This year, I really got into Jungian typology. I took a personality test, and again and again, I tested INTP. Of course, once you get into personality typing, you discover the cognitive functions and a whole new world opens up to you. On one hand, it helps you deepen your understanding of yourself, but on the other, it can make you even more confused about what type you are. It doesn’t help that we INTPs tend to have problems getting accurately typed.
In truth, although Jungian typology helped me, each of us is still an individual with their own story and background which also shapes us. So we can’t rely on personality typing to explain everything about us. Nevertheless, knowing your personality type can be a great jumping-off point for personal growth. So, here are four things to consider that helped me determine I’m an INTP, and can help you figure out if you’re one, too:
1. How do you gain energy?
After studying the cognitive functions, I started thinking, maybe I’m an ENTP? I have my bouts of being super sociable and outgoing. It helped a little to recognize one of the main definitions of being an introvert is finding out what energizes you and what drains you (being around people or being alone). I would say that 90 percent of the time I really do prefer solitude. The deciding factor was me watching this video and thinking about what I was like as a child. I know loud environments and people bother me now, but something triggered my memories of how I was always anxious around small children screaming, which were at the time my peers, playing and jumping around. I was always the ultimate weirdo, sitting in the corner, reading, trying to block out my surroundings. I am an introvert, yes. And damn, thinking back to my twenties, I always needed some alcohol to really relax around lots of people, especially around new people.
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2. Possibilities or concrete facts?
Intuitives, such as INTPs, pay attention to the patterns and possibilities they see in the information they receive. They’re always looking for the meaning behind information, beyond just the concrete facts. Sensors, on the other hand, pay more attention to information they gather using their five senses—what they can see, hear, touch, taste, and smell. They’re more concerned with what is present, current, and real. Intuition or sensing, in my opinion, is the hardest piece of the personality type puzzle to figure out. Maybe I’m biased because, growing up, I was forced to handle the sensors’ world, and I see myself using Introverted Sensing quite a lot. I suck(ed) at sports, I was clumsy, and I was treated like the stereotypical nerd during my school years because of that. I am also not very aesthetic, meaning, I like pretty things and being pretty myself every now and then, but I’ve figured out that most people are better than me at things that need a “good eye.” But all that is not necessarily an indication of not being a sensor. Again, to answer this question, I had to turn to my childhood. I always lived in fantasy worlds, imagination was my fuel, and I was always asking existential questions, even as a small child. Today, I love living in the now, enjoying good food and nice scenery, but ultimately what drives me is in my head—ideas, debating things, and figuring out how the world and people work.
3. Objective principles or personal concerns?
Thinking or Feeling refers to how a person makes decisions. Do you put more weight on objective principles and impersonal facts (Thinking) or do you value personal concerns and the people involved (Feeling)? At first, I thought this would be the easiest cognitive function to figure out. But different forums and Facebook groups made me think I’m doing something wrong because I dare to be an INTP with emotions (oh my!). Well, forget you, people of the internet, especially pretentious thinkers who think they can type everyone else just based on a statement on the internet (I actually really despised my own type until I figured out most of them who say such things are either teenagers or really immature). Anyway, even though I’m an INTP who prefers Thinking, I do feel, and I actually feel a lot. I just have trouble processing it fast enough, in the right time to do something about it. I think of myself as not a stereotypical INTP largely because in the end, I do process my feelings, and grow, and become a better person. But it is true however, that Feeling is not how I primarily process the world. I want to know how and why. Actually, this ironically helps a lot when I’m talking to a feeler, because I analyze what they say and throw it back at them so they can see things in a broader view. We need each other, okay?
4. Structure or flexibility?
The final function has to do with how you like to live your outer life. Do you prefer a more structured lifestyle (Judging) or a more flexible and adaptable lifestyle (Perceiving)? The Judging/Perceiving choice is, in my opinion, really the easiest one. Not to everybody, but to me, definitely. INTPs are perceivers, and I am definitely a person who loves being spontaneous. It’s easier for me to just go with the flow and do things as they occur to me. I mean, I do try to plan and schedule and be on time. I actually loooooooove planning…just not carrying out those plans!
Functions? Like mentioned in the beginning of this article, I was, at first, not sure if I’m INTP or ENTP. It is hard to figure that one out. And let me tell you, my fellow INTPs (and all other introverts too!), we need external stimulation to thrive. NEED IT. Especially if we’re feeling down. I know most of us would just like to hide in our shells and not have contact with the outside world. And yes, this is how we are as introverts, and being alone might make us feel good in the moment, but in the long run, it can form into full-blown depression. Why? Because although we need to recharge and take time (lots of time!) for ourselves, we still are a part of a species that is ultimately considered sociable. We need feedback on our ideas and we need stimuli to form new ideas. We need to be able to see how the world is and not just get stuck in a cycle of our own thoughts. I learned this the hard way. I need to go out, capture the ideas, bring them home, and process them.
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Last, but perhaps most importantly, let me say something about INTPs and choosing a career. If you google that, you’ll stereotypically get something like science or computer engineering. Nerdy careers. Great, I love it. I could see myself doing well in computer science. I always intuitively understood the logic behind it. But somehow, I did not pursue a career in it. I sometimes regret it a bit, and maybe, one day, I can still get into it. But in the end, it’s not for everyone. Also, some people’s circumstances don’t allow them to spend time and money on expensive studies. Only when you dig deeper will you get to some more realistic suggestions. But, not really. How many people make it as an author? I’ve seen psychologist a few times. Personally, I think it’s great, but I know very well that some INTPs are really not good with people.
Some statistics say that INTPs are the one type that is most unsatisfied with their career. I can see that. We can be very indecisive, unfocused, or simply afraid to pursue or dream. The world has been rejecting us all our lives, so why would we try to fit in?
For me, it is the great need for independence that drives me, along with the need to do something meaningful. Also, it has helped me to learn what is most definitely not for me. I worked in customer service for years. I worked as a manager of a small warehouse. I worked many things and I mostly excelled at them, but they did not make me happy. In fact, I sometimes became so frustrated and angry with the job that I started being careless. This is no way to live/earn money.
After you figure out that you’re an INTP, you have to figure out the things that you can deal with and those that you can’t deal with. Constant contact with people? Probably a no for most of us INTPs (and introverts of other personality types). Being as independent as you can be? Yes, please. If the career you’re in right now doesn’t fulfill you, at least get a hobby that does. Writing does it for me. And in your free time, you can still plan for a better career. It is never too late and you are never really alone. Yes, you’re special and unique, and as an INTP, you may be an outsider. But you’re not alone in that.