Monday, May 4, 2015

Why I Hate Myers-Briggs (A Little)

I’m an ISTJ. If you were curious.

I fit pretty well into that category, too. I’m organized, dependable, traditional, law-abiding (unless I think the law is stupid), hardworking to the point that some people can take advantage of me, factual, out of tune with my emotions, unaffectionate, loyal, logical, effective. I’m pulling these words from Personality Page, and really, there is little doubt in my mind that I am not an ISTJ.


It’s good to know, but in retrospect, I wish I hadn’t put so much value in the Myers-Briggs scale.

All through high school, I’ve had no idea what I want to do after college—I started to look at ISTJ profiles because I thought careers suited to my personality would be perfect and easy.

Executive. Accountant. Lawyer. Doctor. Judge. Police Officer. System Analyst. Military.


Ick. I didn’t want to do those things. In fact, I was incredibly discouraged—I really liked writing, but there aren’t any ISTJ profiles that recommend writing-oriented jobs for ISTJs because we are not creative people. I mean, sure, I’d make it as a technical writer—but I haven’t been filling my writing folder with how-to manuals the last four years.

We readers are all about the feels, but in general, ISTJs are unoriginal, serious, and pretty distant from their emotions. For example, last week I was seriously confused about why I was crying—crying is a sign of sadness, but I couldn’t think what had made me sad. Turns out, it was the other way around. I got lotion in my eyes, and when I wiped away the moisture I’d get even more lotion in my eyes—any sadness I felt was an assumption I made based on the way my eyes were reacting.

So, no. My feelings are mysterious enough without trying to interpret other people’s, and from what I’ve observed people don’t scream and fawn over books written by people accused of being emotionless rocks (to their face, no less).


I’m a rule-follower, and if, as a rule, ISTJs are not writers, then I guess that means I’m not a writer, either. And so, for a long time, I didn’t think I ever could be one.

It bothered me. Like, a lot. I tried doing things I thought would suit me better than Writer, like Crime Scene Analyst, but the fact was I still liked writing. With the help of a lot of pep talks from good friends and some of my own initiative, I finally decided, “I’ll act like a writer and stop second-guessing myself—if it works, good, if it doesn’t, we’ll keep looking.”

I’ve kept writing. Some people have read my writing, and no one’s suggested I should stop writing. People occasionally laugh at my blog posts. And even if I have a harder time with emotions, I’m not completely clueless—I mean, I’ve had nearly two decades of practice.


In the end, writing may be a little harder for me in some ways. Characterization mystifies me. I can be incredibly ruthless on myself instead of my writing. And I worry that I may never accomplish humor the way I want to.

But I’ve learned that these fears are what editing is for. I’ve got it, and I can handle it. Probably.

Still, I also have to wonder—if I never learned that I was an ISTJ, would I still be so unsure that I could make it as a writer? Would I be better? I guess it’s something else I’ll never know.

Do you think learning about your Myers-Briggs type can ever be unhelpful? How so?

16 comments :

  1. Oh, goodness. You write the best titles and intros ever, Heather. "law-abiding unless I think the law is stupid." Ha!

    Well, defying your boundaries is a good thing. I mean, you read my post on why I'm an INTJ but not a budding world conqueror. I think it's important to remember that an MBTI is based on how you see yourself, as well (because we totally bend the truth on quizzes), and that it only reflects you up to what you've done so far, and not what you're going to do.

    Also, this seems like an opportune moment to drop that Imitation Game quote: Sometimes it is the people who no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine. Even if the world doesn't think you write, you might end up writing the best book ever. XD

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    1. Haha, thanks. XD (It's true, though. Very, very true in my case.)

      That's true—we aren't all stereotypes. I'm not sure if it's accurate to say we bend truth on quizzes (I don't know, honesty is another one of my things) but we may perceive ourselves differently than is reality. You make a valid point, though, and I appreciate it.

      I NEED TO SEE IMITATION GAME STILL AND I HAVEN'T. But, you're right. We can't expect the same results from every person out there.

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  2. Never stop writing! Every person has a unique perspective, personality, and upbringing that means that they can write stories that nobody else could. So you have to keep writing because the world needs your story. I also am a firm believer that writing is a skill that can be learned with much practice. Perhaps some personality types are more drawn to it than others, ones with overly active imaginations and a constant excess of emotions no doubt... but that doesn't mean that they are any better at it. It comes down to practice practice practice.

    Very interesting post. I am an INFJ. I must admit that when I read the description of INFJs, it feels like therapy (finally SOMEBODY UNDERSTANDS!). However, it does annoy me when people quote their personality type for why the behave in a peculiar way or why they can/cannot do something (and believe me, I have seen this happen). I guess I am a big nurture vs. nature person, so I firmly believe that we should never let our natural tendencies or personality hold us back from being the person that we want to be.

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    1. I shan't! It's always important to recognize that a unique perspective makes for a unique product. I'm not sure what really makes a writer, but I do know that we have a lot of expectations about what makes a writer, and that is part of what makes us consider some people better writers than others. And yes, talent will always be wasted without practice.

      It is nice to have something understand us, but yeah—I think personalities can change, and no data is going to justify those things. There's always going to be an element of genetics in there, but we do have a chance to keep stretching upwards. Thanks for reading, Susanna!

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  3. I'm an ENTJ but I took the test in 7th grade, and for example I never went to parties and it asked where I found myself at a parties and I said the middle of the room because I figured that was where the food was. it seems most bookbloggers are introverts. I have no idea what to do with my life but I've never even considered looking up personality jobs. You can be a writer if you want! Don't let this define you or worry you <3 . Just because there are certain aspects of your personality doesn't mean you can't do certain things. This ISTJ personality has a broad group of very unique, different people who have had different experiences and can do different things. So don't let a Google search or whatever stop you doing something you love and seem to be good at. :)

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    1. Tests can always be rather subjective; you also have to look at what the types are to decide what is what. It does seems like there's an introvert majority; it would be interesting to study why that is. Thanks for the encouragement, Shar! I hope I can keep working hard to keep seeing this through!

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  4. Interesting. I'm and INTJ and like all the even numbers except for 8 on the Enneagram and I took some career test that said that I should be a ESL teacher, but I like to think that every person is their own category and fit better into different personality tests. I don't think that you should let that stop you from being awesome (and I love your blog posts) It's okay to have to work hard at something as long as you enjoy it :)
    -Shanti

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    1. It's always interesting to consider whether or not we are truly free. I'm glad you enjoy my blog posts, and I think you're right—I'm more than willing to keep working hard for this. :) Thanks, Shanti!

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  5. You're so right. Sometimes we let these things define us when they really shouldn't. For example, me. I'm an INFJ, which is the rarest Myers-Briggs type (yay me?), and I share it with awesome people like MLK Jr and Mother Teresa and Agent Phil Coulson, I also share it with Hitler. Which is kind of scary. But I have to let that go and focus on the good, and not let this define me. :D
    If that makes any sense at all...

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    1. The statistics on these things are always so confusing—I wonder where they get their data? It's interesting that such diverse people can all share a similar worldview, but you're right: we aren't all defined by what a test says we are.

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  6. I didn't even realize people put such importance on the test! I DEFINITELY think you should just do whatever the hell you like and I don't think you can ever fit people into perfectly neat profiles. I'm sure they can be helpful in some ways, but I don't think anyone should let the result of a test define them. Personally, I just pick and choose what suits me when I take tests. I love taking them, but I don't really take them to seriously when I don't agree with them (law-abiding unless I think the law is stupid is something I've said about myself several times in the past as well btw haha).

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    1. It was the first time I thought something really had a handle on me, so perhaps I put a little too much effort into it than I should have! People aren't boxes, I think, but you're right, tests can be limiting. Sometimes it's easy to take things lightly, others not, but you do have a very valid point!

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  7. The lotion story is brilliant. :') But yes, I've had my doubts about this personality test. I'm an INTJ, but I also have INTJ friends that are completely unlike me in many ways. It just shows that personalities are so diverse, they can't be catergorized into a few nice, neat labels (one does not simply catergorize personalities). If you have a passion for writing, I say go for it! Honestly, your blog is quite addictive and I read every word instead of skimming as I do for a few blog posts (oops, secret's out). :)

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    1. XD Completely true, as well! INTJs can be very diverse people, yes, and you're right—stereotypes don't know the half of it. I do want to keep writing, so thanks for the encouragement! (And, I'm glad that you love to read it! :) ) Thanks, Jo!

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  8. Wow, great post! I'm an INTJ (according to the test, though I'm pretty sure I'm a few other types too), but by the time I figured that out, I already knew I wanted to be a writer. So I didn't even look at the careers list, lol.
    Considering how similar ISTJs and INTJs are, I'm probably not supposed to be a writer either... oh well. Guess we'll just be outside the box. :)


    Alexa
    thessalexa.blogspot.com

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    1. That's really cool that you already knew what you wanted to do! I don't think writing really falls under the top job for INTJs, but I'd have to look. But, you're right—nothing wrong with us sitting outside the box. :)

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