These days it’s not very often we sit down and contemplate our existence. If you’re like me, you’re busy—you have a job, a family, hobbies, sports. Perhaps you kept a journal growing up, but as an adult your time available for journaling was re-appropriated to a career or a relationship. Or, maybe you do have the time, but instead of journaling you find yourself scrolling through Facebook. The fact is, as a culture we spend far less time thinking about who we are as individuals and far more time observing other people’s lives, be it on Instagram or The Big Bang Theory. If proper self-awareness is a foundation of positive mental health, isn’t there a chance a lack of introspection could impact our relationships and even our own self-confidence?
In 1917, Katharine Cook Briggs began imagining an assessment which, based on the principles of renowned psychiatrist Carl Jung, could determine individuals’ personality predispositions. Her idea was simple—people can make better decisions regarding careers, education, and relationships if they better understand themselves. By the end of WWII the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator was being widely administered across the country, and now, almost a century later, it is one of the most widely used personality tests available. It is the go-to test for college and career counselors, and–get this–89 of the Fortune 100 companies administer the test to employees! Clearly, there must be some benefit to accurately understanding one’s personality type, and if there is one personality test you should absolutely take, the Myers-Briggs is it.
And, really, I think it could change your life.
For instance, taking the Myers-Briggs test gives you more clarity about who you are at the core, regardless of the modern ‘fuzz’ that has permeated our lives. Everyday you experience pressure to act and think a certain way—pressures from your work, your spouse, your spiritual background. Some of these pressures may resonate with you. Perhaps you thrive under ‘last-minute-deadline’ sorts of stress; others may crumble. It all has to do with your personality, and tests like the Myers-Briggs help to put a name on it. When you take the time to ‘tune-in’ to your inner-self, you are given insights into the “why’s” of your emotions—“Why do I feel upset when I am interrupted?”, “Why do I have a tendency to feel depressed when I lose a game?”, “Why do I feel so lonely when I’m by myself on the weekend?” At first the answers to these questions may appear obvious to you, or perhaps the questions themselves seem trivial. These questions are at the heart of our being, though, and our ability to answer them honestly is made much easier when we have a clear understanding of our personality.
You may also discover what you’re not. Maybe you aren’t as [insert personality trait here] as you thought you were. Perhaps keeping a strict schedule isn’t part of who you are, and your constant efforts to reference your daily planner and to never break plans is only a reaction to an environment created by your employer. Realizations like this empower you to change the way you live. Of course you may not be able to eliminate every workplace stressor, but now that you are more aware of yourself you navigate that part of your life with better skill and insight. You may be pleasantly surprised to find that some of your most dreaded situations in life are self-imposed by inaccurate expectations of yourself!
Finally, and I believe this last one will resonate with a number of people: taking the Myers-Briggs will remind you it is OKAY to be you. The Myers-Briggs identifies 16 individual personality types, and each one engages with and responds to life differently. Each type leans toward particular careers, has particular strengths and tends toward certain interests. You spend more time with yourself than anyone else on the planet…ALL the time, really. It is easy to start imagining that everyone is just like you; that your unique ‘flavor’ in the dish is not important. Or, perhaps you feel your ‘flavor’ is overpowering, that maybe you need to tone it down some. Let me tell you: it is ok for you to be you. Are you innately drawn toward decision-making and leadership? Don’t be bashful about it–you may have the exact skill and personality-type your group needs! Are you naturally encouraging and sentimental? Don’t apologize for it! Start exercising your strengths by praising others, or being a friend’s sympathizer during rough times. Depending on the size of your friend-group or office, you may be the only person with the personally-set required in a given situation; so, accept who you are and live confidently with it!
If you have any questions about the Myers-Briggs, there are many resources available online. Of course the Myers-Briggs Foundation is a great place to start, and there’s also a great article on The Washington Post regarding the test’s background. Taking the test does usually involve a fee; depending on your situation, however, you may have an opportunity to take it for free. Check out your school’s career counseling office or employer’s human resources department and ask if they offer it. If you’re a veteran or service member you may be able to take it on a military installation.
Even if you’re a confident, introspective person, I highly recommend taking the Myers-Briggs. You might be surprised by what you learn!