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How the Myers-Briggs Test Saved My Relationship with My Sister

How the Myers-Briggs Test Saved My Relationship with My Sister

Once upon a time, an ENFP fell in love with an INTJ and followed her around until she agreed to marry him. Their letters combined to create two baby girls – another ENFP and an INFJ. As the children grew, their personalities and differences grew as well.

ENFP: Gosh you’re just too uptight.

INFJ: Wow I’m so organized.

ENFP: Can’t we sleep in and go to breakfast later?

INFJ: I have a busy agenda today so we need to leave by 8:27.

ENFP: Just relax.

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INFJ: Get your act together!

I’m the INFJ. The ENFP? That’s my big sister.

I don’t get how her brain works. I really don’t. More often than not it drives me insane. How the heck does “be there at 1pm” morph into “show up at 1:30ish” inside her maze of a mind?

She doesn’t get how my brain works. She just doesn’t. Time and time again I’ve driven her all the way to and from and back down to crazy town. The way I love to stick to carefully arranged plans is something she can’t even begin to fathom.

Even though we share genes, parents, upbringings, and two out of four letters of our Myers-Briggs results, it doesn’t mean we understand each other. When you change one letter, the way the other letters operate shift. Plus, within the trait each letter represents, there are various versions.

The Myers-Briggs test operates on a spectrum.

It’s far from a yes or no question and answer kind of thing. Complex, right? And then you throw in the whole “every person is unique” thing, and BOOM – you don’t even understand your own flesh and blood.

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Welcome to my life.

ENFP. INFJ. Apparently, they’re supposed to be super compatible personality types. My sister, being her typical people-pleasing ENFP self, would absolutely agree. She loves me.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my sister more than I could ever explain, but I wouldn’t exactly call us compatible. Maybe on a good day I’d call us semi-complementary. But we should never share an apartment. Someone’s head would get chopped off… and I’m pretty 100% sure I’d be the one holding the knife.

“Awwwwww you loveeeeeee me sooooo much!!”

That, plus a suffocating snuggle, was my sister’s response when I told her I was writing this. (Such an ENFP reaction.)

I laughed nervously as I pried her hands from my shoulders and explained how it’s about our differences…. our very, very, VERY different differences.

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In reality, I can’t wait for her to read this.

Because while it is about how opposite we are – and how sometimes I pretend I’m asleep so I don’t have to participate in a sister snuggle session – this is more about understanding each other. That’s something I couldn’t do before the Myers-Briggs test.

It me a glimpse of what her creative, colorful, fly by the seat of her pants brain looks like. Let me tell you, it does NOT look like mine. Sure, there are some similarities (we are sisters after all), but for the most part they’re two separate paintings on two separate canvases. Thanks to the extensive personality descriptions available all over the Internet, I’m learning how to approach her painting. I’m starting to get it… I’m starting to get her.

I used to see her actions as deliberate attacks on me. When I’m on a tight schedule and ready to get in the car, 95% of the time my sister will still have a few pieces of hair left to curl. *Cue suspenseful music* Why is she always trying to purposefully make my life miserable?!

Reality check – she’s not. She’s just an ENFP, and I’m just an INFJ. I remind myself that we’re not wired the same way. I sit in the car, count down the minutes until we’ll be late, send her a few more “hurry up” texts, and I wait. When she gets in the car, I let out a “finally” and we drive off analyzing the latest radio hit like we always do.

Crisis averted.

I ain’t even mad about it later.

I don’t hold a grudge or harbor resentment like my passive-aggressive self would like to do. It’s okay because I know our brains aren’t set up the same way. They’re not clones – they’re unique, special snowflakes. Sometimes they clash, and sometimes they harmonize just like our voices.

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Turns out her aversion to schedules isn’t her way of firing shots in my organization-obsessed direction. Coming up with a new plan last minute isn’t her way of insulting my to-do list. She’s not trying to rip it up or burn it or tell me I’m stupid. Her brain just came up with a brilliant idea. Why should I see that as offensive? It’s just an ENFP thing.

Even though I don’t love her perpetual lateness or the way she turns her nose up at the sight of structure, I love my sister. And I’m starting to understand how to love her brain the way it needs to be loved.

After all, we’re just two four-letter acronyms learning how to appreciate the letters we don’t share.

Thank you, Myers-Briggs.

Featured photo credit: Sister Dance/Donnie Ray Jones via flickr.com

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

Have you ever walked into a room and felt like your nerves simply couldn’t handle it? Your heart beats fast, you start to sweat, and you feel like all eyes are on you (even if they’re really not). This is just one of the many ways that being self-conscious can rear its ugly head.

You may not even realize you’re self-conscious, and you may be wondering, “What does self-conscious mean?” That’s a good place to start.

This article will define self-consciousness, show how practically everyone has faced it at one point or another, and give you tips to avoid it.

What Does Self-Conscious Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-conscious is defined as “conscious of one’s own acts or states as belonging to or originating in oneself.”[1]

Not so bad, right? There’s another definition, though — one that speaks more to what you’re going through: “feeling uncomfortably conscious of oneself as an object of the observation of others.” For those of us who regularly deal with extreme self-consciousness, that second definition sounds about right.

There are many different ways self-consciousness can spring up. You may feel self-conscious around people you know, like your family members or closest friends. You may feel self-conscious at work, even though you spend hours every week around your co-workers. Or you may feel self-conscious when out in public and surrounded by strangers. However, you probably don’t feel self-conscious when you’re home alone.

How to Stop Being Too Self-Conscious

When you’re in the throes of self-consciousness, it’s nearly impossible to remember how to stop feeling that way. That’s why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time, when you’re feeling ready to tackle the problem instead of succumbing to it.

Here are a variety of ways to feel better about yourself and stop thinking about how others see you.

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1. Ask Yourself, “So What?”

One way to banish negative, self-conscious thoughts is to do just that: banish them.

The next time you walk into a room and feel your face getting red, think to yourself, “So what?” How much does it really matter if people don’t like how you look or act? What’s the worst that could happen?

Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t have a good answer to this question. Then, you can immediately start assigning such thoughts less importance. With self-awareness, you can acknowledge that your negative thoughts are present and realize that you don’t agree with them.[2] They’re just thoughts, after all.

2. Be Honest

A lie that self-consciousness might tell is that there’s one way to act or feel. Honestly, though, everyone else is just figuring life out as well. There isn’t a preferred way to show up to an event, gathering, or public place. What you can do is be honest with your feelings and thoughts.[3]

If you feel offended by something someone says, you don’t have to smile to be polite or laugh to fit in with the crowd. Instead, you can politely say why you disagree or excuse yourself and find a group of people who you relate to better. If you’re nervous, don’t overcompensate by trying to look relaxed and casual — it’ll be obvious you’re putting on a front. Instead, nothing is more endearing than saying, “I’m a little nervous!” to a room of people who probably feel the exact same way.

On the same note, if you don’t understand why someone wants you to do something, question it. You can do this at work, at home, or even with people you don’t know well. Nobody should force you to do something you don’t want to do.

Also, even if you’re willing to do what’s asked of you, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more clarification. People will realize that you’re not a person to be bossed around.

3. Understand Why You’re Struggling at Work

Being self-conscious at work can get in the way of your daily responsibilities, your relationships with co-workers, and even your career as a whole. If you’re facing some sort of conflict but you’re too nervous to speak up, you may be at the whim of what happens to you instead of taking some control.

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If you’re usually confident at work, you may be wondering where this new self-consciousness is coming from. It’s possible that you’re dealing with burnout.[4] Common signs are anxiety, fatigue and distraction, all of which can leave you feeling under-confident.

4. Succeed at Something

When you create success in your life, it’s easier to feel confident[5] and less self-conscious. If you feel self-conscious at work, finish the project that’s been looming over your head. If you feel self-conscious in the gym, complete an advanced workout class.

Exposing yourself to what you’re scared of and then succeeding at it in some way (even just by finishing it) can do wonders for your self-esteem. The more confidence you build, the more likely you are to have more success in the future, which will create a cycle of confidence-building.

5. Treat All of You — Not Just Your Self-Consciousness

Trying to solve your self-consciousness alone may not treat the root of the problem. Instead, take a well-rounded approach to lower your self-consciousness and build confidence in areas where you may struggle.

Even professional counselors are embracing this holistic type of treatment[6] because they feel that the health of the mind and body are inextricably linked. This approach combines physical, spiritual, and psychological components. Common activities and treatments include meditation, yoga, massage, and healthy changes to diet and exercise.

If much of this is new to you, it will pay to give it a try. You never know how it will impact you.

If you’re feeling self-conscious about how your body looks, a massage that makes you feel great could boost your confidence. If you try a new workout, you could have something exciting to talk about the next time you’re in a group setting.

Putting yourself in a new situation and learning that you can get through it with grace can give you the confidence to get through all sorts of events and nerve-wracking moments.

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6. Make the Changes That Are Within Your Control

Let’s say you walk into a room and you’re self-conscious about how you look. However, you may have put a lot of time and effort into your outfit. Even though it may stand out, this is how you have chosen to express yourself.

You have to work on your internal confidence, not your external appearance. There’s nothing to change other than your outlook.

On the other hand, maybe there’s something that you don’t like about yourself that you can change. For example, maybe you hate how a birthmark on your face looks or have varicose veins that you think are unsightly. If you can do something about these things, do it! There’s nothing wrong with changing your appearance (or skills, education, etc.) if it’s going to make you more confident.

You don’t have to accept your current situation for acceptance’s sake. There’s no award for putting up with something you hate. Confidence is also required to make changes that are scary, even if they’re for the better. Plus, it may be an easier fix than you thought. For example, treating varicose veins doesn’t have to involve surgery — sometimes simple compression stockings will take care of the problem.[7]

7. Realize That Everyone Has Awkward Moments

Everyone has said something awkward to someone else and lived to tell the tale. We’ve all forgotten somebody’s name or said, “You too!” when the concession stand girl says to enjoy our movie. Not only are these things uber-common, but they’re not nearly as embarrassing as you feel they are.

Think about how you react when someone else does something awkward. Do you think, “Wow, that person’s such a loser!” or do you think, “What a relief, I’m not the only one who does that.” Chances are good that’s the same reaction others have to you when you stumble.

Remember, self-consciousness is a state of mind that you have control over. You don’t have to feel this way. Do what you need to in order to build your confidence, put your self-consciousness in perspective, and start exercising your “I feel awesome about myself” muscle. It’ll get easier with time.

When Is Being Self-Conscious a Good Thing?

Self-consciousness can sometimes be a good thing[8], but you have to take the awkwardness and nerves out of it.

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In this case, “self-aware” is a much better term. Knowing how you come off to people is an excellent trait; you’ll be able to read a room and understand how what you do and say affects others. These are fantastic skills for people work and personal relationships.

Self-awareness helps you dress appropriately for the occasion, tells you that you’re talking too loud or not loud enough, and guides a conversation so you don’t offend or bore anyone.

It’s not about being someone you’re not — that can actually have adverse effects, just like self-consciousness. Instead, it’s about turning up certain aspects of yourself to perform well in the situation.

Final Thoughts

When you’re self-conscious, you’re constantly battling with yourself in an effort to control how other people view you. You try to change yourself to suit what you think other people want to see.

The truth, though, is that you can’t actually control how other people view you — and you may not even be correct about how they view you in the first place.

Being confident doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it happens in small steps as you slowly build your confidence and say “no” to your self-consciousness. It also requires accepting that you’re going to feel self-conscious sometimes, and that’s okay.

Sometimes worrying that there is a problem can be more stressful than the problem itself. Feeling bad for feeling self-conscious can be more troublesome than simply feeling it and getting on with the day.

Forgive yourself for being human and make the small changes that will lead to better confidence in the future.

More Tips for Improving Your Self-Esteem

Featured photo credit: Cata via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merriam-Webster: Self-conscious
[2] Bustle: 7 Tips On How To Stop Feeling Self-Conscious
[3] Marc and Angel: 10 Things to Remember When You Feel Unsure of Yourself
[4] Bostitch: How to Protect Small Businesses From Burnout
[5] Psychology Today: Self-conscious? Get Over It
[6] Wake Forest University: Embracing Holistic Medicine
[7] Center for Vein Restoration: What Causes Venous Ulcers, and How Are They Treated?
[8] Scientific American: The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Aware

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