A while ago I did one of those online Myers-Briggs personality tests (this one, I believe) and my result was ISFJ: Introverted, Sensing, Feeling, Judging. The ISFJ is characterized as introverted, empathetic, hard-working, practical, timid, sensitive, insecure, intolerant, easily embarrassed, prone to jumping to conclusions, fearful of confrontations, and needy.

I was reading and nodding in recognition until I got to the part that said ISFJs are likely to have beautifully furnished homes and are extremely good interior decorators. Ha. Ha ha ha! MY CLUMPS OF ARTISTICALLY-PLACED DOG HAIR, LET ME SHOW YOU THEM.

So I don’t know about that part, but the rest sounded uncomfortably familiar. It was kind of depressing, to be honest—I mean, not like I didn’t have any self-awareness about these things, but seeing it all laid out in a tidy description was sort of . . . well, I don’t know, I suppose it would be nicer to read something chirpy like “You have an unrelenting zest for life! You love people! You would make a fantastic leader! Your thirst for adventure is eclipsed only by your positive outlook and self-confidence!”

Instead, I got: “You’re kind of a whiny, reclusive doormat. Ideal career choices include martyrdom and anonymous internet commenter.”

Have you ever done one of these tests, and if so, did it ring true? And do you think it’s ever possible to change your basic personality type? I don’t mean fundamentally alter who you are as a person, but tweak your settings to dial yourself a bit closer to the sort of personality you tend to admire? Or do you think we are who we are, and any forced behavior is simply a surface change?


132 Responses to “ISFJ in the hizzy”

  1. Deb on June 25th, 2010 9:58 am

    I got INTJ, which seems to be code for:

    Reclusive Unromantic Judgey McJudgeyPants who spends too much time in her head and sucks at social situations.

    Pretty much spot on, unfortunately.

  2. Erika on June 25th, 2010 10:41 am

    I’m the same. I learned a lot about myself. I’m a protector. I don’t get credit at work but, I work hella hard. I do everything around here. I’ve got to change that!

  3. EmilysHollow on June 25th, 2010 12:04 pm

    I’ve taken these tests a few times. I’m always IN, but the last two tend to change around depending on where I am in life. Mostly I’m INTP, I think, which is close to me, but a little too “rationalist” to be true all the time.

    I do think that personalities change throughout your life – they have to, a bit. But that doesn’t mean that the core of who we are changes. If that makes any sense. Sometimes I’m much more emotional than rational. Other times I have no trouble distancing myself from emotions.

    The introvert part, however, is always true. Screw parties and answering the phone. Those things will always give me anxiety attacks.

  4. Mary on June 25th, 2010 12:17 pm

    I took the test twice several years apart and got two similar but different results. So… you can either change, or be a bit more X at one point ant Y at another point in your life… I don’t know if you can restructure the core of your personality, but you can definitely influence thinking and perspective. I’m reading a book on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy now and it’s backed as literally changing the firing of synapses (from, say, catastrophic thinking [“I skipped my workout so I’ll get fat an wind up living under a bridge and no one will love me!”] to positive thinking [“I skipped a workout. It happens. I’ll do it tomorrow.”]

    I’m not saying YOU need this by any means, just commenting on whether or not change is possible. I think it probably is, and I agree with the others that believe there are light/shadow sides to every personality trait, and none of them are all or nothing. For example, you’re a self-described shy, introvert. But… you’re not TOTALLY an introvert, because you have 7 gazillion Twitter followers and put yourself out there all the time (yes, that counts). So you’re both, I think. (And I don’t know about anyone else, here, but I see zest for life, love for people and thirst for adventure here all the time.)

  5. Lawyerish on June 25th, 2010 2:04 pm

    Turns out I am an ISFJ as well! HOLLA!

    I actually see a lot of it as positive, although I was reading the part about being taken for granted at work and was all, YEAH, DUDE, WTF.

  6. Kirsty on June 25th, 2010 2:27 pm

    I just took the test and came out as an ISTJ (though with considerably more I and J than S and T). It all rings pretty true, apart from the bit about my house being tidy and organised – THAT is TOTALLY wrong, though I do accept that deep down I would love it to be. I’m not wild about being an introvert and I know I missed out on a lot of fun, or at least positive, experiences when I was young because of it, but I’m not sure I’m ever going to change much. I have improved a little, but not much. The two things that pain me about introversion are 1) that my elder daughter (now 8 and a half) is exactly the same – her class made a year book and her description was “the silent one”, it broke my heart because there’s so much more to her than being quiet and studious! – and I hate to think of her suffering as I suffered in middle and high school; 2) the famous people with the same ISTJ thing included Warren Buffet, Donald Rumsfeld, Lance Armstrong and George HW Bush – none of whom I even like, let alone admire. *sigh*

  7. wordygirl on June 25th, 2010 2:28 pm

    I’ve never taken one of those tests. I worry that whatever mood I happen to be in at the time (confident or depressed or what-have-you) will totally skew the results.

  8. bad penguin on June 25th, 2010 3:51 pm

    They had us do Myers Briggs in management training, and I do think there is something to it. I’m an INFJ. In high school I was an INFP, but then somewhere along the line I switched to J. Probably because of the list making.

    The lesson in management training was something along the lines of “an introvert will be miserable if managed in way y, but an extrovert will think you hate them if they don’t get face time with you” and so on — but the letters aren’t a life sentence. They’re more guidelines (much like the pirate code) that help you figure out your basic starting point. And then yes, what you do with yourself after that is up to you, and you can change if you want to.

    For that matter, you’re a totally different person than you were whenever I first started reading your site years ago. You’ve always impressed me as such a strong person. I think you’ve proven you can successfully make changes.

  9. monkey on June 25th, 2010 7:35 pm

    I’m an INTP, which is one of the rarest personality types along with INTJ (supposedly) and have tested that way since I was 16, when I first encountered MBTI.

    Being introverted doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be reclusive. I was actually in a very social profession that required a great deal of communication and interface with clients (transactional attorney) and am switching to an even more social field (financial services). I just need more time to decompress from social interaction.

    I’d encourage you to look at CareerLeader and Gallup or tests like the color Q. My MBA program gave me a free pass to the Career Leader test and it was pretty reassuring in that I tested as a high match both for my previous career and for the one I’m attempting to transition to in the future. They’re all sort of broadly based on the MBTI and Carl Jung, but they might provide more insight into careers and how to handle career/social conflicts than the base MBTI test.

    And if it makes you feel better-I test as the “asshole” category almost across the board in these tests, so pretty much everyone gets some sort of result that makes them look like a jerk. I just came back from a conference for women in financial services and was the only Blue-Red in the room (the most erratic and aggressive combination) and CareerLeader told me I was fit for such high-minded careers as “Investment banking” or “Equity Derivative Sales” or (and this is their words) “anything that allows you to pursue money and project the illusion of prestige.”

    Doesn’t testing as a hermit sound better now? :)

  10. MizzM on June 25th, 2010 10:39 pm

    I have taken this test (and others like it) more than once and always for school or work purposes. I lean towards ESTJ, but only because I was taking the test for school/work purposes. In Real Life I have two very different personas: the “Work Me” and the “Home Me” are total opposites. So, yeah, I agree with previous commenter that these tests are for “entertainment purposes” only.

  11. Pam Hollister on June 26th, 2010 6:59 am

    I’m an INTJ and the MBTI description is “spot on.” The research says that our type doesn’t change, however, we can develop our “lesser strengths” and I think the basic profile is a good indication of our strengths, and thus, a road map for developing our lesser strengths. Type theory has been a very powerful assistance in my life as I’m very “big picture, analytical and logical” and understanding what that means has helped me developed the “Feeling” preference and be able to relate to those people easier. I’ve learned to not be so direct that people feel they’ve been “punched in the gut”.

  12. Steph on June 26th, 2010 8:42 am

    I took one of these once and it said I was too nice and people were going to use me. I haven’t ever taken another one but I did open this one in another tab because now I’m curious.

    I don’t think it’s possible to completely change who you are fundamentally but it’s definitely possible to change habits if you really want to. Unfortunately for me I must not really want to because I still get used as a doormat constantly.

  13. Lisa on June 26th, 2010 9:14 am

    i took it and i’m an ISFJ, too…maybe that’s why i like your blog and you’re writing so much???

  14. willikat on June 26th, 2010 11:14 am

    Also I will say that over time, my extroversion has gone down. I used to be like 99% extroverted, but now I’m under 50%. And I feel like I’m different that way, with or without test results.

  15. Lisa S. on June 26th, 2010 1:17 pm

    I’ve pretty consistently tested as an INTJ every time I’ve taken the test sincerely and not tried to game the results just to see what would happen. My greatest disappointment with this is that despite being labeled a “mastermind,” I have yet to achieve the volcano-based lair, sharks with frickin’ lasers on their heads, or complete control of the U.S. economy.

    But to answer your questions:

    “Do you think it’s ever possible to change your basic personality type?”

    I think it’s possible to change how to deploy the strongest traits in your personality. And by doing, perhaps you are changing your personality. I prefer to think of it as maximizing who you are.

    “Do you think we are who we are, and any forced behavior is simply a surface change?”

    One of the most depressing things I ever read was Sopranos creator David Chase explaining that the point to that series was that “people don’t change.”

    That said, you know how people often cluck, “You can’t control people — you can only control how you react to people?” I do think there’s a corollary that’s “you can’t control everything that’s hard-wired into who you are, you can only control how much you maximize or suppress it.”

    I mean, massive inefficiency drives me batty (hi, INTJ!), but I have had to learn how to deal with the fact that lots of people are comfortable with a disorderly status quo, and just look for the opportunities to maximize my natural affinity for optimization when I can. (After all, what’s more inefficient than banging one’s head against the wall?)

  16. Amanda on June 26th, 2010 2:56 pm

    I think that if we at least maintain a sense of familiarity with our tendencies, then we can call ourselves out on it on occasion. Kind of like the whole “fat day” thing. If we are in a “my weakest self rut” we can nod, and chalk it up to autopiloting on the road we know is shitty and bumpy. Turn.

  17. Val on June 26th, 2010 3:37 pm

    I’m a ISFJ as well. I’m currently out of work and going to school so I checked out the suggested occupations. It was scary. The two previous careers and current training plan were on the top of the list. Scary crazy.

  18. Jennifer on June 26th, 2010 10:44 pm

    There are many different personality indicators, I tested a lot of them as part of the management curriculum in an MBA program. Different tests seem to ring true for different people, and in my case the Myers Briggs is spot on. I’m an ESTJ and my personality profile isn’t exactly the most flattering (basically it says I’m a blunt, in-your-face, impatient, no-feelings jerk). But rather than feeling insulted and depressed about this assessment, I can use it to be aware of my strengths and weaknesses. Then I can take control and put myself in situations to take advantage of what I do well (I’ve been rewarded countless times for being incredibly detail-oriented), and avoid (or be careful in) those where I tend to be a total ass.

    So agreeing with Emily (your #2 commenter wayyy up above), I don’t really think we can escape who we are, but we can understand who we are and figure out which rough edges we need to sand down a bit.

  19. Francesca on June 27th, 2010 5:56 am

    I took this test 4 years ago when I first started a new job and the result was ISTJ. Then I just took it again right now: ISTJ. It’s strange to me because I think I’ve changed a LOT in those 4 years. But I guess it’s true that maybe you can’t change your core personality, which probably develops when you’re very young, but you can change how you deal with the world.

  20. Christine on June 27th, 2010 12:17 pm

    INTJ here. Every time* I take the test, whether it’s an official one or a free 5-minute internet knockoff. And it’s eerily accurate, for the most part.

    * Except once. Took it when I was in grad school and teaching freshman comp. I used to joke that I needed a personality transplant to teach, and sure enough, at that moment in time I tested as an ENFP. But not to worry. Once I quit academia, I snapped back to INTJ.

  21. Lori O on June 27th, 2010 5:02 pm

    Wow, I am ISFJ too! Funny you had that reaction to the description. I’ve taken several and depending on the test, ISFJ’s can actually be described as very cool people. I like this one, particularly: http://www.personalitypage.com/ISFJ.html

    I like these tests not because it defines who I am, but b/c it helps me “get” me sometimes, and figure out why I do things and think things the way I do. And then find out what the other people I know stack up as, and it really helps to deal with people knowing why I tick and why they tick and why we don’t tick on the same page.

    But don’t take it too seriously, we’re all still our own individuals – use the knowledge as a tool and not as a label to box yourself in.

    Still, I’m proud to be an ISFJ – we’ve got a lot of positive things about us!

  22. Kerry-ann on June 27th, 2010 9:00 pm

    I haven’t done the myer-brigs one but my husband and I did personality plus. The terms used are sanguine, choleric, phylegmatic and meloncholic. It hit way too close to home. My husband and I were complete opposites. He was choleric meloncholic (a leader/boss that was detailed and meticulas). I am phylegmatic- melancholic (conserve energy and prefer chilling out to moving anywhere in a hurry. I have detailed lists to conserve energy.)

    While it was fun and all that. It did give us an understanding of each others strengths and weakeness. And I would go so far as to say it saved our marriage.

  23. Jamie on June 28th, 2010 8:27 am

    ESTJ represent! I just took this last week. Mine is spot on – quote from the “pontential pitfalls” section of the analysis: “Might become opinionated to the point of losing reason.”

    Umm, yesh. (sigh) It was spot on – my only quibble is that I was almost flat on T versus F for the third preference dynamic – little to no clarity whatsoever. So apparently I’m a nice mix of Thinking and Feeling.

    Interesting, but ultimately, I’m not sure how I’ll ever use this information past the occasional side conversation at a cocktail party.

  24. Maria on June 28th, 2010 6:25 pm

    Mine is INFJ. And the descriptions just confused me.

  25. RB on June 29th, 2010 2:35 pm

    I’m an INFJ, apparently one of the rarest personality types. The description rings frighteningly true. I’ve fought many of the characteristics my entire 30 years. I think it’s a losing battle so while I think we can work on self-improvement, the deepest part of our true selves is ingrained in us by Mother Nature. And she is one cruel bitch of a jokester, apparently.

  26. Julia on June 30th, 2010 9:19 am

    I’m an ENFP, have taken the test three times- once at 14, once at 26, and one again last year at 37. So for me, it’s been very stable (with a little wiggle on the E/I dimension). I also find it fits me perfectly.

    THAT SAID, the Myers-Briggs test is complete bunk from a scientific perspective. It’s nothing more than a parlor game. So it’s basically like astrology.

  27. Liz on July 4th, 2010 9:42 am

    i ADORE the myers-briggs; i’m an INFJ and the results were creepily accurate to a get-out-of-my-head degree. the person who gave us the test (in a grad-school class) emphasized how the test results can change based on the environment in which you take it, how honest you are with yourself, and basically, how you are feeling that day. so yes, it can change. for instance, my housemate at the time said that hers sounded like her “in a meeting” but not actually like HERSELF. could have been a side effect of taking it in a classroom setting.

  28. Liz on July 4th, 2010 9:43 am

    oh, and my buzzword? complicated. yeah. not exactly what i was hoping for.

  29. mom, again on July 20th, 2010 10:05 pm

    The first time I took one of these, was at a team building retreat for the support staff in the office I’d only worked in about a month. The coordinator discussed the numbers of this and that result amongst all of us. Then mentioned two that were unique, the only people with each of the combos. He said, ‘boy, I hope these two don’t work together, and if they do, I hope THIS one is the boss because the other way around would be a nightmare.’ THIS, was me. The other? My boss. And yes, even then I already knew a nightmare was coming. We worked for three people, 2 of whom were as bad as her, and one of whom rolled his eyes from behind their backs when he knew I wanted to.

    Years later, we did this again with the whole dept, execs too. Luckily, I didn’t work for that woman anymore, having transferred myself into a more agreeable work group. Once we had our result, we were supposed to sort ourselves out into like groupings. This time, I was one of 3. Me, the guy I used to like to work for, and his boss, the department head. He was surprised to see me. In 8 years we’d hardly exchanged hellos, him being in that front corner office and me being way in the back in the opposite corner of the building. We’d pass in the elevator and such, and suddenly, now, he was speaking to me and giving me some projects a step up from what I’d been getting. I was already planning to move that summer (spouse’s new job) so I’ve always wondered if that woulda been my ‘big break’ after all that time.

    Oh, what was my score? damned if I recall. These are 20 and 25 years ago.

  30. Adelas (Della) on August 17th, 2010 8:10 pm

    Hardcore ENFJ here. I live and breathe that stuff – I think it is just absolutely fascinating.

    A few things to keep in mind – those descriptions are generally accurate because they’ve asked you how you act and prefer to think/process things, and then they just restate that information back to you. So there is plenty of room for error in misunderstanding how they meant the question, or answering just the way you act at work and not how you are most often, that kind of thing.

    But they are also describing generalities. You notice several people above have said “I’m xxxx but very close on some letters” – the descriptions are going to skew towards describing someone who is solidly, or even extreme-ly, within that category. If you are a more mature, balanced person, the description may seem too exaggerated for you personally… because it is.

    I don’t think that your basic temperament, meaning your preference on how you take in information, process it, and act on it, will change much once you’re an adult. However, you can be aware of your danger zones, and you can just plain strive to be a more balanced person. I have found personalitypage.com to be really helpful – and GENTLE – in pointing out areas for growth.

    I found David Keirsey’s book Please Understand Me II to be invaluable in helping me understand other people’s motivations. He splits the 16 temperaments into four groups: Guardians, Artisans, Rationals, and Idealists. My family is like a caricature with one from each group (mom, lil bro, me, dad), and it’s so freaking USEFUL to know those motivations and what makes each group feel proud, frustrated, insecure, etc. To know that my mom values tradition and security and “the way it’s supposed to be done” when my brother values excitement, adventure, and getting results no matter what it takes… goes a long way towards mediating their fights!

    I’m going to cut myself off now, because I could probably write a novel here myself. But I definitely recommend, if you want to really GET why people are so nonsensical… check out that book.

    Oh yeah, also check out the guy’s website. I would start here:


    How to fight with a… (insert one of the four groups here)


  31. Adelas (Della) on August 17th, 2010 8:12 pm

    btw @julia — most “personality tests” (what’s your favorite color – that means you’re this type of person) ARE like that. what makes the M-B stand out is that it basically asks you what you’re like, then restates that information back to you in a usable format.

  32. Dahli on September 15th, 2015 1:36 am

    Hi ! That’s because MBTI is super biased against Sensors and especially against the SJs (ISTJ, ESTJ, ISFJ, ESFJ). I’m an ENFP and I dated a very hardworking and successful ISFJ, he’s probably one of the most brilliant people I have ever met. Yes, ISFJs like leisure but they’re also the type most likely to accomplish whatever it is you want them to accomplish. They’re very hard workers, eager to please you.

    And now read this, which is the ISFJ profile (in Socionics your type is called ISFp which is not to be mixed with the mbti ISFP – see the small p):

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