Monday, December 27, 2010

The World of an Introvert

A few years ago when I went to Colorado for my best friend's wedding, it was the first time I was able to actually sit and talk to her husband Andrew. I quickly realized that he and I were two peas in a pod... both of us deeply intellectual people and reflective by nature, creatively oriented and severely introverted. I was so happy to know that I was able to connect so well with Ami's husband because I knew the friendship I had formed with her was going to be a life long one... and knowing I could get along with Andrew so well meant the world to me... and her also, I think.

During one of our long discussions on that trip we began talking about the popular Myers-Briggs personality test. I had never heard of it before but once Andrew and Ami began explaining it to me I was enthralled and wanted to immediately know what "type" I would be... the test is broken up by eight different type indicators and each person has four out of the eight.

You are characterized by being either:
Extroverted or Introverted
Sensing or Intuitive
Feeling or Thinking
Judging or Perceiving
I turned out to be an INFP on my original test but was also very borderline on the Perceiving vs. Judging line and these days I tend to lean more towards INFJ. (INFJ's make up only 1% of the population btw, the rarest type of all the Myers Briggs combinations.)
Now I know a lot of people think that these personality tests tend to be silly or limiting and I've often heard... usually from men that I know... that they think it's kind of dumb to put yourself in a box by labeling yourself as one of these types. I on the other hand love Myers-Briggs... and I'll tell you why. I tend to have a very strong sense of my identity defined by the fact that I am an extreme introvert and I think if you read the description of what an INFJ is... you would have me dead on.

"Consequently, most INFJs are protective of their inner selves, sharing only what they choose to share when they choose to share it. They are deep, complex individuals, who are quite private and typically difficult to understand. INFJs hold back part of themselves, and can be secretive. " Source

Bingo... me in a nutshell. I think for so much of my life I felt like I was living in a world that did not understand me... a world full of people that didn't really see me or value the things that I valued... and you know what I've realized over the past few years? I was... and I still am living in a world of people who don't understand me! When I first discovered the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator... and after talking to Andrew and discovering how similar we are... it was as if a huge weight was lifted off of my chest. For the first time in my life I felt deeply understood by someone... finally there were words that explained who I was and I realized that the reason why I often times felt uncomfortable in my own skin is because I was forcing myself to be something I am not.

See... I live in a world that is often driven by extroverts and people who love and value everything opposite of what I love and value. I am a person who so deeply values alone time... it is a necessity for my psychological well-being and physiological health. I enjoy silence and I gather energy from the calm, quiet moments I am able to withdraw from the crowds and reflect on what I'm feeling... what I am processing internally. Although I am articulate, I often times have difficulty verbalizing what I am feeling... but give me pen and paper and you will see my heart. I hate being in large groups of people where I have to small talk for hours and engage on an active level.... for me it is incredibly draining. I love having small groups of like-minded people that I can share my heart with. I love it even more when I can sit one on one with someone and share my thoughts, feelings and experiences with them and I absolutely love to be a recipient of the same on their end.... but more than anything I just long to be known .
The more I share... the more you listen and the more you are able to share your heart with me.... that is the ultimate prize in any relationship of mine.

The problem with being me is that often times people misunderstand my reclusive tendency as snobbery or they assume that because I want to be alone so much that I am lonely or shy. Both of which I am not. If I am in a group or with someone who is louder and more talkative than I am... I tend to shutdown internally and it is very easy for me to remain on a surface level with them... sharing pleasantries and laughing at their jokes but you never really see the real me in those situations and I very quickly become exhausted when around those types of people. Consequently, I have chosen to surround myself with people who are all similar types to mine. Out of my group of best friends (there are more than 10 of us who are extremely close to each other) I can safely say that only 1-2 of them are genuinely extroverted.... and even then they tend to lean towards the introverted spectrum. All of us for the most part are quiet, reserved people who value more than anything the ability to be known by one another... the ability to rely on the fact that our friendships are deep and based on being able to share and trust that our friends will actively listen and we will be heard and understood by one another. I consider myself incredibly lucky to have so many friends who I know understand me... the real me... and value the things that I value.
Now if only the rest of the world could be the same.

I am curious... have any of you ever taken the Myers-Briggs test? If not you can take it here. If so... what type are you? 
For those of you out there who are introverted like me... in what ways do you think that has affected your relationships with others, especially those around you who are extremely extroverted? 


  1. I am an ISFJ. Definitely the nurturer of my circle of friends, so it fits quite well for me. I'd say I can play the extrovert when I need to - and often at work, I must play the extrovert, but I really enjoy quiet time alone and time with T and I together. I don't have a large circle of friends and I like it that way. I'm a very emotional person and that definitely shows in the way I interact with people.

    T on the other hand is an ESTJ, although I wouldn't consider him an extrovert in most situations. I think in work life, he is an extrovert because of his desire to get ahead in the business world, but personally, he'd rather spend time alone or together with me in quiet situations.

    I find these things very interesting. I wouldn't say my personality type has made me feel excluded or misunderstood, but I guess that's part of my extreme emotional personality. I try to relate through emotion to everyone. I think it's all about finding people that you relate well to and keeping them around. Sounds like Andrew is one of those people for you! (And Ami as well!)

  2. I love that you wrote about about this. As I have grown to know you over the years, I so appreciate what you add to my life and the rich friendship we share. When I realized how much like Andrew you really were I understood you better as I learned to live with him (not always easy as an ESFJ, a drastic and complete opposite of him ;) And I also realized that even though I can learn to give him/you the space you need, it's okay that I won't truly 'understand' they way you tick. And for a compulsive extrovert, that's been a learning curve in and of itself! I love you ;) -Ami

  3. Hello! This is a very late reply...but I am hoping you still might answer. I am an INFJ, and I do find I relate quite a lot to the description. I came across your blog because I am wondering whether nursing can be a good profession for an INFJ. I've noticed that most descriptions for INFJ do not include nursing, and many things about nursing seem like they would prove more challenging for an INFJ than others - it seems most nursing is very fast-paced, lots of details, lots of patients, and lots and lots of interpersonal dynamics going on with lots of different people - not all of it positive or supportive. I have often hidden away in cubicle jobs for fear of not being able to handle more....but I am very unsatisfied, and have recently been thinking about nursing. I originally thought of the therapy jobs that are usually suggested for INFJ, but they seemed less fulfilling to me than nursing might be. Do you have any thoughts/advice about how nursing is for an INFJ and how to succeed? Thanks so much!

  4. I too just found your blog and have a lot of the same thoughts as the poster above. I too am INFJ and am interested in nursing, but don't know if it's right for me. I have ABSOLUTELY NO interest in x-rays or lab technology (And I never meet anyone in these jobs! Just nurses!), and don't want to have to get a Masters, so no physical therapy or occupational therapy (Also, physical therapy seems too sports-oriented, and I'm not a sports person). And I want to be involved in the field directly, not indirectly--not medical records, transcription, or billing and coding (I hate typing and do not want to work at home). I want people to think I care about them, and these jobs just don't convey that message. I've also consider medical assisting. Some people tell me these aren't introvert jobs, but some say otherwise.