I just got back from a week-long holiday fog. For some reason, part of my family time included taking the (unofficial) Myers-Briggs personality test with 3 members of my family and 2 friends from high school.
I have a slight history with this test. I’ve taken it a handful of times over the years, sometimes in professional contexts and sometimes in a spirit of what-the-hell. I never committed my “type” to memory because every time I took it, I got a different result. It was interesting to read, but it never felt entirely right. Too many of my answers were really “it depends,” so I would give neutral answers, making it hard to type me accurately. Furthermore, I’m generally a special combination of adaptable and indecisive, so I’m kind of just always ready to react and can figure my way through things in the absence of a plan, rare though those situations may be for me because I always need a plan. The zodiac has me totally pegged; Myers-Briggs, not so much. Go figure, huh?
Well, this time, I took a test modeled on Myers-Briggs 3 times on 3 different metrics and got the exact same type each time. It was a type I’ve never gotten before. How can I be sure of that when I JUST said that I never bothered remembering the type because it was different every time? Every other time, the types had to do with being diplomatic, being solicitous, being dependable. The results I got this time were different. This I would have remembered. I took it three times because I was so stricken by the result of taking it the first time, that I demanded a recount and took it a second time on a second site, and was so shocked by that that I found a third test to take. I would have taken it a fourth if I wasn’t so exhausted from the incessant self-analysis (or if a link to another reputable measure had fallen directly into my lap).
Yeah, I got a little obsessive about all of a sudden being a solid ENTJ (Extraverted, iNtuitive, Thinking, Judging).
I had very strong reactions to reading the various synopses about type ENTJ. Before I launch into this full throttle — and I’ll avoid detailing every single fee-fee I experienced so as not to annoy the hell out of anyone reading this — I will say that I know it’s useless to put too much stock into these things. Our human idiosyncrasies make it so that anyone can be any type in any given situation, and these types are indicators of tendencies towards certain behaviors rather than a black-and-white classification of who one is at one’s core. (And arguably, my reaction to discovering my type disproves the test results. Meta enough for ya?) Still, I was a little blown away at some of what I read about my typology. Here are two snippets of the worst of it:
“Few other types can equal their ability to remain resolute in conflict, sending the valiant (and often leading the charge) into the mouth of hell. When challenged, the ENTJ may by reflex become argumentative. Alternatively (s)he may unleash an icy gaze that serves notice: the ENTJ is not one to be trifled with.” —humanmetrics.com
My family and long-time friends found it hilarious that I was at once associated with fiery hell and icy gazes. Someone in the room made a joking comment about my being “the icy mouth of hell.” One of my good friends of 15 years, when I finished reading this page aloud with a completely baffled inflection and horrified look on my face, responded to my indignation with a pause and then, “This comes as a surprise to no one.” But to me, it makes me sound hot-headed and cold-hearted. The rest of the write-up basically called this type a callous, insensitive jerk. There are a lot of things in the synopsis that are true, but I really struggled with the idea that I might be that hardened. I expressed that, and my loved ones helped me understand that I could probably come off that way for people who don’t know me, especially in a formal/professional setting, but that I had never made any of them feel that way. They reminded me that I’m the one they come to with their problems — why would they do that if I really were the icy mouth of hell? Still, is this what strangers get from me, even if I’m not trying to project a don’t-fuck-with-me vibe (which, admittedly, I often am)? Yikes.
My interpretation? “You’re kind of an intimidating bitch with no regard for human emotion.”
“[…]ENTJs are characterized by an often ruthless level of rationality, using their drive, determination and sharp minds to achieve whatever end they’ve set for themselves. Perhaps it is best that they make up only three percent of the population, lest they overwhelm the more timid and sensitive personality types that make up much of the rest of the world…” —16personalities.com
While ENTJs make up only 3% of the (US) population, only 1% are women (and this source says ENTJs are only 2% of the population, not even 3). Next… ruthless?! I’m rational, yeah, but SHIT. Ruthless? That word came up A LOT in all the different things I read while indulging my narcissism, and it was hard to ignore. The only other word that came up with that frequency was “arrogant,” which to me is the most abhorrent trait in a human being, and I hate that I may be that way myself.
16personalities.com takes this typing a step further with a hyphenated suffix at the end of the 4-letter code, either the letter A (assertive) or T (turbulent [which I think would be better described as timid]). Guess which one this ENTJ asshole got? A, of course. ENTJ-A. Being ruthless, arrogant, and icy wasn’t quite enough.
Primarily, in my scouring of online resources on ENTJ, I found myself agreeing generally with a lot of the typology. The biggest one that came up is a thought that I’ve had before, but never made the connection to the concept that it might have to do with my personality. It’s basically that ENTJs crave criticism, need criticism, and respond well to criticism, but no one criticizes them, probably because they assume that based on their assertive/aggressive tendencies, ENTJs will lash out when they hear it.
People really don’t give me criticism; you’d think that for as awkward as I am about accepting praise and compliments, the reason would be that I’m used to the opposite. Nope. I’m bad at hearing positives about myself because, like, what do you do with that, then? With criticism, you can respond with action (you can also ignore it if you’re self-aware and self-possessed enough to know when it’s BS) and use it to improve something unappealing about yourself. With a compliment… what, your work is done? That feels like a lopsided transaction.
I know, boo-hoo, no one criticizes me! It’s sure as shit not because I’m perfect, so maybe the absence of criticism is the criticism: I’m unapproachable. I never thought that of myself, but maybe it’s what I project with all my icy-mouth-of-hell stuff.
Anyway, all of this got me thinking about my history with Myers-Briggs and why I scored so inconsistently until now, when I suddenly became a solid ENTJ, keeping company with the likes of Napoleon and Hitler (yes, seriously). What’s up with that?
Well, I’ve changed a lot in the last year. I’ve intentionally created a structure — a very RIGID structure — for myself so that I can do what I need to do and make sure I prioritize my time to allow myself to live healthily and lose weight. This has meant intentionally acting selfishly and having to stop myself from feeling guilty about it. It’s meant saying no to invitations to social gatherings because I didn’t want to be around the alcohol and the greasy food. As a result, I’ve had to become my own best friend, and at least I’ve always been a good friend. I’ve stuck up for myself, I’ve protected myself, and yeah, I’ve been assertive in situations with other people out of self-interest in defense of myself. All of this has had the side effect of giving me some killer self-confidence, and I have less patience than ever for bull shit (because I have less time than ever to put up with it) and more faith than ever in myself. Maybe all of this is a net positive, but it’s naturally changed the way I would respond to any personality-indicating questions on some standardized test based on introspection, and it’s no surprise if it’s hardened me. I’m physically tougher, I’m mentally tougher, and I’m emotionally tougher. It doesn’t make me heartless, icy, or even ruthless, though. It just makes me prepared to continue what has been a very challenging process, and one that I can count on to only get more difficult.
So, as much as ENTJ is a pretty unattractive personality type, it has some positives, too: tenacity, determination, commitment to goals, drive, focus, motivation, and strong will. I need ALL OF THAT, so thank goodness I was able to cultivate it in myself. I sure as hell wasn’t born with it, at least not this strain of it.
And hey, I even hope I get to keep some of it. If my ENTJ-A self sticks to my plan, I’ll have hit my overall goal before the end of 2016, meaning I will be able to pull off the gas a little bit. Maybe I’ll have more time to have fun. Maybe I’ll stop thinking of other people’s demands as bull shit and look forward to phone calls and e-mails and spontaneity again. Maybe I’ll change again as a result. If I do — and hell, even if I don’t — I bet that if I take a Myers-Briggs-ish test again a year from now, I’ll get a different result.
But for now, the only results that matter are the health ones. My truest personality will solidify once I’m through this tunnel.