Looking back, it’s pretty evident that I was born an introvert. I just didn’t know it until my late twenties. Some of my earliest memories are of being at the park as a child and waiting for the other kids to finish playing on the swings so I could enjoy myself in peace. I still do things like that to this day. When I’m shopping or running errands, I give whoever is crowding me their space so I can continue on with my day without anyone pervading my bubble of peace.
Personal space is something I value deeply as an introvert, and I get frustrated when those same courtesies aren’t reciprocated, despite how I understand that not everyone is aware of or even cares about simple things like that. At some point, it just starts to feel like I’m constantly fighting to survive in an extroverted world. As an INFJ personality type, I feel it all, and although my sensitive nature sometimes gets the best of me, it’s hard not to take a lot of it personally. (What’s your personality type? We recommend this free personality test.)
When I was younger, I had no idea what an introvert was. I assumed there was something wrong with me because that’s what I’d been told my entire life. I always knew I was different, but I never associated that with being a positive thing. Different was bad and it was the one thing that my peers wouldn’t let me live down. I usually had a core group of friends throughout my years in school, but deep inside I knew I was a loner. Even just having someone give me a hard time for needing to wander off to be on my own for a little bit felt like a stab at my character. They may not have intentionally been ganging up on me–maybe some of it was playful at times–but I took it personally. I think that was when I realized how sensitive I was and how hard it was for me to not feel like an alien to society. I crave, even to this day, a deep connection with at least one person who I don’t need to explain myself to; someone who won’t get offended when I need to be quiet for a bit.
I live in New York City, so I guess you could say that my constant need for a peaceful environment is kind of an oxymoron. It’s often a struggle to maintain a quiet, happy demeanor when the entire city is pushing and shoving you out of the way to get to where they need to be. It definitely takes its toll on you–headaches, moodiness, irritability, and sensory overload. It has taken me a while to find my go-to places to unwind outdoors where I can breathe a sigh of relief.
Discovering Kindred Spirits
I had heard of introversion in the past, I just never fully grasped its meaning. While I knew I definitely was not an extrovert, I didn’t have a spot-on description of my traits until I discovered Introvert, Dear and found out I was an INFJ. My personality type describes me perfectly and I only wish I could have discovered that I wasn’t alone a lot sooner.
After pouring over tons of articles about INFJs, I feel a lot more confident in who I am. Whenever I need to explain my boundaries to people, I don’t feel like a horrible, selfish person. Nothing of who I was ever made sense to me in the past. I figured I was an abnormal, miserable person. But now that I’m clued in on why I am the way I am, it’s a lot easier to navigate through this life, as hard as it already is. Finding other introverts who deal with the same issues has been so helpful for me as well. As they share their stories, I feel like I’m talking to a kindred spirit who’s been there, done that, and survived.
I think the biggest relief for me was discovering that my wandering mind and intense attention to detail wasn’t a sign of anything appalling. Introverts in general are very introspective, so we tend to notice things most extroverts do not. This is usually when we’re told we’re either crazy or reading into things too much, or both! But the thing is, we wish people would spend more time trying to understand us rather than mouthing off what they think we “should” be or do. We don’t want lectures or tough love, we need comfort and reassurance that you’re not like the others. That you’re going to listen to us and not belittle our emotions or observations. Once you have us, though, you’ll never have to doubt where our loyalties lie.
I’m still learning about my personality type every day. The more I read, the more comfortable it is to be in my own skin. Finding out that I am an introvert and an INFJ has changed my life for the better. I wish I had been educated on this as a child when I got my first taste of what it meant to be social.
I love that I am an INFJ, the rarest personality type. I love that I am sensitive and nurturing to those I love. I also love that I have a fiery side that’s able to fight back whenever someone tries to make me feel inferior. It’s perfectly fine being both and I wouldn’t change who I am for the world. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that there are far worse things to be than quiet.
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Read this: 21 Undeniable Signs That You’re an INFJ
Learn more: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain
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