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Opinion

Myers-Briggs test gives interesting but potentially insufficient insight into personality

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October 15, 2015

Kindergarten exhausted me. Being with 24 to 30 five-and six-year-olds would drain my energy. I’d drag my feet getting off the high steps of the bus and come home drooping like a wilting flower, needing a nap and a lot of peace and quiet. My mom would let me go to my room uninterrupted while she enticed my twin brother away from me with an engaging and usually loud activity. He always returned home from kindergarten bursting with energy, bounding off the bus steps, eyes bright, never sitting still for a moment.

I recently took the Myers-Briggs test, so just guess if I am an “I” or an “E”. It has been overwhelmingly clear to me for a long time now that I am an introvert, but through this personality/aptitude test I now have real validation. And upon reading my results just last week, one of my first feelings was that of—oddly enough—relief. Relief that it was okay to be an introvert, to prefer small intimate gatherings over parties, having a few very close friends over a large group of acquaintances, to be alone and even enjoy it. Relief to know that I wasn’t being bratty or rude or snobbish because I don’t like to be with people all the time, but that it is just how I am, and that there are many other “I’s” out there in the world; successful “I’s,” even (looking at you, Steve Jobs).

But I can’t help but think, how correct is the Myers-Briggs test? If I were to take it again in a year would I be different, would I have a changed personality, a new group to belong to? I have yet to talk to anyone who has actually taken this test two consecutive years in a row, so I can’t be certain on the answer to my questions. However, I really do feel strongly that they would come back with a different personality. My hunch to my question makes me wonder: who is right? The person who supplied the answers, and who would know his or her own personality the best, or the test that has real, official results—data? Can one have two different personality types that exist within oneself, or can personality not even be measured consistently?

I almost feel that the Myers-Briggs is making me turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. This test decrees that I am an INTJ, so therefore I must be an INTJ, causing me to act and make decisions while conscious of the fact that I am an INTJ. Reading my results was akin to having my fortune told, or talking to a medium who sends out broad tentacles of information to purposefully cause one to clutch onto any unspecific information that one can identify with, and instantly believe in their ability to be clairvoyant. Was I nodding in positive approval of my results because I am really an INTJ, or because every now and then one aspect of my results aligned with how I think I actually operate? I can’t say for certain. My results were pretty spot on—too spot on, admittedly.

One of my best friends also took the Myers-Briggs and turned out to be an ENFJ which, to me, was a no-brainer; her results totally fit. So maybe this test is exactly what it is said to be, and maybe I am the one who is sitting in a shadow of doubt because I really am an INTJ. A person who, according to my official test results is, “skeptical and independent, [someone who has] high standards of competence and performance—for themselves and others.”

What I guess I am trying to say about all this—my test, my personality, my self-fulfilling prophecy-ness—is that I am no more sure about who I am than I was in kindergarten. Maybe all I really need to know about myself and my personality is that, at least once a day, I really need a nap and a break from people, and maybe that’s enough for me to know right now.

Lauren Simenson is a student at UW-River Falls.