There are some days that stay with us for the rest of our lives. The day of our marriage, the birth of our first child and the day when we got our MBTI result.
The personality test known as the Myer-Briges type indicator has been around for a long time. Anyone who is the least bit curious about the subject of personalities probably has heard of it. But for someone who has had first hand experience with the plasticity of personality, I’ve always been sceptical of it.
It all began in 2013 when I got my results. Needless to say I wasn’t such thrilled. Though there are concerns about accuracy when taking the test online, mine was through a book. In matters such as these one can’t help but be honest, and I was, as I answered each question to the best of my abilities.
What followed after the results was a long period of questioning and contemplation. I had been presented with something that couldn’t have been further from the truth. I asked around whether others agreed with the results. Many disagreed while some agreed with some of it. Luckily this phase ended when I finished reading a book.
Back then I had been reading a book called Quirkology by Richard Wiseman. Wiseman, like many other scientists didn’t have any qualms with breaking down a system if it wasn’t working. In the book he shattered the whole idea of having a personality. And he did it so elegantly that I forgot about the 4 letters assigned by the MBTI and wondered if there was such a thing as a personality.
It was a time of great uncertainty, marked with periods of joy. A paradigm shift had occurred. It was like being born again. To know that most of this stuff was made up. That I could choose again who I could be. Without a doubt it was the best of times and it was the worst of times. Later around 2015 I read Daniel Nettle’s book Personality, which resulted in two things. First I got a much more accurate reading and once again I learned that personality isn’t as concrete as we like it to be.
So why do we still put credence to those 4 letters? Why do many of us wear those 4 letters as a badge of identity? Maybe there are 16 personality types according to the MBTI. But are we really just those 4 letters? I don’t know, maybe we are but as I’ve learned there is a difference between being and choosing to be. Had I not had that disappointing experience with the test maybe I too would have been a believer.
In this light the MBTI appears to be no different from a horoscope. One is stepped in observation while the other in science. But science that isn’t accurate isn’t very helpful. Turns out that I’m not the only one who has had such an experience with the MBTI. A recent article in Psychology today, which ironically was written at the same time as I took my test, reveals how your results will change if you re-take the test sometimes later. The article further criticises the test saying that no one is really introverted or extroverted as there exists a bell curve on which most of us lie. Okay there are introverts and extroverts but they are as rare as you meeting someone with an I.Q of 150 or 50.
People have been fascinated about themselves since the dawn of time. Who doesn’t want to know more about themselves? But if four letters is all there is, if we suddenly take a disliking to someone because of their type, and if we keep believing that this is all we’ll ever be, then what good is it for?