In my orientation to one of the colleges I went to we took a Myers-Briggs personality test. If you don’t know what that is, it is this LOOOONNNGGG series of questions that you answer that lumps you into one of 16 categories based on your reactions to and perceptions of the world. I came back as an INFJ. What does that mean exactly?
I – Introvert – I am energized by alone or quiet time
N- Intuition – Seeing patterns and possibilities in the world, preferring ideas and concepts to facts
F- Feeling – Prioritizing people and emotions and making decisions based on values and feelings
J- Judgement – Liking the outer world to be orderly instead of spontaneous (I don’t remember why this is labeled as judgement)
Again, what the hell does that all mean?!
It doesn’t even matter, it is a construct that puts people in boxes of which I am pretty opposed to. Mostly because I have never fit into a box. And you know why? It’s because I am a damn INFJ! This personality type makes up just 1-2% of the population. In all seriousness though, taking that test and being “discovered” and realizing that how I saw the world was indeed a “valid” way to view it was comforting. It was the first time in my life that I ever felt some repose in who I was, I felt seen. Even if it was a test, taken on a computer, with no real person attached to it. It meant I belonged somewhere. Looking at the above “definitions” of that personality type it amazes me that I made it through school. They told me and the one other person in my class that was an INFJ that we would struggle (did we band together and support each other, absolutely not, put two introverts together and all you will get a lot of silence haha). What they didn’t tell us was how our personality type would be an asset to our profession or how they would support us in our journey. That’s probably because they didn’t know… and truth be told, not many traditional institutions will offer support because we are so rare, it is simply not financially sound to help the outliers, cover the 80% under the bell curve and call it a day… well thank you very much, I will do it on my own anyways!
**As an aside I find it so interesting that everyone strives to be unique, to make their mark in the world, yet we fear so much being different or being seen, and that we derive such satisfaction from labels because it makes us more understandable. It gives us permission to just be…. but that’s a topic for another day (and obviously one which I am not immune to). **
INFJ’s are really cool. We are highly empathic, compassionate, perceptive individuals. We travel by a set of deeply entrenched personal values and are very idealistic. We are often discouraged by the harshness of the world but still choose to take positive action. We have intrinsic motivation to create a better society. We profoundly value deep, authentic connections with people and we realize those are few and far between so when we have that we cherish and tend to it deeply. We do not shy away from a person’s complex problems as we realize we are complex ourselves. We can appear gentle and reserved, but have a depth of spirit about our ethics and morals that can show itself with the ferocity of a viking warrior if those values are under fire. We feel intensely and deeply and if we do not feel appreciated we will withdraw. We can be stubborn and obsessive when we are under stress. We can come across as extroverted because we care deeply and connect deeply with people which can be confusing when we retreat to a quiet sanctuary. We are intimate with a very small, chosen few and even from them we sometimes pull away completely to recharge.
As a young kid, I knew I was different. I was told time and time again I was difficult. Difficult to get along with, difficult to love, just plain difficult. I shunned so much of me for so long. I used to hate who I was, that I felt so out of place and didn’t know why, that I couldn’t seem to figure the world out. I was so disheartened and confused by the darkness in the world. Seeing on paper what I was feeling and what I had known about myself for so long was oxygen to a dying soul. It would be another six years before I would find a group of people who would accept me for who I was and in that would find a person that encouraged more of me to come out of my shell. Now when I read that paragraph of attributes it makes this warm feeling in the center of my heart, because those things are pretty cool, and very powerful. To be able to connect deeply and to seek to create a better world, to allow only authenticity… these, to me, are super powers and I feel… proud… proud of me, of what I have to offer this world. That is such a new and novel feeling. Knowing some of these characteristics and being able to read more about the psychology of my particular personality type allows me to evaluate blind spots more effectively. As long as they resonate with me of course! Yes, INFJs are difficult. But it is only because we don’t really fit well into this mold of society. We are labeled such because people don’t and often can’t understand us because we are the way we are. I for one wouldn’t have it any other way.
It’s a really interesting dichotomy to grow up how I did. I never fit anywhere. But I also never tried to. I hid myself instead, I think because I knew inherently that I belonged SOMEWHERE, I just didn’t know where it was. I think it was my want for authenticity that left the core of me intact. It was covered in a lot of layers of shit and negative conditioning, but now, each layer that is revealed is like a shiny new object. Even the negative or darker stuff. I am able to step back and say, wow this really interesting thing is coming in… here is why and here is how I can shift perspective on this. I do this a lot with being an introvert. I get told all the time I need to be more social. I need to get out more. I need to do blah blah blah… People don’t get me, but I do. And more importantly I can appreciate me and feel a sense of pride and understanding in myself and my differences. I no longer feel guilt at needing space to recharge or for not feeling more social because I know that my solitude makes way for those attributes that I so deeply value, and taking time for me supports my highest self. And I also know that if I am shying away from people it means that their energy doesn’t feel completely authentic and to find those who I fit with I actually DO have to get out and explore a little more.
So how do you travel through life as an introvert?
It’s the same as anything else. You love and accept yourself. You learn to see yourself for the power that you do have. You embrace the fact that you don’t fit in and understand that that means you can present a really powerful new perspective to the world and you accept that you have a lot to offer.
And when you find those select people in your life who just seem to get you, or maybe they don’t get you but they accept you… you hold onto them. You create a support system and you put your energy into those relationships that do fill you up knowing that they don’t come along very often. And even if those relationships don’t look how you think they should, or love doesn’t show up in the way you imagined, you adjust to accommodate those special people in your life.
I, for one, love being an introvert. I am so firmly one that I have never even considered trying to be more extroverted. It’s far too draining and I know would never work for me. I know some introverts who try and succeed and can manage the energy pull, but not me. I will forever need recharging, and that’s okay, because when I do show up in the world it is as a massive fire ball of love and affection and it has the capacity to heal (at least this is what I am told!) and I am starting to see that evidence. Each time a person says thank you, or you’re inspiring or your support has really helped me, I take those words and plug them into the part of me that needs evidence to see my potential, and while I will never feel that I am doing enough, or saying the right things, or showing up enough, I will know that I am making a difference.
Being an introvert shouldn’t be shunned. Being different should be celebrated and honored, even if it is in a quiet, gentle manner done in the sanctity of a comforting solitude. There is nothing wrong with any of us. We all fit in somewhere. We are all a part of this pulsating energy that makes up this global collective. It may be the amazing 80% that dictate society, but it is the 20% that brings in more diversity, that sees the world differently and offers perspectives and passions that bring an additional layer of beauty and joy to life. Let me be clear here, I NEED that 80%. Those are the people who bring light and energy easily into this world, they create so many of the gregarious and beautiful things that we have. I could not survive without that 80% nor would I be different if they didn’t exist. The people under the bell curve drive society. And…. We are all unique. We are all special and we should all celebrate what we are, because at the end of the day we are all gifts to each other and shouldn’t strive to be anything other than authentically ourselves. ❤ ❤
Lotus Image by Carl Chen from Pixabay