For as long as I remember, I’ve been obsessed with personality tests, whether they were the six-question kind on the back of Seventeen magazine or the more corporate and acknowledged Myers-Briggs test. When I first took it in 8th grade, I was an INFP, the idealistic, cautious, compassionate dreamer. Since then, I’ve been INFJ, the more decisive cousin of the INFP.
Reading about the INFJ personality type was like looking in a mirror and seeing yourself through another person’s eyes–strangely liberating yet confining at the same time. Apparently INFJ’s only account for 1% of the population, which might explain my feelings of alienation during much of my childhood.
I was shy and reserved as a child but I had so many words built up in my brain, so many opinions I wanted to pour out to whoever would listen (sorry mom!). I found it hard to compromise the talkative, strong side of my personality that loved to engage in (and win) friendly arguments and the side that would rather disappear than order pizza from a stranger. I can recall ever since I was young, feeling a strong sense of right and wrong, and frustration toward the rest of the world for not calling out instances of obvious favoritism and the like. Being such a misfit when I was younger, I can’t even describe the overwhelming feelings I had when I read this segment on typelogic.com:
“Beneath the quiet exterior, INFJs hold deep convictions about the weightier matters of life. Those who are activists — INFJs gravitate toward such a role — are there for the cause, not for personal glory or political power.
INFJs are champions of the oppressed and downtrodden. They often are found in the wake of an emergency, rescuing those who are in acute distress. INFJs may fantasize about getting revenge on those who victimize the defenseless. The concept of ‘poetic justice’ is appealing to the INFJ.
Accurately suspicious about others’ motives, INFJs are not easily led. These are the people that you can rarely fool any of the time. Though affable and sympathetic to most, INFJs are selective about their friends. Such a friendship is a symbiotic bond that transcends mere words.”
It was like I was finally understood. There is that 1% of people floating around in this world that think just like I do! But then I started to use my personality type as an excuse to keep myself in my comfort zone, at a standstill.
I’ve learned since then that, for the sake of your sanity, do not place too much importance on your personality type. Do not consider it your destiny or a marker of who you will be for the rest of your life.
Once upon a time I was a confused, self-effacing sponge who didn’t understand why all the other kids went out to recess and I only wanted to crawl in the corner and continue reading my book alone.
Sometimes i feel a complete disconnect from that girl I once was, while other times i feel like she will forever be part of me. I used to be painfully straightforward, but upon realizing that there are certain politics, or social rules that govern every social interaction, I have adjusted my mindset accordingly, even though at my core, I still prefer frank, authentic conversations that skip over the superficial small talk. Now I also find it easier to talk to people with differing views, and I no longer feel the need to win arguments. I still have strong opinions and I have firm morals that I adhere to unwaveringly, but I do believe some aspects of my views on people and life in general have changed.
That brings me to my next point. When I was religious, I went to this church that happened to have a lot of rich people who donated massive amounts of money, came often, and volunteered. But they emanated a holier-than-thou kind of attitude that came across in the way they treated the other church members.
So I came to this question: Who would be more likely to go to heaven? A person who secretly hates everybody but contributes to society or a person with a kind heart but who stays home everyday with his/her 10 cats?
In a sense I was asking: How do your actions relate to you as a person? I have come to believe that we are our actions.
Think about your best friend. Think about the way they interact with you, their mannerisms, the way they think. You might think you know them. You understand them. But then maybe they do something “outside of their character.” Maybe your normally kind and gentle friend suddenly lashes out at someone for something trivial. You might say: “That was so outside your character” or even “I don’t even know you anymore” In reality though, you never really knew that person in the literal sense in the first place.
Your brain merely collected a series of his or her actions to formulated specific traits and patterns that you begin to associate with him or her. That is why two people can have such different perceptions of the same person.
A fundamental part of the human condition is that we can never truly know what another person is thinking, what they’ve gone through, what. Thus, we only have their actions to go off of. In this sense, action is personality.
Now, for a positive example of this: a girl in your class who has a reputation for being shy surprises everyone by running for class office. After becoming class officer, she starts attending a variety of clubs, and begins expanding her social group. A while later, everyone will start thinking of her as an outgoing, sociable person. Her past may be completely swiped clean from the memories of others. However, no one knows how nervous she was stepping in front of her classmates, giving that speech. No one knows how out of place she felt during the first couple of months. Other people only saw an amazing transformation and that’s enough. Her goal was met. She is now the outgoing person she had striven to become. And slowly, because of other peoples’ changed perceptions of her, her own perception of herself will start to change too.
Actions are powerful.
If Michael Phelps never swam, would he still be talented at swimming? If Darwin never wrote the Theory of Evolution, would he still be revolutionary? No. That is because there is no way to measure latent capabilities or talent, only performance. And rightly so as there is no use for talent that stays dormant. Therefore, you should never forgo self-improvement for the sake of “staying true” to yourself.
The Self is a formless blob that you can mold to your liking through your actions. That is not to say that we aren’t born with natural tendencies but ultimately, to present your best self to the world, you must recognize your inherent strengths and keep them and hone in on your weaknesses and make a change.
Step out of your comfort zone. Try channeling your negative feelings toward someone who thinks differently from you into compassion. People change constantly. For various reasons. Sometimes for self-improvement. Sometimes merely for convenience in our day-to-day lives.
I used to seethe in anger at the sight of those “fake-nice” people in action. Now I realize a fake smile sometimes serves everyone’s purposes just fine; it shows that you are committed to making the other person’s job easy. Think of it as the lubricant of tasks everyone wants done as fast and as smooth as possible.
So, in a roundabout way, what I’m trying to say is, personality is not fixed. You are not fixed. Be aware of your natural tendencies. Know what to compromise from your character and what you should hold onto for the rest of your life. Use your actions to change your “destiny.”