We accept the love we think we deserve. —Steven Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
I first discovered that I am an INFJ personality type in my early 20s. It was the very definition of an epiphany. An eye-opening experience for me. But it wasn’t a heart-opening one.
(What’s your personality type? We recommend this free personality test.)
Like many of you, I’m sure, my childhood and teenage years were not always pleasant. I often felt alone, misunderstood, and completely out of place. Every day, it felt like I was swimming against some unknown, unexplained current, struggling to keep my head above water. I was very much aware that I was different and not like the other kids.
Different how? I had no idea. But the difference was undeniable.
After years and years of this, I learned to suppress the feelings of difference. But this suppression came at a cost. For me, at least. By trying to “fit in,” I had unknowingly (and maybe subconsciously) trained myself to think that no one could ever accept or love the real me. I was never comfortable with who I was, so how could anyone else be comfortable with it?
Out of self-preservation, I suppressed the real me. I wore a mask.
When I Learned I’m an INFJ, I Took Off the Mask
And then came the epiphany.
Once I discovered the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and, more specifically, the INFJ type, I was finally able to breathe. This current that I had been swimming against for so long ceased, and I was finally able to relax and just… float.
It took time, of course. It wasn’t an overnight thing. But, slowly, I became more and more accepting of who I was and of how I was. I learned that most INFJs feel out of place, even though they can put on a “face” like everything’s okay. I learned that having a “gut” feeling (a.k.a our intuition) — without being able to fully explain it — is something most INFJs experience. And, most important, I learned that I’m not alone.
I became comfortable with myself. Confident, even. I took off the mask. I finally became me.
But the scars remained.
Though I was able to wrap my head around this new, welcome reality, my heart was struggling to catch up. Even though I was happy that I was finally able to be my true, authentic self, those years of telling myself that no one would be able to accept the real, genuine me had taken their toll. The side effects of thinking this way for so long were still very much present, and they affected me in every relationship I was in.
I Didn’t Know How to Accept Acceptance
And then I met a girl.
A girl who finally saw the real me… and loved it. She gave me the acceptance that I had always wanted but never thought I’d have. She gave me the love that I had dreamed of but didn’t dare hope for. She loved me. Wholly and completely. She was, of course, an INFJ, too.
I was suddenly receiving all the things that I had wished for and… I had no idea what to do with it. I found myself holding back feelings, because, despite her best efforts, I simply could not believe that someone could be so accepting of me.
I don’t think I’m alone in the tendency to hold myself back. To put myself out there, to open up, to allow myself to be vulnerable is something that does not come naturally to me as an INFJ. I’ll probably always have to work at it, but now I realize that to deny people access to the innermost me is to deny myself love and the authentic connection that I so often seek.
I wanted to fall head over heels for this girl, but my inability to let go of my old ways of thinking prevented me from accepting the love that she was trying to give me.
I did the best I could. I tried to let her in as well as I knew how. She was giving of herself — but I wasn’t pulling my weight. It bothered me greatly. She deserved more. She deserved something I wasn’t able to give her at the time.
It just wasn’t working, and I finally had to tell her.
In the end, I lost her.
I lost her, because after years of keeping people at a distance, I simply didn’t know how to accept acceptance. I didn’t know how to let someone love me.
I grieved. I still do at times. I was angry. Frustrated. Hurt. But now that some time has passed, I’m grateful. I’m grateful for the experience and for what it taught me.
When Someone Loves the Dusty, Secret Parts of You, Don’t Let Go
We truly are only able to accept the love we think we deserve. I realize now that I deserve the type of love that she tried to give me. If that type of love ever presents itself to me again, I will be ready for it. I realize that I am deserving of it, that I am worthy of it.
If there’s anyone reading this who is struggling with accepting the love of someone who is freely and completely trying to give it to you… please try to accept it. No matter how guarded you’ve had to be in the past, no matter what insecurities you may have about the “real” you — when you meet someone who loves you despite any of your flaws, real or perceived, realize that you are deserving of it.
Realize that there are those out there who will see and accept you no matter what — including (and maybe especially) the dusty, secret parts of yourself that you have hidden away.
Grab onto those people. Grab onto them with both hands and never let go.
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Read this: 21 Undeniable Signs That You’re an INFJ
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