“Am I an INFP or an INFJ?”
“Am I a Sensor or an Intuitive?”
“I’m questioning my type…what if I’m really an ESTP and not an ENTP? I’m so confused!”
So I’m going to start this post by letting you in on a little secret…
Sometimes I don’t know for sure that I’m an INFJ.
I’ve paid thousands of dollars for an MBTI® certification and training. I’ve spent a decade studying type and reading every book possible on the subject. I’ve read “Psychological Types” three times and highlighted about 30% of the book. I’ve spent years blogging about type and being paid to help type people.
But you know what? I still have moments of doubt. I still wonder whether I got it wrong. I still have days where I wonder if I’m an ISFJ and not an INFJ, or maybe I’m an INFP? Maybe I’m an ISFP (although my lack of physical awareness makes this one highly unlikely).
And yeah, I know all those types have completely different cognitive functions. In fact, I fully expect people to read this article and tell me “well, after reading this it’s 100% sure that you’re an INFP and not an INFJ, because INFJs just KNOW that that’s what they are.”
Why Being to Attached to Your Type is Unhealthy
I was watching a Facebook Live broadcast featuring Antonia Dodge from Personality Hacker a few months ago. In it she said that she likes to say “I identify with the ENTP type” instead of saying “I’m an ENTP”. I appreciated that so much because there is so much more to each person than a four-letter code. When we start trying to find the answers to all of our problems in typology theory we end up putting ourselves in boxes. I’ve found myself doing this. I’ll have moments of intense nostalgia and think, “wait…I’m an INFJ, I shouldn’t be nostalgic, that’s a Si thing, right? Maybe I’m mistyped…maybe I’m an INFP or an ISFJ..” somehow “nostalgia” didn’t fit into my “box” of INFJ based on all the type research I’d done thus far. There have been times where I use my type as a crutch to limit my abilities in certain areas. It’s not something I’m proud of, but it’s something that can happen when you place too much of your identity into cognitive functions or four-letter codes or dichotomies.
There is so much more to each individual than typology can ever encompass.
You have your own unique history, your own life experiences, your own mind, values, ideals, religious or non-religious beliefs. Your type can only explain a small fraction of who you are and why you do the things you do.
Typology is supposed to be used as a way to understand ourselves and others better. Unfortunately it also has become a way for people to feel superior to others. We may become so fixated on an incorrect assumption (“Intuitives are creative. Sensors are not.”) that we are unwilling to entertain the idea of being another type. I don’t know how many times I see people make blanket generalizations about other types that are completely inaccurate. Yesterday someone commented on my blog saying that all ESTPs are narcissists. A month or so ago someone posted an infographic on pinterest that said the way you can tell the difference between an INTJ or an ISTJ is if one is innovative or not, because apparently “ISTJs are never innovative”. This is completely inaccurate, but these stereotypes and assumptions are part of the reason many people are afraid to entertain the idea of being another type.
It’s Not Anyone’s Job to Correct People About Their Type
I would guess that about 90% of the “intuitives” I meet are actually sensors. Do I sit them down and confront them about their incorrect typing? No. That’s just a jerky thing to do. I’m usually much more impressed with someone who says “hey…I’m not sure if I’m X type or X type” than someone who says “I’m absolutely this. And you’re absolutely not what you say you are.” Someone’s personality type is their own business. Unless you ask me directly to help you find your type, I’m not going to go around pointing out the ways in which you are not whatever type you say you are.
Because you’re you. Maybe you identify with certain aspects of a type, but not others. Maybe there’s a whole bunch of things about you that I don’t see because you only show a fraction of yourself to the outside world. Maybe relating to another type right now is good for you. Your type is your business and not mine or anyone else’s. We (anyone who’s obsessed with typology) need to stop being “type police”, especially when we might be mistyping ourselves in the first place.
Don’t Let Articles About Type Define You or Limit You
There are articles that explain why introverts don’t like talking on the phone (I’m very much an introvert, but I enjoy talking to friends on the phone) or why INFJs feel so misunderstood (feeling misunderstood isn’t a prerequisite to being an INFJ). There are articles explaining why each type is better/more special/superior to other types. I’ve read articles that say “You’re an INFJ if you do X number of things” and literally know people from almost every type who do those things. I’ve read articles that say certain types would fail at certain jobs when I know people with that type who succeed at those jobs. I’ve written inaccurate articles myself that I’ve had to go back and re-write after learning more about type. Don’t be afraid to second-guess what you read.
Your personality type doesn’t define all of you. It doesn’t tell you what your values and beliefs are. Are you putting boxes around yourself because of your type? Are you constantly questioning your type? Do you feel like you’re shaping your life to fit some stereotypical version of a type? Do you feel like you’ve called yourself a certain type for so long that now questioning it would be a betrayal of your identity?
Guess what? I relate most to the INFJ type…learning I was an INFJ helped me to understand why I had hunches and visions that came out of the blue. It helped me to understand why I cared so much about harmony and struggled so much with sensory details. But I’m open to being wrong about myself. When someone tells me I’m mistyped (which, as a personality blogger, people enjoy telling me), I actually take the time to question it. Even though I’ve written articles about how to tell if you’re an INFP or an INFJ or an INFJ or an ISFJ I still have days where I’m not sure. And that’s okay. Because at the end of the day I’m me. That four-letter code may help me to understand certain parts about myself, but it doesn’t explain everything. We’re not stuck in boxes. We don’t need to trap ourselves. We’re not always going to behave like the “perfect” version of a certain type.
So all this to say if you’re not sure of your type, that’s okay. You’re okay. You can say “I relate to being an INTP the most, but maybe I’m an INTJ, or an ISTP or an INFJ…all I know is that this is what seems right for me. Everything matches up right now.”
And if you really want to wander down another deep, dark alley of typology you can learn about shadow functions. Those explain many of the reasons that you sometimes behave in “type-contrary” ways. But even then it’s good to remember that your personality is your own. Even if you have the most common personality type out there, there are things about you that make you completely one-of-a-kind and different from everyone else in the world.
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