The Day I Realized I Was An Extrovert

I recently realized I was an extrovert and an ENFP.

Now, before those I know personally laugh and say, “Emily, you’re crazy, you’re not an extrovert” let me explain myself.

from CPP, Inc

from CPP, Inc

Most websites and profiles out there grossly simplify Meyer-Briggs Type Indicator. Choose if you’re Introverted or Extroverted, Intuitive or Sensing, Feeling or Thinking, Judging or Perceiving, and you’ve got your personality!

There’s a deeper way of looking at MBTI through cognitive functions. These functions can be internal or external, and they are stacked in a hierarchy based on how much you use each function in daily life. In this hierarchy, you have alternating functions. One internal, one external, etc. This is a summary, and I’ve included a ton of links at the bottom. But basically, I’ll walk you through how I found my personality type.

Internal feeling is characterized by independence, a deep inner world, a search for personal meaning, and strong values that aren’t easily swayed by outside opinions. External feeling is based on shared emotions, inter-dependence with the group, and taking care of others.
Verdict for me: Internal. I don’t show my emotions, aside from the surface ones like happiness or excitement or annoyance, to most people. I’m pretty independent, too.

External sensing has a high awareness of their environment and living in the present, trusting concrete data. Internal is much more based on past memories and nostalgia. They learn from past mistakes and see patterns in their life.
Verdict for me: Internal. I am constantly saying, “Oh, I never noticed that house before!” My husband thinks I’m the most unobservant person ever in a setting. I can also get pretty nostalgic and I like looking at the past and seeing what brought me to where I am today.

Internal intuition mull over their ideas internally, use private introspection, take in facts and information and process it before deciding it fits with their worldview, and has a specific vision of what it wants and expects. External intuition has many ideas, changing constantly, interacting with others about these ideas, it sees the big idea and thrives off of possibilities.
Verdict for me: External all the way. Just see this letter from my 11-year-old self.

Internal thinking looks inside when thinking about ideas and logic, seeking to answer “why?”, analyzing, accumulating information, asking questions and fitting things into an inner framework. External thinking looks to outside actions, taking ideas and information, and forming plans, trusting external information more than their own inner logic, and making a plan to accomplish a goal.
Verdict for me: External. When I have a problem, I go online and read what everyone else has said about it. I don’t have to know the way something works to work with it and use it as a tool.

So, I know that I am:

Two personality types have these functions: ENFP and INFP. I automatically assumed I was an INFP because I thought I was an introvert. But as I looked deeper into these, it didn’t jive. Thinking is supposed to be my weakest function? But I like teaching and making lesson plans. When something goes wrong, I think, “Okay, what do I need to do to fix this? What steps can I take to move forward?”

Then I saw that letter from my 11-year-old self, and I wondered if my Ne could be stronger than my Fi. Then that would bump Te up in the queue! That made more sense to me because I feel I do more thinking and planning than I do reminiscing and wanting the familiar.

Also, I started to reconsider my introversion. I have for some time now. I know it’s a spectrum, not two sides of a coin, and I honestly feel just slightly more extroverted than introverted. Here are some real life examples:

  • I enjoy going to events with big crowds: concerts, zoos, amusement parks. Going to these places is not tiring to me, but exhilarating. Afterwards, if I am tired, it’s usually a physical tiredness, not a mental one.
  • After a day of working by myself, I’m itching to get out and do something. I crave human interaction.
    I can get sluggish and irritable if I’m alone for too long. Which isn’t to say I can’t do things by myself. I do things by myself all the time, and the fact that I’m alone isn’t going to stop me from doing something I want to do. But if I have the choice to do something with a friend or by myself, I will always choose the option to do it with a friend.
  • I rarely feel anxious meeting new people if I’m with at least one person I know. Sometimes, if it’s a setting I know and I’m comfortable with (a classroom where I’m in charge, for example), I’m not anxious at all, even if I’m alone.
  • I want to talk out both my problems and my ideas. When I have an issue, I seek out advice from others and I like talking it out with someone. When I have an idea, I “think out loud”, usually with my husband.
  • Outside of social engagements, I also get inspiration and stimulation from other external sources. I listen to a plethora of music. I get a lot of ideas for my stories from other sources or a combination of other sources (a plot bunny from the Nanowrimo forums inspired Finding Fiona, a class about minorities in America inspired Promising Light, a dream inspired Connection, etc.). I’m energized thinking about possibilities, about where I’m going, about the future.

Of course, there are things that pointed to my introversion, but I think that’s more shyness and a mild (very mild!) social anxiety than true introversion. Things like having a thousand things to say but being incapable of saying them in a big group. Not getting a word in because everyone else in the group is louder. Getting tongue tied on the phone. Wanting to avoid conflict at all costs, so not disagreeing with people even though I think they’re wrong. Hesitating to show my emotions to people because of how I might be perceived.

I do have a lower threshold for people than most extroverts. When I was growing up and going to school, I lived with a big family, so I was constantly around people, and I needed to withdraw often or I would get moody. But now that I live a more solitary life (living with just my husband, working with only a few people), I see how I find energy from external interaction and sources. I think this lifestyle is the perfect balance for a mild extrovert like me. (Although sometimes I wish my sister Nancy lived here to give me constant entertainment.)

So, there you go. I’m an ENFP who often mistypes as an introvert. I’m a person who will (almost) always choose a person over a book. A person who doesn’t notice things right in front of her because she’s too busy dreaming about her vacation to Hawaii. A person who is still trying to figure herself out.

Now, I feel like a disclaimer is necessary: MBTI is not hard science. I read somewhere online it is more like a language: a common system we can use to understand each other and ourselves. I’m not interested in this because it’s backed up by neuroscientists, but because I see these patterns in myself and it’s a fascinating way to analyze myself and see why I do the things I do.

Check it out for yourself:

Myers Briggs
16 Types
Funky MBTI Function (this blog is SO fun for fiction writers!)

Featured image from CPP, Inc.

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