For a long time, I tried to play the role of the outgoing, fun friend who had no qualms about being wild and crazy and just living life to the fullest. At parties and while going out, I would be the loud one walking up to strangers, starting conversations, and acting spontaneously and ridiculously. People viewed me as the extroverted type — someone who was willing to play the fool.
Most people did not understand that in order for me to act extroverted, I depended on alcohol to make me feel comfortable in social situations. After most of these outings and parties, I would wake up feeling ashamed and so full of self-doubt and self-hatred that I could barely get out of bed. It felt like my personality was all an act.
People did not see the shyer side of me that loved spending time alone reading, writing, watching movies, or going for long walks. It wasn’t until graduate school in my late 20s that I stopped drinking alcohol and started learning more about myself and why I felt like nobody understood me.
When I Discovered My INFJ Personality, Everything Changed
Through that learning, I took a personality test. I then discovered that I was an INFJ (the rarest personality type). This realization gave me the feeling that I was not alone, and this was a very powerful moment for me. I started to understand that I was parading around trying to be extroverted because I believed that acting that way made me a better, more desirable person. I was a pro at fitting into my surroundings by choosing to be extroverted or introverted depending on my environment and the people I was with — and that was exhausting. Friends would say, “You’re so different!” when we hung out one-on-one, and finally, their comments started to make sense.
I began to do more research about my personality type, and I found Introvert, Dear as well as other great information about introversion. I started to feel incredible pride in who I was, and I began to embrace myself in ways I never had before. I had more confidence, spoke up more often, and shared my experiences as an introvert. I found that:
-I started to understand that all my internal dialogue was not “odd” or “weird” but simply part of who I am.
-I finally realized why I do not enjoy small talk, and why I love deep, intimate conversations.
-I found that when I could predict movies or guess how people felt based on my “gut” that it was my Introverted Intuition function at work.
-I found that my obsession with questioning everything so deeply came from the INFJ’s tendency to overanalyze.
-I discovered the reason that I procrastinate has to do with my perfectionism and always wanting to make sure everything is perfectly right before letting others see my work.
-I understood why I was so much more articulate in writing versus when I would try to speak.
-I found that it was normal that I hated networking.
Having a Better Understanding of Who I Am Made Me a Better Human
Because of these discoveries about myself, I now better understand who I am, and therefore I can advocate for myself and for other introverts. I can use what I have learned to educate others and bring about more awareness. I can do this with confidence now because I live the experience of an introvert every day — rather than someone who is faking being an extrovert.
I am not suggesting that all introverts are the same, but I believe that society has a lack of understanding about what introversion looks like and feels like. Extroverted qualities are seen as more attractive, while introversion can sometimes have a negative connotation. With this new understanding, I hope to spread more awareness that leads to a better understanding of introverts’ quiet strengths. I can believe now that I can be an introvert and still do well at a social job; I recognize that I was drawn to social work because of my ability to read people, and because I have a genuine concern for helping others.
I am now not ashamed to talk about my introversion, and I understand why I struggle to speak up in big meetings but do much better in smaller groups or one-on-one. Discovering my personality type has truly been an awakening. I now can own that I’m an old soul who loves to stay home, drink tea, read, and go to bed before 10 p.m., even on weekends.
It has helped me to cut myself some slack and to truly examine my strengths and weaknesses. For the longest time, I evaluated myself on extroverted standards, and of course, I never lived up to them. I graduated with my masters this May and will honor six months of sobriety later this month. I honestly do not believe I would have made it to graduation if I had continued to try to be someone I was not.
After a long day of being around people, I find that I am very tired, and I still keep certain parts of me hidden. I have nothing against extroverts, and I find that some of my closest friends are exactly the opposite of my personality type. I believe having a better understanding of who I am as a person will make me a better friend, coworker, sister, daughter, aunt, social worker, and ultimately, a better human being.
I am still learning and will continue to educate myself (as INFJs enjoy being lifelong learners). If you have not yet discovered your personality type, I encourage you to do so as soon as you can. There are so many great things about yourself to learn.
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Read this: 21 Undeniable Signs That You’re an INFJ
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