20170407_073450

On Being INTJ – And Growing

(Psst! I’m making this blog post available as a Podcast for the first time ever! Check it out here, if that’s your thing.)

Can I be really brave with you guys in this post?

This message has been growing in my heart over the past few months, but I’m nervous to share it with you. I’m afraid that the fact that I’ve struggled so hard with this stuff will reflect poorly on me. I’m afraid of getting this message wrong, or that no one will find these topics as moving and powerful as I do.

But here’s the thing: I really, truly believe in this message. And I made a commitment to be brave this year, and uniquely myself, and I think this post qualifies.

Here’s my truth:

A few months ago I was explaining to a friend the struggle of growing up INTJ and how I’ve changed (and changed myself) over the years. How embarrassed I was by the things I said and did when I was younger, how hard it was to find a place to fit into the world (and sometimes still is), and how radically my job in human resources influenced my growth.

“I know,” she said. “You told me this, once. Years ago.”

Years?

It turns out I have a narrative about myself as someone only recently on the kinder side of things. I guess part of me still feels I’ve only just escaped my old thought patterns. Some part still thinks I have to apologize and preemptively warn people I might slip up and say something completely insensitive, and how hard I’m trying to overcome that.

That blog post I made two years ago discusses the the trials and glories of the INTJ personality type, but I’ve never really explained how I taught myself to evolve beyond the more negative aspects.

In the current political climate I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this: How does one move past judgmental, detached thinking into empathetic, compassionate thinking?

I want to use this blog post to explain how it happened for me, and condense the years of wisdom I’ve accumulated on these topics to hopefully help someone else who wants to change, but doesn’t know how.

But listen, another (terrified) part of me thinks you might read this and go, “Wow, what a freak. Was it really so difficult for you to like and get along with people like, you know, an ordinary human being?”

Have I not made that clear by now? Yes.

If making friends and just generally interacting with people was easy for you from the start, I’m very glad for you. It wasn’t like that for me. My introversion, my social anxiety, my neurotic logical floundering… I was just built and grew up in a way that made people-stuff hard. And because of that, I’ve had to study and practice and dig to get at the heart of what people-stuff is all about, and how I could bring myself more into the fold.

Here’s what I found:

Continue reading “On Being INTJ – And Growing”

20170407_073450

On Being INTJ

Growing up, I knew I was different. Not different in a good, quirky way, but different in a bad way. I couldn’t make friends. Music made me feel depressed and anxious. I could only take interaction with non-family members for so long before, again, I became depressed and anxious, overwhelmed with the violation of emotions that weren’t my own. I had no understanding of nuance and exceptions; things were or they weren’t and my emotional intelligence was so underdeveloped I could be quite mean, not understanding how my words affected others. Pretty ironic for a writer, huh?

I recognized my failures to be a normal kid but couldn’t understand why it was so. I remember in sophomore Psychology class the teacher asked us what we wanted to get from our experience in the class, and my answer was, ‘how normal people think.’ One girl repeated my words with offense, ‘normal people?!’ and I just looked away, because I knew: I was different, and I couldn’t explain how. No one could, not my friends who accused me of being exhausting and close-minded (they were right), and not the psychologists who just looked at me blankly while I tried to explain my thoughts.

Something was different, something was missing. As a method of self-defense, at times I wore my difference as a badge of pride, even if only internally, though if I’m being honest it always hurt. Still, this self-deception caused me numerous problems as a teenager and it’s only been in the last few years that I’ve been able to let go of it.

Continue reading “On Being INTJ”

20170407_073450

Who You Are

This is a post about accepting your personality. Not your race, creed, religion, or orientation, but your very basic programming.

Have you ever felt that somehow you were lacking? That who you are isn’t good enough; that you weren’t born with whatever it is that makes people likable? That all this social stuff was a conspiracy to make you feel like a bad or boring person for not liking it?

Or on the flip side, have you ever felt terrified to be alone, safe only in groups, alive only when interacting with others? Pannicked when people tell you they need their own time, completely baffled as to why being alone is somehow supposedly good for you when all it does is make you feel small and depressed?

Men and women face a lot of messages about how they’re supposed to be, and I think we focus on the looks side of that. But what about personality? Don’t you think we’re getting messages about that, too; that we should feel a certain way, enjoy certain things and dislike others? That we have to have a partner and a BFF and ‘the guys’ or ‘the girls’ and a super close childhood friend and ‘the one that got away’, and all of these different relationships that we’re told are part of a ‘normal’ (read: happy) life?

It took me a long time to be at peace with who I am. I always liked myself, I just worried often that who I am was going to cause me regret later in life because I didn’t have a ‘normal’ teenage experience. I haven’t really had a normal anything, in fact. And sometimes people made me feel bad about that, not because they wanted to bring me down, but because they genuinely felt I was ruining my youth by doing my own thing.

~~~

“Have you made any friends yet?”

My family was at a neighborhood party shortly after we’d moved from WA to IL. The woman asking me the question was our next-door neighbor.

“Well, I’m exploring several different opportunities at this time, but nothing’s really happened yet.”

Mom told me later the woman had come over to her immediately and told her what I’d said, laughing because it was so outrageous to her. Instead of “yes” or “no”, I’d talked about opportunities and exploration, as if this was a business decision and not something a teenager automatically did.

This is how I’ve always been. Stoic, robotic. People thought me emotionless or strange because I process with logic. Recently I took the Meyers-Briggs test (this one, actually) and got surprising results: INTJ. Surprising not because the results were bad or inaccurate, but because it was scarily accurate. That’s exactly who I am.

Suddenly it all made sense. Why I never had friends in elementary school, why I clashed with nearly everyone in high school, why people sometimes accused me of having selective memory loss, why I’d rather observe than participate, why I feel exhaustingly bored at social functions, and why I don’t have close friends IRL to this day.

And then I felt at peace. It re-affirmed what I had known internally but had no way to prove to anyone: I’m just this way, naturally. There’s nothing wrong with me. I like me.

And I’m not the only one.

INTJ’s are rare, but not the most rare. Which means there are millions more like me all around the world, living their own, solitary lives and being perfectly happy doing so.

I didn’t go to prom. I didn’t even want my driver’s license. I didn’t have a boyfriend in high school. I didn’t become a ‘college student’. I didn’t live in an apartment with roommates. I’ve never been to a club.

Instead, I got a professional job. I took online classes so I could teach myself, alone. I bought a house. I worked all day then came home and wrote all night. I settled down with my life partner. I was twenty.

“You act like you’re thirty. You’re only young once!”

And then I felt guilty. Had I ruined everything? Was I supposed to be out getting drunk at a frat house and dragging myself to class in the morning with a bow in my hair in my school’s colors? Were all the things I thought accomplishments instead symbols of the way I didn’t fit into society?

I felt bad because I didn’t really know what I was ‘supposed’ to be doing. Somehow I wasn’t good at being a young woman. I was a freak. Wasting my youth. Setting myself up for decades of regret.

Except the only thing I felt bad about was feeling bad.

Because here’s the thing, something I’ve always felt slightly guilty of because it seemed so abnormal: I like myself. I like what’s inside my head. It’s fun in here. I would rather be alone with my thoughts and my worlds than have to interact with the internal worlds of strangers.

(That doesn’t mean I don’t care about people; I do. I care very deeply. When I like you, everything about you fascinates me. I am delighted just watching you, smiling because you smile, laugh because you find something funny. I’m just more selective with the people I consider close to me, and if I don’t talk to them for weeks at a time I don’t feel incomplete.)

Seeing those test results finally proved to me that there was nothing wrong, I was just cut from a less mainstream cloth. And I’m okay.

If you’ve ever felt bad about who you are, I encourage you seek out information about your personality, and then embrace it. You can’t change your basic programming, so you might as well love yourself and be happy with who you are. You are your only guaranteed life partner. :-)

What about you? What personality traits do you have that have made you feel isolated or ‘wrong’ in the past? And if you take the Meyers Briggs test, tell me your results! Especially if you’re an INTJ ;-)