I'll admit I'm obsessed with Myers-Briggs personality types. Perhaps (and probably) to a fault. I'll also admit that it's not perfect or decisive. In the words of Captain Jack Sparrow, the 16 personality types are "more like guidelines than actual rules."
Many an hour I've spent scrolling through Pinterest in order to find out how, as an ESFJ, I am supposed to react to something. Often it's correct. Often it's not. The reason I keep going back to it, however, is that it teaches me to give grace to myself. Granted, it doesn't condone bad decisions I make. But it does help me understand why I thought it was a good idea or a good thing to say at the time.
So here is what I have learned from real life and from Pinterest about being an extroverted, sensing, feeling, judging person.
- I am fiercely loyal. If you dare to insult my best friend, I will defend them vehemently. Whether it means supporting a friend’s decision to leave a good guy because the timing was wrong, or standing up for a sister if someone looks at her the wrong way, I look out for me and my own.
The downside: in my haste to be the champion of my friends, I momentarily lose sight of what’s really happening and respond with more intensity and anger than necessary.
- I care deeply about a lot of people. I get worried that people won’t feel loved if I don’t greet them exuberantly every time I see them. I get excited whenever I see someone I’ve only really talked to once, and fill with pride if a friend gets recognized for hard work.
The downside: I give until I’m empty, and dip into my stores of energy that seem to be reserved for other people, instead of allowing myself time to recover. And I view myself as the Great Friend Maker. In the rush to micromanage my best friend’s social life, I forget that I’m not responsible for her and I forget to trust her to make the right decisions.
- I want to heal people. I saw a girl crying at a track meet in high school and was incredibly close to going over to talk to her, until I realized it would probably just seem creepy. When one of my closest friends was going through a lot of emotional hurt, I felt an overwhelming need to fix it. Slap on an antibiotic and some bandages, and stay with him until he was okay again.
The downside: I can’t fix it. And that stresses me out. I can’t let go even if I know there is nothing I can do.
- I respond strongly to other people’s emotions. When my Big is stressed, I take on her stress. When my freshman suitemate broke up with her long-time boyfriend, it cut me to the core. No one asks me to empathize that deeply – often my friend just wants someone to listen.
The downside: I get “peopled out” more quickly than you might expect.
- I take the law very seriously. If someone sets a rule, whether a law of the land or a code of conduct expected by my parents or a Biblical command, I feel extremely guilty for breaking it even a little. And although I don’t always expect everyone around me to feel as strongly as I do, I still am shocked by rule-breaking and law-bending.
The downside: I may come across as judgmental or uptight. And I get way too riled up by people not following the rules and not “playing fair.”
- I overanalyze everything. In my desire to get along with everyone and to be loved in return, I think through every sentence uttered and every small gesture. As a result, I expend a lot of energy just living in the past and regretting my mistakes and blunders.
The downside: It’s obvious, but I’ll say it anyways. I can’t move past things easily and hold on to guilt and frustration.
I have my strengths and my weaknesses, as do we all. And my strengths in extreme become weaknesses sometimes. As Anne Hathaway once said (a fellow ESFJ): "There's something very addictive about people pleasing. It's a thought pattern and a habit that feels really, really good until it becomes desperate."
But I'm still proud to be an ESFJ.