We all, at some point in our lives, have asked ourselves mind boggling questions about life, existence, purpose and end. We all have tried to dig in to the deepest and darkest corners of our hearts in search for answers. Questions like, “Who am I? Why am I like this? What do I want in life?” have echoed in our heads over and over and over, and some of us might even be experiencing this now (You might even be experiencing this now).
The reason why we do this is because we are complex human beings, and we do not want to just be. We do not just live, breathe, drink, eat, and sleep just like any other animal. We think, feel, and explore! We ask questions. We want to know why we are the way we are. And if you are one of those innate ‘philosophers’ who put high value in self-exploration and soul searching, you might be overwhelmed by the complexity of your existence by now. The age old ‘philosophizing’ could have brought you to some answers, but you might be worried that those answers might just be products of your subjective and personal opinions and views about yourself (and then just end up being a nihilist). BUT you might also be one of those in search for an objective approach to soul searching.
Good news is there are TONS! All over the internet you will find quizzes and feeds that claim to tell you that they will be able to tell you who you are! Quite convincing? Eh… Not quite! Most are games and fun. But there is one assessment tool out there backed up by research that you can use. And it is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, more popularly known as the MBTI.
It is the most definitive assessment tool out there. It is used by a number of Fortune 500 companies in filtering prospective employees. Tons of schools and businesses all over the world (mainly in the U.S.) also encourage people to take this test to figure out what type of courses or jobs they should be in. And so, when it comes to objective soul searching, taking MBTI is the sure fire way to go.
A BIT OF A BACKGROUND
Photo: MBTI Foundation Logo
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a questionnaire developed by the mother-daughter team Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers based on the works of Carl Jung on typological theory. The underlying principle is that every human being experience the world by sensation, intuition, feeling and thinking (each can either be introverted or extraverted in nature) – and that one of these is dominant for a person most of the time.
MBTI uses letters to represent human experience and these letters are sub-categorized; whether they are ‘attitudes,’ ‘psychological functions,’ or ‘lifestyle preferences’ as seen below:
ATTITUDES: Introverstion (I) vs Extraversion (E)
Perceiving Functions: Intuition (N) vs Sensing (S)
Judging Functions: Feeling (F) vs Thinking (T)
LIFESTYLE PREFERENCES: Perceiving (P) vs Judging (J)
The result of answering the questionnaire would show that each person have one preferred letter on each of the four dichotomies. Thus forming a type code composed of four letters, i. e. INFP and ESTJ. This system makes up a total of 16 personality type combinations. Each having its own set of strengths, weaknesses, interests, and natural inclinations.
Photo: 16 Personality Types taken from CPP website
What do the letters mean?
Introversion (I) vs Extraversion (E): These letters represent the way humans gather energy. Introverted people gather energy by quiet and solitude. They charge by spending time alone, reading books in their rooms while drinking coffee, and just by getting in their heads, thinking or feeling things from deep within. Extraverted people on the other hand charge by spending time with people. They light up whenever they have to go out and do something fun and adventurous.
Intuition (N) vs Sensing (S): These letters represent the way humans gather information and experience the world. Intuitives love thinking and creating ideas. They read up a lot and ponder about concepts, complex subjects, and pretty much everything theoretical and speculative. They like interpreting and playing around with the information they get. Whereas sensors gather information by experiencing the world around them. They prefer living by the moment rather than by speculating on what could be. They look at facts and figures more than they try and interpret them.
Feeling (F) vs Thinking (T): These letters represent the way humans make judgments. Feelers judge based on morals, ethics, norms, what people want, and what people can give. Their decisions almost always follow what would be for the benefit of the people and the self. Thinkers on the other hand make judgments based on facts and figures. Truth and false is their main criteria in decision-making (as opposed to feelers whose criteria is right and wrong, good and evil).
Perceiving (P) vs Judging (J): These letters represent the way humans prefer to live their lives. Perceivers are people who put high value on exploration and freedom. They are open-minded and flexible beings who try to explore all options offered to them (and even seek those that are not). They find it hard to stick to one thing. There always has to be variety, color and spice in their lives. Judgers on the other hand are people who love to get things done. They do not put high value on exploration. They find it pointless and exhausting. Once they are decided on something, they stick to it and ignore all other options. They do not like leaving things open ended like perceivers do. There has to be closure and direction in everything they do.
Keep in mind though that we have all eight letters in us. An ESTJ can use I, N, F, and P too. He is not limited to E, S, T, and J. However, ESTJ is his preference, and this is his default mode most of the time. The key to understanding MBTI is to remember this point.
Now there are more to this type theory, and if you read up more about it online or in books, you will find out that the typological theory used in MBTI is actually related to other theories by other psychologists and researchers. That is beyond the scope of this article (I will try to cover them in future articles).
There is a disclaimer to this though. MBTI is a very useful tool in learning about personalities, and it is backed up by research and observations. However, it is still based on a theory, and the validity of this theory is contested by some researchers. Thus, when taking up MBTI one has to be careful and introspective enough to know whether the results they are given is actually in congruence to the way they perceive themselves. After all, no test can ever claim to know who you are. Only you can tell who you are. MBTI is just a tool used to guide you on your way to self-knowledge.
“It is up to each person to recognize his or her true preferences.”
– Isabel Briggs Myers
With that said, I highly suggest that you take up the opportunity and take up the MBTI test. Hundreds of researches are already written that prove the reliability and validity of this tool, and so I think there is no harm in using it. You can go and look for a certified MBTI practitioner around your area, or ask for a referral from a psychologist or counselor. You can also check out the links below to schedule a test (for a price of course):
If you want to take it for free, there are several ‘unofficial tests’ you can take online. The questions asked on those sites can differ from the real MBTI test, and so if you opt to answer them, just keep in mind that inconsistencies might occur. Here is a link to a more reliable online test (in my opinion):
With that, I say good luck! And I hope this helps you in learning more about yourself.
Love and light,
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