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How Taking the 16 Personalities Test Helped Me Understand Myself Better

For the past three years, I have been having some serious thoughts about my future as a software developer. Since I turned 40 in 2017, I’ve been wondering if the path I was on was the right one for me. This led to a lot of frustration in my work, especially when it came to the minutiae of managing the process and the people involved in building a software product.

Around mid way through last year, someone I follow on social media posted an article titled “Builders and architects: two types of programmers“. In the article, the author summarizes the differences in this way.

The first ones, the builders, are the programmers who get things done. They work efficiently. Besides their daytime job, they come up with these amazing side projects and to the outside world, it looks like writing code comes naturally to them.

On the other hand, there are architects. They are concerned about sturdy and structurally sound code. They spend hours, sometimes days, debating the right way to solve a problem.

https://stitcher.io/blog/builders-and-architects-two-types-of-programmers

Now, I’ve always known that I am more a builder than an architect. As I’ve gotten older/more experienced I’m starting to think more like an architect, concerning myself with code quality and spending hours, even days, debating the right way to fix a problem. Given the choice, however, I’d rather find a library that an architect has built, and use that to get things done. So reading the article was more of a case of wanting to know how the author perceived it, less about understanding myself

What I didn’t expect was that there was something else in the content that evoked a response in me. In the article, the author discusses the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator test, also more commonly known as the 16 Personalities test. He references the test, how each member of his team had taken it, and how it had helped them work with each other better.

Not only did the majority of people recognise themselves in their profile, it also exposed struggles and hidden frustrations that were never shared before, because no one knew how to deal with them. Now we did.

https://stitcher.io/blog/builders-and-architects-two-types-of-programmers

I had heard about the 16 Personalities test but never taken it. The article inspired me to take the time to run through the questions, and I received my result. As it turns out, I am a Mediator Personality (INFP-T), and as I read the result, I was surprised to discover things about myself that I’d never realized were true until I thought about them.

Mediators tend to crave opportunities for creative self-expression. It comes as no surprise that many famous Mediators are poets, writers, and actors.

It did in fact come as no surprise that I seek writing opportunities whenever I can find them. I even made it one of my personal and professional goals for 2021.

Mediators may feel directionless or stuck unless they connect with a sense of purpose for their lives. For many Mediators, this purpose has something to do with helping and uplifting others.

This could not be more true, I often feel as though software development is my job (ie it pays the bills), but helping and uplifting others through software development (writing, speaking, mentoring) is my purpose. I’ve just never had many professional opportunities to do so, so I actively seek out volunteer activities that allow me to express this purpose, and then become frustrated when my job gets in the way.

Mediators can expect so much from themselves that they inevitably fall short. When this happens, they may accuse themselves of being selfish or woefully inadequate. This self-criticism can erode their motivation to get things done and their willingness to prioritize necessary self-care

Which I’m sure doesn’t help my imposter syndrome any…

Mediators generally prefer to avoid conflict. They can put a great deal of time and energy into trying to please everyone. This desire to please others can drown out their own inner wisdom and make them painfully sensitive to even constructive criticism.

This was an eye-opener and explained how I rarely will bring up frustrations and issues I have at work, or at home. Rather I opt to try and put on a brave face, which fails miserably, or rant and rave in my own headspace, where no one can see what I’m going through.

Mediators can succeed nearly anywhere, but certain fields seem to be especially attractive to these personalities. With their curiosity and their love of self-expression, many Mediators dream of becoming writers. They might write novels, seek out interesting freelance niches, or even find themselves doing communications in a corporate field or for a nonprofit organization.

There’s that writing thing again… my favourite year of freelance work was 2019 when I was actively writing for the WordPress.com Go blog.

Mediators may find it demotivating to work in high-stress, bureaucratic, or hectic environments. They may also become frustrated by workplaces that are highly critical or competitive.

Software development….high-stress, check…hectic, check…critical, check…competitive, check…

In reading through my personality type, I came to realise that the way I had been feeling about myself and my career, was less about the work itself, and more about my personality. The part I struggled with was what to do with this information.

What I did know was that I needed to actively look for ways to figure this problem out. I did not want to end up somewhere down the road making a rash decision, which would have unexpected consequences. I needed to take some time and consider my options…

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