When I set out on this journey to “find myself.” I wasn’t sure where to start. I knew that I needed to become a better person. I knew that I needed to prioritize my life and figure out what makes me happy, but I wasn’t sure how to do that. So I approached it methodically, like I do everything else in my life. I created a list of questions and then attempted to find the answers. Why do I act that way? Or better yet, react that way? How does my mind work? Why do I have these personality traits and how were they developed? Once I figured out the answers I could change, find myself, figure out how to be happy, it’s just that easy…but it’s not.
The thing is scientists, philosophers, researchers, parents and the rest of the world have been trying to figure out the answers to these questions for centuries. Hello, nature vs. nurture. So while there is plenty of research, there are no definitive answers. Where do I start? What sources do I trust? Is it because I am an Aries? Or a middle child? Or a woman? Or depressed? Is it because some kid bullied me in the back of bus in sixth grade? Maybe? Maybe not. Probably not.
Then something interesting happened in the midst of this soul searching. Unfortunately and fortunately, my search for myself has aligned itself with my search for a job. I was beginning to have conversations with a company who had two open positions that could fit my skill set. They had me take a personality test to determine which position would be a better fit. I never received the results of the test, but was not surprised by position that they had me pursue based on that information. A data analyst. The perfect job for an introvert.
I’ve known for a while that I am an introvert. Or at least that I can be quiet, shy and socially awkward at times. It’s been a minor struggle in my life. Trying to make new friends. Being mistaken for a bitch. Dating. Fortunately at some point in your life alcohol becomes available at almost every social function and with a couple beers that introvert jacket falls to the ground like a silk robe. Unfortunately they typically don’t serve alcohol during interviews. So my introverted tendencies (along with my beat-up confidence) were highlighted with a big, giant spotlight. Like the ones that helicopters use to find fugitives. Shining down on me. That girl! That girl right there sucks at interviews. She’s painfully awkward. Run! Run away from her!
I needed to know more. I needed to understand this personality type and why I was plagued with it. So I took the Myers-Briggs test. The test splits users into 16 personality types. Each personality type is determined by four characteristics and each user is assigned a combination of four corresponding letters.
- Favorite world: Do you prefer to focus on the outer world or on your own inner world? This is called Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I).
- Information: Do you prefer to focus on the basic information you take in or do you prefer to interpret and add meaning? This is called Sensing (S) or Intuition (N).
- Decisions: When making decisions, do you prefer to first look at logic and consistency or first look at the people and special circumstances? This is called Thinking (T) or Feeling (F).
- Structure: In dealing with the outside world, do you prefer to get things decided or do you prefer to stay open to new information and options? This is called Judging (J) or Perceiving (P).
The test revealed that I am an INTJ (Introversion Intuition Thinking Judging). The first thing I read said that only 1% of women have this personality type and one of them is Hillary Clinton. Awesome.
But the more I read the more I nodded in agreement. Yes, this is me! That means there are other people like me too! Other people whose mind works the same way. Who over-analyze everything and can’t shut their mind off. Who need alone time! A lot of alone time. Alone time actually charges introverts, gives them energy, while interactions charge extroverts. I quickly started collecting research.
Weaknesses first (because, well, that’s how I work): I can’t articulate my feelings very well. Or at all. My last therapist told me this and I was perplexed. He was a therapist. He should be able to figure out my feelings. But apparently that’s how bad it is/was for me. I also have a hard time reading others’ emotions, which can make me come across as insensitive.
Strengths: Thoughtful. Independent. Creative. Innovative. Logical. Analytical. Focused. Determined. Dedicated. Organized. Objective. It was like my interview questions were being answered for me in these descriptions. Words come so easily from me. Or at least from my hands, except for when I have to sell the idea of me. Then I struggle and stumble. And I guess part of that comes with being objective. And that’s why this exercise has helped me. It provided me with research on my strengths. This made things easier for me.
So, yes, I am an introvert and apparently an INTJ. And I have gained a couple of answers to my questions. But I understand that I can’t blame my flaws on my personality type. And it doesn’t mean that I can’t improve them. These exercises might help me better understand my personality, but they aren’t imperative to improving it.
Some people who know me well might be reading this and thinking Emilie’s not an introvert, she’s not socially awkward. Well, that’s probably because I love you. Or I love drinking with you. INTJs love specifically, not broadly. We find our small group of friends/family and love them hard. So if you have never or rarely experienced awkward Emilie consider yourself a part of my tribe and know that you are loved. Hard.