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I stared at the 4-letter acronym printed on my screen - ISFJ - the result of having done a “close enough” online version of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality test via one of the guys at work whose job, amongst other things, included getting teams to work well together. Not that working together was a problem in our own team, but I’ve been interested in doing the MBTI for years now, so I jumped at the chance to do this.

I know, the MBTI (or any question-based personality test for that matter) can be gamed, and it’s not at all scientific, but I’ve been curious about what I’d end up with ever since I learned years ago about introversion and extraversion and how it very neatly explained how I and a good friend of mine, do, or don’t, get along together. I was the (I) in the equation, she was the (E), and I wanted to know what the other 3 letters that proceeded them would reveal about us.

So each of us in the team took the test, responded to our workmate with our result, and a few days later he came back to each of us with summary documents about the type we got. The summary I received wasn’t too revealing (for the most part, it told me things I already knew, whereas other parts just didn’t really make sense for me), but there was a pattern I noticed that started reinforcing itself in my mind, getting louder and louder with every mention:

Often allow others to take advantage of them, even to the point of letting themselves become the “doormat” of a marriage, family, job, or friendship

Equally troubling to others is the way that ISFJs let people take advantage of them.

[…] may have a hard time sticking up for themselves and being assertive.

Those last 2 points were especially poignant as they reminded me of a conversation I had with Mariana as we walked home from a concert.

“You need to stick up for yourself more Em,” she said. “you can’t let people walk over you like that.”

“But I gave her my spot.” I replied.

“Which you shouldn’t have had to do. You were there first, and you didn’t even get to see the orchestra!”

What happened was, a group of us got together to watch the National Youth Orchestra for a free concert. We secured some prime standing room on a floor above the orchestra, giving us a nice view of everything below. As the start time approached, people filled-in the spots all around us, making it pretty crowded. Then, someone else’s friend turned up and I, welcoming this new person and thinking they’d be the outsider here (they didn’t know anybody else), offered them my spot.

I’ve seen the orchestra a bunch, I thought, I’ll be alright.

And I was. I just didn’t get to see as much as everyone else, so relied on my good-enough hearing and active imagination to fill-in any sensory gaps in my experience.

Of course, imagination isn’t always as good as the real thing, and so Mariana was chewing me out for what I thought was just me being welcoming to someone new.

I didn’t really think much of that until now; the summary of an ISFJ personality type looking back at me from beyond the screen, forcing me to experience that phenomenon where, upon being given some description of yourself, you’ll cherry pick things from your life and experiences to fit the description. I don’t know what that’s called, but I started doing just that and thinking back on certain moments that validated these claims:

  • Dropping what I’m currently doing to help someone else out (I thought I was just being helpful)
  • Moving appointments around at another’s behest (I thought it was just easier that I move since I usually have the emptier schedule)
  • Meeting others at a place more convenient for them (I thought I just had far more time than everyone else to make the journey)

Dammit… I sighed, as I replayed all those situations from my past. I’m a pushover.