How Adhering to the Results of My Personality Test Destroyed My Social Life
You can’t depend on a test to tell you who you are.
I’m an INFP. I possess the introverted, intuitive, feeling, and prospecting personality traits. I tend to be quiet, open-minded, imaginative, and creative. I have taken the Myer-Briggs personality test dozens of times, and despite wanting to be something else, I always end up as an INFP.
Messageboards for INFPs are filled with casual discussions and memes about being an INFP. These range from the seriously contemplative discussions about our place in the world to the low-effort post where someone uses a meme to describe how they feel. INFPs are just people who inputted a couple of answers into a test and happened to get the same results. However, people tend to think that it’s a bit more than that.
On Reddit, r/infp has about 100k members. That’s a lot. INFPs are only supposed to make up 4% of the population. However, if you look at the other subreddits for personality types, this doesn’t add up. There are a total of 14 different personality type subreddits on Reddit. In total, they make up about 472,700 members. That puts the INFP subreddit at about 22% of the total.
I’m not trying to say that Reddit is indicative of real-world samples, but I am saying that the Myer-Briggs personality test is popular — it seems to be exceptionally popular with the IN or introverted and intuitive personality types. And, I think there’s a good reason why this is.
I used to find solace in these communities, but after a while, I started to feel weird. There was something alluring about the INFP label. INFPs are labeled as dreamers, artists, actors, and writers. They are just overflowing with creative juices and potential. But I realized that behind the layer of idealism, sunshine, and icecream, there was a dark void of unanswered questions and doubts. These doubts consisted of the ways I viewed my social life and interactions.
Going into certain conversations, I always felt this wall of apprehension before saying something. I had to rehearse everything within my head a couple of times before I felt comfortable sharing what I had to say. This made sense. I am an introvert, so I tend to think before I speak.
However, if you’re thinking too much about what you want to say, you may never say it at all. This happened a lot to me. The moment would come and go, and I often found myself with the feeling that I should have shared my two cents on a topic.
By branding myself as an INFP, I always told myself that this was okay. Giving in to the label, I was stopping myself from socializing with others in the way that I wanted to.
Instead of embracing my thoughts, passions, and ideas, I was replacing that with the belief that I didn’t want to share them in the first place. Nothing could be further from the truth.
A common trope for the INFP personality type is that they are hard to understand because of their rich and deep inner lives. It doesn’t take a scientist to conclude that it is still worth trying to become understood instead of just wallowing in your self-imposed fortress of loneliness. No one can truly understand someone else down to the core. That’s just a given in life. I don’t need a personality test to tell me that.
Despite some of the comfort that having a personality type can grant, it still seems to me that the label is ultimately limiting to the individual. We really can’t be defined by a few terms. And by normalizing behavior that you’re not content with, you are gradually cheating yourself of the opportunity to change.
I would argue that there is a fine balance that needs to be kept between being comfortable with who you are and being open to change. Full heartedly following a personality test allows you to ignore those warning signs that something needs to change. It simply whispers in your ear and says “It’s okay. This is who you are.” Subconsciously or consciously, I’d rather not have that voice making the decisions in my life.
Although belonging to an online community can be gratifying, it quickly falls short of having interactions with actual people. People, hobbies, and goals enhance your life. The MBTI does little to move you forward in any of these categories. And if you have bad habits, as I do, you’ll be more compelled to stick to your old ways.
One thing that I used to do a lot was wonder why no one would invite me to stuff anymore. However, I would just never make the effort to make plans with others. Part of this was laziness, part of it was my mood, and another big part of it was believing that I was happier alone. Although I am a person that values their alone time, I realized quickly that I was missing the interaction I had with other people.
I never had to make plans with others for the longest time because they would always go out of their way to make plans with me! However, over time, this becomes exhausting for the other person. And soon, I suddenly found myself with fewer friends. I was confused at first. What had I done wrong? I thought I was just being true to my personality.
The truth of the matter was that I was just being lazy and refused to get out of my comfort zone. I was scared of being rejected for some reason. That fear of rejection combined with the inner belief that it was hard for me to reach out to others made it nearly impossible for me to take any sort of initiative within my social life.
Everyone, including myself, has a strong desire to pin things down. By that I mean, there’s an inclination in everyone to make sense of the world around them. Oftentimes, the first step in this process is to understand yourself. The logic being that by figuring yourself out, you can start to understand other people better.
I’m going to stop trying to understand myself through personality tests. The only times I feel like I’ve gotten a worth-while glimpse into my character is when I’ve put myself out there. Putting myself out there can be intimidating, anxiety-inducing, and downright terrifying, but the results mean much more to me than some percentage markers and type indicators on a computer screen.