I have taken the Myers Briggs personality assessment three times. Various teams and work assignments mean it has rolled around every few years for me to fill out a lot of little bubbles with a black pencil indicating my preferences on a very long assessment of how I work, think, spend my time, make decisions, respond, react and rejuvenate until I get a clear ENFP result.
Extroverted iNtuitive Feeler Perceiver is how I fit in a nutshell in relating to the world around me.
Often these assessments are very eye opening for people. We use them with work because they help us put together healthy teams. (You would not want 8 of me working together!) My experience with Myers Briggs and other assessments similar to it have helped me in my own self awareness as well as understanding why others might be responding in a particular way in any given situation. Even better, they can best be used as an opportunity to serve people. It is helpful for me to remember that my friends who love structure aren’t just “controlling.” Knowing they won’t love my self directed freedom style as much as I do, I can aide their stress by giving them a sense of safety, clear direction and expectations, and definitions in the work environment for example. The use of assessments like these can help one be a great student and servant of people as we seek to understand and work healthily with those around us.
The lesson from this year though has been to be a continued learner of my own heart.
Every time I technically come out as an extrovert. A low extrovert, but an extrovert none the less. Extrovert means that I get my energy from being with people as opposed to being on my own. I recharge when I am around others and from my surroundings. Many people who have seen my life the last 10 years would not know that I am actually a very low extrovert according to the Briggsy people. I fill my life and time with people and activities, parties and experiences so much so that I have discovered a significant problem in my life.
It doesn’t matter whether I am an extrovert or an introvert.
What happens when I stop?
We can live our life by assessments and tests “Oh I am this kind of person.” But, do we pause to see what is going on in our hearts regardless of what our natural tendencies are?
Last year I saw a counselor for a long time. It was awesome. I have a long delayed post on that coming up soon. And no I will not tell you details of my sessions. Just that it was painful but awesome. At one point she had me spend a day doing an old Christian discipline.. meditation and silence.
Now for me certain disciplines are delightful.. bring on the learning, the study, the Bible reading, the singing songs to Jesus, the Scripture memory. I love those. Silence? For a day?
I went to the beach. Managed 15 minutes, burst into tears, ran into some horrible anger and memories lurking in the back of my mind and then went shopping and ended up reading a Christian book instead.
Stopping. Pausing. And being alone.. brought up difficult things I did not want to face.
I discovered that I often fill my life with people and events and parties instead of dealing with the mess that is in my soul. It might not be just an extrovert problem.
We all can disengage with what is really going on and have strategies for avoidance.
That exercise she had me doing was back in January. I have since tried meditation more. Alone time more. Silence. Praying and reading my Bible yes.. but then being willing to pause…and just be.
I started turning the radio off when I drive this spring.
I ended up discovering that whether we are an introvert “I recharge by myself” or an extrovert “I recharge with other people” we still need space. We need space and time to process, to grieve, to deal with messy emotions we might otherwise avoid. We need to be willing to face those messy emotions. In my conversation observations this year with people “being happy” seems to more important than being whole.
I would rather be whole.
That means facing my loneliness, my sadness, my brokenness. It means facing the way I have been hurt, sinned against or abused by others and in the ways I have sinned against and wounded others.
This year has become a bigger year than just knowing I am an extrovert. I probably look a lot more like an introvert these days. I spent 5 weeks in the US this summer happily eating meals on my own, going for walks on my own, not joining in the fun (with groups of 35 acquaintances or strangers – somehow that started to sound exhausting to me!). I didn’t get invited to parties, and social occasions and I was okay with that. Normally my “Afraid to miss out syndrome” would be very high.
Does it mean this extrovert is turning into an introvert?
I don’t really care. I don’t think it matters.
I still find Myers Briggs helpful in helping me serve others: Do they need more alone time? They are not necessarily rejecting me, just recharging and that is okay.” Or understanding why my mother goes from one phone call to the next and never wants to be on her own. (Biggest. Extrovert. You. Will. Ever. Meet.).
The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter what a personality assessment tells me I am. I am still in need of space, silence, recharging (however that may be) and more importantly facing the mess.
Whether we are introverts or extroverts we can use our personality tendencies to avoid the mess. But maybe just maybe life would be more whole and healing if we faced it.
For me, that takes space and silence these days as well as a good cry, prayer and a cuppa with a friend.