On June 5, 2019 I published a blog entry titled “I before E.” (“I Before E”) In it, I wrote the following: “Looking at myself through the Myers-Briggs lens, I am an INFP. (Myers-Briggs assessment). The N and F and P are clear and beyond debate. (iNtuitive, Feeling, Perceiving) The I (Introvert)? Not so much!”
In fact… The introvert? Not anymore!
I was first introduced to the Myers-Briggs assessment while in college. I don’t remember the exact class or the exact year, but it would’ve been sometime in the late 1990s. At the time, I scored undeniably INFP. I was not near the middle of the spectrum on any axis of the assessment.
In August 2019, I visited my home territory of the Bay Area. I made arrangements to get together with various friends and colleagues, one of whom is a psychologist. I looked for his phone number on his website, and happened upon a link to the Myers-Briggs assessment. Having just written the piece “I before E,“ the Myers-Briggs had been on my mind. On a whim, I clicked on the link and redid the assessment. Much to my astonishment… E NFP. Once again, the N and F and P are clear. No surprise there. And… E ??? By a wide margin, E.
Over the years, my identity has found itself challenged multiple times. In 1974, falling in love with a woman, I concluded I was a lesbian. It had never before occurred to me to question my identity, and my world was rocked upside down. In the mid-1990s, my identity was shaken to the core again upon the realization that I am a transman and not a lesbian. With my first assessment proclaiming me INFP, I read about this personality type; I felt a sense of coming home to myself. I have embraced INFP as my identity for over 20 years.
When did I become an ENFP?! How does this even happen?! My self conceptualization is turned on its head once again, visioning myself as an E instead of an I. And yet, re-reading “I Before E,” my extrovert nature is so clear! I love teaching, speaking with groups of people, meeting new people. I most enjoy myself when I’m with others, not when I’m alone. Sure, I need my down time, but too much of it drains me, rather than recharging me as it would a true introvert.
How does an introvert become an extrovert? Answer: when the introvert never really was an introvert because of personality type. Of all the scales on the Myers-Briggs, I believe the range between I and E is the most heavily influenced by social factors. At earlier times in my life, repressing my trans identity from my own awareness had the social effect of introverting me.
I have spent the past seven weeks living with my sister. I have never before lived with my sister as an adult. I was seven years old when she married and moved out of our family home. If the Myers-Briggs assessment was not enough of a clue to me, living with someone who is a true I tells me all I need to know about myself as an E. My sister much prefers being by herself to being in the company of others. She needs a great deal of alone time. I find myself leaving the house in order to be with others, even if they are people I don’t know. If I have been alone too long, particularly if I am not focused on a project, I find myself reaching out to others for connection, preferably in person or by phone. In retrospect, I hid behind the identity of I, and now feel much more at home embracing myself as E.
There is a lot of power in labels. I encourage all of us to reflect on the various labels others have put on us, and that we have put on ourselves, at various times in our lives. If you used the Myers-Briggs assessment at one point, do it again; if you have at one time or another needed to use repression or denial as a defense, if you have since centered more fully into who you are, your Myers-Briggs types may have shifted as well. The capacity for surprising ourselves is infinite.