One of the most popular tests for determining a general idea of someone’s personality is the Meyers-Briggs questionnaire. The science behind this test was also researched by Carl Jung, a world renowned psychologist. Given a set of about 40-50 questions, the personality test gauges Extroversion vs Introversion, INtuitive thinking versus Sensing, Feeling versus Thinking, and finally Judging versus Perception. The letters are in bold on purpose: once the test is complete, one is given a four letter combination that summarizes their personality, using the first letter of each criteria pair.
You can see and take the Facebook version here – and even post the results to your profile – this test is slightly shorter than the full blown Meyers-Briggs, but generally just as accurate.
The first time I was introduced to this test was my Junior year in College, during a student government retreat in Maine. A group of 8 of us, representing the Executive Board of the Student Government, attended. One day, the Dean of Student Life, who offered us her house and guidance for the week, suggested that each member of the group take the Meyers-Briggs personality test to determine how we’d all work together. Additionally, she wanted to demonstrate to the group how each individual would think and react in certain situations, and most importantly, how to communicate effectively.
This experience was roughly 1 year before I was diagnosed with BPD, so I really thought nothing of it. In the end, the results for each member of the group were not surprising: 6 members were Extroverted and aligned with the most common types of leadership oriented personalities, while 2 of us were Introverted. Of that introverted 2, one was just slightly introverted, while I came out, in the end, as the most introverted.
The Dean talked over the test with all of us together and reviewed the various personality types and letter combinations. Everyone got a laugh about the extroverts, since they were generally popular people and well known. They tended to speak their mind openly and freely, and were at ease within social situations. This was also true of the other individual who was just slightly introverted.
When the Dean got around to me, I quickly realized that I was the most introverted in the group. My personality was INTJ, meaning Introverted-Intuitive-Thinking-Judging, a rarer personality type but nothing out of the ordinary. What bothered me, however, was that I was put on the spot – and I could tell that people were eying me up a bit, wondering how “I ticked”. The Dean, who at times was a little loose lipped, said it was interesting that I became an elected person in student government, a position that obviously requires some social clout and campus presence. This again embarrassed me, because it meant that the others in the small group were wondering what the heck my deal was.
In reality, I believe I won that election because the Cross Country and Track teams, of which I was a member the year before, all voted for me. This was a solid group of about 50-60 people, which went a long way on a campus of 1600. Also, I spent hours late at night plastering the campus with my posters, and writing letters to the school paper to voice my opinions. I only had a few close friends in college, so the result of the election was more based on my marketing blitz, and the perception, if you will, that I was well known.
So, for those awkward moments and occasional “…Will the introvert please speak now…” jokes, I absolutely despised the fact that I had been tested so personally in this way in front of all the other student leaders.
Interestingly enough, a week after this retreat, I had my first appointment ever with a psychologist, who at the time wasn’t quit sure what my issues were. He specialized in Attention Deficit Disorder, so my stories about sadness, emptiness, depression, and especially loneliness weren’t his expertise. For the time being, I was diagnosed with Dysthymia, a chronic form of low grade depression.
As the year wore on, my symptoms of BPD came out with vengeance and changed my life permanently, but I’ll save that story for another post. For now, I want to wrap up the personality test commentary.
Without digressing much further, I think a lot of my personal conflicts, shyness around people (especially women) and general lack of self confidence is deeply intertwined with my personality type. The fact that I felt so vulnerable in front of a group of Extroverts is no surprise, but I didn’t have any measure of self worth within me to counter my emotions. This was because my BPD was just coming to a boil, and it was robbing me at every turn of any validation, self worth, and a sense of feeling “full”.
Though the personality test was a painful experience, I think it did have some value. On the positive side, it confirmed to me why my father ranted about my introversion, suggesting that I was “wall flower”, or that people felt I was self absorbed; when in reality I only appeared that way because I was swirling around the mind of a pre-diagnosis BPD. On the surface, many would think people with BPD, whether they are extroverted or introverted, are very narcissistic. In my case this isn’t necessarily true. I find myself absorbed not by my appearance, my body, or my need to be admired, but instead by the fact that there is/was literally nothing within me. In effect, I appeared self involved because I was in constant search of something within me that would make me feel whole.
So, to conclude, I stumbled across the Facebook Meyers-Briggs test the other day, and just for laughs, took it again. This time I came out Introverted-Intuitive-Feeling-Judging, which was noted as a particularly rare personality among men. Facebook also offers archetypal characters for each of the 16 personality configurations, and mine was “The Sage”.
The fact that I switched from Thinking to Feeling (7 years ago versus last week) is no surprise. In fact, I think it makes more sense…BPDs are ruled by their emotions, so “Feeling” would naturally follow as a strong suit in my personality matrix.
I urge anyone reading this entry to take the test, especially if they have BPD. Most importantly, I have read several works by scholars and researchers that state that there is no one single Meyers-Briggs personality that matches BPD: instead, BPD tends to manifest itself around whichever personality characteristics you have, for better or for worse.