In the last 24 hours, the strangest thing happened. I was sad. I took a Myers-Briggs test. And I got happy. That NEVER happens.
Myers-Briggs tests usually piss me off to no end and leave me feeling helpless. (Try it and see for yourself!)
I hate the idea that my personality can be defined. And that, based on my personality type, I’m destined to do (or not do) certain things. I have a real aversion to my future being beyond my control.
I’ve taken a test three times now. Each time I was in a very different place in life and, from what I can vaguely recall, I’ve received a slightly different four-letter label each time. The first time was in Harvard’s sad excuse for a career center (“Oh, I’m sorry, you don’t want to go into finance or consulting?”). The second time was as part of a new employee-engagement initiative at Edelman. And the third time was last night.
In the past, I’ve found Myers-Briggs to be counter-productive and, frankly, “bollox.” People don’t lend any credibility to their personality descriptions. They gloss over and/or disagree with it completely. What they do read and take as Biblical truth is the “recommended careers” and “other famous/successful people with this psychological type” sections. We don’t care who/what we are – we care what it’s gonna get us.
Particularly when delivered in a career context (not to mention a corporate office), there’s a clear hierarchy to personality types. If you want to be successful (in business), be an ENTJ (The Executive”). Why? Because, while only 3% of the population is an ENTJ, practically 100% of Fortune 500 CEOs are ENTJs – not to mention some of history’s most powerful people: Margaret Thatcher, Winston Churchill, FDR, Hillary Clinton and Warren Buffett (at least according to this website).
So – in classic Sara fashion – when I took the test last night and it spat out ENFJ, I immediately took it again to see how I could manipulate my responses to switch my F for a T. Sadly (and probably because I actually am an F more than a T), I came back a little less F-ish, but still F.
Well – then I started to actually read the description of an ENFJ, “The Giver.” And I decided to lay down my arms and take ownership of/pride in my personality type (heck, I have Oprah, Obama and Clinton on my side, babyyy).
In fact, recognizing myself in the description lifted an enormous weight. I felt a huge sense of relief when I read that, while it’s important for ENFJs to spend time alone, it’s often difficult “because they have the tendency to be hard on themselves and turn to dark thoughts when alone.” BINGO!
“An ENFJ who has not found their place in the world is likely to be extremely sensitive to criticism, and to have the tendency to worry excessively and feel guilty.”
DING! DING! DING!
This is also probably why I’ve always felt so pissed off (or guilty and excessively worried) that I couldn’t be an ENTJ – a corporate employer’s dream hire:
“ENTJs are natural born leaders. They live in a world of possibilities where they see all sorts challenges to be surmounted, and they want to be the ones responsible for surmounting them. They have a drive for leadership, which is well-served by their quickness to grasp complexities, their ability to absorb a large amount of impersonal information, and their quick and decisive judgments. They are ‘take charge’ people.
ENTJs are very career-focused, and fit into the corporate world quite naturally. They are constantly scanning their environment for potential problems which they can turn into solutions. They generally see things from a long-range perspective, and are usually successful at identifying plans to turn problems around – especially problems of a corporate nature. ENTJs are usually successful in the business world, because they are so driven to leadership. They’re tireless in their efforts on the job, and driven to visualize where an organization is headed. For these reasons, they are natural corporate leaders.”
I really, really, reeeeeallly wanted to be an ENTJ. Read those paragraphs! They reek of the kind of “success” that type-A’ers have been told they are destined for (any less would be underachieving). You can almost see the view from the corner office on the top floor! Smell the leather chair?
Alas, I’ve been F’ed. But I’m having a better time embracing my F (and E, N, J), than I have in the past. It’s less of a death sentence and more of a context or framework. In overly simplistic terms – it’s like being a certain color crayon. You can draw the same picture with a red crayon as you can with a green. It’s just going to come together a little differently.
That said, I still want to challenge this assumption that ENTJs are somehow best suited for corporate success. The corporate world is changing. I think it’s becoming more F than T. And, to go back to the “100% of Fortune 500 CEOs are ENTJ” thing, 97% of Fortune 500 CEOs are also DUDES! (And generally white, kind of tall, with gray/white-ish hair, wearing a tailored Armani suit…).
And then, to bring it all the way back to my earlier post on women/effective leadership styles, as a woman who may or may not want to be a fortune 500 CEO and may or may not be an ENTJ, it’s in your best interest to be and lead as YOU (ENFJ, ENTJ, ISFP or whatever you happen to be) than to try to be and lead as a man. Or an ENTJ.
Ranting aside, I think the lesson I’ve learned in all of this is to embrace who you are from a place of strength rather than weakness. You are who you are. Not better or worse. You just are. And the sooner you can own up to your strengths, weaknesses, tendencies, insecurities, etc. without shame or self-criticism, the sooner you can become the best — and happiest — version of yourself.
At least, that’s my “feeling” opinion. As an ENFJ 🙂