People are interesting. They always have been. There are so many things to learn from one person, let alone a world full of them. Who they are and who they were, what passions drive them, why they do certain things, how they think, what they believe in. I could sit on a park bench or an airport seat for hours watching them walk or run past. Post up in a coffee shop and just watch. Conversations, mannerisms, temperaments, relationships. Each one of them, carrying a life and a story and a world along with them. Each one complicated and unique.
What mistakes have they made?
Who have they hurt and who has hurt them?
Do they struggle to get out of bed each day?
Are they living the life they imagined for themself as a child?
Where are they going?
I often hope that they know. That they aren’t clouded with too much doubt or trouble to find the right path. I hope they feel at peace. And yet I know that is not usually the case. There is always something. I am equally fascinated by the things that hold them back, that drag them down. If they have fought back or if they are losing the battle. I am enamored by the stories–every last one of them.
During my freshman year of college, I was still testing the waters and deciding what I wanted to study aside from my writing and English courses. With my fascination of people in mind, I enrolled in two intro classes for second semester: Introduction to Sociology and Introduction to Psychology. I found sociology–“the study of the development, structure, and functioning of human society”–far more interesting and ultimately ended up choosing it as one of the minors for my degree.
There was one thing that really stuck with me from that psychology class though. We studied personality types during one unit, with a particular focus on Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist Carl Jung. Jung founded analytical psychology, which emphasizes the primary importance of the individual psyche and the personal quest for wholeness. He is also well-known for influencing the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), created by mother and daughter duo Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers. The MBTI “identifies the basic of each of four dichotomies specified or implicit in Jung’s theory”–sensation, intuition, feeling, and thinking, one of which is primarily dominant in each human. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator has 16 different personality types, each equal but still unique in its own way. These personality types, and others, help people understand and appreciate differences, not only for themselves, but also for others.
My personality borders between two different types. When I took the test for the first time in college, I was an INFP. (The results were still bookmarked on my computer!) I redid the questionnaire twice just now, just to be sure. The first result was again, INFP, and the second was ISFP. There is absolutely no doubt that I have a preference of introversion over extroversion or feeling over thinking. I can even understand my slight preference of perceiving over judging. But I think my line between intuition and sensing is faint, nearly blurred. I have one foot in a fantasy world and the other trepidly in the “real” world.
As an INFP, I am compassionate and quietly caring. I pursue meaning and harmony. I am creative and idealistic. Inquisitive, independent, adaptable. I am an empathetic helper. I enjoy ideas, language, and writing. I am also observant, loyal, spontaneous, and realistic (when I really must be), as the ISFP personality suggests.
Knowing my personality type(s) gives me some insight into who and why I am the way that I am. When my social life is booming, I still need time alone to recharge. My emotions guide my actions far more than they should, even when I know they shouldn’t. These are qualities that I proudly embody, ones that truly describe the core of my being. But they give some insight into the rest of the world as well. The type of people I get along with and those with whom I may clash. Why others are who they are, the way that they are.
There is some comfort in knowing that people, no matter how many or how few, are the same. That you are not alone. That someone’s personality can be summed up by their MBTI type, zodiac sign, or Hogwarts house. (Let’s not talk about how late I stayed up last night looking at graphics that compiled all of mine–INFP, Leo, Ravenclaw.)
There is also an incredible beauty in the fact that we are still all so very different. Life doesn’t just boil down to a single four-letter personality type or the time of year you were born or the gods you believe in, if any. No one fits into just one box. We have pieces in dozens, if not hundreds, of different boxes and they can change at any moment.
Different is the very best thing you can be in this world.