In article about MBTI test, three people with open books on a table

How Your MBTI Can Lead to Self-Discovery in Your 20s

The popular personality test doesn't determine who you are, but it certainly helps individuals learn how to be the best versions of themselves.

A person’s early 20s can be a particularly daunting experience. On one hand, hustle culture tells 20-somethings to rise and grind, start investing in the stock market and grow personal wealth as soon as it’s accrued. On the other hand, SZA sings to me that it’s okay to be “20 Something,” all alone and with absolutely nothing to my name. Though it’s probably much easier to identify with the latter, nobody actually posts about it on social media, making it even more difficult to feel like you’re actually becoming successful. But for individuals in their 20s, success shouldn’t be measured based on fame or wealth. It all comes down to one thing: self-actualization.

A short while ago, I came across a TikTok of a millennial in his mid-30s describing things he wished he’d known before he entered his 20s. He talked about the relatively stereotypical path of his life — he went to college because someone told him to, and then he graduated with a major that would produce immediate benefits, even if it wasn’t something he was passionate about. Toward the end of the video, he explained how the paradigm for success constructed by modern society is actually miscalculated. The ultimate goal of your 20s is to simply get to know yourself. At this time in our lives, our personalities are the most malleable and susceptible to growth, change and understanding.

Though it’s much easier said than done to figure out who you are and where you’ll go, it’s not impossible. Sometimes putting yourself into various camps or identities can be counter-productive, as having too many labels at an early age can make you more confined to particular roles or behaviors. However, some labels can serve as guidebooks for key behaviors in the individual psyche. One of the most helpful guides is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).

What My MBTI Did For Me

I first took an online MBTI test while in high school, but I never paid much attention to it. At the time, I felt as though my results were relatively skewed because I didn’t have a strong sense of who I was or what personal behaviors I possessed. Then, about midway through my freshman year of college, I retook the test. It completely changed my way of thinking. Knowing my MBTI type became more beneficial in understanding why I do certain things a certain way, and it helped me feel less alone in these behaviors.

Generally, the MBTI questionnaire is designed to identify an individual’s strengths, weaknesses, decision-making skills and the method by which they process information, among other things. Results are broken down into four distinct categories theorized by psychologist Carl Jung:

  1. Extroversion (E) or Introversion (I), signaling a preferred focus on the outer world or the inner world.
  2. Sensing (S) or Intuition (N), which is the focus on basic information versus interpreting for meaning.
  3. Thinking (T) or Feeling (F), meaning decision making is either based on logic or internal and external feelings.
  4. Judging (J) or Perceiving (P), or when dealing with the external world, preferring a preliminary decision as opposed to staying open to new information and options.

The four categories are then combined to form an individual’s personality type. For example, I’m an INFJ, which is also known as an “advocate.” According to my results, I prefer alone time and am thoughtful, imaginative and painfully idealistic. Since discovering the identifier, I’ve pored over countless resources and differing opinions about what being an INFJ means and how I can use it to better communicate with others. Though representatives from differing types may find less need for such understanding, it can still be beneficial, even if it’s only to deal with more internally-focused types such as myself and other introverts.

How Your MBTI Can Help Others

Understanding your MBTI can certainly give insight into personal development, as well as help you interact with others from a personal perspective. Yet it does little to assist your understanding of others with alternative mindsets. Therefore, one of the most integral parts of the MBTI theory is doing the difficult but greatly empathetic work of ascertaining differing personality types.

When a conflict arises among friends, peers or colleagues, it can sometimes be difficult to determine how to solve it or why such a conflict even arose. It’s widely beneficial to determine a person’s MBTI before or in the face of animosity, but we are rarely granted such luxuries. So, if faced with the daunting task of working with individuals who seem inherently contrarian, try reading about potential clashes with your MBTI first. You might also try to learn more about the reasons why disagreements between you and others may arise.

For example, if my MBTI is an INFJ, I might start by reading about my polar opposite: the ESTP. That way, I can work outwardly and attempt to (at the very least) comprehend why others do the things they do or operate in ways I may find unfathomable.

Normalize the MBTI!

Though no resource is gospel and each identifying characteristic can be disproved, it’s still helpful to determine certain behavioral patterns that characterize your life. Or, if these behaviors seem prohibitive, personality identifiers can provide insight into how to change them or ways to better adapt to negative feelings. But at the end of the day, whichever method produces the greatest amount of personal growth is the most individually beneficial.

Though the MBTI test is certainly mainstream, other behavior indicators seem more popular among people my age, particularly astrology. Twitter might tell you you’re feeling emotional and reflective because the moon is in Libra, but I choose to question my internal feelings beyond planetary alignment. Though I understand various archetypes seem to arise between members of distinct sun, moon and rising signs, such demeanors may be better explained by more concrete methodologies such as the MBTI.

Regardless, I encourage everyone to take an MBTI test at least once in young adulthood. At best, it can provide a framework for self-actualization, understanding and acceptance to carry you through tumultuous adulthood. Even it’s not very beneficial, it can still be a quick 15-minute preliminary examination you can make fun of afterward with friends. Nonetheless, it’s always something to fall back on should alternative methods prove themselves ineffectual.

Natalie Gabor, Indiana University-Bloomington

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Natalie Gabor

Indiana University-Bloomington

Natalie Gabor is a senior studying journalism with minors in business marketing and philosophy. She hopes to one day find a career that tops her brief stint as a Vans employee.

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