By Dr. A.J. Drenth
First off, you are not alone. Many people labor for months, even years, before they are confident in their Myers-Briggs personality type designation. There are countless others who think they know their personality type but have actually mistyped themselves (e.g., ENFPs thinking they are INFPs). It is therefore unsurprising that there is so much confusion and disagreement about the characteristics of the various personality types.
The reasons people have difficulty identifying their type are manifold. Lack of self-knowledge is one of the main factors, as is a lack of understanding of the intricacies of type theory. Another problem is the paradoxical nature of the psyche itself. According to type theory, each personality type is comprised of two pairs of opposing functions. And because the psyche wants to be whole, the less conscious functions may unduly influence one’s questionnaire responses, sometimes leading Feelers to test as Thinkers (e.g., INFJs to test as INTJs), and so on.
Further complicating matters is one’s degree of personal growth. As we get older (so the theory goes) we begin to develop our weaker functions and things begin to balance out. That’s why, in some ways, typing at a younger age (in late childhood or teenage years) may in some ways be more accurate. It’s important to remember, however, that personal growth does not fundamentally alter or change your personality type.
In working to identify your personality type, it helps to take a few tests, which can give you a ballpark idea of your type, perhaps narrowing it down to a couple possibilities. Reading our books and articles will also be helpful. The problem with the type profiles found in other books or on other websites is they typically provide rather generic descriptions based on the Myers-Briggs preferences (E, I, S, N, T, F, J, P) instead of focusing on the functions (Si, Ni, Fi, etc.). In our view, it is impossible to accurately identify your personality type without a working knowledge of the functions.
Let’s say, for example you are trying to decide whether you are an INFJ or an INFP. While these two types may seem quite similar at first glance, sharing three of four preferences, they actually share NONE of the same functions. In considering their respective functions, there is a fairly obvious difference in the way INFJs and INFPs use Feeling. INFJs extravert their Feeling (Fe), readily expressing their emotions and opinions. In many ways, INFJs “feel out loud.” INFPs’ Feeling function, by contrast, is inwardly directed (Fi). Being warm and inviting does not come as naturally to INFPs. They may learn to mimic Fe warmth, but doing so can feel “fake” or “forced” to them. INFPs generally prefer to work through their emotions independently rather than processing them aloud with others.
With that said, I realize that it can sometimes be difficult to determine which functions you are employing. Because the dominant and auxiliary functions are constantly working in tandem, they can sometimes seem blurred together and difficult to distinguish from one another. Therefore, INFPs, who we know utilize Introverted Feeling and Extraverted Intuition, may experience a sort of undifferentiated mass of “intuitive feeling.” It is therefore important to work to understand the various functions, all of which are described at length here at Personality Junkie.
Another challenge is that each personality type has all the same functions as one other type, differing only in their ordering in the functional stack (which corresponds to the degree to which they use and prefer those functions). For example, both ENTPs and INTPs use Ti, Ne, Si, and Fe (except ENTPs prefer Ne before Ti). For individuals who are clearly Introverted (I) or Extraverted (E), deciding between these two types may be relatively straightforward. But for those less confident in their E-I preference, it one must think in terms of the relevant functions. In this case, one must decide whether Ti or Ne is dominant. Or, put differently, whether one’s dominant function is a Judging (Ti) or Perceiving (Ne) function. For those trying to determine if their dominant function is a Judging or Perceiving function, you might like my Judging-Perceiving personality test and its attendant theoretical rationale.
In sum, by better understanding which functions you prefer and regularly utilize, including their respective ordering in the functional stack, you can accurately identify your personality type. This is why the personality profiles on this site are founded on and described in terms of the functions of each type.
To learn more about identifying and clarifying your personality type, I encourage you to explore my latest eBook:
If you are working to discern whether you are an INFJ or INFP, be sure to take our new assessment: