If you’ve taken any education class, you’ve probably taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test (MBTI). Actually, if you’re a Harding student, you’ve probably taken the MBTI. There is, for some reason, a seemingly ubiquitous fascination with this antiquated personality test. It is overwhelmingly common to overhear someone ask a new acquaintance what his or her Myers-Briggs type is or express concern over a significant other because, according to the test, they aren’t “compatible.”
If you couldn’t tell, I’m not a big fan of the Myers-Briggs test. In defense of the MBTI, I’m not a fan of any “scientific” personality or relationship assessment (except for Buzzfeed quizzes that tell me which superhero I am or which guy from “The Office” I should date). I just don’t believe you can put a hard science on human personality or interaction (sorry, psychology majors). Sure, there are vague guidelines that usually hold some general truth, but observe any single person or interaction and you will see several of these rules broken.
That doesn’t mean I don’t see the appeal of these tests. I’m a firm believer in the importance of perpetual self-actualization to personal development. If taking personality tests like the MBTI betters your self-understanding, then more power to you. However, there are people that view these tests as a sort of psychological-gospel, allowing the results to dictate their behavior rather than explain it, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is especially apparent in the rise of the “introvert vs. extrovert” mentality.
How many people do you know who identify as introverts? How many of those people use their “introvert” status to explain their behavior in relationships or social situations? If you simply type “introversion” into Google, you will see results such as “Are You an Introvert?” “23 Signs You’re Secretly an Introvert,” and “Caring for Your Introvert.” The culture surrounding self-identified introverts is massive. It’s also wrong. Or, at the very least, misleading.
I’m an introvert. Some days, all I want is for my room to be empty when I return after a long day of classes. Sometimes I just want to sit down and listen to music without seeing or talking to anybody. Occasionally I want to skip club meetings because I would rather sit in lonely silence than in the middle of the loud, rambunctious tomfoolery that inevitably dominates Knights meetings.
I’m also an extrovert. There are days where I don’t want to be alone. There are times when all the energy I need comes from being around other people and interacting with them. There are times when the most fun I can have comes from being surrounded by laughter and loud music.
The biggest problem with the modern application of the MBTI is the idea that each result eliminates all possibility of another. If you’re an introvert, you can never be an extrovert, and never in a million years could you be friends with an extrovert. You can only be friends with your fellow introverts, but you don’t hang out with them because you’re all introverts.
None of the psychologists associated with the MBTI would have endorsed this ideology. Part of being a human is the need for satisfaction from self and from others. The MBTI isn’t meant to determine whether you are an introvert or an extrovert — it is meant to compare your levels of introversion and extroversion. It is meant to examine whether your satisfaction is typically internal or external, but not to determine which you need and which you don’t.
I know I’ve been harsh on introverts in this column. Perhaps it’s because I typically relate better to introverts while realizing the importance of indulging my extroverted side. I’m not just an introvert. I am more inclined to introversion than to extroversion, but I’m not just an introvert. I’m just a person longing for approval from myself as well as others.
You’re not an introvert or an extrovert. You may be more introverted than extroverted, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need others. Regardless of your MBTI result, you’re still a person.