Here’s How Birth Order Shapes The INFJ Personality

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an INFJ personality with her siblings in birth order
Firstborns are commanding, middles are mediators, and last-borns are the life of the party. We all have our stereotypes when it comes to birth order. But are those stereotypes true?To find out, we surveyed 5,747 people who took our personality assessment, the TypeFinder, to find out where they sat in their family tree. We analyzed their responses, along with their personality test results, to see how birth order might impact personality type.

Our number-crunching revealed that there is a connection between birth order and personality type — in some cases, a big one. Some types are much more likely to be only children, or eldests, or middles. Other types are rarely found in a particular branch of the family tree. And oddly enough, INFJs showed some of the most interesting results.

If you’re curious how your birth order may have shaped you as an INFJ, read on to discover how your own experience might fit with our findings. And if you’d like to learn more about how birth order affects all types, you can read the full analysis here.

Middle Children Are More Likely to Be Feelers

Our analysis showed that middle children are much more likely to be Feelers (+6.93%) and much less likely to be Thinkers (-7.23%) than if personality had no relationship with birth order. What’s more, INFJs were markedly overrepresented among middle kids (+8%). These findings support the stereotype of middles as compassionate, friendship-oriented, and people-pleasing — traits which are associated with a Feeling preference, according to Isabel Briggs Myers’ personality theory.

Is there something about growing up as middle kids that forces people to become more sympathetic and conciliatory than they might otherwise be? Our INFJ readers had some theories. “I am the peacemaker in my family and the person everyone confides in,” said one 41-year-old middle child, “and I believe this shaped me into an INFJ.”

A 54-year-old INFJ agrees. “I think when you have other siblings, and you’re taught you be conscientious, caring of others, that becomes part of your personality,” she said. “You care deeply for others.”

Firstborns Are More Likely to Be Introverts

Firstborns are more likely to be introverts (+2.37%) according to our data, and the effect is especially pronounced when combined with Thinking (+3.04%) and Judging (+4.41%) traits. INFJs are 4% more likely to be eldest children than we would expect to see if personality and birth order occurred entirely by chance.

At the opposite end of the scale, ESTPs and ESFPs are much less likely to have grown up as the oldest child. It’s not easy being a free-wheeling Extraverted Perceiver when your parents are watching your every move!

As to why firstborns may develop the specific trait of introversion, some respondents felt their duty to take care of younger siblings played a part. “I learnt to sit back and observe, listen more and be supportive of others because of my birth order,” said one 52-year-old female. “I would have developed into a more outgoing personality if I hadn’t had siblings.”

This 31-year-old eldest child felt she had to be “reserved” as the oldest and an “advocate” for her younger siblings. “I feel introversion is higher for elder children because they tend to have their shine dulled a bit caring for younger siblings,” she said.

INFJs Are More Likely to Have Siblings

According to our research, onlies are much more likely to be Thinkers (+8.23%) rather than Feelers (-7.8%), and much more likely to be Perceivers (+6.91%) rather than Judgers (-8.3%). INTPs were 32% more likely to be only children than if personality had no connection with birth order. INFJs, by contrast, were 34 percent less likely to have grown up as only children than we would expect to see by chance — one of the most striking data points we found in the entire study.

So what’s going on here? Could having siblings push someone in the INFJ direction?

Our respondents seemed to think so. Overwhelmingly, they reported that having siblings was pivotal in developing the conscientious (Judging) and nurturing (Feeling) aspects of their personalities. In the words of one 20-year-old respondent: “INFJs, despite being introverts, love people and human interaction and highly value it … Growing up with siblings is the perfect fostering ground for an INFJ.”

This 41-year-old echoes the sentiment: “INFJs are very people focused…particularly when it comes to the emotions. I believe that an only child would not be exposed enough to others’ emotions and perhaps this would shape them into another personality type.”

Growing up with siblings is unlikely to change your personality drastically. However, our research indicates that having to get along with brothers and sisters throughout childhood could provide an extra “nudge” towards an empathetic, agreeable style of relating to others.

The Rare INFJ Only Child

INFJs are less likely to be only children — but that doesn’t mean INFJ only children don’t exist! Some of our respondents were shocked to learn just how rare INFJ onlies are. Many were passionate about INFJ being the archetype of the only-child personality. Here’s what this 49-year-old male only child had to say:

“I believe that growing up as an only child allowed me to cultivate a strong relationship with my own inner world. I had the time and freedom, and the need, to develop my imagination and process my experiences in my own way. People I know who have siblings seem to be far more inclined to be extroverted and to have a greater need to conform to what others expect rather than being inwardly motivated.”

This 47-year-old female only agrees, “As the only child of two academics, I spent a lot of time either alone or with adults, listening to their conversation and ideas, and reading. This seemed to foster my introspective, old soul nature early on, and for as long as I can remember, I felt very at home being alone….Perhaps because I had no siblings, I longed [for] meaningful relationships all the more. …I always surmised that my INFJ status was strongly correlated with being an only child, for [these] reasons.”

Did Your Birth Order Make You an INFJ?

If you believe that parents, siblings, and family dynamics can shape personality, then it’s difficult to ignore birth-order theory. It can lend some fascinating insights into why you are different than your siblings, despite having the same parents, similar genetics, and the same family environment.


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Of course, this research does not take into account other factors that are known to influence personality: genetics, health, education, socio-economic status, and gender have all been demonstrated by extensive research to influence personality development, and many of these factors almost certainly have a much greater impact than birth order.

Ultimately, your personality developed from a complex mix of nature and nurture — of which birth order may be a small but significant part. Understanding the impact of birth order may shine a light on why we are the way we are — but it’s just one small part of a much bigger puzzle

5 Reasons Why An INFJ Personality Might Feel Depressed

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INFJ personality depression
I’m an INFJ, and I’m clinically depressed. I’ve recently dropped 10 kg without trying, and lately my nights have been plagued by insomnia. I think I’m having a mid-life crisis in my early 20s because I can’t find meaning or purpose in my current situation.Of course, not all INFJs are depressed, and INFJs are certainly not the only Myers-Briggs personality types to struggle with depression. However, due to our sensitive nature, as well as our unique way of seeing the world, it’s not uncommon for us INFJs to deal with depression at some point in our lives.

(What’s your personality type? Take a free personality assessment.)

Based on my own experiences, here are five reasons why this rare personality type might feel depressed.

Why an INFJ Personality Might Be Depressed

1. We’re emotionally exhausted from taking on other people’s feelings.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve soaked up other people’s feelings without realizing it. Sometimes I feel like I’m swimming or floating or drowningin a maelstrom of emotions that don’t even belong to me.

As a result, I’m emotionally exhausted all the time. I quickly burn out in social situations and highly stimulating environments.

Whenever I’ve tried to explain this feeling to others, I often get the response: “Don’t worry about what others think.” The truth is, I’m not worried about what others think. I feel what others feel. When I walk into a room, I absorb people’s vibes — as though their energy is a tangible thing that has lured me away from my own self.

Being able to let go of the emotions of others and compartmentalize is extremely difficult for me, and it often makes me emotionally exhausted to the point of finding it difficult to function.

One of my managers picked up on this recently and said to me, “It’s like you’re a bank — most people are withdrawing and withdrawing without depositing anything back.”

Sadly, INFJs are known for this. We often take on careers in psychology and counselling, and even if we don’t, we unconsciously deal with the deep psychological issues of others without realizing it. Although empathy is our greatest strength, empathy burnout can take a toll.

2. We have very high standards for ourselves.

I’ve struggled with perfectionism a lot throughout my life. Sometimes, it’s advantageous. For example, when I’m working on an academic paper or finalizing a project, my meticulous eye can turn small successes into even greater triumphs.

Although perfectionism has been my unsung hero, it has also been my inner villain. I’ve always had high standards for myself and am disappointed if I don’t meet those standards. In my late teens and early twenties, I studied full-time, worked full-time across three jobs, and attempted to maintain a social life. I tried to make all the facets of my life “perfect — until I burned myself out.

I’ve recently come to realize that I’m awfully hard on myself. I’m disappointed when I cannot express myself to others in ways I’d hoped. If I have to do a presentation at work, I’ll idealize the perfect outcome, then beat myself up when I don’t perform exactly how I’d imagined. The same goes for my creative work — I often imagine something far greater than what is actually produced, and as a result, I’m often disappointed and disheartened.

As INFJs, our Introverted Intuition coupled with our judging nature makes us prone to having high expectations for ourselves, which means we often feel like we’re failing. When this happens, our introverted and emotional nature intensifies these feelings inward, making it difficult to cope, often leading to anxiety or depression.

3. Conflict really stresses us out.

INFJs tirelessly work towards harmony, often to the point of exhaustion. Although this may appear like an act of selflessness, their efforts are partially selfish, as INFJs need their external environment to be at peace before they can be at peace internally.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve always avoided conflict. Conflict is my Achilles’s heel. When there is conflict in one of my close relationships, it consumes me and leaves me feeling hopeless and vulnerable. I can hardly relax, rest, or take care of myself if I feel any sort of negativity in my environment. In fact, there have been many times when conflict has made me feel physically sick.

4. We crave meaning and purpose.

As an idealistic INFJ, I’m driven by meaning and purpose. I struggle when my work does not match my values and my desire to make a difference.

INFJs are notorious for championing a cause or advocating for others. When we’re unsure of our causes or cannot find meaning in our work, we float around rather lost, unsure of our purpose in life. This leaves us feeling pretty down in the dumps.

5. We overthink and overthink and overthink.

As an INFJ, overthinking is one of my biggest problems. In fact, if overthinking were an Olympic sport, I think INFJs would get the gold medals. We have a tendency to ruminate and reflect, and not always in the best ways.

Although most INFJs are proud of their ability to reflect — as well as their near-psychic intuition to pinpoint when there’s something wrong or forecast how things will unfold — overthinking can be detrimental to our mental health. Overthinking is when the little voice in our head gets out of control and we aren’t able to shut it down. It’s the kind of voice that is nasty and obsessive, and leads us nowhere.

For example, let’s just say someone asks me a question and I don’t give a good answer in the moment. For days to come, I might keep thinking about the question and answering it in my head over and over again as if I could somehow change my response. I overanalyze and overthink so much that it makes my brain hurt and leaves me exhausted.

If you’re an INFJ who is struggling with depression, know that you’re not alone. Remember to take care of yourself, just like you take such good care of others. And know that depression doesn’t have to last forever; you can learn to manage your emotions and feel better. See the resources below to help you get started.

The Personality Type That Struggles With Finding Healthy Relationships (And What To Do About It)

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Image by ZOA / Stocksy

When Alicia first met her now-husband of 13 years, she was not into him at all. They worked together at a restaurant after high school, and she decided quickly that he was a jerk because he wouldn’t look at her during their shift.

Maria hates looking at online profiles and finds herself swiping left more than right. There will be one picture in the series that will make her decide that guy is not for her.

Brenda keeps finding herself in a series of three-month relationships. Even though she really likes them in the beginning, there is always something that she discovers that doesn’t end up working for her.

Can you guess what these three women have in common that are making unconscious choices in their love story?

All these women have a “J” in their personality type.

Why J personalities struggle with relationships.

If you’re not familiar, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a popular personality test that categorizes people into one of 16 different personality types, designated with a four-letter code that describes where they fall on four different psychological spectra: extroversion vs. introversion, sensing vs. intuition, thinking vs. feeling, and judging vs. perceiving.

A person’s position on that fourth dichotomy—judging (J) vs. perceiving (P)—can have a significant impact on a person’s love life in particular. A person with a judging personality (which isn’t to be confused with being judgmental) is someone who likes a structured and predictable life, whereas someone with a perceiving personality is more adaptable and finds themselves choosing a life that is more flexible.

People with a J in their personality usually go for:

  • Things that are decided
  • Lists and tasks
  • Order, structure, and systems
  • Things that are straightforward, black-and-white, clear

Meanwhile, P personality types:

  • Prefer things that are open-ended
  • Are able to adapt to what comes at them
  • Go on their gut
  • Like things in the gray area

“This preference may also be thought of as your orientation to the outer world,” the Myers & Briggs Foundation website explains. “Some people interact with the outside world when they are taking in information. … Other people do their interacting when they are making decisions.” They go on: “When it comes to dealing with the outer world, people who tend to focus on making decisions have a preference for Judging because they tend to like things decided. People who tend to focus on taking in information prefer Perceiving because they stay open to a final decision in order to get more information.”

If you’re a J having trouble finding a relationship that sticks, you need to consider how this structured side of you is creating limitations and not a lot of choices. J personality types find themselves making yes and no decisions in dating very quickly. On dating apps, that can look like finding a picture of the guy in bad jeans in the fourth photo and swiping left because “he is not your type.”

J types may also find themselves making it to the date, and after less than 10 minutes deciding there is no attraction and completely turning off their vibe and charm. Or this pattern of fast decisions can go the opposite way, where J types are 100 percent convinced they found The One, only to be ghosted a few weeks later or, worse, spend months with a guy that isn’t really a good fit.

How to overcome your J.

If you’re someone who identifies with the more judging personality type described above and you’re struggling to find a significant other despite wanting one, here are two solutions for you based on your natural tendency to prefer certainty that will help you have more choices, more fun, and more connection with your future partner.

Try saying “maybe.”

Js naturally tend to make yes or no decisions very quickly, but the good news is that they can learn from the Ps and resist the need to make a quick decision all the time, at least when it comes to getting to know a potential mate. For example, my friend Alicia mentioned above later realized she was wrong to make the assumption that her now-husband was a jerk. He’s actually the nicest guy in the world; he was just shy, and her snap decision could have been the end of a great love story.

Make a quick decision on your coffee order instead, and be more curious about the person in front of you. Humans are complex and layered, and you certainly can’t be seeing the whole of a person in photos nor on a first date. Take a teaspoon of keeping things open-ended and learn to let yourself be surprised.

Be direct with your potential partners.

As a dating and relationship coach, the No. 1 complaint I get from my clients is that they are tired of being the only one planning. This issue causes couples to break up and also potential relationships to not even get off the dating app. When I find out they’re a J personality type, it totally makes sense because Js like to have things decided and hate leaving things open. The Js are tired and become resentful being the one who always reaches out first, makes plans, and organizes the whole date night.

The reality is J personality types are usually attracted unconsciously to P personality types because nature is always seeking balance. When you find yourself in this position, you have a choice. Choice one is to make sure you are picking another J to be in a relationship with. You can ask them directly if they are the kind of person that likes to make plans or wing it (Js usually appreciate and love the question!). Choice two is to understand in advance that Ps do not like decisions, lists, and structured plans like you do. If you choose to enter a relationship with a P personality type, it will be in your best interest to address this potential issue with clear and direct communication between the two of you before it starts to chip away at the good parts that you have together.

Do Anxious Owners Make For Anxious Dogs?

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We’re often amused when dogs and their owners seem to look alike—both have lanky limbs or shaggy locks, say. A recent study has found that dogs resemble their owners in an entirely different way: their personalities actually tend to be similar.

William J. Chopik, a social psychologist at Michigan State University and the study’s lead author, studies how human relationships change over time. Intrigued by the bond that people share with their pet dogs, he set out to examine those relationships and the dynamics within.

His study had the owners of 1,681 dogs evaluate their own personalities, and their dogs’ personalities, on standardized questionnaires. He found that dogs and their owners share personality traits. A highly agreeable person is twice as likely to have a dog who is highly active and excitable—and less aggressive—than someone who is less agreeable. The study also found that conscientious owners rated their dogs as more responsive to training and neurotic owners rated their dogs as more fearful. By contrast, “if someone is chill, their dog is chill,” says Chopik.

Chopik points out the obvious challenge in doing this study: you can ask people questions about themselves, but with a dog, you can only rely on owners’ observations of their pets’ behavior. But owner biases—the idea that owners may project their own personalities onto their dogs—don’t seem to come into play. Similar studies have found that acquaintances (strangers, friends, dog walkers) tend to rate a dog’s personality in the same way as its owner. (Does your dog prefer you over anyone else? It’s complicated.)

Why do these similarities exist? The study doesn’t address causes, but Chopik has a hypothesis. “Part of it is the dog you pick, and part of it is the dog it ultimately becomes because of you,” he says.

Chopik says that when adopting a dog, people tend to gravitate towards one that will naturally fit into their daily rhythms. “Do you want a rambunctious dog that needs a lot of interaction, or one that’s more chill for a more sedentary lifestyle?” he says. “We tend to choose dogs that match us.”

Then, whether through conscious training or just day-to day interactions, we shape their behavior—and they change as we change. “Our lifestyle changes trickle down,” he says.

Behaviorist Zazie Todd, author of the website Companion Animal Psychology, says it’s important to note that the five main traits widely used for evaluating people’s personalities (extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, negative emotionality, and open-mindedness) are not the same as the five personality factors used for dogs (fearfulness, aggression toward people, aggression toward animals, activity/excitability, and responsiveness to training). “But there are some really interesting links” between human and dog traits, she says, and qualities tend to match up.

“Even though you measure things in different ways, you find correlations,” Chopik says. “That makes similarities harder to detect, but we found them anyway.”

For example, while “extraversion” isn’t a trait that maps cleanly onto an animal’s personality, extraverted people are typically more outgoing and energetic, so a dog being highly active and excitable is a close parallel.

Future research could potentially tease apart the two possible causes for the personality links. In other words, that chicken-and-egg factor. For example, are friendly, outgoing owners more likely to choose a less fearful-seeming dog? Or is their outgoing lifestyle more likely to rub off on a dog over time? “People who are more agreeable may take their dogs out and about more so that the dog is better socialized and more used to different things,” Todd says. “It could be that people are shaping their dog’s personalities, and this is the most interesting possibility for me.”

Dogs’ Personalities Can Change To Be Like Their Owners’, Michigan Researchers Find

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Dogs apparently do become like their owners — and now there’s research to prove it.

new study by psychologists at Michigan State University (MSU) found that dog personalities change over time and their owners play a part.

“When humans go through big changes in life, their personality traits can change. We found that this also happens with dogs — and to a surprisingly large degree,” William Chopik, a professor of psychology at MSU and the study’s lead author, said in a statement.

“We expected the dogs’ personalities to be fairly stable because they don’t have the wild lifestyle changes humans do, but they actually change a lot. We uncovered similarities to their owners, the optimal time for training and even a time in their lives that they can get more aggressive toward other animals,” he continued.

The study, which was published in the Journal of Research in Personality, is one of the first — and the largest — of its kind that looks at changes in dogs’ personalities.

Chopik and his colleagues surveyed owners of 1,681 dogs, including 50 breeds that ranged in age from a few weeks old to 15 years old.

Owners were asked to evaluate their dog’s personalities, answer questions about their dog’s behavioral history and describe their own personalities.

The three main findings from the study were: a correlation of the dog’s age to its personality, a correlation of the owner’s personality to their dog’s personality and the influence a dog’s personality has on its relationship to its owner, Chopik said.

Chopik’s research found that people who were extroverted scored their dog as being more excitable and active, while owners who felt more negatively about their pets rated them as being more fearful, less active and less responsive to training.

People who ranked themselves as agreeable also rated their canines as less fearful and aggressive to other people and animals, the survey found.

The research also found the best time to train a dog is around the age of six.

“Older dogs are much harder to train; we found that the ‘sweet spot’ for teaching a dog obedience is around the age of six when it outgrows its excitable puppy stage but before it’s too set in its ways,” Chopik said.

Owners whose dogs were better trained, more active and more excitable reported feeling happiest about their relationships with their canines, as well.

“There are a lot of things we can do with dogs — like obedience classes and training — that we can’t do with people,” Chopik said.

“Exposure to obedience classes was associated with more positive personality traits across the dog’s lifespan. This gives us exciting opportunities to examine why personality changes in all sorts of animals,” he added.

Dog Personalities Can Shift Just Like Those of Humans, Study Says

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We like to imagine that all dogs are good dogs — and the vast majority of them never give us a reason to question that belief — but just how good they are is something that can change over time. A new study suggests that canine personalities aren’t set in stone and, just like humans, they can go through dramatic personality changes based on life events.

The research, which was published in Journal of Research in Personality, is the largest study of dog personality ever conducted. Over 1,600 dogs spanning 50 different breeds were included in the work, which surveyed pet owners and attempted to draw links between life events and changes in the behavior of the animals and their caretakers.

“When humans go through big changes in life, their personality traits can change. We found that this also happens with dogs—and to a surprisingly large degree,” William Chopik, lead author of the study, said in a statement.

“We expected the dogs’ personalities to be fairly stable because they don’t have wild lifestyle changes humans do, but they actually change a lot. We uncovered similarities to their owners, the optimal time for training and even a time in their lives that they can get more aggressive toward other animals.”

The researchers found that the old adage that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks does have some basis in reality, with older animals being harder to train once they are set in their ways. But what was particularly interesting to the scientists was how the personalities of dogs tended to follow that of their owners.

Active and outgoing individuals tended to be matched with dogs that were the same, while dogs that were anxious or hostile had owners that were more negative. Pets that were more excitable and happy were also shown to be easier to train, while the fearful and anxious animals didn’t respond as well to direction.

“There are a lot of things we can do with dogs—like obedience classes and training—that we can’t do with people,” Chopik explains. “Exposure to obedience classes was associated with more positive personality traits across the dog’s lifespan. This gives us exciting opportunities to examine why personality changes in all sorts of animals.”

What Does It Take to Have a Healthy Personality?

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If you were to stop and think about what features constitute a truly “healthy” person from a psychological perspective, what would be your criteria? Is it necessary to be happy to be healthy? Do you have to be able to roll with the punches that life throws your way? Do you need to be in a good relationship? Does your record of truth-telling have to be squeaky clean? Should you steer clear of arguments? Try coming up with your own set of criteria and jot them down, or just list them in your head right now. Hold on to your answers before you read further.

University of California, Davis psychologist Wiebke Bleidorn teamed up with a distinguished group of personality psychologists from around the U.S. and Germany to investigate exactly this question. It would seem to take a massive effort to get even two people to agree on what constitutes “health” from a psychological perspective. After all, would the criteria you listed to yourself agree with the ones you believe your own partner would generate? Making matters worse, there isn’t even 100-percent consensus among psychologists about the qualities that make up “personality.” However, if you are willing to take a leap of faith on that second question, perhaps the jobisn’t as impossible as it might seem at first glance.

Assume, for the moment, that you can define personality. According to the Five-Factor Model, the approach that has received the most rigorous empirical treatment, personality consists of a set of 30 facets that form five basic dimensions. As defined in this way, your personality consists of relatively consistent ways of approaching the experiences you encounter in your life. Additionally, the Five-Factor Model proposes that your behaviors reflect your personality. As a result, not only can you describe your own personality qualities if asked to do so on a questionnaire, but other people will be able to describe you with a fair degree of accuracy. The people who know you the best, in particular, can rate you on qualities such as attentionto detail, willingness to try new things, ability to handle adversity, and general “niceness.” The qualities that make up the Five-Factor Model include such characteristics.

Traits may not tell the whole story, because they don’t apply to the deeper motivations that influence your behavior, nor do they specifically apply to emotions, but in terms of describing your basic personality, they can do a reasonably good job. The authors believe that “existing personality trait models are a viable avenue for describing the healthy personality . . . [they] capture both normative and extreme patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and . . . multidimensional trait models seemingly capture most of the important variation in human personality.”

Bleidorn and her collaborators go on to note that the Five-Factor Model is viewed as a useful perspective for understanding personality disorders. Why not, they propose, flip things around and see what the model can do for shedding light on the qualities that make up the desirable personality? The authors recognize that the healthy personality might be a moving target, but it can at least be a target that experts can generate, making it possible to compare their criteria with those that the ordinary individual can agree are also part of the equation. Together, the expert and lay perspectives can provide a road map for defining, once and for all, what it means to have psychological health.

Before describing their own trait-based approach to defining the healthy personality, the authors took into account diverse perspectives in psychology, ranging from Freud, who defined health as the ability to “loveand work,” to Maslow, who believed psychological health is synonymous with “self-actualization.” Rogers, for his part, theorized that psychological healthy people are “fully functioning,” and Frankl proposed that healthy people are able to find meaning in their lives. Across these diverse perspectives, though, Bleidorn et al. believe that they all propose the existence of a “specific personality prototype” that has certain characteristics, including the ability to love, to hold an optimistic view of the world, to be rational, have self-awareness, be able to take responsibility, be open to creative ideas. Positive psychology, they suggest, further emphasizes the good that healthy people are capable of doing.

The first step in the approach the researchers used was to ask personality experts to provide their own ratings of which of the 30 qualities in the Five-Factor Model comprise the healthy personality. Scholars outside the trait tradition, namely from the area of positive psychology, also provided their own ratings as did undergraduate students, who, presumably, are not personality experts, at least as yet. After obtaining these ratings, Bleidorn et al. then went on to test the statistical qualities of these composite ratings. Going into the process, the authors expected the healthy personality to be low in the facets of Neuroticism (N), and high on scales measuring Agreeableness (A), Extraversion (E), Conscientiousness (C), and Openness to Experience (O).

Using listservs of two professional associations that focus on personality, the authors requested that anyone interested profile the healthy personality using the 30 traits incorporated into the full Five-Factor Model (five traits X six facets within each). The sample of experts included 137 psychologists averaging 38 years old, with 60 percent identifying as female, 54 percent having a doctoral degree, and 71 percent involved with research. The other experts included 77 researchers working within the positive psychology tradition (average age of 49 with a similar profile as the first expert rating group). Student raters were drawn from campuses affiliated with two of the study authors, but both in the U.S. There were slightly over 500 students in these samples, with an average age of 21 years (76 percent female).

From experts to college students, the rating task provided strong convergence in the healthy personality qualities. The profiles they generated included low scores on all facets of N, and high scores on Openness to Feelings (part of O), Positive Emotions (a facet of E), and Straightforwardness (a facet of A). The only difference between lay people (i.e., students) and the experts involved Gregariousness and Excitement-Seeking (facets of E); students weighted these more heavily than did the experts in constructing the healthy personality profile. The second set of studies tested the healthy personality profile for stability over a two-week period and then, using a longitudinal data set from Germany, examined stability over the far longer period of five years. They also took advantage of data from the German study to examine the extent of agreement between identical twins as an assessment of the potential heritability of the healthy personality qualities. The results extended the findings from the first study to show that the high stability (and even heritability) of the healthy personality profile.

Extending from showing the existence of, and stability of, the healthy personality profile, the research team then went on to examine how adaptive to adjustment people high in these qualities would be. As expected, people whose own personalities closely matched the healthy profile were positively adjusted, as indicated by high self-esteem, positive self-concept, a clear sense of self, and high levels of optimism. They showed considerable self-control and had low scores on measures of aggression. Although overall narcissism scores didn’t relate to the healthy personality profile, there was a tendency for those at the healthy end of the scale to be somewhat grandiose and self-sufficient. They did not, unlike people who fit the narcissism personality disorder definition, have high scores on exploitativeness. In the psychopathy domain, on the two qualities considered “adaptive” (boldness and stress immunity), healthy people had higher scores, but they had low scores in the maladaptive areas of blame externalization and lack of control.

From a developmental standpoint, the authors maintain that in contrast to what midlife crisis theory would imply, “the healthy profile indicated that experts consider those traits as particularly healthy that tend to be most pronounced in middle adulthood.” If you don’t have a healthy personality now, the findings imply, you can still work on gaining qualities that will help you get there.

To sum up, the process of achieving fulfillment is one that you can work on over time if your personality doesn’t meet the profile of optimum health. With the knowledge that being emotionally stable, open to creative ideas, straightforward, and responsible all contribute to psychological health, working toward this fulfillment may very well be an achievable life goal.

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