Middle school was a dark time for me.
And I know what you’re probably thinking — it was a dark time for everyone, Kate.
Which is true, but it was especially dark for me, as I was just coming to the realization that having the attributes of quiet and shy equals boring and weird.
I felt like the family outcast. Loud, talkative, loved to party — those were the qualities that my family admired (or so I perceived). I walked into Christmas gatherings and family events feeling like I had an invisibility cloak on. Was I even really there?
I would sit in the corner, slouching on the hardwood floor, with my way-too-much black eyeliner and fake smile, wondering if I’d ever be liked for who I actually was or if it would be better to pretend to be extroverted.
I had friends at school and I enjoyed socializing, playing sports, and trying new activities. It wasn’t like THE darkest time; I suppose it was more of a premature existential crisis.
Feeling misunderstood was an understatement. I’m an INFJ personality type, so it makes sense.
(What’s your personality type? We recommend this free personality test.)
I was quiet and shy, but I had a lot of friends. I wanted to make others happy and comfortable, but felt stressed because of it. I was logical but intuitive, easy but difficult.
On top of my 12-year-old “who am I and why am I here?” crisis, my dad had just suffered a massive heart attack and lost the family-owned business he had been running with his brother (which had been passed down through two generations). My sister got a serious concussion from playing soccer and was out of school for a year. Not to mention I had braces, plus just started my period.
So my coming-to-terms with who I was wasn’t necessarily at the top of the list of major problems in my family.
Luckily, my mom noticed my big move to go inward and bought me my first beautiful, hardcover journal. I wrote in that thing like a caveman figuring out that scraping rock against rock creates words.
Still, I wanted to make things easy for everyone, so I kept quiet (which wasn’t hard). I maintained straight A’s and never got in trouble at school.
My bedroom and I were very familiar with one another. It was my safe haven and the beginning of my “making things easy for others” quest.
I thought that if I kept to myself and chilled with my 90-pound black lab for the majority of the time, everyone would be better off.
As an INFJ, I Naturally Put Others First
As a INFJ, allowing others to be taken care of first and making sure they were happy was something that came naturally to me. I didn’t realize it at the time, but “making things easier” for the people in my life was actually making things harder for me.
If I had opened up about the shame I felt from being different and quiet, or about the newfound anxiety and fear I had because my dad almost died, it would have helped me get through those experiences, and I probably wouldn’t have all the aftereffects that I see today.
On the other hand, opening up and talking about my problems felt burdensome, like I was somehow taking away from the people who actually needed help.
In reality, showing up and just being present would have made everyone feel better.
This whole, “never make anyone feel bad by keeping quiet” thing bled into almost every other aspect of my life:
- When something exciting happened, I wouldn’t make a big deal of it, in case other people were going through a hard time and it would make them feel bad.
- When I got injured, I wouldn’t make a fuss about it because I hated being annoying.
- If I wanted something, I didn’t dare ask because maybe that was rude, and I was making things difficult.
- If I got my heart broken, I was fine.
- In my business, I would avoid asking for a sale because I hated to “take their money” and leave them broke…when really what I’m offering helps change their life. I’m helping other introverts find their personal strengths so they can use them as a secret weapon in their business and find success on their terms.
The list could go on and on. What I finally realized was that no matter how hard I tried to make things easy for everyone else, I was never actually going to be successful, because I have no control over other people’s lives or emotions. At the end of the day, it’s still up to them to choose how they want to feel. And that has nothing to do with me.
I Have to Consciously Practice Speaking Up
I won’t lie, it’s still hard for me not to stay quiet in an attempt to make someone else’s life easier. I have to consciously practice speaking up even when I don’t want to, while also making sure I’m taking care of myself.
Now that I’m able to speak up for myself, I feel free, like a boulder has been lifted off me. I share good news and bad news with my friends and family without feeling like I’m burdening them. And when I share good news, I can separate myself from their feelings without wondering if I’m making them feel jealous or insecure.
I’m able to inspire others with my message by putting myself out there publicly, through writing articles like the one you’re reading and appearing on podcasts. I’m able to ask for what I want, whether that be asking if I can use the bathroom at someone’s house (that was difficult for me) or pitching my $3,000 program to a client. I’m able to tell someone when they hurt my feelings — instead of brushing it off and coming up with excuses as to why they had good reasons.
Most important, I show up in my life, feeling confident in who I am.
It’s also about realizing that sharing my truth, my wins, my disappointments, ALL OF IT, means being an inspiration to others. Maybe, just maybe, I’m making an impact on other people’s lives by showing them everything I’m able to do — vulnerabilities and all.
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Read this: 21 Undeniable Signs That You’re an INFJ
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