I’ve never liked the term personality test applied to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Each letter of the MBTI signifies a behavior preference. The letters tell me what I prefer to do, not who I am.
For example, I’m a risk taker. Before I had children, I did many high-risk activities for recreation like rock-climbing and martial arts. Which letter combination of INFPs indicates that I liked doing activities that have risk of physical injury? I’m very social with my friends. My wife and I hold dinner parties every other week. We often invite people we’ve just met in order to get to know them better. Which letters of INFP indicates that I like to be social?
I’ve read many descriptions for INFP. They’re all very flattering, but they’re also very general. Many of those descriptions seem to have some archetypal heading like Healer or Dreamer as if one word could encompass the sum of any one person. I value my ideals but I’m not an Idealist. I’m very pragmatic when it comes to daily living. When I read INFP descriptions, I see the exceptions. I see the parts that apply to some INFPs but not all. I also see parts that could describe anyone not just INFPs.
INFP type gives a good explanation to what I do, e.g. I value my ideals. However, INFP type doesn’t explain the why, e.g. why do I have these particular values and why are they so important? Knowing my behavior helps me in the execution of my goals, but I don’t think behavior should be the instrument used to define what those goals should be.
It’s a discrepancy when the MBTI describes INFPs as having strong values while trying to say that behavior preference should be a basis for making career or relationship decisions. Shouldn’t the strong values be the basis for career and relationships decisions whether or not that career or person is outside the preferred, “best fit” list for an INFP? Shouldn’t that be the case for everyone, not just INFPs?
As an INFP, I have certain behavior preferences. These behavior preferences make certain fields easier and more natural over others. However, I don’t think the INFP in me has ever based decisions on what would be easiest for me to do.
Everyone, not just INFPs, do things based on their perceived values. They choose jobs, significant others and how to spend their free time based on values. The MBTI does not assess values. Here are some of my values in no particular order: freedom, family, career, health, learning, sense of accomplishment, security, excitement, fun and enjoyment, and relationship with others. I would challenge anyone to order those values from most important to least important by MBTI type. I have many INFP friends and their values are very different from mine.
It’s because of individual values that some INFP do become teachers while others become computer programmers. It’s because of their values that some INFPs prefer hanging out with their friends more than staying home with a book. However, values based life choices isn’t just an INFP trait. Everyone makes decisions based on their perceived values and they also make poor choices if those perceived values aren’t actually their real values.
As an INFP, I didn’t look for an ENTJ or ESTJ when I was dating because that personality type would balance my preferences and anchor me in the “real” world. I wanted to be with someone who valued family as much as I did. I wanted their values to align with mine. I couldn’t be with someone who valued career more than family, someone who would choose work instead of going to the park with their family on the weekend.
Also, I was never sure what MBTI type had to do with choosing a career. Okay, if you won $20 million dollars tomorrow and didn’t have to work, what would you be doing? Whatever your answer is, you should probably be doing that. Your answer to that question is based on what you value if making money wasn’t an issue.
However, money is an issue so what if that career isn’t feasible with making a decent living? Well, there are books, tapes, programs and resources that teach how to balance paying rent while working towards the ideal job. That’s something the MBTI doesn’t help you with.
I like the MBTI. I love being an INFP. However, I don’t let being an INFP define what I should or shouldn’t do. The MBTI doesn’t tell who I am and it definitely doesn’t tell me who I can be. Wearing the INFP label may feel good because we’re “one of the rarest” personality types. However, all those lists of traits and descriptors can also be a confining box that doesn’t quite fit all INFPs.
Many INFPs I know like do things outside the norm. Outside the norm also means outside the range of the normal, preferred behavior for INFPs. Just because I have a preference for behavior doesn’t mean I can’t or shouldn’t enjoy doing things outside that INFP comfort zone. Realizing that defining values comes before taking actions and that the MBTI indicates preferences of action not preferences of values is a big step in getting to my goals.
The MBTI should be the last step in figuring out where a person should be going, not the first one.