BAD VIBES ONLY - you're not an INTJ

I’ve been testing a test. I’m naturally talking about the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator – or MBTI for short – here.
MBTI is not really a thing outside the US, and despite two years of hopping from one psychologist’s chair to various others every week, and doing anything from answering questions about whether I believe in the second coming of Jesus to drawing trees, I’ve never taken a Myers-Briggs test until a few weeks ago.
The first time I encountered MBTI personality types was through the blogging world, mostly in „X things about me” tags. I’m fascinated by psychology (and how to human in general), so I went on a ride down Wikipedia Town to find out more about the theory behind this system, and took different online quizzes through a time period of about six weeks.
One thing I took away before even taking a test myself, was that almost every single person I follow identifies as an INTJ. Which seems like an unlikely occurrence, considering that INTJs are reported to be one, if not the rarest type out there.
So after spending so much time figuring out why this is not the right concept for me, I thought I'd share my observations about the topic, and try to serve with some answers to debunk the INTJ-phenomenon.

MBTI is unprofessional
As much as I like me some orderly theories (just call me a J, please) with clear categories, I must begin with the fact that MBTI is not a universally approved concept. Psychologists (and not MBTI certified coaches) don’t really use it in practise. Actually, the two namesakes were not psychologists themselves, but were admirers of Jung's work, and the theory itself is not based on empirical studies, to put it simply: they sat down, and made it up. It’s mostly just a fun personality test, and unless your traits are really extreme, the result you get will often change over time, even from one week to the other.
The quizzes you can fill out online are especially flawed, and will give you totally different results, depending on how many possible answers are there by questions, and just generally how much the person who writes them has an actual idea of the real theory. In the course of this one and a half month I got virtually every possible result, and most of them resonated with me less than my zodiac sign, which is far from positive, considering my spirituality is really low. The only area which kind of keeps MBTI tests alive is job interviews, which not an idea I even want to wrap my head around, and reminds me of the Japanese way of assessing one’s competence in a field by their blood type.

Rare types are „over-diagnosed”
I’ve already planned to write about the chase for originality between bloggers and in general life, so I won’t get into details on that. I think it’s enough to say, that it’s way too easy to get a really rare acronym after filling out an online test, and MBTI themed sites can be a weird corner of the internet where everyone is basically emotionally masturbating to their own unique snowflakeness. I’ve seen it everywhere: people state they are one in the 1-2%, then a bunch of others come in to comment that nope, they are that type, and you definitely aren’t. So I’m here to say, I’m an INTJ - and INFJ, ENTJ, ENFP and no idea what other types I got - feel free to bombard me with your MBTI elitism.
In a lot of cases people get different results, or just read the corresponding descriptions, and chose what they like the most (or „fits them the most,” if you will), and I can honestly tell you, I felt pretty flattered when I got those odd results, and was compared to Sherlock and Albert Einstein.

Online tests rely on self-reflection
While we’re at choosing the type we like the most: online MBTI tests are based on self-assessment, which is just an euphemism for cognitive bias. Unlike professionally acclaimed tests used in psychiatric diagnosis (you know, the one with Jesus and all), MBTI gives you statements where you can easily fall in the trap of choosing how you want to be, instead of how you really are. Most people will select the answer which is considered more positive through the lens of social standards (for their age, gender, job etc.), or by their own principles. You probably think you answered the test honestly, but it’s actually really hard to distinguish between what we would like to do, and what we actually do most of the times. People are never truly objective, and will always highlight the areas of their personality which will get them the desired results. MBTI tests don't take that in consideration, and don't have a method to filter these out.
Questions are also usually poorly worded, and lead people towards an obviously more positive sounding answer (e.g. rational>emotional decision making).
Most prominently I see what I like to call the "sapiosexual bias" towards NT types, as they are considered rational but innovative, a representation of "true" intellect compared to booksmarts, which is more associated with ST, practical thinker types. In esoteric circles FP types seem to bear the desirable traits, like empathy and spirituality. Introversion also gained a lot of popularity lately, being thought of as having an air of calmness, wit and independence.

It’s not what you think it is
I need to put things in perspective at this point, because Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is not a personality test. It doesn’t measure different traits or qualities, but rather tells you what manner of processing and reacting to information you have developed a preference to. MBTI is not even a test, but a system that describes the dynamics behind your thinking, called cognitive functions. Most people simply don’t look deeper into its mechanism, and think it’s a personality quiz, and most online tests will play on that stereotype (by linking it to 16 personalities).
As an example, when we talk about Introversion and Extroversion, we are thinking about how social someone is, but technically it only indicates where someone’s dominant trait concentrates. Like, if your dominant trait is extroverted intuition, you get most of your ideas from discussions with someone else, instead of playing with your imagination. A test assessing that would be way more complicated.
MBTI is expressed in dichotomies, but this doesn’t mean that you are 100% rational or 100% emotional, but that you have a preference towards one of those attitudes, when it comes to problem-solving and decision-making. Everyone uses all of these functions, (one introverted perceiving, one extroverted perceiving, one introverted judging and one extroverted judging, to be able to deal with all kinds of situations), and they appear in a concrete order of dominance (called function stack). This order is represented by the first (E/I) and last (J/P) letters in the acronym. Online tests will measure the number of your answers belonging to the different extremities, and your result can easily come out as a tie between an ENTJ or an ENTP, but actually these groups don't share any functions at all.

16 personalities and MBTI is not the same
I came upon this mistake a lot over the past few weeks, and I can’t put it more simply than: the two concepts aren’t meant to be taken as a whole, but they just overlap each other, the latter being closer to the Big 5 model. Being this acronym or the other doesn’t mean that the best way to describe you is „a leader” or „an entertainer”, or that you would be talented in those fields. MBTI measures preference, not specific personality traits. That also means, that you’re not immediately a rational decision-maker (T), because you are skilled in math, or in the opposite way, you are not necessarily empathetic by being a Feeling type. I haven't looked into studies on whether IQ and Myers-Briggs types seem to correlate in any way, but the original idea wasn't that either.

Mental illness is a factor
In my case, distinguishing between what traits come from my mental illness and those that are really „me” is pretty hard. To this day, I can’t tell you whether I’m an introvert or an extrovert, because I had social anxiety since forever, thus social interactions are really fucking draining. Having depression influences my capability to stick to routines, and personality disorders make it even more complicated. I can’t talk for others, but I can imagine that mental illness, no matter if it’s OCD or autism spectrum, can greatly affect your results. Depending on how much it shaped your personality or how much it can be considered as a part of your personality, it can really alter the picture, and we don’t know where to draw the line.

To clarify things, I really enjoyed this brief travel in the rabbit hole of the MBTI concept, and loved the way it was built up, and the whole theory of a person’s thinking dynamics. I omitted this system though, because it didn’t give me a real answer, and I didn't find any actual written proof behind it either, other than personal reports - or "anecdotal evidence", which is my favourite term. I don’t believe in the 16 personality types, neither in any of the online tests. I’ve got a lot of different results, and didn’t feel comfortable with any of them. The sites that provided percentages gave me around 50-50 for all the areas, and it only depended on the specific questions and my current mood, where I eventually fit in. For those who are in the extremes, this might be helpful, but for anyone else in the middle, it won’t tell anything specific about you, and choosing one type just because I like it best is really not my cup of tea.

Side note: If you've read this post, and think "I'm still definitely an INTJ", maybe even consider humble bragging about it in the comments (isn't it frustrating to be an actual INTJ, and see all those people posing as one?), maybe I should tell you that if you're so concerned about justifying yourself to the online community it's a dead giveaway that you're either a Feeling type or an Extrovert. Realise that they are few for a reason, and that means you're probably also not one (and neither am I), and there's nothing wrong with that. If INTJs really exist and fit the description given to me, they are probably one of the less worried about what an online personality test tells them they are. That's also one of the reasons I don't believe it's a selection bias phenomenon, that blogging and blog reading folks would belong to those types or would be more likely to shout out and take huge pride in their type to the public (while I'm sure introverted people get more representation on the internet, than elsewhere).
Ultimately, you won't gain anything by staying in perpetual denial of your own assets, by jumping on the train of chasing originality, you only become one of the many people desperately searching for individuality and emotional validation. Instead of crying out for reinforcement, I'd advise you to spend some time in your own company, maybe journal or just think about the deeper aspects of life, your motivations and priorities. This is probably the best way to learn more about yourself.

Please share your experiences in the comment section, though! I love discussing these kind of topics.

- Anna


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