1. If you could only describe yourself based on one characteristic of your personality, which one would you choose?
This is hard! And it’s especially hard given my personality type according to the Myers-Briggs typing system. I’m an INFP: I dwell in possibility; I hate being confined to just one option. If I had to define myself based on just one characteristic, I’d choose the part of me that loves possibility for possibility’s sake, that craves limitless options, that doesn’t like to be tied down to one thing—if only because it’s the trait I’ve had the hardest time beating into submission.
2. We’ve talked a lot about how knowing yourself equips you for life you love, but how has studying personality helped you to understand the people around you better as well?
Personality research has helped me develop so much empathy for the people around me. While studying personality has obviously helped me understand how I’m wired, you can’t learn about what makes you unique without realizing that everyone around you is also unique, in their own way. Learning about personality has taught me how to play to other peoples’ strengths, to communicate in a way that the people around me can understand, to express love in a way that those I love can really feel.
Learning about personality has also earned me a hefty dose of humility—and that’s never bad for my relationships.
3. Have you ever disagreed with a description or characterization of your personality (not just at a “which Harry Potter character are you based on your MBTI” level, but the core description of your personality type)?
That has definitely happened to me! When I disagree with the core description of my personality type, there’s usually one of a few things going on.
It’s possible I’ve gotten my type all wrong. This has happened to me in the past when I answer the questions on a personality quiz aspirationally—the way I wish I was —instead of actually—the way I am.
This next example sounds similar, but it’s not quite the same. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started getting strange results when I take personality quizzes, results that I don’t feel describe my type at all. That’s because a personality quiz usually asks you to describe your current behavior. As I’ve become more attuned to the strengths and weaknesses of my personality, I’ve developed coping strategies to mitigate my weaknesses. This is excellent for life in general, but really skews the results of a personality quiz.
Finally, if the description of my core personality type is way off base according to a certain typing system, it’s possible that that’s just not the right system for me. People tend to prefer whatever typing system best captures their type. If your own personality doesn’t slot neatly into the available types for a given system, it’s likely that you’d gain more insight using a different system.
4. How do you take care of your needs as an introvert with a houseful of homeschooled kids?
I want to start by saying that I’m able to rattle off an answer to this question now, but only because I spent years figuring out a way to happily homeschool as an introverted mother.
Now that my eyes are open to the challenges of homeschooling for an introvert, I make it a priority to take good care of my introverted self. I don’t do well with constant noise, and I hate to talk all day, so I reviewed our schedule with a critical eye for ways to eliminate the nonstop noise and talking. This includes very mundane things. For example, we have a set snack time and an approved list of snacks, so no questioning Mom about what and when to eat every day.
As an introvert, I’ve learned to outsource the stuff it’s not essential for me to take care of as my kids’ mother or teacher. For example, we use a lot of audiobooks at my house. I love reading aloud to my kids, but my voice needs a break. Now we do Story of the World, Harry Potter, Little House, The Hobbit, even Pride and Prejudice on audio. It’s a nice change of pace for me to be the audience instead of the performer, and my kids love hearing the varied narrators.
I’m also hard core about guarding our daily rest time. Every day from 1:00-3:00, my kids spend time to themselves. (My youngest is five; we had to work up to this point. Rest time is only so restful when you’re past the nap stage but not quite to the happy independent play stage. I understand, and I’m sorry, but believe me—it gets better.) This is rest time for my kids, but I also make it a point to take some rest time for myself during these hours. This isn’t the time to blitz my to-do list or catch up on phone calls; it’s the time to recharge my introverted batteries. While this doesn’t always feel like the most productive use of my time in the moment, I’ve learned I’m much more productive when I’m not feeling drained and depleted.
5. You’ve taken the tests and read the books and embraced your personality types…what’s next? How do you keep growing once you’ve read “everything” there is to read about your personality?
Self-discovery and self-formation are lifelong processes. And it’s important to keep in mind that while some personality typing systems give you simple yes/no answer, others deal with stages of emotional health (and dysfunction), and no one is ever going to complete the task of reaching emotional or spiritual maturity. This is why some personality typing systems are frequently used as tools for spiritual growth.
6. Is there such thing as spending too much time learning about your personality? When does it move from healthy to unhealthy?
Personality typing is a tool, and like any tool, it matters how you put it to work for you, and to what end. Personality study shouldn’t be an end in itself: it’s simply a means to a more intentional life, better relationships, and emotional and spiritual maturity. It becomes unhealthy at the point where it moves from a path to The Main Thing to The Thing.