February 5, 2016
Is it just me, or…is being an INFJ totally underrated, especially considering there are believed to be fewer than 1% in the global population?
The title of this post is pronounced ‘ill will’ but what it means is quite the opposite. Everyday I wake up an optimist. It’s something a friend of mine and I labelled ILWL about ten years ago. It stands for ‘In Love With Life’. And then an hour or so after my beloved coffee, when morning time starts to fade into mid-morning, I pretty much loathe life and everyone again as equally as I did at bedtime. I blame this erratic change and my apparent mood swings on the human condition and I also think it’s partly hinged to my Myers-Briggs personality type – INFJ - and how I am able to absorb and process the human condition. Introverts are the shy, silent type, the seeming brooders in the back of the room, hoping whatever it is we are doing in the group will end rapidly and we can be alone, again, at last. And while introverts are considered to have a ‘seclusive social attitude’, it’s the combination of all my personality traits in the INFJ, called ‘the counsellor’ or ‘protector’ that drives me to contemplate the glory of life and want to help people realise their human potential without actually having to interact with anyone for too long a period of time.
But much of civilised life, where I assume this human potential will be actualised, I find difficult in every sense. Fitting in, polite conversation, showering every day, the school run, working in an office, faking my true emotions to appear normal and polite so as not to hurt my daughter’s chances of having normal friendships, etc. I also find it very difficult to maintain my own friendships because people truly exhaust me, even when I love them deeply, but also because regularly their expectations of me are something I find I can’t live up to. I’ve lost plenty a friend over the years to this tragic reality and as I get older, I note those relationships I am able to maintain easily are generally with people who share 3 or all of my Myers-Briggs character traits with me, or who are extreme extroverts and surround themselves with so many friends that I naturally cycle into their ‘needs’ circle once every six months. I also regularly ‘over-extrovert’ to make up for my extreme introversion (you know, just to come across as normal) but that generally backfires later when people figure out the true me. I can’t help thinking I should hand out a pamphlet when I meet someone new I connect with, but then I consider how someone once told me that just because you tell someone you’re a bit of a bitch, doesn’t actually make it okay. Can explaining who you are upfront help ease the pain of disappointment later?
I think INFJs are naturally drawn to one another. We just inherently understand each other and know that when we’re blown off by the other, it’s not personal, it’s probably just that they couldn’t cope with other humans that moment, hour, day, week. Months can go by without any contact, but when we do get together, there’s no explanation needed and we can easily get right back into the good, deep meaningful relationship/passion/ stuff of life talk like we see each other every day without having to go over the tedious details of everything that’s happened at work/kids’ school/etc. since we last saw one another. Some people might just call this a good friend. I call this nearly impossible.
It is nearly impossible for me to stay truly connected with non-INFJs as my thoughts, feelings, passions and positions change nearly on the hour as the world spins around and humanity becomes what I perceive to be more and more depraved and obsequious (which triggers the night time loathing of all humanity). The advent of extreme technology also brings too many selfies and too much bad news into my domain, just like an extrovert’s excessive talking. Just stop. Take stock. Enjoy the silence. Enjoy the moment without photographing it. I am not ready to hear about the drought in Ethiopia (although I will donate £3 to UNICEF) when I am still not over seeing ‘The Cove’ nearly 3 years ago and finding out what’s happening to the dolphins in Japan. People regularly tell me my ‘screen saver’ (my outward standard face) is ‘grumpy’ or ‘aloof’. Trust me, it’s neither. I’m actually generally happy, but due to my outwardly perceived neuroses, it is nearly impossible for me to maintain any sort of relationship at all and yet, my heart truly aches – bleeds even – for most of humanity and most especially the wounded, mistreated, underdog, small child, and obviously, ever so passionately – the dolphin. But I talk about these things too soon and too early and frighten people and – even worse – come across as a fanatic or political! I might even deeply, desperately want to talk to you or be friends with you, but I lose faith so rapidly in myself knowing I won’t call or text you back in a timely fashion and there are only those few hours each morning I have to reach out, make plans, or rectify and repair any damage I might have done in the previous days. It’s like permanently living in the movie Ground Hog Day, but with only a few hours each day to make the improvements, upgrades, changes, or to even have the awareness before I’m over-stimulated with all the bad news and self-importance that’s shoved down our throats each day. By Noon, I’m emotionally spent.
I write this now for everyone of us who is always generally misunderstood because we come across as bored, uninterested, or unfriendly. Beyond the introvert, it’s the INFJ in me that renders me incapable of making small talk with you. It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s just that I can’t do it because I am probably deeply lost in thought about the friend I lost a few years ago due to my inability to call her back/ visit her/ return a text. So what’s the point in starting something new? I am only setting myself up for failure and disappointment on your part. Find someone else who wants to go shopping with you, is able to happily leave the house and enjoys things like the winter fair, cocktail parties or weddings. I do, but only in small doses. In fact, I enjoy everything, including myself, only in small doses. Call me when you want to talk at length about your passions, your problems, your worst fears, biggest loves and impossible dreams. Those I can make time for, even in big doses.
So then maybe the morning ILWL is actually perfectly proportioned for me time-wise. It’s nearly 10.30, so I have a few hours to sort out that pamphlet thing. Wish me luck!