I’ve been on a quest to feel known and understood for as long as I can remember, because I’ve always felt different.
I feel things deeply. I’m in my head, lost in my thoughts, more often than not. When I’m in a group setting, I’m completely engaged but prefer to listen and observe. It’s amazing how much nonverbal information people are constantly revealing if you’re paying attention.
And I get overwhelmed easily. By too much newness, too many people, beauty, sadness, or injustice. Especially injustice.
The Difference, In Percentages
When I was in fourth grade, I learned that I’m an introvert — in an extrovert’s world. Two years ago, I discovered that I’m a part of 20 percent of the population who are highly sensitive, and that my Myers-Briggs personality type, INFJ, is the rarest of all the 16 types, shared by only 1-3 percent of the population.
So it turns out that I don’t just feel different. I am different.
(What’s your personality type? We recommend this free personality test.)
This has led me to extensively research my wiring, and to be completely honest, that has held its share of discouraging moments. I’ve had it confirmed over and over again that introverts, highly sensitive people (HSPs), and INFJs all tend to feel profoundly misunderstood. Profoundly!
While this is validating and makes me feel less alone, it doesn’t change anything. It seems to suggest that I may as well abandon my pursuit of being fully known, and accept that I’ll only experience the deep connections I crave when I find fellow HSPs and INFJs.
But there’s another way to look at this.
The Purpose Driven Perspective
I believe that we’re all perfectly and intentionally wired for a purpose. The world needs the beautiful blend of personalities and preferences that make us all unique and creates the dissonance that challenges each one of us daily, allowing us to grow.
I believe we’re all specifically wired for the people in our lives right now, and they have as much to teach us as we do to teach them.
It’s easier to acknowledge more widely researched differences like introversion and extroversion. But when it comes to the finely-tuned elements of the way we perceive the world, the way we think and process, our sensitivities and insensitivities, our ability to empathize and experience emotions — those are subtleties we don’t often consider, because we’re too busy overvaluing our own experiences and perception.
As soon as we recognize that we’re all looking through a distinctly different lens that shapes the way we see the world — and each other — everything changes. This carves out space for each one of us to fulfill the purpose we were created for.
Because if my lens is different than your lens, we’re both going to bring different perspectives to the table. And that difference is invaluable because it can expand our worldview, helping us see something we otherwise wouldn’t have.
More often than we may realize, this is how we learn exactly what that situation was meant to teach us.
Being Wired Differently Is a Gift
Being wired to feel deeply is one of the greatest gifts I have to give to the world. And I know that it’s an integral part of my purpose. But it’s hard for me to always see it this way because it’s also one of the most challenging parts of my personality.
When I’m with others, I feel every intense emotion they’re feeling, and I’m constantly sorting through my emotions to determine what’s actually mine and what isn’t.
There are so many TV shows and movies I can’t watch because of the violence that rocks me to my core and haunts me at night, because it felt like it happened to me. I’m even affected by the previews for those shows, always showing the most violent and sensationalized moments to draw in the viewers that are bored by anything less.
A Trade That’s Not Worth Making
I’ve spent so much of my life wishing I was “normal.” Wishing I could handle what “everyone else” seems to be able to handle, watch what “everyone else” is watching and then talking about in casual conversation.
But that would mean trading my ability to empathize with any situation, regardless of whether I’ve gone through anything even remotely similar, and understand how the other person is feeling at the deepest level.
I would have to surrender my compassion for those who are hurting, and my ability to know when something is wrong without being told.
I wouldn’t pick up on the things that no one else notices, or have the ability to sit with someone else inside their pain.
If introverts and HSPs were tougher and more “normal,” the world would lose what it so desperately needs: highly intuitive, complex, empathic individuals who care deeply and feel even more deeply.
It’s not easy for us, and it never will be, but we have the opportunity to impact everyone who crosses our path with our unique gifts.
If you’re interested in learning more about your wiring, I highly recommend taking the free Genius Personality Test. The results are based on the Myers-Briggs system, and you’ll receive podcasts specific to your personality type to help you dive into how your mind works.
Finally, here are my favorite resources for introverts, HSPs, and INFJs:
- Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain
- The Highly Sensitive Person, by Elaine N. Aron
- Healing Trauma: A Pioneering Program for Restoring the Wisdom of Your Body, by Peter A. Levine (HSPs respond to the world in a similar way to trauma victims)
- Personality Hacker Podcast
What do you bring to the world because of the way you’re wired? What is your purpose based on your unique gifts?
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