These excerpts are from my book on personality types: 16 Kinds of Crazy: The Sixteen Personalities.
My quest in life is to learn what matters to me and identify my values based on what feels the most true. I count on myself to be correct in evaluating my inner experiences and use them to decide what I value. Whatever I learn about myself during this process becomes another layer of self-awareness at the center of my being. I wish others well, but their journeys through life interest me less than my own. I get a limited time here to discover my true self! It’s essential for me to remain true to myself, no matter what.
I value acceptance and tolerance, because I believe everyone is on a unique journey of self-discovery. Even if I assume they are in the wrong, I let them decide how to live without trying to change them. Their beliefs and experiences make them who they are. It’s impossible for me to know what it’s like to be them, which means their decisions are none of my business unless they impact me. I offer them what I want from them: the right to be themselves.
On my deathbed, I want to know I lived according to my beliefs. All my actions must synchronize with my sense of right or wrong. This means forming values against which I evaluate everything. I trust this inner process to decide what is best for me.
I weigh everything I encounter against how it makes me feel to determine if it’s okay with me or not. It’s more crucial for me to obey my conscience than to get along with others. Their opinions don’t dictate how I respond or what I deem right for me. Unless I consider honoring how they feel or what they think as important, I won’t factor their views into my inner dialogue. If I value their input, I include it in my decision-making process. When this is not the case, what I feel outweighs how others see the situation.
I see it as my responsibility to be my best self and to remain true to my feelings. This means not betraying myself by violating my beliefs. Doing otherwise brings guilt and self-hatred.
If a classmate offends me with their words but I don’t speak up, I wonder, “Am I someone who can’t defend what is right?” How I feel about that idea determines whether I will let it happen again. I believe character comes from within! It starts in my soul and flows into my actions. If I want to change my behaviors, I must change myself on the inside first.
Once I determine my values, I try to live by them by keeping my actions in line with my conscience. I immediately know how a situation or person makes me feel. My reaction lets me know what I will or won’t do. It sets my standards and tells me what to tolerate or when to leave. Though my feelings inform my actions, I won’t impose my standards on you. I can eat a vegan salad without lecturing you about a hamburger. My truth isn’t yours. Everyone is different and should decide for themselves what is acceptable for their behavior.
Sometimes staying true to myself means defying social attitudes. These situations force me to decide whether to cooperate or voice an unpopular opinion. Anything that violates my beliefs causes me to react—attending a church where they preach against another denomination when I believe people should worship as they want; my family not recycling (I think it’s the right thing for the planet), or being criticized for following my heart into a relationship others shun (it’s how I feel). Some things aren’t worth an argument, but I need to defend my deepest beliefs and live up to my ideals.
If I accept an external set of beliefs, I have studied them and found them meaningful or reliable. Abiding by them makes me a better version of myself. I accept nothing without self-consultation.
A change of scenery doesn’t affect my values. If I refuse to drink at the beach, I won’t change my mind in a hotel. My ethics stay the same; they are a permanent part of me. If I resolve never to get high, no matter how many friends do or how hard they push me, I won’t. I value my integrity. I won’t sacrifice my principles to please them. If it forces me to accept a failing grade or alienate them, so be it. I shouldn’t have to be a different person to gain acceptance.
I Care or I Don’t
It’s hard for me to define my exact values. There’s no analysis or organization involved in forming them. They develop from “this is okay/not okay/does/doesn’t upset me.” It’s detached from how others react. Your outrage doesn’t influence my reaction.
It’s possible for me to form an opposite opinion or feeling about a situation from those around me. If my friends or family want me to be indignant about what upsets them, but I don’t care, I can’t pretend otherwise. Why do my friends encourage me to agree with them instead of leaving me alone? I can’t help not caring. You pushing me to change my mind or forsake my values makes me refuse harder. Let me live however I want without judgment.
What upsets you might not disturb me; what drives me nuts may seem silly to you. You deem bull-fighting acceptable while I think it’s heinous, or vice versa. It all depends on my instinctual reaction. Maybe as a child, I attended a bullfight. I stared at the blood, saw a living creature being tortured, and hated it! Or it didn’t bother me and I thought nothing of it. If I deem it cruel, I won’t go. If it doesn’t upset me and I want to attend, I will.
We should all stand by our convictions, without imposing them on others. If you detest a CEO’s decisions, boycott his business (it’s your right; I support it), but let me shop there without guilt-trips if I don’t share your views. Sometimes I go along with you, if I feel doing so is what a good friend should do, but otherwise, I get involved in nothing that doesn’t concern me.
Life shows me what I care about based on my reaction to what’s happening. Speculating beforehand about how a situation might make me feel is useless. I must either experience it, or know when it’s suggested that it isn’t for me. I rule out trying anything (a film, book, or discussion) that makes me uncomfortable. This simplifies my decision-making. Certain things earn an automatic no. I take everything inside myself to see what I think about it and ask what it has taught me. I treat it as an opportunity to learn more about my authentic self. I don’t want to taint my inner sanctum.
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ISFP: The Explorer
Hacksaw Ridge follows the service of Desmond Doss, a devout Seventh Day Adventist who wanted to serve his country in WWII. A pacifist medic with the 77th Infantry Division, he refused to kill enemy soldiers or carry a weapon into battle. The mockery and peer pressure of his fellow soldiers never changed his mind despite them calling him a coward. He wasn’t. Enemy fire tore through his division as they climbed a ridge 400 feet high. Doss risked his life to rescue an injured man. Given confidence by his success, he then advanced through a “shower of grenades” into a cave where he dressed men’s wounds before making separate trips to evacuate them. He continued to rescue and treat wounded soldiers until a bullet hit him, then tended to his injuries and waited for rescue.
Doss wouldn’t violate his beliefs to protect himself, but passed no judgment on others for carrying guns. His patriotism led him to contribute to the war effort without using violence. His ability to adapt in an unstable environment saved others’ lives, but I admire him more for his strong personal convictions, and for not allowing others’ opinions of him to shape his view of himself. He could withstand abuse, because he knew what he was doing was right.
Whatever I feel about a situation makes me want to take direct action. For him, it meant signing up for the military. The instant he knew what he wanted, he did it. That’s me, too. If I love someone, I want to be in their arms. If a cause is just, I join it. My values tell me when to act, and my beliefs dictate how I do it. Passion is meaningless without action.
Before I act, I check in with myself to decide what’s right. Is this who I am? Whatever I deem okay, I want to do right now. It needs to happen immediately. Who wants to talk about life? I do it. It’s way more fun to be on a Ferris Wheel than watch it spin! I get to feel the wind in my hair, smell fresh popcorn, hear music boom through the loudspeakers, or see your hands resting by mine on the safety bar. Sensations are life for me. I want to get lost in them.
The future? I’ll adapt. The past? Behind me.
Life is short, so there’s no time to waste! If being alone bothers me, I join a dating site. Passing a music festival, if I develop an urge to learn guitar, I buy one and take lessons or tinker until I figure out the chords. If I see an art studio offering classes and want to learn to paint, I stop the car. Life abounds with things to try. It’s right to take advantage of something the instant it interests me. I strike while the iron is hot, before the impulse fades. This is a pattern in my life. I decide what I want to try, do it until I lose my curiosity, and move on. I only keep what I love and care about.
Whatever I do must have meaning and align with my values. Each time life throws an opportunity at me, I ask if this is me. If the answer is no, I refuse. A direct experience tells me what I will or won’t tolerate; my response when confronted with something I believe is wrong is to stop it from happening or leave. If I loathe what someone has to say, I walk out, switch stations, turn off a movie, or quit reading a book.
My senses outweigh my imagination. Reality involves using my hands! I discover my passions by doing things. I take a class to learn how to basket-weave, fall in love to experience what it’s like, or climb a hill because it exists. I want to feel the burn in my legs. I enjoy doing things. Designing a flowerbed, building birdhouses, hiking, taking photos, walking in the park, beading necklaces, drawing, stripping furniture, sculpting, skateboarding, white water rafting, composing music, climbing trees, riding horses, or playing video games. You get it!
My partner and friends need to love going places, trying things, and doing stuff with me. Attending carnivals or concerts, riding roller coasters, eating pretzels, walking the dogs, jogging on the beach, driving a convertible, or visiting a butterfly pavilion is how I want to spend our time. Shared physical experiences are how I bond. Let’s watch a sunrise spread across every leaf and trunk until it reaches us on the rise. The warmth of its rays on my skin makes me feel alive. It’s even more incredible to share it with you.
I love anywhere that immerses me in an experience; touching or seeing things makes them real. Anyone can read about the Civil War. It isn’t real until I see the guns they fired, the uniforms they wore, or a confederate flag full of bullet holes. Hearing about a hero isn’t the same as holding his pocket watch. Staged museum scenes exist for me. I also love nature, gardens, terraces, festivals, parks, fountains, conservatories, theaters, and architecture.
Direct involvement makes an experience amazing. Why visit Sea World if I can swim with a dolphin? Let me climb into the shark cage! It’s more fun than sitting on a boat! That’s a thrill to treasure for the rest of my life, and an experience that teaches me about my body. I want to know how to regulate the air through my lungs on an oxygen tank, and what it feels like to see a shark up close. It’s a different physical experience from standing on a platform waiting for a train to arrive or sitting in a football stadium crowd.
Reality is what it is. It’s useless to fight or deny it. Things grow old and die. Actions have consequences. I can’t go back, only forward, but nothing exists “for sure” except for the present.
Realistic thinking means accepting what is and isn’t possible. I don’t expect change to happen overnight, but can handle it when it does. All things require effort and direct action to get what you want. No one wakes up a rich, famous movie star. They wait on tables, pass out photos, and go to open casting calls. That’s reality. It’s undeniable and dominates everything. There’s no alternative to going along with it. Either you do, or you deny what’s real for a fantasy and get disappointed when life doesn’t turn out the way you want. The harsh reality of the world doesn’t scare me, even if it hurts. Pain, loss, and death are all a part of life. If death didn’t exist, living to the fullest wouldn’t be necessary! That’s why it’s important to enjoy it!
My realism comes from immersing myself in and trusting what’s tangible. I look at what’s in front of me, and ask what it tells me. I trust that more than any wild hunches. Life flows through me and registers in my body. I notice my physical reaction to things. How a loud concert makes me move, the way my mouth waters when I smell my grandma’s apple pie, or how hot, tired and satisfied I feel after great sex. Touch is a primal way to interact, but it works. Our bodies should do things. That’s their purpose. Our ancestors had to create knives from bones and rocks, hunt for their food, and run or hide from predators, but we now get to do things for fun.
Engaging with reality teaches you how a car skids on ice, or what happens when you fall into a cactus. A disconnect from nature means not grasping how it works. Ignore reality at your peril.
I see everything for what it is, based on the clues it gives me. I trust the information my senses gather about people, places, and objects. Their actions show me who people are inside. No one is perfect and I don’t expect them to be. It’s impossible to change another person and I don’t want to. I either accept them for who they are or want nothing more to do with them. Observing their behavior helps me decide who I want in my life. How they treat other people and animals tells me all I need to know about them.
If care about people, it’s important for me to connect to them on a deeper level. Words aren’t necessary to express how I feel about them, but how they react lets me know if they share my interest. Confusion sets into me if I can’t tell by their physical responses if they find me attractive. Once we’re in love, I want to act on that by touching them, kissing them, holding them, and by sleeping with them.
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INFP: The Idealist
Considering who I am, my purpose in life, and thinking about my feelings interests me more than having physical experiences. My ideas and thoughts define me. I devote attention to cultivating my thoughts, understanding what drives them, and defining my ideals. Everything needs to have meaning in relation to myself. I prefer my imagination to reality. It’s a struggle for me to feel connected.
I hold myself accountable for my actions and thoughts, because how I think influences my behavior. Everyone’s philosophy of life (their worldview) tells them how to treat living things. My values shape my thinking and my views on humanity. A desire to know what builds my perspectives urges me to devote time to pondering my inner state. My questions about myself are relentless. “Is this belief meaningful?” “If I adopt this stance, who will it make me?” “What does my reaction say about me?” “What does it mean to be human? Has life meaning? If so, what?” “What are my ideals?” “Is the world changing for the good? If not, how can I push it toward a better version of itself?”
Changing people’s behaviors involves changing their mind, so I bombard the world with information. I write articles to provoke discussion or share content on social media. I believe the future has potential and want to contribute to it. However impossible my ideas about what would make life better seems to you, they’re real to me. I get impatient to see transformation and hate delays.
When I see an injustice, my first instinct is to rant or write about it. Drawing attention to it occurs to me before doing anything else.
A single interpretation is too limiting when there’s a thousand ways to interpret something. I ask, “Why not look at it this way?” My brain generates multiple perspectives in response to stimulus. At an amusement park, I don’t enjoy the ride. I think about how this would make a good story. I could write a nail-biter about people trapped in an amusement park with a serial killer. Or one day a wizard wanders into one and bewitches all the rides. Finding an abandoned amusement park leads a hero (no, heroine) to a secret doorway into another world. The elf king has created all the rides to rob people of their souls. What great ideas! Mind if I sit on that bench and start writing? It’ll just take a second!
My mind keeps generating ideas unless I find a topic abhorrent. Hearing out an argument I hate is impossible. I don’t want that to become part of me. End of discussion. You want me to change my mind, but I won’t. I can’t ignore what my reactions tell me. This is a no-go zone. On things that don’t involve my convictions, I want to see them anew. Give me many interpretations! Let me rattle off a dozen ways this could go! Tell me your opinion or thoughts!
Seeing things in multiple ways comes naturally to me. If I get too caught up in imagining things, I forget what’s real. I don’t assume others need time to adapt to new ideas. If I like one, I make it part of my worldview. Imagining different versions of myself makes it hard to find my personality type. I read about another type, start thinking about being that way, and assume I am! An idea of myself is easier to focus on than my actual behavior. It lets me come up with alternate possible explanations for my actions. It feels wrong to settle on a type or an idea without considering all angles. INFP fits okay, but what about INFJ? It also deserves consideration.
I spent years lost in confusion about my type, because I couldn’t stop imagining myself in different ways! Getting it wrong feels like a self-betrayal that will lead me down the wrong path! If I don’t know who I am, how can I understand my mental philosophy?
True change and transformation comes from self-awareness.
Once you get me started, my thoughts are like a waterfall. They flow in abundance, taking me in unexpected directions. I start out chatting about Leo Tolstoy’s understanding of social injustice in Anna Karenina and within a few minutes am discussing my favorite brands of tea. I can’t help it. My mind flits around like a butterfly in a garden. Each flower holds its focus for a short time, but one blossom leads to the next. My conversation runs around in such wide circles, I don’t know where I began or how to return there.
My mind moves in so many directions, it’s hard for me to stay in the moment without my thoughts wandering. This inner world is a web of half-finished thoughts, sentences, and ideas, building rapid connections between random separate pieces of information. For me, it’s not a “leap” into a new topic, but a complicated stream of inner associations that happens in a fraction of a second. If I start out talking about Roman footwear and mention the movie Jaws, it’s because ancient footwear brought to my mind how fashion evolves. Wondering how it might change in the future leads me to ponder how sci-fi movies depict the future. This reminds me of the sci-fi film E.T., directed by Stephen Spielberg, who also made Jaws. It’s clear as a bell to me, but not to you. Right?
Reading a book, listening to music, going for a walk, or watching a movie sets off a bunch of ideas about how to improve on it, or how I could make it more meaningful and interesting. I like this concept, but not the direction another creator took it. This story could take a more interesting turn. How cool it would be to write an underwater fairy tale set on another planet! I don’t expect all my ideas to come to fruition, but it’s fun thinking about them. They require a lot of time and effort to flesh out. That diverts me for hours, often more than the content that started me thinking in the first place! If I get stuck on a story, all I need to do is look at someone else’s ideas to get the creative juices flowing again. That sparks my imagination.
The ideas and thoughts an object generates interests me more than the object. Speculating about “what might happen next week, or where this story is going” entertains me as much as watching it. Ideas float around waiting for me to find them. I sift through them looking for the best one and choose what resonates with me. I take inspiration from what I love, like George Lucas’s Star Wars. His adoration for The Lord of the Rings drove him to create an epic trilogy set in space. He kept tinkering with it as the years passed and technology advanced, changing things. I know what that’s like. Revisiting a project gives me new ideas for it. I turn it in a different direction to see it from a fresh perspective and think about how this small or large change could improve it. It never ends up as the same story I planned at the start.
Once I dive into something, it’s hard to figure out an exact plan. I see a dozen potential approaches. To avoid the confusion, I go by what feels right and ask, “Which idea has the most potential?” I work from one perspective for a while, change my mind and shift my direction. (I started out writing about sexism in the classics, but it turned into a love letter to Jane Austen.)
My best work happens at the last minute. Deadlines force me to get things done. I hate specific topics that won’t let me improvise. The point of my term paper won’t be clear until I write it; it takes form as I think through it. I can reshape it later. Each time I dive into it, it takes a different turn while I keep generating ideas about it. I work on it until I exhaust every way to interpret a topic.
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