Every personality type has its strengths and weaknesses – there is no ideal type just like there are no ideal humans walking on this planet. That being said, it is almost inevitable that at some point in life you will say “I wish I had a different personality”. You may want to become more outgoing, more in tune with your senses, more organized, more resistant to criticism etc. Not surprisingly, one of the most frequent questions people interested in personal development ask is “Can I change my personality type?”
Unfortunately, the answer is not that simple. According to the Myers-Briggs type theory (and going back even further, to Carl Jung’s writings), the personality type is inborn and does not change. However, individuals can develop traits and habits that differ or even directly contradict the description of their type. How does that happen?
Let’s use an example. Imagine that lights in your flat suddenly go off and you are in complete darkness. You may be able to navigate your way to the door, but what senses are you going to use? Touch? Hearing? Smell? It would be anything but vision, your preferred sense. However, as soon as the lights come back on, you will switch back to using vision again as it makes it much easier to navigate around the flat.
The way your personality works is very similar. The environment you are in shapes your personality in a certain way, forcing you to develop traits and habits that might be foreign to your type. For instance, if you are naturally casual and spontaneous (P trait), but your work schedule is very structured and your manager is obsessive about schedules, your preferences are likely to change. However, you will probably switch back to being a P as soon as you leave that job. The same rule applies to other traits as well.
I should probably mention one more thing. Sociability is often confused with extroversion, just like shyness is confused with introversion – this is one of the most common mistakes when it comes to discussing personality types. While extroverts naturally find it easier to talk to other people (they gain energy when they do this), there are many shy or solitary extroverts. Conversely, introverts lose energy when they communicate with others, but you would be able to find many eloquent people among them. In fact, certain introverted types (e.g. INFJ or INFP) are often more sociable than most extroverted types. In Western societies, extroverts outnumber introverts by a large margin and consequently most people believe that everyone should strive to be outgoing, confident, have a large circle of friends etc. This is a misguided belief as every personality type is unique and has different strengths – yet this is often the reason behind the “Can I change my personality type?” question.
To conclude, your basic personality type cannot change – however, you can (and should!) change the aspects of your personality that you are unhappy with. By doing this you will strengthen your inferior functions and become a more well-rounded individual, even though your dominant traits will still remain the same. Such a change could be triggered by either the environment you are in or your own will – to each his own.