Friday, March 23, 2007

How Roles Change Us

I was already developing further thoughts on how roles change us, as a follow-up to my last posting, when something happened to bring the reality of this home to me in an especially vivid way.

I was trying to catch up on some blog-reading (I'm way behind! Sorry blogging friends!), and came across someone's writing about taking a Myers-Briggs-type personality inventory. She had a link in her blog to an online version of the test she took, and so I clicked on it and took it myself, fully expecting my results to be as they were back when I first learned about this: INFP.

(This means: Introvert more than Extravert; Intuitive more than Sensing; Feeling more than Thinking; and Perceiving more than Judging.)

To my total and complete astonishment, I found that the test reported me as INFJ!

At first I was horrified! I like being a perceptive sort! I don't want to be judgmental!

But then I read on.

First of all, my I is very strong. N and F are significantly strong. J was only slightly strong.

Somewhat consoled, I read further:

INFJs are the least common in the population. The list of famous INFJs included (get this!) Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Mother Theresa!

Now definitely flattered, I read more about INFJs, and about INFPs, and about the difference between P and J, and about the complex ways that all of the sets of traits relate.

There's a lot I could say, but I'll just summarize some of my personal conclusions: here is a clear case where my roles have changed me. J is not about being judgmental in the negative ways we often interpret that term, but it is about making decisions, being decisive: thereby making things happen.

INFPs and INFJs are very similar -- highly idealistic, creative, and concerned about the world. A key difference is that INFJs are more likely to try to put their ideals into action in the world.

So, it is my learning about peacemaking, and my taking on leadership roles, that are the major influences that have changed me, I think. Once upon a time, I would have been really horrified to be a J, but a sign that this might be a real change in me is that, once I read more about it, I realized that I like this change in myself. Being a J means I am more capable of effecting change in the world than I have been inclined to believe about myself. (But this is somewhat tempered by my being I as well.)

This change too I think explains much about my recent struggles. Undergoing change like this is hard, because habits shaped by earlier versions of ourselves no longer work for the new selves we are becoming and the new challenges we face. No wonder I have been feeling that I have had to learn all over again how to live!

I think I need to lighten up on myself, and be more patient with myself.

After all, I am only newly and slightly J. This might not even be a permanent change: it may be one wrought of necessity. It might be an artifact of my roles, instead of a truth of my personality.

But my current challenges absolutely demand that I learn to embrace my J side. I must conceptualize it in positive terms. I must let myself aspire to doing well with it.

And then, when these challenges are finished, I must take stock, and ask: am I happy with who I am becoming? Did I do well, or, despite my best efforts, badly? Is this what I really want to learn/become? Or is my life really about something else?

I do not know the answers to these questions yet. I keep trying to discern the nature of my ambivalence: is my ambivalence the discomfort of a change that yet is good? Or is my ambivalence the discomfort of a change that is not right for me?

I think by June or July I will be able to come back to these questions...


  1. fyi:


  2. Ok, after a closer look at INFJ or INFP? a closer look, I realize that I am deeply confused about which I am! The page entitled, "Your Preferred Communication Style," was very illuminating, though. In this respect, I think I clearly have an "informing" communication style instead of a "directing" communication style, which indicates INFP. (Yet in some other respects I do seem to lean more towards INFJ.)

    But the question of which type I really am is maybe less important than what I learn in studying this, and the difference between informing and directing communicating styles is very helpful. This characterizes my current problem most clearly! I think I'm being clear in communicating how I need others to help me as we participate in shared endeavors, but my communication is not really that clear, because it is not directive.

    And I find it really hard to bring myself to be directive.

    And so the advice to phrase things in both ways is really excellent advice! I will try this.