Myers Briggs envy

Much of the disappointment in adult life comes from not understanding the inherent limitations of our Myers Briggs score.

An ENFJ woman will never be okay with her work/life balance. And ISFJ man needs to marry a breadwinner. These are not things our parents warn us about.  So by the time adult life comes, 98% of the workforce has to realize that only ENTJs run companies and they’re not an ENTJ.

I used to be smug about this. Because I’m an ENTJ. There’s no woman with more power than a 28-year-old ENTJ. She rules the world because she is 28 and hot and looks like she is great marriage material and she is hugely successful at work.

Now that I have kids, I’m secure in my ability to earn money. But I read about how ENTJs are as parents and, honestly, a good summary of the discussion is “dictator.”  In business ENTJs love leading huge teams. In parenting ENTJs love ordering room service.

I want to be an INFJ instead. They are great parents. They are good teachers and psychologists. If they can care enough about money to earn any.

But here’s the good news: I might be unfeeling as an ENTJ, but I’m great at scheduling my children’s lives on a daily basis to meet big-picture goals.

If only they needed that instead of love.

64 replies
  1. Kat
    Kat says:

    Penelope, I love how you so easily apply your knowledge of Myers-Brigs to real life examples. When I read it, it’s so obvious but being an INTP although I have the knowledge I find it difficult to do this. I hope you write more blog posts (or even a book) about what each Myers-Briggs type should focus on in their career (e.g. job types, teams etc.). Have you got any quick tips for an INTP?

  2. leftbrainfemale
    leftbrainfemale says:

    Penelope, as an INTJ, I generally recognize a “sister” – I thought you were INTJ as well. At any rate, I think that knowing our strengths and weaknesses allows us to be among the best of parents, because our NTJ qualities spur us to step outside our box. Our kids learn that we can, sometimes, be a little inflexible – but it generally teaches them order and structure vicariously. Does that make any sense?

    • TR
      TR says:

      Must be an INTJ thing because one of the reasons I like this blog is that it is easy to see how P thinks. Even if I disagree, P makes it very easy to see the “why” behind what she is saying.

  3. Cheryl
    Cheryl says:

    I admire the way you are blogging about your reaction to homeschooling, and not just how wonderful (or not) it is for your boys. I am new to homeschooling, as well, and am only homeschooling my youngest, a second-grader. I am an ENFJ (but almost evenly balanced between F and T), and until I read this post I never realized that this is why I can’t work part-time. I can’t. I’ve tried twice, in two wildly different situations, and had exactly the same result both times. And it’s also why, no matter how much my husband reassures me, it seems like I am never enough.

    Thanks for this post, in particular.

  4. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    INFJ here — my anxious moments come because I can’t be as motivated as your types to EARN and ACHIEVE.

    Being intent on being “true to myself” doesn’t pay that well all the time.

    • emily
      emily says:

      It’s hard to figure out because we’re good at a lot of things. What I’ve found to be useful is to focus on people and ideas. That uses the intuition part of the type to its max potential.

    • Christine
      Christine says:

      I think ENFP’s are great at counselling, coaching and teaching/guidance. I think we can also be strong speakers and writers- as long as we enough people time to balance the solitary writing time. It depends how far on the scales you are on the E/I N/S T/F and P/J I think. Honestly as an ENFP I have had to really train ( force myself) to do the banal mundane tasks involved in almost all of my pursuits.

  5. Lesley
    Lesley says:

    I’m an INFJ and that your comment about not caring enough to earn money is so true. I worry now that I’m in my 30s that I should have cared in my 20s…there’s only a few more years where I have real potential to increase, and I want to be able to take care of myself and my family financially.
    One thing I consider lucky now–my new boss made me take the Myers-Briggs test when I started, and we talk about how my INFJ and her ESTJ work best together and divvy up the work that way. I can’t believe how much having this basic understanding of each other helps. We’re so different, but we work so well together.

  6. Jana Miller
    Jana Miller says:

    I’m an INFJ…I care about money but I stay home and manage it while my husband works for it. I would like to work now that my youngest is a senior but I’ve been out of the workforce for 20 years ….so it seems that i’m only qualified for minimum wage positions. I signed up for a graphic design college course instead. I love it!

    • karelys
      karelys says:

      maybe what she means about not caring enough about money is that the prospect of earning X amount of money doesn’t drive your actions.

      i’m sad to hear i’m not the business managing type. i want to open a business of my own, even if it takes more effort than working a job, not becuase of the money prospect but because it’ll allow me do my own thing and watch my kid (pregnant right now).

      it’s really hard to get motivated at work to be focused based on earning money. i stay motivated because i owe loyalty to my boss and i want to train myself to be a focused individual.

  7. TR
    TR says:

    I am an INTJ and it took me forever to figure out what my kids need from me. Yet it comes so easily to my spouse. Lucky

  8. emily
    emily says:

    Have you looked at the enneagram before? I know it’s totally pseudoscience. But there’s a system of related points for growth and stress that I find easier to work with than the MB.

    So, for instance – if an 8 (a challenger) is moving toward stress – they will behave more like 5 (an investigator). If they are moving toward growth they will adobe attributes of a 2 (the helper).

    I’m a 7 (an enthusiast / ENFP) that becomes rigid when stressed – like a the worst part of being a 1 (a reformer), and perceptive 0 like a 5 (the investigator) when I’m focused on growth.

  9. Nell
    Nell says:

    It is only because of your blog that I went and took one of these personality tests, and knowing that I am an INTJ clarified a lot of things for me. I’m not really in the right profession, but I wonder if being mismatched (as you say for parenting and ENTJ) is a good way of developing new skills.

    • leftbrainfemale
      leftbrainfemale says:

      In my personal experience, being an INTJ is a really versatile position as we tend to look for and excel at challenges thrown our way. My work life before kids was just beginning to set me up in things I enjoyed and was really good at; after kids I’ve been home for 16 years and I never stopped teaching myself everthing I could – from websites to writing to photography, and now at 50 I’ve embarked on a new career which is utilizing all the things I’ve learned in the past few years from home. As long as you keep yourself challenged and learning, I think INTJ’s are truly blessed.

  10. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    I’m an INTJ and I don’t have kids but after working in a toy store for a couple years I developed pretty definite ideas about how to raise them by observing the families that shopped there.

    I don’t really buy the idea that there is a universally perfect type for parenting. It all depends on the personality of the kid. For instance, an INFJ mother would probably find it very challenging to have an ESTP child. Luckily, assuming personality is genetic, I think parents usually end up with kids that are similar to them in temperament.

    • Linda Lou
      Linda Lou says:

      my family has INTJs and ENFPs. My grandmothers were INTJs and my grandfathers were ENFPs. So now my mom and I are INTJ and my brother and one are son ENFP, my other son is INTJ. If ever there were 2 types less alike…lol.

  11. Janet
    Janet says:

    Another INFJ mom chiming in here. I am very protective of my daughter, an only child (now 8). It can be painful because as she gets older I can protect her less and less. And I would probably be better off if I WASN’T so “tuned in” to others true feelings, sometimes… Each type has its strengths and challenges, I suppose.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      This is really interesting to me – that there would be too much feeling for other people. I can’t really imagine it, of course, because the ENTJ has to always worry about disregarding peoples’ feelings completely.

      Probably, though, not caring about other peoples’ feelings allows me to be a better blogger; I’m willing to say anything.


    • downfromtheledge
      downfromtheledge says:

      It can be exhausting sometimes to be so in tune with other people’s emotions that you forget how to separate from it, and yet INFJ’s are drawn to this very type of work.

      So perhaps my underemployment is related to my personality type? LOL. I got the grades that could have enabled me to do a thousand things, but I am not money-motivated at all (well, that’s not completely accurate, because at 32 I’m starting to realize that I’m behind the game and I’m never going to be able to retire.

      I always just wanted to have “enough.” And to help people. But now I feel a little too comfortable in that spot, which makes me uncomfortable about my future.

  12. Natasha
    Natasha says:

    Is everyone an “N”? I don’t think so. I think there is a misunderstanding of S vs., N types- and just like everyone likes to think they are in strategy, everyone likes to think they are an N.

      • Natasha
        Natasha says:

        That is certainly a possibility. I don’t see why S types wouldn’t like this blog though (I am very S). Yes, Penelope talks about big-picture ideas, trends, etc., but she also delivers very tactical advice that is highly appealing to S types.

        • Penelope Trunk
          Penelope Trunk says:

          People who are S learn from doing rather than reading, so it’s likely that in general, S types read fewer blogs.

          Some N types do all their learning from reading. No doing. And some S types do all their learning from doing.

          The Farmer and an S and I’m an N. I can read for a whole day without getting up from the sofa. He can read for fifteen minutes before he has to get up and go do something. I used to think it was ADD. But it’s really just preference for doing over reading.

          I have and S kid and an N kid and I have to be really careful to not judge the S kid as a bad reader.


          • Alyssa
            Alyssa says:

            ESFP here (just found this post) – I read a lot – I just don’t think too deeply about it, nor do I discuss it much with others. On that same note, I often don’t find the need to post my input publicly, like commenting on this (or any blog). I like to read what others say and use it how I see fit – but often don’t think to share my comments/insight. I just don’t feel it’s needed most of the time. Maybe other Ss feel the same way?

  13. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    “But here’s the good news: I might be unfeeling as an ENTJ, but I’m great at scheduling my children’s lives on a daily basis to meet big-picture goals.

    If only they needed that instead of love.”

    Penelope, a reminder for you from your post
    “I think we just have to figure out how to work with what we have. No one has a perfect personality for every stage of their life.” Try not to be so hard on and critical of yourself. There’s plenty of other people that will do that for you.

  14. Mary Eve
    Mary Eve says:

    I’m on the contrary of most of you, an ISFP. I love this test too, in fact one of my hobbies is trying to categorize people to know how to interact with them. The ISFP strength is to have fun with children, be independent, but not so much discipline and authority…

    I remember some things about this test that can help:
    – We’re not completely F/T, or P/J, etc. We could be 60% T, 40% F for example.
    – It can change through time. I took it as a teen and then 10 years later and it was different… I think it is related that I didn’t know myself well but also that our human nature can difficultly be categorized.
    – A counselor told me that our talents aren’t taken into consideration with this test. So if you develop a “mastery” in taking care of kids (time, love, talent), we could be great…

    And the discussion is interesting to who it is appealing more because Penelope’s blogs are my favorite ones, of the few I let into my inbox. Contrary personality types and similar passions that complement is nice.

    • Mark K
      Mark K says:

      Good points, Mary. Another thing to keep in mind about MB types is they tell you about your habitual, normal, comfortable, typical approach and style. There is nothing in any type that necessarily limits you. They describe your defaults.

      One of the (only?) joys of getting older is life has stretched you out enough you may find it easier to get into shapes that are a better fit for the needs of the moment. I can’t be the only one that reads Penelope’s posts as an INTJ and comments as an INFP, can I?

      And I was just kidding about getting older, it’s actually very underrated.

  15. Irina I
    Irina I says:

    I’m in INFJ! And completely ambitious. And I earn more money than the average person my age. And on track to earn even more. So I wouldn’t worry that your personality type defines you. You are capable of change.

    But as an INFJ, I definitely agree with this: “They are usually extremely intuitive individuals, who will have no patience for anyone they feel is dishonest or corrupt. They’ll have no interest in being around these kinds of people.” Right on point.

  16. Claire
    Claire says:

    My Myers Briggs score in my younger days (before career and kids) was INFJ; after having kids it was INTJ. So it’s amusing to think I had the *right* personality traits for parenting (during that lost stage in life) before I had the actual kiddos.

    RE: scheduling your kids, maybe Alice Bradley will make you feel better? She’s a NY mom who has her son in NO after school activities b/c that’s his inclination.

    My takeaway from you and her is that it’s best to parent in your own way, even if that makes you a rebel among your peers. Compare if you must (, but don’t take it so seriously b/c you already know your kids will be fine.

  17. Crystal
    Crystal says:

    “If they can care enough about money to earn any.”

    Wow, you just took my type (INFJ) and paired it perfectly with my main career problem: caring enough about the money to make myself go to work in the morning.

    You’ve launched me into reading about my type all over again. I’ve read tons about the Myers Briggs types in the past but I failed to find this connection between my type and not caring about money before.

  18. Jane
    Jane says:

    P, I think you put too much weight on MB. There is no proven biological basis for any of the categories outside of introversion/extroversion. I could believe people are born introverts but I don’t believe anyone is born a thinker or a feeler, judger or perceiver. We learn to be those things.

    Moreover, when you use a rigid categorization system you reinforce whatever negative habits you think you have. Saying “I’m an ENFP, so I’m going to always have trouble finishing things” is silly and will hold you back in life. Saying, “I’m an ENFP, which is a summary of my current behaviors- behaviors that I have control over and can change via habits. I may currently have a proclivity towards not finishing my work, but I can amend that behavior through habit building” makes a lot more sense. People grow and change.

    Habits are a huge part of that. For example, all your fighting habits with the Farmer are childhood habits you didn’t grow out of yet. You know that. It is as easy and as difficult to change the way you handle conflict as it is to start running every day or wake up a little earlier or stop biting your fingernails. Change what you do when you’re triggered to fight and you will change the whole fight. I’m saying that from m own experience and similar lamp-over-head drama.

    Same goes for whatever expression of love issues you think you have, which I’m sure are much smaller than you think.

    I know you like links, so here is one about neuroplasticity and MB:

    Source: my own experience in life and obsession with MB, which began when I was 9 and reading through my parents’ team building workbooks (why yes, I am an ENTP).

    One last thing- love has nothing to do with personality types. Love is ineffable. And
    humans are far more malleable than anyone would like to think.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I definitely do like links, so thanks, Jane. I clicked, of course. And after reading about how people change MB types, it seems to me that people change by reading about their types and understanding their weaknesses and then going about learning to compensate.

      So, at work, I like to think I have increased my F abilities, even though really, I wish we could just get rid of the F part and work and just all be 100% Ts. It would be easier for me. But I’d get fired all the time.

      Honestly, though, I get fired all the time anyway. People just get sick of me. Or something. I wear people out. So I’m thinking that I have tried really really hard to increase my Fness and if I can’t do it I don’t want to believe anyone can do it.

      Wait. Hold it. For me to say that based on experience I do not believe in neuroplasticity then maybe it is a cirucular argument because I would have to dampen my N-ness to base reality on past experience rather than on theory of what could be.

      Maybe this is what you are talking about, Jane, when you say that my obsession with MB is getting the best of me :)


    • emily
      emily says:

      Jane and Penelope,
      I’m wondering if we’re also talking about system thinking / complexity thinking. I think that a system thinker wants to organize but a complexity thinker wants to know just the boundaries. I love the way we could adjust our own behavior by just getting really comfortable with the unknown.

      I’m new to this idea so here’s a link:

  19. Colleen
    Colleen says:

    What a cool post and comment section. I think MB reflects very accurately where a person is at a given time in their lives, but I agree that types can change–and part of it that change may be as compensation for our environment and life circumstances. I now test consistently as INTJ, but except for the I I’ve tested opposite on all the other three at various times.

    Something I’ve noticed about myself is that I sometimes “match” people around me, if I like their energy, and sometimes I’ll compensate–becoming the opposite of their energy, if I don’t like it. So I get quieter around people I wish would shut up and I get louder around people whose conversation I like. I think we do the same with all four MB traits, matching or opposing to attract or repel. I have two sons as well and I suspect males do better with T mothers who are less “smothering.” I wonder if I’d be more F if I’d had a girl?

    • Colleen
      Colleen says:

      By the way I totally don’t mean to say T mothers are better than F mothers for boys. I mean to say that I think I might have become more T in reaction to having boys. All just unsupported theories though…

  20. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    Speaking from the bias of loving your work, I think perhaps your thinking is a form of feeling. For Penelope, to think is to love.

  21. catesfolly
    catesfolly says:

    I like the comments here that point out that MB is an interesting lens to look through but not a set of boxes we fit into that define our capacities.

    I test out INFJ, though every time I test, the J and P alternate because I’m nearly 50/50 on that axis.

    The first part of my life I bulldozed past the “I” part — being raised by a very “E” mom and it eventually made me sick. By my mid-thirties I began to honor the “I” and now in my mid-40s I am approaching “E” elements from an angle that is more mine (and not my mother’s).

    One of the MB-based books I read (can’t remember which right now) said that later in life we come to reach for elements of the opposite in each of the four axes because we’re seeking depth and integration in our experiences and relationships.

    As to “who makes a good parent” I just don’t think MB is helpful here at all. While I’m an INFJ who cares about relationships I am also an anxious one and the effect of that anxiety on the family system is pervasive and a constant work in progress. I think we have a fair number of alcoholic INFJs in our family and I think alcohol abuse trumps personality type big-time.

    Anyway, I like complexity and not nailing things down. I do like earning a living. I don’t care much at all about material status (having “nice things”).

  22. Tina Su
    Tina Su says:

    Hey PT!

    One of the coolest things I discovered is the MB through you blogging about it.

    I’m an INFJ, and was just talking on facebook a few weeks ago about how “I wished I was an ENTJ like Penelope Trunk”. To which, I had 20 INFJs comment in defense.

    Until I did the test, I always viewed myself as a bad parent. It was such a relief to see that INFJ are good parent material. :) If anything, it helped me settle some of the self-inflicted guilt I had piled on.

    I run my own company and make really good money (I’m the breadwinner). So, just because you’re an INFJ, it doesn’t mean you can’t be ambitious and live abundantly.

    As an entrepreneur, I am horrible at decision making and firing people. I also have a hard time saying no, which is not good for running any business.

    So I have to work extra hard at work to channel ENTJs and INTJs, and usually fail. I get help from my INTJ husband when quick decisions and firing are needed.

    Penelope, are there any books you recommend to learn more about MB?

    I’m so fascinated by it. It’s really helped to gain insights into my family and employees, and how best to communicate with and bring out the best in people. Thank you again.


    • Jesse
      Jesse says:

      Hi Tina,

      On my desk right now: Please Understand Me by David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates. I keep going back to it and learning more.

      Jesse (INFJ)

  23. Literary Mom
    Literary Mom says:

    Another INFJ here – and a homeschooling mom. I’m also a certified MBTI practitioner. One of the things I learned during my training is that type is inborn, so the earlier comments about changing type are inaccurate (at least according to type theory). What actually happens is that our environments affect us in different ways so we either mask our type or we adapt by using what are not our true preferences (this can be in childhood, a difficult marriage, what have you). Also, consistently receiving inconsistent scores indicates they don’t know themselves all that well or they are in a period of transition. Ultimately, as we mature, we all do develop the our lesser preferred functions, so it can appear that we are “balanced.” But in the end, we’re either right handed or left handed, even if we learn to be ambidextrous :) The beauty of the MBTI is that it says we’re all essentially made of the stuff, it’s just that each of the 16 types has a different preferred ordered of using the 8 functions (half of which are subconscious).

  24. Sallie
    Sallie says:

    I’m an INFJ as well and very familiar with the links you shared. The first time my husband read the one called The Protector he said it was freaky how perfectly it described me. (Minus the messy desk. I’m compulsively neat.)

    Now that I understand who I am, I love my personality. But for many years as a child, teen and young adult I didn’t understand it and always felt weird. I never could understand why something was so obvious to me and other people couldn’t see it. (Try being a child or teen who perceives clearly things the adults don’t.) Now I know that I intuitively know things long before others and eventually others see it as well.

    I’m also a homeschooling mom. I lost track of you, but used to enjoy your columns on Yahoo! Finance. (I think that was it!) I’m going to read some of your homeschooling posts too! :-)

  25. Isela
    Isela says:

    I am an INFJ who learned to care so much about money that now I teach about it.

    I am actually working as a financial therapist, helping others to take of themselves. It took me a while to understand myself, but know I can take advantage of my strenghts.

    I loved you post.

  26. Jillian
    Jillian says:

    Haha! How weird I find this after finding out I’m an INFJ and thinking ‘Man I wish I had the (ENTJ) gumption to run a Fortune 500.’ I wanted (still do) to be that ‘powerful woman’ type. But I guess I’m not. I’m an INFJ, 4 kids, homeschooler like you, and I’m still a dictator, so don’t feel too bad. I am not compassionate, and I’m a time Nazi, too, much of the time. Sometimes I think we read the latest ‘scientific’ psycho-babble and let silly letters like I and E define us. I’m super introverted, like live in a cave in the mountains alone introverted, if I let myself believe all the hype. But I force myself to connect with people, and I find that I’m a better person, often a smarter person (very important to me) for it.

    I think if you want to be INFJ, just start doing what we do. Hole yourself away from the world (and yes, your email/phone/internet!) and curl up with a good book that makes you cry. You’ll probably find you’re not trapped into who Myers-Briggs says you are.

    Have I mentioned that I effing love this blog? I’ve been reading it for 3 days straight. Seriously. (I’m probably throwing off your Google Analytics. Sorry.)

  27. Megan
    Megan says:


    While I am a fan of Myers Briggs as well (I apply what I know to help communicate better), I don’t think you should put so much weight into it. It’s a somewhat controversial test and people have a tendency to peg themselves into one category. I honestly thought you were an ENFJ, not an ENTJ. Actually, a lot of ENFJs run small businesses. ENTJs would be CEOs of large corporations. Those exhibiting T characteristics generally enjoy subjects like math and quant heavy subjects. It seems that you avoid those kinds of subjects. I see that you place a lot of emphasis on information, but it always ties back into something human… not impersonal analysis. Just a thought.

  28. Karla
    Karla says:

    Funny… I’m an INFJ and worry considerably about money, especially when I’m not helping to bring it into the house. When I make some money on the side I finally feel productive.

    Also… I feel like a horrible mother! Maybe I take it too seriously and have unrealistic expectations of my kids’ behaviors, I dunno.

  29. Annie
    Annie says:

    INFJ here as well. just recently discovered the test and my personality. The part about INFJs not caring enough about money to get up and earn it is so true. But I also agree with the last post about how we do care about money. The strong j in me makes me want to plan it all out and when you have kids, money is definitely important. That contradiction of the NF and J is my current struggle. Any other NFJs experiencing the same?

  30. Jesse
    Jesse says:

    I am an INFJ divorced single homeschooling mom coasting enough to be able to stay home with my kids but constantly weighing the possibility of working outside the home to provide us with the kind of lifestyle that our peers have.

    Is it the NF that makes me want to stay home and avoid the pitfalls of the lifestyles that require more money? And is it the J that keeps me awake at night worrying that my priorities are skewed and I should be focused on bringing in money?

  31. Linda Lou
    Linda Lou says:

    I don’t understand why you are an E, can you explain this? ie your blog post on how your son is social and you’re not. I would say you are an INTJ.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Extravert and introvert are not about how social you are. They are about how you think and how you process. And extravert thinks out loud and processes with other people. An introvert processes alone and thinks before they talk.


  32. Kim
    Kim says:

    INFJ here too, homeschooler too, couldn’t care less about money too, the social introvert too, love my own company but put in the effort every now and then to socialise, think I should be doing something else all the time too … ditto to all of the above …

  33. Ede
    Ede says:

    Hi Penelope,

    A long time fan of your blog and just came across this post.

    It’s interesting how you mention INFJ in this post. I am a classic INFJ, and as soon as I learned about MBTI characteristics last year, I’ve always wanted to be an ENTJ.

    We admire you for your ability to get things done and stay on top of things without getting the emotions in the way too much.

    To share my two cents, my parents are neither INFJ nor ENTJ, but their differences in all four letters of MBTI and the manifestations of those letters in their work and personality have been the best life lessons a child could ask for.

    I think it’s pretty fantastic what you’re doing with this website and your family.


  34. Maddie
    Maddie says:

    I’m an INFJ and I am totally unmotivated to make money, except to pay the bills and save a little for life’s little pleasures. I always have those type-A’s telling me I’m lazy and need to work harder. I get sick to death of being put down because of the way I CHOOSE to live. However, I was not a good mother at all. Oh yeah, I was great for the first 11 years, then I lost it when they started going through puberty. I really don’t like teenagers, and spent as little time with them as possible until they were well out of college. I didn’t reconnect with them until they were “real” adults over 25 who had real lives I could relate to.

  35. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    I’m new to your blog and am really enjoying your articles. I just thought I’d respond to your comments in this article. I’m an INFJ, but my mother is an ENTJ. She was and is a wonderful mother. I still look up to her and ask her advice all the time. I owe a wonderful childhood to her. It sounds like your children will say the same about you.

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