I’ve taken the Myers-Briggs test a lot of times over the years. The first time was probably over 20 years ago. I was an INFJ then. I was an INFJ when I took an online test last week. In fact, only once have I ever not had a result that wasn’t INFJ.
I spent some time last week, though, reading descriptions and listening to youtube videos about INFJs. There are SO many videos on INFJs! Indeterminate numbers of ways you know you’re an INFJ when videos. And then there are videos calling out people who aren’t INFJs. There are videos wondering why everybody wants to be an INFJ.
I was flabbergasted. Amazed. Confused. I had no idea that this was a thing. Why would someone so want to be a certain type that they’d mistype themselves? And why on earth would an INFJ make youtube videos? This does not seem like an INFJ thing to me. I mean, I don’t even like to put categories and tags on my blog posts because then people might find them. Seriously. Not calling attention to oneself is basic INFJ type behavior and a huge problem in my life.
Naturally, since I read and listened to how everybody wants to be an INFJ I started to wonder if I am one. Not that it matters in the long run, but I don’t like mislabeling myself. So I read and read. Apparently, INFJs tend to talk in metaphors. And that made me think I am definitely not an INFJ; I don’t talk in metaphors. I really suck at coming up with metaphors. Or at least I thought I did until I wrote a blog post about how the sound of a lawnmower tastes *green. A day later, I stopped in the middle of making a point in a facebook comment by using a metaphor and thought, yeah maybe that description has some merit.
Long story short, I’m an INFJ. I don’t know about all these other people. I only know about me. But there are two things that you always read about INFJs that just do not line up with me.
1 All these descriptions about INFJs mention soft-spoken people. Frankly, I don’t know how that aligns with any Myers-Briggs type, but apparently, people think INFJs are. I am not. I inherited a deep voice from my Dad. I have a loud laugh which I make no attempt to quiet because laughter is infectious and should be shared. I can be very quiet in a loud group if I’m lost in thought or just soaking in what everybody’s saying. And I rarely speak forcefully unless I feel impassioned or it’ll get a laugh (laughter is huge for me. It’s life for me). I am not softspoken. At all.
I’m not shy either. I used to be. I was very shy as a child, painfully shy. Then I read Dale Carnegie, realized that it’s rare for strangers to want to hear about you–mostly they want to introduce themselves–and I was freed. I want to learn things about strangers, and I don’t want to talk about myself to strangers. That was eye-opening for me.
So maybe most INFJs are softspoken. And maybe that’s because INFJs are all about harmony and making sure everybody is feeling good. But me, I do that by making jokes, passing around hugs, asking people how they’re feeling and then making stupid jokes again. I can play the extrovert with gusto, as long as I have hours, days, weeks to recover. If someone else wants to take center stage, I am happy to pass it off. But if the best way to make others comfortable is to be silly myself, I’ll do it, and it’s pretty hard to be both silly and softspoken.
2 Tidy–INFJs are supposed to be tidy. No. No I am not. I hate bad smells. I can’t ignore those. I’ve gotten up in the middle of the night to move trash into the garage because the smell is bothering me. But I don’t need things to be put away.
Again, I look at the reasoning behind that. INFJs are supposed to be super sensitive (that whole NF thing) including to external stimuli. Noises? Yup. Smells? Yup. But things being out of place? No.
Here’s the thing, I’ve been writing since I was 14. When I write–I assume all writers are like this, but maybe not–I am in the story, so much so that I don’t notice other things. Even when I edit, I’m in the story. When I’m not writing but thinking about the story, I’m still in the story. I get up from my computer to switch laundry over, I am mostly still in my story. Years ago I was writing a book that took place in Colorado in June, July and August. I was working on this during the middle of a New England winter. It was March before I actually realized it was one of the snowiest winters on record. I’d been shoveling snow–I was just so lost in my book between storms that I barely noticed it.
Years later, a couple of stories came to me out of nowhere. I had to write them, and I was lost, lost in those characters. I got into no less than three fender-benders during that time. Kind of hard to keep your mind on the road when you’re living in 1885.
I don’t generally notice messes in my house or my car. On the other hand, big changes in my environment are jarring, even good ones. We really need to get work done on a bathroom, which we’ve been saving up for, for years, but I haven’t yet called anybody on it. Talking on the phone–oh the horror–to strangers–even more horrible!–to come to my house and rip stuff up? It’s torture. I like when things are prettied-up for sure. But to get there is disruptive and disturbing. Honestly, I don’t even move furniture around. I considered long and hard about the optimal place for the furniture. Why would I move it to a less optimal place? It doesn’t make sense.
That. Right there. That’s an INFJ thing. At least it seems so to me. If you’re the MBTI type that completely analyzes things including all the emotional implications, then when you’ve made a decision, it’s the right decision. I’m not moving the furniture unless some kind of big change has happened. That’s rare.
So yeah. I guess if you’ve read this far, you’re wondering how this is at all helpful to you. Well I guess I’d say this–if you’re not sure about your Meyers-Briggs type (and you care), look at the reasons behind the descriptions. For example, it is entirely possible to be a soft-spoken extrovert. Or a shy extrovert. Your upbringing could make you both of those things. Still, you might absolutely love to be with people and actually get tired when you’ve been alone too long (and I have no idea how that is possible, but it’s a thing). You’re an extrovert no matter what people say. It’s not how people see you–it’s how you feel. And that’s a really NF thing to say, and I don’t know how in hell I thought I could be an S or T.
*Green–When I told my husband that the sound of a lawnmower tastes green I got a very, very strange look, even after all these years together. He said things don’t taste green. Yes. Yes they do. Salad, asparagus, green beans all have a similar “green” taste, in the same way that beef, lamb and some cuts of pork have a similar meaty (red) taste. When you hear a lawnmower you will often get the smell of freshly cut grass. Smell is a hugely important part of taste. Therefore, the sound of a lawnmower tastes green.