I was talking with a friend of mine this weekend who was struggling with her insecurities about being ‘needy’. She is a fabulous, fun, warm, energetic woman who loves relationships. I’ve known her for a very long time, and, no matter what was happening in her life, her relationships with significant others and her son were her most important priorities. Right now, she’s alienated from her most important people due to time zones and distance. It makes it difficult to keep connected even with technology. So, she’s struggling. In her attempts to connect, she feels she might be seen as desperate and needing too much attention. I feel her pain. I am an extrovert, too.
I asked her to take the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator (MBTI) test. Taking that test was probably one of the best things I ever did in learning to accept myself. In the professional world, and sometimes even in personal relationships, there seems to be this opinion that the ‘male’ persona is the bar. Men have emotions but are more focused on their purpose in life than their emotions and relationships. But, that’s also a fallacy as men have unique personalities, drives and desires, too. Our society over the years has taught most men that they should hide their emotions and never …. ever … cry. They need to stay stable. They need to be focused and strong. Women get a bad rap that we are the ‘weaker sex’ because we have an even harder time submitting to that ideal. We are criticized for being too emotional, irrational and flakey. I’ve feared that I had horrible things wrong with me because I couldn’t hide what I’m feeling or follow all the rules without questioning their validity. I’ve tried so hard to fit that mold that I’ve often wanted to ‘check out’ of the work world because it was so painful to be an actor playing a role that didn’t fit for me. It literally felt like I was turning my skin inside out. I wondered if I had any value at all in this world except that I was a warm body to do as I was told.
When I took the test and learned I was an ENFP, I felt a huge sigh of relief. The descriptions of the personality type supported the fact that my personality was normal, AND I had value in very specific areas. My personality and mode of operating in the world was not something that needed fixing. I was actually okay as I was. Of course, I always have things to work on to improve, but nothing is wrong with the core of who I am. I am an extrovert, and I get my energy from being around people. I am at my best when I’m with people. So, my ‘neediness’ is very understandable. My extreme pain when relationships are strained is normal for me. I do need other people in a big way. My task was to be more selective in my relationships and find people who were available and connecting. For an extrovert, being in a relationship with a disconnected or unavailable person is a deeply frustrating experience. And, I’m sure for the person who wants to isolate, being in a relationship with me has got to be torture. And, guess what, introverts love me….. at first. I bring them out of their shell and make them laugh and enjoy life. After a time, though, they have to retreat because relationships deplete them. They get their energy from re-charging by themselves. It’s a dance that can work well with mindful people, but, if you don’t understand the dynamic, both people can be miserable.
I’ve been struggling with my job here for the last few months. I work for the state government, and there is a mountain of paperwork and a ladder of rules that have to be followed before anything can be accomplished. I get frustrated with myself because I don’t cope well with this type of work. I know it’s necessary, and the rules can’t be changed for me. This environment is so painful for me that I often feel like I’m bleeding when I get home. It throws my whole life off kilter. It impacts me emotionally. During these times, I need to balance out my work day with things that make me feel alive and give me energy. I probably need to take more breaks, too, and have some fun at work. It’s also important for me to understand the bigger picture. My personality sees all things as connected. When I can see the connection of what I’m doing to a bigger vision, it makes difficult tasks easier to tolerate. I’ve also learned that some environments don’t work for me in the long run. When it gets to be too much work to find balance, it’s time to find something that is a better fit for me. The MBTI told me that corporate management was not the best fit for me, so I moved into my current profession. Luckily for somebody like me, stability is not that critical! I like to move on to new adventures.
I hoped that my friend would find out that she was an extrovert and not somehow deeply flawed. I hoped that understanding her personality type would give her the freedom to be herself without so much judgment. I sensed that her personality was probably similar to mine, and, indeed, it is. She is one letter off from my type. And, I’ve already been getting some notes that are sighs of relief from her. My personality type makes up 8.1% of the population. Hers makes up 2.5% of the population. All of us are fairly rare gems. It’s not easy to meet others who operate like we do. We need to quit judging others …. and ourselves ... for who we are.
When I go to work in a new workplace, I usually give a copy of the ENFP ‘at work’ profile to my new boss. Most of the time they don’t use it because a lot of people don’t see the value in this type of profiling. I also ask for their MBTI-type if they know it. Mine is dead on. I’m a lot more analytical than I should be for my type, but, other than that, the ENFP profile description reads as if someone lived with me for a year and psychoanalyzed me. If they would take a few minutes and read it, they would learn why I get frustrated with mundane tasks, and they could help me work through it. They would understand why my mood seems to switch from moment to moment and not take it personally. They could play to my strengths. By giving me the big picture of what is needed and then ‘letting me roll’, they could have a stellar, energetic performer who could make them shine. That’s why I ask for their MBTI-type. If I know their type, I can tailor my work and my conversations with them to their needs to ensure our working relationship is more productive and pleasant. But, only an extrovert would ‘get’ that the relationship is the most important part of getting things done.
When I told my friend about the MBTI, she asked if that was only for how we operate at work. There are personality-type tests that are about work-style, but MBTI is wholistic. It types who we ARE. An in-depth profile will tell you about your type in all kinds of situations including love and friendship. It’s where I learned that my personality type tends to stay in romantic relationships long after they’ve quit working for me. I thought something was deeply wrong with me. But, God made me with a personality that invests wholly in relationships and who has a hard time believing they can’t be salvaged. I don’t know if I can count that as a blessing, but I can count the fact that I know as a blessing. With awareness of my tendency, I now take longer to give my heart away, and I make sure they are deserving and safe. For me, it will be a long road out if it doesn’t work.
If you want to know your personality type, you can take a free test here. It’s not the official monitored test, but it typed me right. With Myers-Briggs, your type should never change. If it does, I suspect one of the tests was not valid. We may move within the parameters in the type, shifting more toward the middle as we age and grow, but our type stays pretty much the same. To me, it’s a great way to accept and love yourself as well accepting and loving others the way they are. If they ain’t broke … don’t try to fix them …. or you.
I’d love to know your MBTI – type!!