Know Thyself

How a personality test really does define me. And maybe you.

I’m an extrovert. There. I said it. You already know it, if you’ve met me. And it’s totally not trendy to be an extrovert. A spate of recently released books about the “power” of introverts and introvert-myth-dispelling, plus the requisite online analyses, reveal my personality is on the outs. Predictably, I need to talk about it. (Cue yawning introverts.) The first time I took a personality test—besides the asinine ones in teen magazines, that is—it was as a high-school senior, and it was the tried-and-true Myers-Briggs. I scored in the 99th percentile for extroversion. I’ve taken a smaller, faster version of the Myers-Briggs a couple of times over the years, including the morning of writing this column. I find it totally fascinating. My best friend and I were discussing the topic and she commented that people shouldn’t take the test if they want to feel like a special snowflake. But she and I both find it reassuring to know that we’re not that quirky; in my case, I’m hardwired with certain qualities and characteristics that I share with 4 to 10 percent of the population (including the Clintons!). You can have your colored parachutes and StrengthsFinders…they’re fun to take, but to me they lack the insight of the  good ol’ M.-B., especially when it comes to the extrovert-introvert spectrum.

This morning’s results ended up ESFP, with the extroversion dialed back considerably: 33 percent Extroverted, 12 percent Sensing, 75 percent (which merited a “distinctive” annotation) Feeling, and 44 percent Perceiving. The analysis of my personality was dead-on, including this gem: “ESFPs have a very well-developed appreciation for aesthetic beauty, and an excellent sense of space and function….In general, they take great pleasure in objects of aesthetic beauty. They’re likely to have a strong appreciation for the finer things in life.” I guess that’s as good an endorsement for the job I do as any, right?

When you take a good, hard look at who you are and who you feel you are, it can only make you more comfortable in your own skin, more confident. And, in the wise words of Maya Angelou: “When you know better, you do better.” You can artfully improve the things about yourself that are sticking points. You can accept and love all of it. You can work to enrich yourself. You’ll be so busy knowing better and doing better that you won’t have time for negative self-talk or unkind thoughts or actions. And your personal space can reflect that inner life; it will feel authentically you.

It will also help you understand your role with your friends, family, spouse, children, etc. For instance, despite what people think of extroversion, I’m a good listener—I get energy from people, not just from talking at them. But I understand that when my coterie of introverts just needs some time, they aren’t trying to drive me crazy. I have to let them be.

One of my other favorite sources of inspiration, Marianne Williamson, wrote, “We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? …There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you…As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”

I’m an ESFP. I’m a talker, an empathetic heart, a lover of big ideas, people, and animals. According to Myers-Briggs, I love “taking people along on my fun-ride.” Come along with me, yes, but also embrace what’s awesome about you. Don’t be self-conscious about enjoying your life’s adventures, OK?

Introvert, extrovert: Be you, no matter what’s trendy.