Myers Briggs ESFP–The Perfect Christian Woman (with a WARNING!)

MBTI ESFP: The "Perfect Christian Woman" Type (and what you should beware of!)

Last week I wrote on the Myers Briggs Type Indicator–the MBI–and how they classify different personalities. I’m an ENTJ, and I told you all why that sometimes makes blogging difficult. If you want to know more about what the letters mean, I’ve got a quick description of MBTI types here.

It seems most of you really liked the post, and many asked me to write more on personality and marriage. So today I thought I’d tackle a different type–the ESFP. And why choose the ESFP? Well, let me describe her:

E- She’s extroverted. She likes to process things by talking about them. She rejuvenates by being with people.
S- She’s a detail person. She likes doing things step-by-step.
F- She focuses on relationships. She’s interested in people. When making decisions, she asks: “How will this affect other people?” She values emotion over logic.
P- She’s a go-with-the-flow person. She’s easy going. She doesn’t like planning too much. She’d rather be “moved by the Spirit”.

Do you notice anything about that? Let’s summarize it a little more:

She’s humble. She respects authority. She not brassy. She loves people. She’s caring, often in the background. People flock to her. They tell her everything. She tears up easily. She genuinely cares.

See it yet?

Let me summarize it a little more:

The ESFP is the perfect Christian woman.

And that, my friends, can be a real curse.

I know a lot about ESFPs, because this is my family:

Myers Briggs Family--ESFP Type

My oldest daughter and I are both ENTJs, which is the exact opposite of the perfect Christian woman. We challenge authority. We’re the first to run around shouting, “The Emperor Has No Clothes!” We’re interested in doing what is right, even if it occasionally means stepping on toes. It’s a matter of justice, you see.

But to an ESFP, the important things are relationships. Here’s a graphic depiction of the difference between the two types:

ESFP Females Love Relationships

Isn’t that cute? But here’s the problem, and why I want to talk about it today:

The ESFP doesn’t like change, and doesn’t like conflict. And at the same time, the church is telling the ESFP female, you’re fine just the way you are! Because of that, it’s very easy for the ESFP to sit back and keep doing what they’ve always done, without having to grow or stretch themselves. But when they do that, it’s very likely that they will get walked all over, and will find that the things they want most aren’t coming to them. They often end up very dissatisfied.

The benefit of being an ENTJ is that we clash with the Christian culture, and so we’re terribly aware that we have areas of growth–we need humility, we need more grace, we need to learn to play well with others.

ESFPs don’t tend to get that same feedback. And so it’s easy to sit back and be comfortable–ESPECIALLY because it’s also your nature to sit back and be comfortable. So you have two forces telling you not to change and not to grow–your own personality and the church culture.

The thing about personality, though, is that one is not right while another is wrong.

Just because there is a cultural “perfect Christian woman” type doesn’t mean that this actually IS the perfect Christian woman.

I think Jesus was perfectly balanced. He wasn’t a type; He was Himself. He was the only one who could deftly manage the balance between the four preference dichotomies (extrovert/introvert; sensing/intuiting; feeling/thinking; judging/perceiving). When we find our type, we figure ourselves out, which is fun. We know our strengths and our bent, but we also know our weaknesses. And knowing your weaknesses is extremely important, because it’s in our weak areas that we need to grow.

Our church culture may value a certain type for females, but Jesus values ALL the types. Just as the body is made up of many members, so the church is made up of different types, with all having things to contribute. We’re all necessary.

So just because the ESFP is the cultural ideal for a Christian female, it does not mean that all females should be ESFPs. Nor does it mean that female ESFPs have got it made.

I see a lot of evidence of the ESFP/ISFP type in the comments section of the blog. They’re often the first to say, “just pray and leave it to God,” or “Sure, that may be bugging you, but why make a big deal about it? Let it go!” Now, both of those things may be EXACTLY the right thing to do in certain circumstances. But quite often they’re not. And the challenge for the ESFP/ISFP type is to stretch themselves to stand up for what is right, or they have a tendency to get walked all over.

Here, then, are three areas in which ESFP/ISFP types need to be very careful, and need to grow if you’re going to have happy marriages, happy families, and a happy church life:

1. Dear ESFP: Not all Problems Are Your Fault

The ESFP is very focused on people, so when people start treating them badly, they often internalize the problem and turn themselves inside out to try to fix it. My daughter Katie has had several friends treat her very poorly, and her response has always been to love them more and try to fix the relationship.

Because Katie is surrounded by ENTJs, Rebecca and I have often challenged her, saying, “why would you WANT to fix that relationship?” If someone is treating you that badly, why do you want to keep investing in them when there are others who treat you better and need you more? And Katie has learned to call people on things when they behave inappropriately.

What does this mean for marriage? In marriage, ESFPs will tend to own the problem, too. If a husband is using porn, they’ll look to themselves and say, “how did I cause this?” If a husband isn’t engaged with the kids, they’ll say, “what am I doing to drive him away?” It’s good to ask these questions, but it’s wrong to STOP at those questions.

Growth rarely takes place unless we are willing to name the issue and state what is wrong. It’s easy to say “I’ll give it to God in prayer, and completely surrender it,” but beware of taking this approach too often. For an ESFP it’s an easy way out of having to do anything. And perhaps what God is asking you to do is to calmly confront your husband on something that he is doing wrong.

Emotionally Healthy WomanI just read a great book about this called The Emotionally Healthy Woman by Geri Scazzero which talks about how to confront and say no when you have to. It’s easy to read and has brilliant insight for all types (I learned a lot, too!). But ESFPs and ISFPs really need to read this.

2. Dear ESFP: Sometimes You Have to Say No and Stand Up for What’s Right

A few years ago my girls belonged to an unhealthy youth group. When Rebecca and I noticed some of the negative things occurring, we talked to the leadership (Rebecca even took the initiative to do this as a 14-year-old kid). Katie, on the other hand, kept wanting to give them “one more chance”. Becca and I were yelling, “CHARGE!”, bayonets drawn. Katie was hemming and hawing in the background.

But after giving them a second chance, Katie drew a line in the sand, and said “enough is enough”. We have to do what is right. And because she’s an ESFP, she won’t change her mind now. She doesn’t like change, so once she’s changed once, she won’t go back.

It’s hard to say no as an ESFP because you want people to like you. You’re a people pleaser. When you see something you disagree with, your tendency is to assume that you’re misinterpreting it, or you’ve got the story wrong, or perhaps you’re just wrong and they’re right. Katie is often fond of saying, “I don’t really have opinions, the way Becca and you do, Mommy.”

Yet Katie does have opinions (just not as strongly as Becca and me), and for the ESFP, it’s vitally important to trust your gut. That gut is often the Holy Spirit talking to you. When you start to feel that something isn’t right, listen to that feeling. Don’t reason it away, even if it’s scary and goes against what you would naturally do.

How does this apply to marriage? If your husband feels that something is wrong in the extended family, at church, or at the workplace, listen to him. Your tendency will be to smooth things over, but he could very well be right that something needs to be done. And if you feel like your husband is wrong about something–say he’s doing something bad, like using porn, or ignoring the kids, or being verbally abusive, stand up for yourself and your children and get help.

3. Dear ESFP: Take Initiative!

Katie hates change. She’s a home body. She doesn’t like trying anything new. All her life I’ve had to push her and prod her and shove her to do new things. She’s currently ranked eighth in international Bible quizzing (which means she has like nine whole books of the Bible memorized), and she absolutely loves the competition. But I had to force her to do that, too, because it was new!

It’s hard for ESFPs to take intiative to get out of their comfort zone.

In my extended family is another ESFP. She had a rather unhappy marriage to an INTJ. He basically walked all over her. But before she left him, she complained to me, “He never does anything with the kids! He never takes them to the park. He never plays with them. He just does his own thing!” The problem was that she never took her kids to the park, either. She was sitting back, waiting for her husband to take the lead. And when he didn’t, the family withered.

What this means for marriage: If things aren’t going well in your marriage, don’t wait for him to change. You do something! If you’re not connecting, find a new hobby you can do together. If you aren’t dating, you plan the date. If he isn’t what you want in a spiritual leader, you start figuring out how to pray together. If your sex life is blah, you take the initiative to do something new. Don’t sit back and wait for him to do it. If you want a different life, you have to start doing things differently, too.

The church tells women that we should all be ESFPs.

The church does a poor job of telling us how to confront sin and injustice; how to draw healthy boundaries; and how to take on leadership and initiative when we have to.

ESFPs are great at loving others; they need to give themselves permission to love themselves.

Incidentally, I think Katie is becoming the perfect Christian woman–in the right sense, not the cultural sense. She does love people, and she automatically puts people at ease. But because she’s surrounded by ENTJs and ESTJs, she has been pushed, and she’s grown, and she’s become a natural leader. She doesn’t stand for injustice. She’s starting to try new things.

Maybe we all need friends and family of opposite types who can help us grow in our weak areas, too!

I hope that in some way this blog can serve that role for you.

Now, let me know: Do you see ESFP tendencies in yourself? Do you have a hard time drawing boundaries? Let’s talk about in the comments! And my older daughter, my ENTJ, has written about what it’s like being a Christian ENTJ girl. It’s not easy!

Comments

  1. Hi Sheila,

    As usual, I find myself nodding in agreement with (almost) everything you say. There is a tendency for ESFP to be the “perfect” ideal of what women in the church should be. But you say that as ENTJ you are the complete opposite. Not quite. You are still E, not I.
    Try being an INTJ woman in an ESFP church. I say the wrong things, challenge the status quo, and don’t think men are the only ones with leadership abilities. And then *gasp* I want time all by myself to recharge!!

    Square peg in a round hole? Well, over the years I’ve concluded I’m more of a parallelogram. And I’m ok with that. Because if you get a parallelogram the right shape, it’s a diamond. :)

    • Oh yes. INTJ… with a very strong I. I don’t fit well either.. esp in this stage of small children. I had no idea how much motherhood would challenge my introversion. I say no to lots of things. LOTS of good ministries, or expectations from others, bc saying yes would stretch me too far. I’ve found a balance to be able to really invest in my littles- and primarily it means saying no to outside things right now. Does this narrow balance get better as they get older and a little more independent?

      • The balance does start to shift a bit.
        I have 4 children, ranging from 13 down to 4. Their being able to entertain themselves for parts of the day gives me space to recharge. There are still a lot of ministries I say no to. (yes, I homeschool my children. no, that doesn’t mean I want to teach them on Sunday mornings too!. No, no, no!!)

        When they were very little, I used to keep a Bible in the bathroom or a couple of ‘currently relevant’ verses taped to the wall. Every time I was in there, I got a quick reminder of why I was investing so much in these little people.

        There are seasons in life. There is such a short time while our children are little. The day will come when they don’t want to sit on my lap and hear a story. I don’t want to look back and wish I’d spent more time on the floor playing trains. On the other hand, there are only so many Boynton books I can handle in a morning!
        Another thing that helped for me, was to have my husband more or less take over the bed time routine. He works all day, and arrives home about bed time. So dinner as a family is a weekend thing, but bed time stories, Bible story, and chat and pray with daddy is what my children expect. And that hour is MY time. I do not use it to clean, nor to sort laundry, nor to straighten the kitchen. I use it to read a book, to knit, to play the piano or my clarinet, to take a walk, to do something that will restore me to at least approaching sanity so that once the children are in bed I’m ready to spend time with my husband.

        • Thank you for this thoughtful reply! My husband takes bedtime with the older kiddo (the 1 yr is still nursing) and that’s so helpful! If he didn’t do that, there wouldn’t be anything left for him in the evening. :)

    • INTJ’s unite! haha.

      It is definitely a struggle to operate in a church setting. I am a feather-ruffler for certain. Once in a small group brainstorming session, they asked people to list off the importance of small groups. I waited, and listened as others in the room just gave the Christian answers and quoted Scripture. I couldn’t stand it anymore, raised my hand (hello, introvert) and said, “I don’t think they ARE important. I haven’t been to one in a year. I don’t have time in my schedule to drive 30 minutes just to hang out with people I don’t even like. They could be great, but the way they are set up right now is a waste of time.” It opened up great discussion. Afterwards, one of the pastors came up to me and said, “Thank you. Thank you for just being real and for setting the tone that people didn’t just have to say what they thought we wanted to hear.” Just call me can-opener.

      For a while, I actually had brothers and sisters in Christ tell me that there was something wrong with me because I’ll get all fired up about certain things and then I’ll go lock myself in my room and crash. I have explained so many times that I am an introvert. That doesn’t mean I hate people; it just means I really like my space :-) Like A. LOT. Yes, I can lead, but only if no one else wants to. Yes, I can go to a party, but not for long before I start to shut down.

      I am also convinced that being an INTJ Christian woman is one of the reason I’m still single. Just too hot to handle… ;-) :-D
      Jessica Harris recently posted…Maintenance vs. MomentumMy Profile

      • I’m an INTJ married to a totally free-spirit who thrives on contact with others. I’m not sure how it happened, honestly. I need to get him to take this personality test. :) The INTJ statements about relationships being hard is so true! God just caught the two of us at the right time I guess.

        Good for you for being brave and honest. My coping method for my need to be real as been to just not speak at all… I’d rather be quiet than be real and risk judgement for my opinions in a group. But those closest to me get the earful of opinions on the way home! Ha!

      • PS I think INTJs like reading blogs. Its like having contact with others, but totally on your own terms. :P

        • Ha!

        • I’m a male and an INFP last I checked. That is exactly why I like blogging. I can pick my friends. I go where I’m welcome, talk to people with the same interest and hopefully learn something. We don’t have to always agree either. It isn’t about burying my head in a common digital sand on topics. I just like being with people I like, and yes, if they were all in the same room I would enjoy being with them, but would withdraw from anyone with a strong E leaning that might be inclined to dominate the other I’s…like me.
          Dan recently posted…The Crucible Concept ® Part 2My Profile

      • I so get this!! The being a leader and ruffling feathers…I don’t mean to ruffle anyone’s feathers truly I don’t! I’ve even tried just shutting my mouth, but that doesn’t seem to work either. Sigh…Just let me go in my room, close the door and write my blog okay? LOL
        sharon recently posted…Called to Live and Preach ChristMy Profile

  2. I’m absolutely an ESFP, but just as you, I have a sister and husband who encourages me to stand up for what’s not right, to voice my opinions and giving in to change. Although I find it difficult, I have a great support system !

  3. Where can I find more information to pursue figuring out my personality type? All the online “tests” say I need an educated person in this area to administer the test. Where would I find such a person? I believe doing this would solve a LOT of issues in our marriage, as I believe we are contrasting personality types and we don’t always jive.

  4. KellyK(@RNCCRN9706) says:

    I’m an ISTJ ;)

  5. KellyK(@RNCCRN9706) says:

    Are ENTJ’s not touchy-Feely type of people?

    • Nope! We’re thinkers and planners. We can be very fun at a party because we are very extroverted, but in general we’re big idea, logic, efficiency type of people.

  6. Wow, Because of this post and your previous post on personality’s I decided to retake the test and got the same results as before INTJ. As mentioned above, it can be very difficult to find your place in a traditional church, because we tend to see things and express ourselves differently.

    So I decided to look into it a bit further and discovered it is a very rare personality type. Only 1-3% of females and 2-6% of males fit within that type. Perhaps it’s a good thing since one of our nicknames is “Mastermind” which is not always flattering. I was encouraged to discover that one of my favorite authors was INTJ, C.S. Lewis. Start looking into some of the POP charts where the apply it to popular programs and books and it’s less encouraging. I share places with the “Emperor” on Star Wars, Draco Malfoy of Harry Potter, and Mrs. O’Brein of Downton Abbey. On the positive side I share places with Erond of Lord of the Rings & he is a personal favorite.

    I think what stood out to me is the fact that the personality is very good at achieving it’s goals. The issue will be what are the values that drive the goals. If the values are selfish, then it would be so easy for cruelty to take over to such and extent that you wouldn’t care very much about who was hurt in the process. If however you value the welfare of others above your own then you can use those skills and talents that God has giving you to help teach, or lead in a way that serves God.

    I had and in some ways still have a hard time finding a way to serve in my Church but God did show me a way. It’s a small Church so I teach a weekly class, as well as organize a memory verse challenge each week for our kids. I also plan the VBS for our church & I have found it both challenging and enriching. Since we are such a small church my tendency to find a way that works, even if it’s not the way that it’s always been done before has helped with VBS and the memory challenge. When it comes to so many positions being traditionally filled by men in general, and my seeing how in some cases a particular women would be better, it has at times hurt.

    I have been so blessed though that people are at least willing to hear me out when I want to try something new. Most of the time that has been key. The fact that they can see a reasoning behind it, not just willfulness has made a huge difference in how we see one another. Communication is said to be an issue to INTJ’s, they don’t always explain their reasoning in a way that others understand.

    After reading all of this I wish I had learned about personality types years ago. I feel like I wasted 10+ years trying to figure out what I was doing wrong, and in all reality, I just needed to work on my people/communication skills.

  7. I took one of the free online tests (about 100 questions). I don’t know how accurate it is, but it says I’m an ENTJ. Which I figured I am. However, being an only child, I can be OK with being alone, and I find comfort in it. It’s 50/50. Sometimes all I want is alone time. Other times I want to be the center of the party – especially if I planned the party. I’m the first one with party plans in my own home, or under my terms. I’m a control freak. Out-of-control or un-planned and I don’t get along. I’m an organizer. Phew. Did I just describe an ENTJ or what?!

  8. What a great post, Sheila! Are you going to profile other MBTI types? I’m an ENFJ – but just barely E. I took the test years ago for work and would love to learn more about my type in terms of relationships and non employment contexts …

  9. I am a INTJ and echo what my “sisters” have already expressed it is hard at times to fit in at church especially if God has called you to lead! :-)
    Sharon recently posted…Called to Live and Preach ChristMy Profile

  10. I’m an ISTJ. Very introverted. So much so, in fact, that I don’t get involved in any of my church’s ministries unless I’m directly asked. The online test I took had my J factor stronger than my T factor, but I believe my T is stronger than my J.

  11. Priscilla says:

    INTJ here, too. I’m starting to second guess the percentages given to different types.
    I find the ENTP as the “perfect Christian woman” type a very interesting choice. As the exact opposite, I’d agree that it makes sense.

  12. I would love to hear how the different personalities could use their “gifts” for areas of ministry. When I looked for resources on this, there is very limited information out there. ie crisis organization work, youth group leader, or counselling.

    • I love this! I am an ISTJ on the MBTI, but one of the other personality tests (actually not sure if it is a true personality test) that I had to take for work recently was StrengthsFinder. I really loved this assessment. The basis of this book/test was that instead of focusing on your weaknesses, if you instead focus on your strengths, what you are able to accomplish will be multiplied. It isn’t all positive- it tells you what to watch out for with your type as well- but mostly it focuses on the equation of talent x investment = strength. If you have a lot of talent in one area, but don’t invest much there, your strength there will only be minimal. Likewise, if you have little talent but invest a lot of time, your strength still will be minimal. However, if you are talented there and make the investment in your talent, your strength will be multiplied. Not only was it spot on for me, but I loved the spin by focusing on enhancing our strengths rather than overcoming our weaknesses. Sure, first and foremost, we must listen to what God is telling us to do and even if it is a weakness of ours, we must remember Phillippians 4:13. However, as a general rule I would love to know how I could better use my strengths or “gifts” to glorify the kingdom of God.

  13. I’m an ESPN

  14. I’m looking at all these comments and feeling a little lonely – I’m an ENTP. And I seem to be on my own.
    I did the test originally when someone blogged about being a Downton Abbey personality using the Meyers-Briggs method – I’m the mother, apparently.
    Jenn (Student Mom) recently posted…WLW – Book ClubMy Profile

  15. Anonymous Please says:

    Wow…ISFJ. (can you say “doormat??”) Not what I was expecting! I took the test about 15 years ago and was INFP. I must have changed over the last few years!

    • Awh!! I fluctuate between that and INFJ, and always feel rather irritated after reading my personality descriptions for ISFJ. I don’t think it’s actually possible to have a bad personality though :) I wonder what kinds of things about you have actually changed in your life since you tested INFP? Sometimes I think it is also our perceptions of ourselves and our motivations that change. Anyway, I hear you.

  16. Thanks! This really sheds light on my personality! I am surrounded by ENTJ and am frustrated that I always feel like a doormat. I like to keep everyone happy at home and church and I just can’t seem to :)

  17. INFP here…although I’ve gotten a lot less introverted as I’ve gotten older, although I can be logical and detail oriented at times. Oh, and throw in a tendency for a little attention deficit disorder (not hyper though) and many days I don’t know if I’m coming or going! Let’s add a husband who I’m sure is my polar opposite in many ways too. I’m just glad that GOD didn’t make us all the same or give us all the same gifts!

    Oh, and I did http://www.16personalities.com to figure my type out, and checked on http://www.personalitypathways.com too.

  18. Jesus was fully human, so therefore he must have had an MBTI type. He could no more be “perfectly balanced” in personality type than any other fully human person. He was an INFJ, if you read the scripture closely. I’m an INFJ female. The fact that I’m nearly completely opposite from ESFP women (except for the F) explains why I never could fit in to the local churchy-women culture. However, having the same personality type as Jesus makes it much easier to feel close to Jesus, which is, of course, the whole point.

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