ESTP: possibly, the most misunderstood personality type.
This is an opinion piece, coming from my experience as an ESTP woman, in a world that worships my very opposite (INFJ).
The following article won’t focus on roasting INFJs, rest assured. I admit I’m not their biggest fan, but that’s personal and doesn’t need to be explained in public. My objective here is to raise awareness about the world’s bias against ESTPs, so that we can maybe, just maybe, rethink it.
If you’re a follower, you might be wondering why I’m dedicating an entire blog post to MBTI, since I am notoriously sceptic of the “science” (or more exactly: lack thereof) behind it. I remain unimpressed until the day I see decent peer-reviewed studies on it — but although I can be quite pedantic about whether or not something is “scientific”, I do actually have fun with speculative studies (I mean, I write about Astrology too), and have nothing against them *existing* as long as we properly label things and leave no room for delusion. I won’t threaten to destroy your fun little snake oil unless you mislabel it as “ultimate remedy”. With that out of the way, on to the fun part of the post:
Real or not, there’s something stereotypically ESTP about me. I’ve always been a bold risk-taker, valuing others’ insights but making my own path as I go along anyway. I moved country for no reason other than curiosity, founded my own spiritual path with active followers, and gradually turned an open-air dumpster into a nice garden where I’m now growing vegetables. I don’t think everyone else with dominant Se-Ti-Fe-Ni functions fits the stereotype the same way — well, not even Meryl Streep does. There’s probably more nuance in personality than the MBTI system recognises— but if there was no truth at all to this theory, maybe people like me wouldn’t exist.
To recap here real quick: ESTP combines 4 primary cognitive functions, which means we’re consciously aware and investing in these 4. They’re listed both in the acronym and in the following break down in order of prominence:
Se = Extraverted Sensing (most prominent, primary function)
Ti = Introverted Thinking
Fe = Extraverted Feeling
Ni = Introverted Intuition (the one we struggle with, but still use consciously)
The world likes the idea of an ESTP character, but suddenly when a real-life iteration appears, we’re “too much” and should “tone it down”
Why don’t you ask ENTPs to tone down their argumentative qualities, or ISFJs to tone down their desire to protect and care for people? If you take an objective look at the full spectrum of personalities — even the limited set within MBTI — you’ll notice that each and every one exaggerates on something and could do with toning it down. Why do we tend to ostracise ESTP’s unique combination of functions though?
Well, perhaps Jung explains. Our primary function “Se” refers to Extroverted Sensing. It’s the opposite of Introverted Intuition, if you will. It’s common knowledge that extroverts “relax with people”, while introverts “need alone time” to relax. Then there’s the difference between Intuitive vs Sensing, more specific to Jungian Psychology — intuitives look inwards for answers, sensors look outwards.
So essentially, the most prominent cognitive function in ESTP (Se) refers to our hability to interact with the world in a very sociable way, while simultaneously looking outwards for answers.
I’m getting a bit nerdy here. We could do with an example: think of Marvel’s Thor. (Somehow I found a pretty good analysis of Thor’s cognitive functions on this Christian blog. The post itself is insightful anyway). Thor doesn’t shy away from taking risks — especially physical risks — which fuels a few jokes about how “lucky” he is. But is that really luck? I don’t think so. I’d argue that Thor is just really good at estimating what he can or cannot do, and he makes that decision-making process look effortless to the outside, which is why people assume he is just stupid and impulsive.
But Thor is a hero anyway, so we like him despite this “flaw”. A hero is a character we’re supposed to root for. Real humans, on the other hand, receive a lot more scrutiny. That’s probably why ESTPs get misunderstood — we forget to externalise and/or outwardly “perform” our reasoning process that comes before seemingly “impulsive” decisions such as jumping off a plane, ending a relationship, or reviving a garden without help. Naturally, other people look at us taking decisions out of the blue and think we’ve gone mad. In reality, none of our decisions are out of the blue. We simply stay calm and collected while we’re still planning them inside our heads.
I think, probably, (and this is a wild guess, take a few grains of salt with it-) ESTPs in general have a deep-rooted fear of being misled. Maybe that’s why we’d rather keep things quiet until they’re in motion. We want people’s input, but deep down don’t trust people (?) I don’t know. All I can say for sure is we do know the meaning of strategising, but our brains are used to doing it all alone.
…And that is because of our secondary function: Introverted Thinking! You see, we’re extroverts, but our brains behave like introverts (hence introverted THINKING), keeping all that planning and plotting inside a “file” which we don’t share with anyone. What we share is the action itself.
I tried, and keep trying, to “externalise” the thinking that leads to my decisions more, in hopes that friends will finally start trusting me more and getting onboard with my plans. The problem is, this can be a double-edged sword, with a lot of effort for a negative outcome, because nobody understands just how difficult it is for me, assume it’s second nature, and keep the expectation sky high (when in fact I wish they’d lower those expectations a lot, lol calm down, I don’t have that function you’re looking for). It’s pretty difficult for me to walk people through what is going on in my head, since that involves a lot of decoding. I don’t have Te (Extroverted Thinking), which would come in handy there. Sometimes I succeed though, but the whole task takes so much of my energy and focus that I forget to look out for common pitfalls along the way, such as my tone of voice or word choice. I can come off as bossy or narcissistic in that process, without meaning to.
This leads me to think the following:
ESTPs can have a hard time trying to appear “normal”, and this takes up so much of our energy that we usually don’t even bother.
ESTPs account for only 4% of the population [who took the tests], or so the rumor goes. Although mistaken for “normies” because of how outgoing we tend to be, that couldn’t be further from the truth. We aren’t all stupid jocks like the stereotype goes, but we all get perceived that way because society is biased against our dominant functions. People in general value things like neuroticism, overthinking, indecision, etc because those traits are “relatable”. ESTPs aren’t perfect or completely sane, we’re simply dealing with very different internal monsters — most people just can’t relate, so they assume we have it easy or whatever.
I personally cope with life by going to concerts, pubs, completely random workshops on skills I am not even practising, etc. The common denominator: Meeting strangers and staying within the comfort of small talk. Is it fulfilling? Well, no. But it sure as hell is relaxing, so I occasionally need it. Strangers won’t “catch up” with me and accidentally force me to use functions like Te or Ne like a long-term acquaintance would; They’re seeing me for the first time (and probably last). It makes me feel at ease.
For the very same reason, I seem to only look for friends in areas like spirituality and art, not because I’m highly intuitive or super duper creative (I’m not). Instead, these are the kind of people who are likely to practise things like music, dance, painting, meditation, witchcraft etc — all of which involve a lot of doing and very little talking. My strong Se and Ti functions fit in just fine, and therefore socialising with these people on the long term doesn’t feel like a continuous walk on eggshells.
That also explains why I get on well with neurotic people: being economic with words or other abstractions also implies I won’t judge them — or come across as judgemental to them — too often either. Maybe I make them feel at ease.
I know, it seems ironic that I write so much, if I’m so uncomfortable with verbal expression. But hey, didn’t I say I was ESTP? We enjoy a challenge, so I’m told. (Jokes aside, here’s the truth: I can talk all day. I just won’t go into minute details of anything — I perceive them pretty well, but they’re just too precious for sharing. That’s Ti for you once again).