staying true to who you are.
10. It taught me that I am the author of my own destiny.
Since learning all I could from my Myers-Briggs personality type, I’ve moved past that narrow idea of myself. Just because your personality type says you are prone to disorganization doesn’t mean you are doomed to a life of messy desks.
I know that, while the way I function can often be closely predicted by personality typing, I can be anything I want to be.
It may seem as if I am refuting all the good things I have said about personality typing, but having the strength to define my own self and determine my own fate is, perhaps, the greatest gift MBTI has given me.
Because of MBTI, I understand myself, and from that understanding comes confidence in the active role I play in shaping my life.