As a psychology major, I am often curious as to why people behave the way they do. That makes sense, right? I mean psychology is the scientific study of the human mind and behavior, so why would I study it if I weren’t curious? My initial decision to major in psychology was rationalized with the idea that I could use my degree to help people, but after further consideration I came to a pretty mind-opening realization: Can’t you say that about a lot of majors? Think about it, why do people study education? To teach people. Medicine? To heal people. Political Science? To improve the world.
I realized I wasn’t studying psychology to understand why people behave the way they do; rather, I subconsciously wanted to understand myself. After freaking out at my selfishness, panicking about my future, and finally accepting that I am studying what I love, I did what I do best and tried to figure out why I made the decision I did.
My friends suggested it was just my personality, but what does that even mean? How can you measure personality? I’ve been told by some that I’m Type A, others think that is crazy and say I’m 100% Type B. How was I supposed to figure out how I made my decision to pursue this major when I couldn’t even figure out what my own characteristics were? After extensive research on personalities, reading pseudoscience, online tests, and trying to implicitly recognize what exactly makes me, me, I finally decided to take a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).
For those of you who don’t know what an MBTI is, it’s an assessment that measures your psychological preferences on how you perceive the world and make decisions. It then uses those preferences to create your personality type. There are 16 possible personalities based on this test that are made up of four dichotomies to fully capture who you are as an individual. I’m not going to go into specifics regarding the four preferences or individual types (if you are curious, Google the test and you can read all about it), but I am going to tell you my results (spoiler: I’m an INFJ) and hopefully along the way I will be able to solve the mystery of why I chose to pursue a degree in psychology.
I’m going to preface this by saying that I was very skeptical whilst reading my results and tried to take everything with a grain of salt. I don’t necessarily trust overgeneralized personality readings. I typically feel like I’m reading my horoscope, you know the ones that are just broad enough to apply to pretty much everyone? Surprisingly though, I do agree with a lot of what the test said about me, and I do think it helped me recognize why I made the “selfish” decision to study psychology.
INFJ stands for Introversion, iNtuition, Feeling, and Judging. People who fall under this personality type recharge and get their energy while they are alone. We make decisions based on thinking things through while also seeing the big picture, and are concerned with morality and people’s emotions on certain issues. Finally, we are either extremely decisive (which I’m not) or prefer to have everything planned (me to a T).
Being able to think idealistically and morally while also planning ahead gives INFJs the ability to take clear steps to achieve their ultimate goals. With this unique combination of traits, INFJs feel the need to help others and have the burning desire to find the root of all issues. After reading through these preferences I thought back to my initial reasoning behind choosing psychology, but realized that I already rationalized that my pure intention wasn’t actually to help people, so what gives? I thought this test was supposed to give me answers, not leave me more confused.
It turns out that another key quality in INFJs is that we sometimes focus so much of our energy on trying to resolve other people’s issues and inequities that we forget to take care of ourselves. We stress about problems and our future but are also extremely sensitive (I guess that’s the reason I freaked out over my “selfish” motives). After further consideration I think I figured out the answer to my internal quarrels. I study psychology to understand myself because by understanding who I am and being able to both comprehend and label my emotions, I am able to better understand the actions of others. I know what rage feels like and how I would react to it, and I also know what love feels like and the things it can make someone do. Studying psychology has given me the ability to understand the science behind my actions and behaviors, thus giving me the capacity to help others solve their problems by putting me in their shoes. I am by no means saying that I could possibly feel someone’s emotions in their entirety, but I am saying that by recognizing specific behavior, patterns, and emotions that I experience, I am able to empathize and help solve someone else’s issues as if they were my own.
I study what I love. I love understanding. I love being able to see things through a variety of lenses and I love finding solutions, but let’s be honest here, this article wasn’t about my major, what being an INFJ means, or what a personality test can say about your degree or life. This article was me getting to the root of my decision -- a clear sign of a true INFJ -- and most importantly, a clear illustration of who I am, with or without a label.