As far back as I can remember, I’ve always felt different.
As a kid, I was really quiet and enjoyed spending lots of time by myself reading, drawing, and playing make believe in the woods behind my house. I didn’t really have any friends in school and the few people I spent time with were more like acquaintances. Plus, I would only play with them during school time. But otherwise, I was kind of a loner. I loved coming up with stories and making little short films out of them while the other kids preferred going to social gatherings and playing soccer.
To put it short: I was not one of the cool kids.
Teachers would often tell my parents that I was too shy or too quiet. Some of them would force me to sit by myself in the front row and would only have me answer their questions because they felt like I didn’t participate enough in class. I vividly remember being bullied and made fun of in high school because of my personality and my passions. People would often tell me to “man up” and “grow a pair” because they didn’t like my quiet, sensitive personality. I ended up thinking that something was wrong with me.
Fast forward to a few years later when, after a failed apprenticeship in electronics and having spent a whole year at home, being too scared to leave, I started questioning myself.
Maybe I was the problem. Maybe I was the one who had to change and adapt to the world. It wasn’t the others who were weird — because they loved drinking and partying — but I was weird because I preferred to stay home in a calm, quiet environment.
Nothing Could Have Prepared Me for Working in Sales
And it was in that state of mind that I decided to “fit in” by getting a job in sales. I got hired at a store that sold all sorts of electrical appliances. Nothing could have prepared me for being a highly sensitive introvert working in sales. Not a childhood in a little mountain village inhabited by less than three thousand souls or working for a whole year in an office. I worked there for three years, and those were probably the toughest ones in my life. Everyday I was expected to smile at customers, to greet them, and be outgoing. There was also constant noise, crowds, and extremely bright lights. My boss often told me that I wasn’t pushing customers towards buying enough. My coworkers were extroverts and they all seemed to be really content with their job. So I decided to fake extroversion and act like them around customers.
This was really hard. It made me feel like I was lying to myself on a constant basis. People had noticed that I was much more quiet the rest of the time and started picking on me for that. I wasn’t even able to enjoy a peaceful, quiet lunch break without getting hurtful comments by other employees in the lunch room. I ended up being so scared of them that I would lock myself up in a bathroom stall during my breaks just so I could get a little downtime. It smelled and felt disgusting in there but at least I could recharge my batteries.
I had lost all interest in my passions and even thought about putting an end to my life at some point.
I would come home in the evenings and, feeling so overloaded both physically and mentally, I would get violent headaches, cold sweats, chest pains, shortness of breath, and shaky and numb hands. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was having panic attacks. These would happen at least once a day at different times and put me in an even more anxious and depressed state.
After three years there, I finally did what I should’ve done much earlier — I resigned.
I Left to Find Peace With Myself
I knew it was time for me to leave. Not only my job but also the country. I gathered up my savings, bought a westbound plane ticket, and flew away to go explore the world and, hopefully, find a little of peace with myself.
I spent a year and a half traveling and saw wonderful places, met a lot of interesting people, and met a very special person who became my very first friend. She was the first person I trusted enough to open up to, and she helped me a lot in healing my damaged brain. Spending time with her brought back an old version of myself that I had buried deep down in my soul. It was a version of myself that I felt much more comfortable being, and I slowly started going back to it. My passions were something I enjoyed again, and they no longer seemed like a burden I had to hide from others.
It was around that time that I first heard of the Myers-Briggs personality test. I took it and found out that I am an INFJ personality type. Later, I also discovered that I’m a highly sensitive person. I retook the personality test a couple of times to be sure, and I always got the same result. This all made so much sense to me, and I realized there were probably other people like me out there. It brought a little more peace and relief to my soul and my heart and, when I went back home, what I wanted in life became clearer to me.
(What’s your personality type? Take a free personality assessment.)
Nonetheless, I would still get panic attacks. They were a bit more seldom but they always struck when I expected them the least. I also had constant headaches and was physically and mentally exhausted all the time. I knew I was depressed and decided that it was time for me to see a therapist.
‘You Have All the Symptoms of Severe Depression’
After a few sessions, the therapist said something that, very peculiarly, lifted a very heavy weight off my shoulders: “It seems like you are showing all the symptoms of severe depression.”
I wasn’t even shocked by that revelation. I had done some research online and sort of knew what was going on with me. We talked a lot about what I had gone through, and I slowly discovered that one of the major reasons for my depression was the fact that, for the past five years, I have been going against my temperament and personality.
Doing small talk even though I hated it, faking extroversion and being outgoing just for the sake of fitting in and pleasing people were some of the biggest mistakes I could’ve ever made.
I knew it was time for me to come back to my roots.
Don’t Change Yourself to Please Others
I am now back in my hometown and am trying to enjoy life as much as I can. I don’t force myself to go out anymore or to go and socialize with other people if I don’t feel like it. I spend an incredible amount of time pursuing my passions and am less afraid of other people’s judgement.
I’ve never been more at peace with myself in a long time.
I know that staying for that long in sales was a mistake, but I don’t regret doing it because at least it taught me what I don’t want to do in life. I am now currently working my way towards getting a job that will suit my needs in order to save some money and attend university in the next few years.
I am staying true to myself by doing what I want to do and not what I think other people expect me to do.
So this is my message to all the INFJs, introverts, and highly sensitive people out there:
Don’t ever try to change your personality, what you like, and what you want to do in order to please other people or for the sake of fitting in. In the end, you will feel bad about it. So, please be weird, be quiet, be contemplative, and daydream as much as you like. If you enjoy knitting socks for cats while listening to 1920s jazz music, then do it! Because you are the only person you have to spend your entire life with, so you better make that person a great partner.
P.S. I first started realizing that it was okay to be myself when I saw Graham Moore’s speech when he won his Academy Award for best adapted screenplay. It’s truly inspiring, and you can check it out here.
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