Breaking Out of the Personality Type Box

If you met me, you would instantly classify me as an extrovert. I’ve always lived under the label of extrovert, but I’ve always felt like I didn’t quite fit that label. Despite enjoying my time with people, I’ve spent many hours on the back of my horse, riding across the prairies. Alone. Just my horse, the wind, the grass, the big blue sky. I’d like to say that I filled her ears with all my deepest secrets and thoughts, but I didn’t. I just rode, lost in the beauty around me, lost in the joy of riding her.

But a brief look at personality types during high school triggered an interest in psychology, and I left to get my degree in that field at a Bible college in Manitoba, Canada. As a homeschooler, I was a bit nervous about what living on campus and classes would be like. I found the toughest challenge was that I was never alone. I took walks in raging blizzards because no one else was dumb enough to go outside. Much like riding, I found peace while battling the wind and wading through snow as high as my waist. I came back to the dorm feeling refreshed and renewed while my friends thought I had lost my mind.

It wasn’t until my late college years that I took the Myers Briggs test. To everyone’s shock, but not mine, the result showed that I am ISFJ. Through this, I received my answer.

Extroverts recharge with people. Introverts recharge alone.

Although many people don’t believe me, I am an introvert. I need my time alone to sort out what has been happening around me, to breathe, to calm the noise around me, to just be.

I now use my psychology degree to help understand the people I write about. The Myers Briggs test is still my favorite, especially with the career match. If I have a doctor, I can quickly peruse the personality types to see what a doctor would typically be like. However, people are tricky creatures, and I find that when I’m writing about people, I must keep three things in mind when it comes to personality types.

1. People are rarely what they seem.

If someone chose to put me into their book, they may classify me as an extrovert. It is quite simple to casually classify a person and then dismiss them. However, our quick assessment can be wrong, or we may not see all the parts of that person. If you saw me only in church on Sunday, you would never assume that I loved my hours alone. Without getting to know a person, we cannot make an accurate statement what they are really like. We are quick to judge and put into neat little groups, and we tend to ignore that our Creator delights in making the unique.

2. People can overcome limitations.

This is one of the main reasons we read books. We want to see people succeed over hardship. It gives us hope that we can be better than we are now.

We see countless stories of people who change in books and other stories. The change may be permanent or temporary, but it happens. One of my favorite TV shows is “Monk”, named after the main character who is an amazing detective. Monk’s skills rival Sherlock Holmes, but he has a problem. When his wife was killed, the grief caused him to have a nervous breakdown. With the help of his nurse, he is finally able to leave his house and work as a private detective. However, his limitations range from a severe obsessive-compulsive disorder, a large number of phobias, and 312 fears like milk, harmonicas, heights, claustrophobia, driving, messes, and risk.

Sounds hopeless, right?

In every case, he is pushed to his limits. He is brought to the place of choosing to conquer his fears and solve the case or giving up. Every time he pushes through the fear, through the limitations, through whatever feels natural to him, and wins.

3. Personality types can be a trap.

Let’s say you have always wanted to be a doctor, but after you take the Myers Briggs test, you find that you don’t fit the right category. They tell you that you should be an actor. With your heart broken, you give up on that dream and never become a doctor. Perhaps you are never happy in your career choice because of that.

As a writer, I know that it’s the twists on people that make them seem more real and come alive. Who wants to read about a Grandma that is always baking cookies? It’s kind of boring. A Grandma who rides her Harley and gives her grandkids burritos? Now that’s interesting! A doctor who is an entertainer at heart can be a wide success. Just look at Hunter Doherty. You might know him as “Patch Adams.” He uses clowns and laughter as a method of healing in his alternative medicine.

When we get too entrenched into personality types, we forget that people are unique. A doctor that falls out of Myers Briggs categories brings something vastly different, and that difference can make him/her a far better doctor. In the example of Monk, his phobias and fears end up making him a far better detective.

This may work in books, but what does it have to do with real life?

Perhaps you are feeling like a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. If so, maybe it’s time to give up on the round hole, no matter what people tell you, and start working on the dream of your heart. You might have something special to contribute that has never been seen before.

Maybe you feel limited by your personality type or feel broken in ways that can never be fixed. Rest assured that God uses us how we are. David was first a shepherd before a king. Peter was a know-it-all who knew nothing at all. Moses was terrified of public speaking. God is glorified when we allow Him to move in us and direct us on the paths He has chosen for us.

Isn’t it thrilling to think that our limitations are what make us unique? That God uses us how we are? God has made us exactly as you are for a purpose only you can fulfill. All it takes is for us to accept them, put up our chins, and say, “I will walk where God leads.”

And then the adventures really begin!

Do you agree with the traditional description of your personality type? How has that affected you? Are you ready to let God use you?

3 Comments

  1. Oh, I forgot to mention, I’m an ENTP.

  2. I think finding out my personality type was the most freeing thing that has ever happened to me. As a child I was forced to be an introvert, and to be quiet and obedient. My true personality would emerge naturally but was always frowned on disapprovingly by my mother. I was a very shy child, who became a shy adult, I always felt trapped by my shyness, like that wasn’t who I was meant to be but I couldn’t throw off the shackles. To this day, I occasionally struggle with who I am and want to be and the person I was forced to be.

    1. Great point, Jennifer! It is quite exciting to learn that you were made a certain way, that there is a reason for what you want to be a certain way. I’m so glad you took the personality test. I remember when I saw my result and read what it might. “That’s me!” I was so excited that someone out there understood my perspective!

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