I’ve just gotten my Meyers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator results back from the career counselor I’m seeing at school. I’ll never make fun of the test again. Having the counselor explain the results to me was worlds different from just getting a paragraph off one of those test websites. The cursory descriptions I’ve read on websites usually just sound like horoscopes, where they’re so generic that with a bit of wishful thinking they could apply to anyone. But my counselor gave me whole photocopied book chapters to help explain what my type means. They’re fascinating reading, and Erik and I have been going through them for an hour now, exclaiming, laughing, and discussing.

My personality, it turns out, is ENFP, or Extraverted Intuitive Feeling Perceiving.* The words don’t necessarily mean what they do in workaday language, though, so here’s the description:

Warmly enthusiastic and imaginative. See life as full of possibilities. Makes connections between events and information very quickly, and confidently proceed based on the patterns they see. Want a lot of affirmation from others, and readily give appreciation and support. Spontaneous and flexible, often rely on their ability to improvise and their verbal fluency.

What I really enjoyed about getting my results was how spot-on the more detailed analysis was, especially concerning qualities that I’d always thought were just my personal failings. The kinds of problems I’ve been grappling with ever since I started grad school were all explained:

People with ENFP preferences… see so many possible projects that they sometimes have difficulty picking those with the greatest potential. They hate uninspired routine and find it remarkably hard to apply themselves to the sometimes necessary detail unconnected with any major interest. Because ENFPs are always being drawn to the exciting challenges of new possibilities… they may commit themselves to ill-chosen projects, fail to finish anything, and squander their inspirations by not completing their tasks.

If ENFPs do not find a place where they can use their gifts and be appreciated for their contributions, they usually feel frustrated and may:
-Become scattered, have trouble focusing, be easily distracted
-Fail to follow through on decisions
-Become rebellious, excessively nonconforming
-Ignore deadlines and procedures

Under great stress, ENFPs may become overwhelmed by detail and lose their normal perspective and sense of options. Then they tend to focus on an unimportant or distorted detail, letting it become the central fact of their universe.

I don’t know how obvious this will be to those of you who haven’t witnessed my day-to-day struggles following my decision to leave school, but these pitfalls describe perfectly what I’ve been going through. I haven’t drifted, exactly, but I do always have a series of projects sitting around at any given time, keeping me busy but not always happy. My biggest issue these days is not knowing what I want to do with myself, and part of the difficulty of choosing is that I have so many interests and a reasonable aptitude for most of them.

It’s funny, because the descriptions’ warnings about potential ENFP problems exactly matches what my mother has been telling me for years. I guess she does know me well, except that I think she just thinks I’m lazy or unmotivated, while what I’ve always believed (and what these test results supposedly indicate) is that I just need to find the right setting for my tremendous energy and enthusiasm. It more or less boils down to the same thing; the difference is that Mommy worries that my tendencies mean I’m always doomed to experience certain difficulties, while I maintain hope that if I can just find the right way to manipulate these tendencies, I’ll be happy and fulfilled and be able to make a great contribution. One of the other descriptions of ENFP, after all, is: “This type is found in only about 5 percent of the general population, but they have great influence because of their extraordinary impact on others.” I hope it’s true. When I’m feeling good about myself, I think it can be.**

*Yes, they spelled “extravert” with an “a”.
**And yes, I am totally aware of the dangers of relying on personality typing. I’m not deluding myself into thinking these types can tell us anything about our lives or futures. I just think that one of the best tools for coping with the world is to know ourselves, and this test helps me do that.

[This post was imported on 4/10/14 from my old blog at satsumabug.livejournal.com.]