INFJ and the magnitude of those 4 letters 3


Oh my gosh you guys.

This might be the biggest discovery of my not so long adult life. Throw in some teenage years too, because they totally count!

Ah hell, this has applied my entire life and it just literally blew my mind.

I am an INFJ.

That Myer-Briggs personality type test that we all are vaguely aware of and maybe take in high school but don’t really pay attention to? That just changed my life.

For the better, I think.

Be forewarned, this is an incredibly long blog in the making so I hope you’re not discouraged by its length (although I won’t be at all offended if you skim most of it).

It will be helpful, if you’re that interested, to read up on the personality types to better understand (and maybe not empathize) but understand why this is kind of a big deal to me.

Read about INFJs here.

I am:

Introverted

iNtuituve

Feeling

Judging

And that last one doesn’t mean I judge everybody, it means I prefer to “judge” circumstances, weigh the pros and cons, and most importantly plan the things and actions I do as opposed to just “going with it.”

I need to back up, I’m getting ahead of my story.

I am not alone.

The BF just started his new job this week (WAY TO GO BABY) and I am so happy for him because he’s now working for one of the top 30 companies in the country (according to the “2014 FORTUNE’s 100 Best Companies to Work For” list).  Brag brag brag, I love my boyfriend, he is awesome, etc.

Because of this new position, one of his trainers had them take this “16 personalities” test online (the Myers-Briggs test, or a version thereof). He sent me his results, marveling at how spot on they were, and I noticed immediately that it was the Myers-Briggs formula.  4 letters, 16 personalities, and even variants. While I read his results, I noticed that yes, his results were almost spot-on and immediately started to wonder what mine would be? I figured the test was paid for by his new employer but no, it’s a free online test at 16personalities.com so I did what any normal curious person would do, I took the test.

And was absolutely over the moon about it.

Being an INFJ (and now I know the “why” behind all of this), I had always suspected that I was an INFJ.  But I never under any circumstances wanted to “identify” as one, especially with unfounded intuition, because INFJs are considered the most rare types in the Myers-Briggs spectrum.  It’s estimated that only 1-2% of the population have an INFJ personality.  Spouting out unfounded speculation that I was one of those unique few with (by definition) one of the most complex personalities out there seemed too flashy, too presumptuous.  Of course, that very trait makes me an INFJ. We are literally walking contradictions, and here’s why.

By nature, INFJs are introverted. But we are often mistaken for quiet extroverts because we can deal with people.  In fact, we actually like to, some of the time.  We like being the “counselors” (one INFJ nickname) for our friends and family.  We are problem-solvers, empaths, and great listeners.  We are introverted, however, because this kind of interaction with people wears us out easily.  We need to take a moment to step back and recharge. We don’t necessarily seek out parties or social gatherings, but prefer one-on-one conversation, and not about small talk. Having a mixture of intuition and feeling makes us empaths, which means we’re great at distinguishing what a person is feeling, but also can become very affected by it ourselves. Being surrounded by a bunch of people who are “projecting” their feelings can overwhelm us and make us want to go home to relax and unwind. We’re the kind of people who would plan every last insignificant detail of a party for one of our dearest friends, but an hour in, we wish we could just duck out for a little while. We’re planners.  We like detail, almost to a fault. We are more interested in the destination than the journey.

I don’t think the BF quite understood why I was so taken with this magical idea of being an INFJ.  He is an ESTP: the exact opposite of me.  He doesn’t feel, he thinks (not like he’s a psychopath or anything, obviously we’re very much in love, he just tends to think through problems, rather than “feel” through them, like I do, and I think this is a general personality quality of most men).  He’s extroverted, not introverted.  He’s more interested in the journey than the destination.  His reaction to his type test results was probably more rational and mildly interested, kind of an “uh-huh” moment that of course his results made sense but other than that he was not “emotionally” affected by how spot-on his results were.  As my opposite, he is not a suggested partner for my personality type.  Naturally, my sleep was plagued with nightmares of him being just an absolute jerk.

When he asked me how I slept last night and I told him about my nightmares, he came to the very logical (and completely accurate) conclusion that I had read up on the compatibility of our personality types and internalized it negatively. He also went on to tell me that “I was his world” and “nothing would change that” and it pretty immediately made me feel better. It also told me just how differently my test results had affected me versus how his had affected him (probably due in part to the fact that he’s a thinker and I’m a feeler, but getting back to that…)

Despite that, I think it’s kind of cool that, as opposites, we perfectly compliment each other. We agree on the same subjects, have so many things in common it’s not funny, and yet still have opposite personalities.  He encourages me to get out and explore my “faux” extroverted side.  I encourage him to spend more time at home just having “quiet nights in.” I can have a completely emotional, almost irrational reaction to something, and he is able to talk me through it from a logical perspective (which is mostly endearing, but also can be a little exasperating depending on my mood and the circumstances), and I think he understands that, despite his awkwardness about “feelings and emotions,” it’s not always a bad thing to talk about them. He encourages me to be spontaneous and not fall to pieces when everything isn’t planned perfectly, whereas I have introduced a little more structure into his life.

It’s said that when INFJ personality types discover that’s what they are, it literally changes their lives. Not because we were unaware of our personalities, but because we so often felt alone. Different. Outcasts.  Probably bullied, most of us, I would imagine. I sure was.  Unable to understand why we felt the way we do, and why we were so darn sensitive all the time! Why was I so affected when that person said that thing to me? Why did they feel like they needed to say that? S/he was just in a bad mood, s/he didn’t mean to snap at me, but why do I still feel so miserable?

We are finally given an answer and the ability to understand these things and more when we find out that we are not crazy weirdo aliens from another planet, which most of us probably started to think after a while. I remember being told in middle school that I was “bionic woman.” Not because of my super strength or because I could shoot lasers out of my eyes, but because I was a little weird.  Like a robot. I could do so many things and relate to so many people and had such an affinity for art, music and writing, and none of those children could understand why.

My blog is supposed to be a place where I can get out my ideas that run around in my head, and express myself, and now I truly feel like I can do that because I finally understand.

Just for the sake of example, and also because there might be one or two people who care about my epiphany that is this personality test result, I must share several experiences with you that have plagued me from my childhood on, and how I am suddenly able to comprehend why they happened and why they affected me so deeply.  Just another example of how much of an INFJ I am.

As a warning, there might be some less-than-well-mannered language and/or “scenes” below this point, so read ahead at your own risk.

  • I was in fourth grade. I was on the playground at recess and was physically assaulted by a fellow classmate. In shock and in tears, I went to the principal with a goose egg on my head.  She called me a liar.
    • What a terrible example of an adult, first of all. But second of all, I remember being so…flabbergasted by the accusation. “I think you’re lying.” I remember just staring at her in shock. My heart rate skyrocketed, my hands began to shake, and I thought I was going to be sick as she sent me out of her office. Then, almost as a coping mechanism for her accusation, I tried convincing myself that “maybe it didn’t happen the way I thought.” I remember not wanting to tell my parents about it because I was so sure they would side with her, the adult. It was justified, whatever happened.  I knew I wasn’t a liar, but I thought it was my fault for being intentionally kicked in the head by a classmate. I remember the utter relief when years later, I told my mom almost in passing about that incident and her horror and justifiable anger–not at me–that that woman had ignored the fact her daughter had been assaulted and then called her a liar on top of it. Even now, thinking about this incident almost 20 years later, I still get queasy and shaky and feel like a deer in the headlights. For the longest time, when I would talk about how much things like this affected me, I would get a response like “You’re being such a drama queen.” “You take things too hard.” No, not exactly.  I internalize everything and then spend years trying to figure out what went wrong.
  • High school.
    • High school alone could take dozens of blog posts to describe how awful that stretch of my life was. My classmates hated me.  I never understood how anyone could hate someone with the fervor that I was hated, and for seemingly, no reason. I’d like to think it’s because they also didn’t understand.  They just had the luxury of not being tortured on top of not understanding what was happening to them. Imagine being an introverted empath who has a hard time dealing with conflict and an innate desire to make people happy being bullied and tormented and made fun of, while also being unable to empathize with why they were treating her that way. No wonder I ended up depressed and, at one point, suicidal. At this point in my life, as traumatic as it was, I have to come to terms with the fact that I may never be able to empathize with or understand those people, and as hard as that is for someone like me, it’s best left alone because it will only make me miserable.
  • He spent months “wooing” me. He listened to what I had to say. He talked to me. He acted like he understood me, and he was the only one at the time who made me feel that he did. He was fun, he was sweet, he was charming. He was a snake. I was snakebit. He used me and left me and it was the first time I had been intimate with anyone and I thought I was dying. I wanted to die just to make the pain stop.
    • How awful to be “loved” and left.  I still mourn for that naive, destroyed 16 year old. It is said that INFJs use sex as the most powerful way to be close to the people they love (significant others, I mean). I wanted to show him I loved him, and my roiling teenage emotions didn’t help either. Especially for me, growing up in such a conservative house, to have that happen to me…it’s no wonder I lost my mind for a while. It’s also said that INFJs use frivolous sex as a tool for self-loathing. The truth in this statement just floors me.  How long did  I use that “tool”? After the snake, came the scorpion and the spiders and the wasps and all other manners of creepy crawlies that I used to torment myself over and over to find closure against that first wound. I am speaking in metaphors, I know, but how liberating and horrifying at the same to find out why.  I tried to recreate that “emotional connection” for years…all the while torturing myself in the meantime.  Who needs bullies when you hate yourself? When you hate what you did, when you hate that you disappointed everyone, when you are so swallowed up by everything that makes an INFJ miserable and you can’t escape from your own mind? That poor misunderstood little girl. I’m not being self-pitying…I’m past that point in my life, but that poor little girl…that INFJ who was so desperate to please and so desperate to be loved and so desperate to have closure that she trapped herself in a vicious cycle for years. And being that complex, contradictory personality, no one knew how to help her.
  • My spring semester of my senior year was almost worse than the rest of it.  I was still reeling from the snake, trying to put the pieces back together, repressing and suppressing and pretending everything was okay. This was the year that people noticed I was being bullied, so subtly it was almost invisible, but I was lucky enough to have a brother who vouched for me when I would come home shellshocked and distraught because I could not comprehend how human beings could treat someone else that badly.
    • I remember talking to my mom about this, and she told me that after a while they started to wonder if it was as bad as I said it was, so they went to my brother who shared the same class with me. He told them in no uncertain terms that yes it was that bad, it was like the temperature in the room dropped 20 degrees when I walked in. If he could see it, if someone not me could see it…part of me wonders in all seriousness now how I managed to escape high school with my sanity. I internalized every harsh word, every embarrassment, every pointed jab or intentional attempt to upset and hurt me and just tried to make sense of it all and couldn’t. I’d like to think those people grew up to be nicer adults but part of me just doesn’t think that’s possible after how awful they were as 18-year-olds. It was so bad that I have, up until just recently, kept some of the memorabilia “gifted” to me by these people just to try and make sense out of why they would do something like that to me. I threw it all out just last week.
  • I was just barely out of high school. I had my first website, something I was immensely proud of since it hosted most of my stories and art at the time. I’ll never forget the first time someone called me a whore using the anonymity of my own website’s comment section.  I’ll never forget the sickening feeling of something I had poured heart and soul into and was so proud of being turned into nothing but a reminder of that anonymous person who let me know in no uncertain terms that they hated me.
    • Another heart pounding, nausea inducing moment.  That comment had been posted for months before I saw it.  But once I did, I couldn’t stand the thought of having that website anymore.  Having someone “publicly” lash out at me, especially on something I had created…I dismantled the website immediately, I’ll never forget it.Why are people so driven to conflict and cruelty?
  • I worked for a man who screamed at me when the smallest thing went wrong, who cursed and threw things and I ultimately ended up sick for months and having regular mental meltdowns. 
    • Knowing what I do now, I should have quit that job the first time he ever raised his voice at me.  But I was so desperate to “please” him, to show him that I could get it right…he was like the incarnate version of that little perfectionist voice in my head telling me that my work was not good enough, that there was always something to improve, that I could always do better. Except he interspersed those insults with curses and slamming doors. No wonder I was so sick all the time when I worked for him. I internalized so much of that hatred (maybe not of me, but definitely of something!) that it literally poisoned my body.  I was completely healthy for almost a year after I quit that job (and then I got the flu, but that’s entirely unrelated).

Imagine spending your entire life thinking there was something wrong with you.  Sure, you could have loving parents or friends who tell you that you’re awesome and wonderful and talented, but that doesn’t negate the fact that you feel different. You know you’re different. You can feel or sense things others can’t. You feel more strongly, and aren’t as “sociable” as the other people around you and then they start to wonder if there’s something wrong with you. “Why do you like to sit in your classroom during lunch?” “Why don’t you want to go out with us?” “Why are you so quiet?” And then suddenly you’re almost sure that you’re this abnormal, crazy, mentally impaired person who just doesn’t quite fit in with everyone else.

I have felt like I have been an outsider for my entire life…and suddenly I feel like I have come HOME. I am not alone. I am not abnormal. Misunderstood, maybe, and my younger self was definitely traumatized, but I am free in knowing, in understanding, just a little better how my mind works, and that there is a percentage of people–not a large one, but a percentage nonetheless–of others who think and feel like I do.

Now when my boss is terse or seems irritated at something, I can be free in knowing that the likelihood of it being something I did is pretty slim. When the BF snaps at me it’s probably not me, it’s just that traffic sucked and he’s stressed and needs to unwind before I start pestering him to tell me how he’s feeling (especially since he’s not one of the “Feeling” types who isn’t as comfortable sharing emotionally like I am). When I’m faced with conflict, or negative comments on the internet, or just mean-spirited people, I can keep the nausea and shaking and general “falling apart” stuff at bay and know that it’s a good thing that I will never be able to empathize with those kinds of people.

And that it’s okay to take a few minutes at a party to hide in the bathroom or the bedroom to catch my breath.

And that my passion for music and art and computers and those things are not “weird” or “abnormal”, but just part of what my personality is drawn to.

And that I’m not “stuck up” or a “stiff” because I like to plan things out and know what goal I’m aiming to accomplish (whether it’s planning a day of errands or planning a vacation).

And most importantly, that I am no longer alone.


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3 thoughts on “INFJ and the magnitude of those 4 letters

  • Laura

    Caitlin,
    I know we haven’t spoken in…forever. I just happened upon your website and I wanted to tell you how great it is! I know it probably means little to nothing coming from me, but it’s true none the less.

    I recently took the Meyer-Briggs personality test for a psych class and discovered I am an INTP, and it changed my life also. So many things about my life and about the way I act/acted and treat/treated people makes sense, not that I feel it is an excuse for anything. I was so stunned. Reading your post, well, it really made me smile because…I don’t know, it just did. I wasn’t sure if you would have wanted to hear from me, and I’ve been sitting here contemplating whether or not I should even write a comment. I know we really grew out of the friendship we had, which makes me sad, but that’s just how life works I guess. There’s no use looking back and saying “woulda, shoulda, coulda”, but I did want to say this: you’ve always been a beautiful, special person to me, even though we aren’t “friends”, technically speaking. Maybe that’s a strange thing to say, but without having you in my life, I don’t know how I would have gotten through high school most days. Or half of middle school for that matter. You were pretty important to me, although I acted as though you were less than important a lot of the time. Young, stupid, blah, blah, blah… I was all of those things and then some. Anyways, I don’t really know what I’m trying to say, I’m probably just coming off as very strange, but I just wanted to let you know how I felt. It really brightens my day to see how great you seem to be doing. Okay, the weirdness is over! Hope this finds you well.

    • caitlinelysey
      caitlinelysey Post author

      Laura,

      I definitely appreciate your sweet words. It is true that we grew out of the friendship we had, but I feel like that is just an unavoidable part of life. Many people I swore I’d be friends with “forever” have passed out of my life, but I will always look back fondly on the memories of those friendships while they lasted.

      I am so glad that I was able to be there for you through high school and middle school. Yes, young and stupid, blah blah blah. We all were, to a point, I think. Luckily we can grow out of the young part, and most people get out of the stupid phase too, eventually. 😉 lol

      The Meyer-Briggs model has, as you probably read, helped me immensely understand the kind of person I am and how I work best interacting with other people–in positive ways and otherwise. It has cleared up so much of the mystery and confusion of my teenage and young adult years and helped me understand myself better than I ever thought I could. If only our public school system had taken the time to help us learn these kinds of things (along with how to buy a car or a house and what having good credit actually means) instead of trying to beat us over the head with TAKS test knowledge! Oh well, better late than never I suppose.

      I’m so glad you took the time to say hello, and I hope that you are also doing well!

      Best,
      Caitlin