inside an open box

I don’t like putting myself – or other people – in boxes.

Yet I have a strange fascination for personality tests.

I’m not sure how to reconcile these two quirks. Perhaps the best way is to admit that while personality definitions are enlightening, they can never fully describe a person since we are all different and, I think, all a combination of every personality “type.” That said, I recently took this Myers-Briggs test and was told I’m a Counselor, or INFJ. The definition of INFJ is:

Idealist Portrait of the Counselor (INFJ)

Counselors have an exceptionally strong desire to contribute to the welfare of others, and find great personal fulfillment interacting with people, nurturing their personal development, guiding them to realize their human potential. Although they are happy working at jobs (such as writing) that require solitude and close attention, Counselors do quite well with individuals or groups of people, provided that the personal interactions are not superficial, and that they find some quiet, private time every now and then to recharge their batteries. Counselors are both kind and positive in their handling of others; they are great listeners and seem naturally interested in helping people with their personal problems. Not usually visible leaders, Counselors prefer to work intensely with those close to them, especially on a one-to-one basis, quietly exerting their influence behind the scenes.

Counselors are scarce, little more than one percent of the population, and can be hard to get to know, since they tend not to share their innermost thoughts or their powerful emotional reactions except with their loved ones. They are highly private people, with an unusually rich, complicated inner life. Friends or colleagues who have known them for years may find sides emerging which come as a surprise. Not that Counselors are flighty or scattered; they value their integrity a great deal, but they have mysterious, intricately woven personalities which sometimes puzzle even them.

Counselors tend to work effectively in organizations. They value staff harmony and make every effort to help an organization run smoothly and pleasantly. They understand and use human systems creatively, and are good at consulting and cooperating with others. As employees or employers, Counselors are concerned with people’s feelings and are able to act as a barometer of the feelings within the organization.

Blessed with vivid imaginations, Counselors are often seen as the most poetical of all the types, and in fact they use a lot of poetic imagery in their everyday language. Their great talent for language-both written and spoken-is usually directed toward communicating with people in a personalized way. Counselors are highly intuitive and can recognize another’s emotions or intentions – good or evil – even before that person is aware of them. Counselors themselves can seldom tell how they came to read others’ feelings so keenly. This extreme sensitivity to others could very well be the basis of the Counselor’s remarkable ability to experience a whole array of psychic phenomena.

Mohandas Gandhi, Sidney Poitier, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jane Goodall, Emily Bronte, Sir Alec Guiness, Carl Jung, Mary Baker Eddy, Queen Noor are examples of the Counselor Idealist (INFJ).

Interesting. I’m not sure if I agree with all of it, but it does seem at least mostly accurate. As I get to know people, they tend to be surprised by the sides of my personality that emerge. Somehow, I tend to get stereotyped as “quiet and sweet,” and then meet amazement when it becomes apparent I’m not always those two things.

I struggled to answer the introversion/extroversion questions in the test because I love people, I love being around people, and I spend a fair amount of my free time with people. However, the type of interaction that energizes me is more likely to be having coffee and conversation with just one or a few friends, rather than hanging out with enormous groups (although at times I enjoy them, too). I also crave solitude as a time to recharge. So, I suppose I am an introvert, but I defy being boxed by the term.

The results say that INTJs do well with people, “provided the personal interactions are not superficial” – which is absolutely true of me. The conversations that energize me are the deeper ones. I love to be silly, too, though. (See? I don’t fit in the box. Especially not after all the food I ate today.)

Another interesting set of personality types are the ones named after four animals: the lion, the otter, the golden retriever, and the beaver. I’m almost all golden retriever, with a pinch of beaver. And probably some of the others, too, since we never fit in these boxes.

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4 Responses

  1. I took it three times just for curiosities sake. First and last time was the same as yours, a counselor. The 2nd time I got a healer.

    Maybe I should have just taken it once 🙂

  2. Hee, hee! Wait, what is a Healer? Is it an INFP? Because that’s the other one I’ve gotten in the past. 🙂

  3. And hey, we should feel special. We’re 1% of the population! 😉

  4. I think it is INFP, but I can’t remember for sure though…..I’m looking forward to our book club meeting tomorrow 🙂 We can unite our counseling and healing abilities while we eat!

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