INFP

Three Requests

Fourth Season of Battlestar Galactica.
Mortal Instruments: The City of Bones.
Star Trek Into Darkness
John Carter of Mars
Jack The Giant Slayer
The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
Man of Steel

 

The above list is one of movies (and TV shows) that were panned by critics and/or belittled in the comments section on the Internet.
It’s also a list of movies that I thoroughly enjoyed. We can now add one more movie to this list: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
This post is something that’s been building up inside me for quite a while–but in reading the comment section of a site I regularly go to it finally bubbled out. Here you go.

Look, if a movie isn’t to your liking, that’s fine. Actually, that’s more than fine: if something’s not your cup of tea you have the right not to pretend to enjoy it. If you want to state the reasons you didn’t like something, that’s fine too. More than fine. Be passionate, be eloquent, be expressive. You have a right to your own opinion. It would be a sad, colorless world if everybody thought the same and liked the same things. But don’t call me a “pretentious idiot” or a “bad fan with bad taste” or any of the other hateful words thrown around the Internet just because I enjoyed the thing you didn’t like. I would make three requests of everyone posting opinions on the Internet, including myself.

1) Be honest when stating your opinions: don’t pre-judge based on someone else’s opinion. Go see the movie or go read the book before you start flinging around opinions. If you didn’t like because you didn’t like it, that’s one thing. If you’re tearing into it because you read a bunch of crap about it online, that’s another. You have the right to think for yourself and, if I may be so bold, the responsibility to exercise this right.

2) Be kind while you are typing your review or comment. Remember that real people will read it. Real people with real emotions that can be damaged with real consequences. While it is true that some people take things too personally and are extremely sensitive, that doesn’t excuse unkindness. Bullying isn’t okay just because you can’t see the other person’s face when you call their opinion or their work the “stupidest shit ever”.
3) Be respectful of people with a different opinion. Remember that any story is a two-way relationship between author and audience. No one is going to experience a movie in the exact same way as the person sitting next to them because we all bring a unique perspective to it. Each story means something different to each person who hears/reads/hears it. The question is: what did it mean to you?

So what is my unique perspective? Why did I enjoy both Man of Steel and Dawn of Justice?
I like this Superman because he’s quiet, understated. He reminds me of Helo from Battlestar Galactica: the incorruptible good man surrounded by chaos who is constantly misunderstood and consistently relied upon. This type (or should I say, archetype) of character is special to me. This Superman is reserved crusader and I, as an INFP, really connect with that. This Superman is humble and I am inspired by that. I struggle with pride: I like everyone to know what I’ve done. I wish I could be more like this Superman, who is humble and doesn’t require or desire the fanfare.

I loved the strong emphasis on the influence of mothers. So many stories skip over this, but Batman v Superman lingered here. Superman’s love for his mother is his strongest connection to humanity and that influence was clearly shown. Shown and celebrated. Maybe it’s me, because I have a very strong relationship with my mother…but this element really resonated with me.

This Batman made me stop and think. I see in him a lot of what I see in America right now: weary, losing hope, getting old and becoming accustomed to cruelty. Easily manipulated by fear. No longer believing that goodness and good men exist. His characterization warns me not to let my fears take control because they can be manipulated. If I no longer believe that good people exist, I won’t be able to recognize them even if they are standing in front of me. I won’t believe that I can be a good person…I won’t even try. Why should I? As Alfred so perfectly says, “It’s the feeling of helplessness that turns good men cruel.”
But, in this movie, Superman inspires Batman to hope again. To try again. Go ahead and laugh, but that inspires me. That’s why I liked this movie.

I’m not claiming Batman v Superman was a perfect movie. It wasn’t. There was a bit too much crammed in, it was disjointed…but I liked it. I consider it a good movie and I’m gonna see it again. Most importantly, my brother loved it. That’s the big guns in my argument here: please be kind and consider this before you call something a “worthless piece of garbage”.
It might be something precious to another person. Don’t call them stupid for having different taste and different needs.
In the interest of practicing what I preach…if you enjoyed the Star Wars prequels…that’s great. I prefer the Originals and Sequels but I’ll admit there’s merit in the prequels. Personally, I think they’re a bit half-baked, but hey, that’s what people are saying about Batman v Superman. I guess every movie has flaws and we love them in spite of it. We all just pick different flaws to ignore.

However, if you liked The Last Airbender movie, I’m gonna beg you to explain that to me.

 

 

Categories: INFP, reviews | Leave a comment

Expectations

I’ve been thinking a lot about expectations lately. Specifically, about the expectations placed on someone by the people who love them.
What’s brought on this reflection? I’m back in school and people are voicing their opinions. Most are happy for me challenging myself and respect the winding paths of life that brought me here. They respect the years of not attending college as much as they applaud my decision to go.
But some do not respect the fact that my life is mine to make. We all know the kind: they always have something to say and they always have to be right. They are just a little too quick to judge another’s life choices.

People who have gone far in their lives have, in my view, either had the world handed to them or overcome the obstacles by themselves. Both groups have expectations of others that is informed by their life experience.
If you’ve had the world handed to you, it’s hard to spot the obstacles. It wasn’t that hard for you. To you, they were molehills; to others they are mountains.
If you’ve overcome the obstacles by hard work on your own, it’s easy to compare yourself to others. You did it, so can they. But everyone does not have the same mountain to climb.
My parents are masters of the art of being supportive without swerving off into either smothering or enabling. “You want to work as a CNA and be a writer? Be the best CNA and writer you can be. You want to share the house so you can help support your brother and have the financial freedom to do what you want? Share the household expenses.” They have consistently respected my unique brand of adulthood and let me have my independence and make my mistakes. “If you’re gonna be stupid, you’ve gotta be tough” was a constant refrain of my childhood. “Grace covers many mistakes” was another.
Mom and Dad always wanted me to know that I could make my own mistakes and that I could tell them anything. It is still true today.

In some respects, having such awesome parents makes it difficult to know how to handle the know-it-alls and the busybodies of life.

I was listening to music today and “Brave” by Sara Bareilles came on. I love this artist and this song…but I had to wonder: what would I say if I just let the words fall out? Probably something I shouldn’t, followed by something I don’t really mean.
There’s being honest and then there’s being unquiet. There’s being brave and there’s burning bridges.
Most people whose expectations you are under do not mean anything nasty by it. They just want what’s best for you. They just don’t always realize that what’s best for you is not what they think is best for you.

So yes, people have expectations of me. That’s great: it means they see potential. Some know how to encourage and some meddle.
That’s okay: I’m still learning how and when to say “Thank you” and “Thank you but back off”.
“Is this worth the possible fight?” I’ll ask myself. Then try to decide how sensitively implement the “yes” or “no”. It’s hard because my naturally tendency is to swallow, swallow, swallow and SPEW.
Call it an INFP thing or a Hannah thing. But that’s a story for another day.

Hannah

Categories: INFP, ordinary life, Psychology | 4 Comments

Observations from class

I’m back in school. Ivy Tech, to be exact.
No, I don’t regret the time off–I was waffling before, not sure what I was going for or why. Odd as it sounds, I needed the experience of burnout and two years of distance in my career before I realized what I wanted out of college.
I want to understand and I want to be understood. Translation: I’m going for Psychology. This semester I’m only taking one class (financial reasons), Psych 101. My first class was on Tuesday, but I have found that the first day of class is basically just a meet and greet–very little learning goes on the first day. In today’s class, we started Chapter one…an introduction to an introduction to psychology, as my instructor called it.
We covered the history of psychology and the seven approaches.
Psychology, I am discovering, is a diverse field with many different approaches, philosophies and goals. It is almost diverse as the students in this class.
Since pretty much everybody has to take psych 101, my classroom is a pretty good sampling of the student body in general.
We’ve got nursing students, business students, engineering students, criminal justice students. We’ve even got humanities students. There’s also one other woman going for Psychology. And then, of course, there’s the other divide: the people going to school just to make more money and the people going to school to prepare for a vocation.
You can spot them by the questions they ask, the way they phrase things, the things they pay attention to.
I confess, it is a flaw of mine that I have very little respect for those who have made money their chief goal; I think this is from experiences in childhood and adolescence. During the times when my family skated on the poverty line, it was always the friends who struggled to feed themselves that filled our pantry; rarely did the affluent bring more than a couple cans.
I’m certainly not saying all rich people are misers and all poor people are generous…just that I have observed that those who put money and status first have difficulty appreciating the value of those who have less or barely enough.
I guess I prefer my rich folk the same as I do my poor folk: full of generosity and empathy.

Categories: INFP, ordinary life, Writing | 2 Comments

Feeling beautiful

Since I’ve been an adult, I’ve had short hair. It’s usually cut into a bob which naturally curls out. In part, it’s self-preservation: I have extremely thick hair that tends to split if it gets past my shoulders.
Recently, however, I let it grow longer. Well, I say “let” but it was more a case of consistently forgetting get it cut. I had started up working a bunch of overtime and my hair was one of the things that slipped through the cracks.
So it got long. People started to notice. I suddenly got a lot of compliments on my hair and my general appearance. Men started to do the stop and stare more often.
Clearly, I look more beautiful with longer hair…or at least, society seems to view me as more beautiful with longer hair.

Then, I cut my hair again. Back to the bob…see, the thing is, I didn’t like my hair long. Oh, I appreciated the attention I was getting, don’t get me wrong; I like to be seen as beautiful as much as the next girl.
I like to feel beautiful more, though. Long hair, however attractive on me, does not suit my personality. I’m not big on the whole beauty process…I don’t have the patience, talent or inclination to perfect my appearance. I admire and respect the women who do, but that’s just not me.

It’s funny, because I’ve been told by several people that I have the build and looks to be “model pretty” if only I’d devote more time to my appearance. Learn how to wear makeup that covers my cystic acne scars, style my hair, choose a better wardrobe. Flaunt my small, slight figure and play up my delicate features.

But all that requires effort. Effort I don’t want to put in.

It’s not ashamed that I’m thin and have good lucks. I don’t hide my figure under shapeless bags–in fact, I prefer well-fitting clothes. I won’t be intimidated or mocked because I have, through genetics and a healthy lifestyle, a slender figure. I love jewelry (fair trade only) and I love the gleam my hair gets when I wash it. It’s been years now since I’ve put any kind of chemicals on it and it’s never been bleached or dyed: all natural, baby! I know that I’m decently attractive and that’s enough for me. Going to more effort doesn’t make me happy…in fact, it just makes me insecure and miserable. From what I’ve learned, it’s a trait I share with other INFP females.
This is related to another trait of mine: I don’t like the selfie trend. I’ll take one every now and then when the mood strikes, but I feel like the camera often only records the flaws on my skin and doesn’t capture the emotions that moved me to feel beautiful. Whenever I try to get that perfect selfie, whenever I dress up specifically to please others or the camera, I fail. Looking at the picture later, my eyes are drawn to the scars and bags under my eyes; the wild mess that is my hair.
“How can this be beautiful?” I’ll think. My eyes aren’t lit up, my hair doesn’t gleam. I can’t reach the perfection of American beauty; and I don’t look happy in those selfies.

In the end, happy is the best kind of beautiful I have. For me, this means a chin-length bob, little-to-no make up, hippy-ish accessories, small and quiet jewelry and simple clothing.
That’s me, folks. Healthy and happy with my appearance: therefore, beautiful.

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Categories: INFP, ordinary life | Leave a comment

Why I write

Why do I write?
The short answer is: I write to make sense of myself.
The truth is, I honestly have very little clue how people perceive me; it’s all a shifting, relative mass.
I’m soft-spoken…until I’m a train barreling down on your argument. I’m laid-back…until I’m inflexible. I’m an ice-queen until I’m shooting flames out my eyes. If it’s confusing for me to keep track of myself, I can’t really blame others for misunderstanding me.
This is something that an accurate MBTI personality type has really, well for lack of a better word, soothed me. I’m not a freak, a failure, a freakin’ weirdo. I’m actually completely normal for my rare personality type (4% of the population).

But back to the question of why I write. I’m constantly thinking and if I’m not thinking, I’m feeling. Sometimes I do both at the same time. In other words, I see a lot and I’ve got a lot to say.
But I’m reserved. If I don’t know the “protocol” for a situation, I tend towards shyness. When not in the circle of close family and friends, I become a listener more than a speaker. I’m an introvert: social interactions don’t recharge me, but instead slowly drain my batteries. I love people, but I can only take so much before I need some where quiet to process. When I find myself at the center of attention, I become self-conscious. When speaking, I often stumble over my words. Sometimes I’m good for a off-the-cuff spiel, but most of the time, ideas have to percolate. Like an actor who’s amazing on-screen but stiff in interviews, I feel empowered through my art. Through my words on a screen, I achieve an eloquence beyond my faltering soft/harsh voice. It’s not that I’m escaping through my writing, becoming someone else through it…no, never that. I am very happy with the person I’ve become. What comes out my fingers isn’t wish-fulfillment, it’s interpretation. It’s either me interpreting the world to myself, or myself to the world. Occasionally, it’s both.
People can know me for years and still feel like they don’t really know me…but read something I’ve written and you’ve met the real Hannah Hedges. In my writing, I hold very little to nothing back; I CAN’T. There’s an invisible trust between me and my keyboard: no lies allowed here. Everything must ring true, whether I’m reviewing a movie or describing my day or writing a scene in a story.

Why do I write? Because I have to. Because I am a dichotomy, the union of opposites and I have this pathological need to understand myself. Because the shy, small girl sees things and doesn’t have the “umph” or the abandon to give soliloquies in McDonalds. Because the reckless crusader can’t brawl out all the idiots in person. Because stories haunt me like my own personal entourage of ghosts. Or gaggle of invisible friends.
Because if the words don’t flow from my fingers to the keyboard, they take to hammering at the inside of my skull and that freaking hurts.

Categories: INFP, ordinary life, Writing | Tags: | 4 Comments

INFP, part 3: crusades

One of the most distinguishing facets of us INFPs is our “crusades” or “causes”. Or, as some people refer to them, our “pet projects”.
I dislike this term excessively. I think it cheapens the importance our causes play in our lives. My causes are not cute little quirks that others humor; they are not futile gestures I indulge in, sucking up energy that should be reserved for more practical things…like making money.
No, no, no. Without my crusades, I am not a whole person. Without a cause to champion, I am only directionless empathy, and I cannot dream like I was meant to.
I am not a “gentle warrior” when it comes to my crusades; while gentleness might be my signature in every other part of my life, it has no place in this part. These crusades touch the foundations of our values…mess with them and you’ll found out just how much backbone an INFP’s got. We tend to hide it under a veil of politeness and sensitivity, but make no mistake. It’s there. And disrespecting our core values and crusades with bring down upon you all the wrath, assertiveness and aggression you thought we didn’t have.
Just because we reserve our energy does not mean we’ve got a limited supply. We will not back down from defending our crusades…you might as well ask me to stop breathing, because that’ll happen first.

My crusades are widespread, but they all fall under the umbrella of the “those that have been told they’re not good enough.” I have a big issue with ANYBODY being degraded and told that they are “less than human”. While the Holocaust may be the first thing that springs to mind, evil isn’t always obvious or marked with a swastika.
Bullying, ignorance, prejudice, neglect, “stick ’em in an institution” mentalities…they all attempt to chip away at the humanity of those who are different, those that often lack a voice to speak for themselves.

Autism, Down’s syndrome, dementia, mental disabilities, developmental disorders. More than I can list. You’re people too. Saying so doesn’t make it so, because you had it all along. But if you ever need a little help getting the respect you deserve, I’m here to shout from the rooftops.

I raise my voice for all those who have been told that theirs is not worthy of attention because they are not “normal’. To the schoolyard bully, the people who talk over my brother, internet commenters who think differences are diseases, those who take advantage of the elderly, I say this:
“Life isn’t normal. There’s no such thing. A ‘perfect’ society of ‘normal’ people would be perfectly boring. I won’t live in that world.
The old man who can’t string five coherent words together, he is worth something to this world. The girl who can’t verbalize her thoughts, she is not an overgrown baby…she is a person with complex thoughts and emotions. Those who thought-processes work differently than you, who perceive the world in relentless high-definition, they don’t need an attitude adjustment. Well, they do. Yours.
None of these people are deadweight. None of these people are worthless or even worth less than a normally functioning person. Like the rest of the 7 billion people on this planet, they are human, with all that that entails. They are the Image of God…and not a distorted image either. Remember this: they might not have your attention, but they’ve got God’s ear. And, for what it’s worth, they’ve got my voice.”

This is why I am a certified nursing aide. This is why I am a writer.

This is my crusade. You’ve been warned. Either get out of the way or get onboard.

Categories: CNActivist, INFP, ordinary life, Writing | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

INFP, part 2: preferences and expressions

A common misconception of MBTI personality profiles is that the string of individual letters can tell you everything about a type.
While there is some truth to that, it’s too simplistic. The letters are called “preferences” and they fall on a spectrum. Some INFPs are more extroverted, for example. (Like me, I fall more towards that introvert/extrovert line.) Our preferences tell us what our natural inclination is, what we would do if it were all up to us. This is nature. Nurture and necessity is what teaches us to channel our strengths when we’re doing something we’d rather not, but can’t avoid. For example, INFPs dislike leadership positions, but in my life I have been put in this spot. I can’t just say “sorry, gentle introvert here!” and dance back into the clouds. I’d be regarded as a flake for sure!
To get the most out of your MBTI profile, you have to look at your function stack. Our function stack is how our individual preferences interact with each other.
My mom is an INFJ; I’m an INFP. In terms of preferences, we’re only one letter off. We must be practically twins, right? But here’s the thing: we don’t have a single function in common. Her stack is Ni, Fe, Ti, Se; mine is Fi, Ne, Si, Te. Not only do they vary as to where they fall on dominant to inferior scale–they are the complete opposite of each other! Her intuition is dominant and introverted, mine is auxiliary and extroverted. My feeling is dominant and introverted, hers is auxiliary and extroverted. My dad, an ESTJ, and I are complete opposites by degree but we share all four functions…though they are reverse of each other. We’re opposites by degree; mom and I are opposites by expression.

So, an INFP’s function stack is Fi, Ne, Si, Te. It’s preferences are introvert, intuitive, feeling and perceiver. What does this mean in ordinary life?

Introvert
This means I recharge my batteries by quiet reflection. It does not mean I am anti-social or am paralyzed by people. It just means I’ve got limited change to put in my socializing jar. It means that going to the movies by myself is not indicative of a lack of friends…I just enjoy solo activities and I require extensive alone time to function at my best. See Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking for more details.

Intuitive
This means I use my intuition more than my five senses to take in information. I’m more into metaphor than literal meaning. Patterns and impressions are my preferred way of collecting information, rather than facts. I’m more into “the big picture” than the details.

Feeler
Basically? I’m more subjective than objective in my mindset. I tend to side with the person over the system…especially if that person is an underdog. Personal concerns trump impartial fact; this is my natural bent, the one I revert back to when stressed.

Perceiver
This means I lean more towards flexibility than regimented order in my personal life. Er…basically it means I have to remind myself to occasionally clean my car and personal spaces. I’m more of a free spirit than an ordered soul. I swear I’ll clean my room, Mom!

Introverted Feeling
This means I have extremely intense emotions. I can be hurt a lot more easily than another type, but I’m also deeply moved by beauty. I’ve heard it said that INFPs have a sixth sense: a sense of wonder. This seems about right to me. I place great importance on how stuff makes me feel.
Fi is selective and intensive. It channels our energy in a few choice causes and people. Fi collects a bunch of “feels” and hides them behind walls. I express my emotions indirectly…writing is my outlet of choice, though other INFPs opt for others. I definitely fall under the creative INFP side…the rapport between my Fi and Ne is well-developed.
Fi is extremely personalized; it’s why underdogs resonate with me. It’s less concerned with the system than for those that get left behind.
Of course, Fi is often confusing when seen from the outside. It’s limited nature means I’m either aloof or passionate. Because I do not address my feelings directly (by direct confrontation), they tend to build up to critical mass and then explode, drenching the often innocent bystanders with EMOTION and IRRATIONALITY. This happens most when I’m cut off from quiet introspection and my writing for too long. If I can’t “escape”, I lash out.
So, just an FYI, if I’m becoming visibly upset, please don’t corner me and demand to talk it out. There will be lots of “talk” but little resolution.

Extroverted Intuition (Ne).
Ne functions primarily as either receptive or expressive. It’s the function that takes credit for my listening and writing. Whereas Fi is selective in nature, Ne is more open-ended. I think I said it pretty well in a comment on my previous INFP post:

Ne is divergent in nature, and is quite happy to be endlessly gathering information…the more open-ended, the better. Ne is what makes us second-guess ourselves. I mean, we see so many possibilities, it’s hard to limit ourselves to just one, boring expression.

Ne is what keeps me awake in the middle of the night when I’d much rather be asleep. “What about this?” “What if you look it from this angle?” “I wonder what he meant by that?” In terms of my story, Ne is always presenting alternate versions of a scene, slight changes to dialogue. Sometimes it rambles beyond the reach of logic or even having a point. “What if you put a comma in here. Ooh, semi-colon! Is ‘cold’ really the word for this? What are some synonyms? Hard? Rigid? Ooh, what about the phrase ‘heart of stone, very like cold’? That’s different.” And the request/rebuke “shut up” does not seem to phase this Chatty Cathy.
Ne is also the driving force behind an INFP’s empathy and quirkiness. It’s open-minded and tolerant. Through it, we look for deeper meanings and patterns and insights in EVERYTHING…intended or not. The most common question I ask myself is not “What happened?” but “Why?” Mom has been occasionally known to interrupt my ramblings with something like “Hannah, I think it’d be helpful if I knew what actually happened. Just the facts, please.”
I freakin’ love using my Ne; I love trying to see people, fictional or real, as they see themselves. Operating in the open-minded, “no wrong answers”, Bohemian Ne is exhilarating.
It’s also frustrating at times. Sometimes, seeing all the possibilities is not conducive to MAKING a decision and STICKING to it. Just ask anyone who knows me.

Introverted Sensing (Si)
I’ve been described as “confusing” because I have a conservative morals but liberal ideas. To put it another way, I look like a Republican and talk like a Democrat.
That’s my Si at work. I was raised in conservative Christian home and Si values past precedent. It likes the familiar. It makes me hesitant about change because knowing the “protocol” is very important to me. While my Ne would be happy to hop on a plane bound for Prague, my Si is frantically waving it’s hand in the air, hollering “Now hold on just one minute there, Miss Wanderer! I don’t know what to expect there!”
Si is also responsible for my tastes in clothes, physical surroundings and minimalist attitude to make-up. Ne is drawn towards a Bohemian lifestyle because it celebrates the tolerance that is so important to me. Si is drawn to it because of it’s simplicity. There’s something about that more natural, less flashy lifestyle that inspires my soul. A good friend calls me a “flower child” and she’s spot on. I’m not very fussy about my appearance reflecting current fashion.
Flat irons, dyes, spray-on tans, high-low skirts in, feathers in hair out. Yikes!
I can’t keep track of it all! It’s cool to see girls keeping abreast of fashion trends, but I just don’t have that kind of energy. It’s more important that my outward appearance be an accurate ambassador for my inner being than I follow someone’s else changing perceptions of beauty.
Not, mind you, that my personalized style of “elegant” and “eccentric” is very…coordinated.
One aspect of Si that I need to develop is a more holistic, Eastern approach to health and wellness. (Not a word, Mother!) Developing this aspect of my being, through yoga or Eastern martial arts, will help reduce the physical stress of being a creature of contradictions. From what I’ve experienced of mediation, it’s the most effective, yet gentle, way of shutting off my Ne so I can maybe get some sleep.

Extroverted Thinking (Te).
Ah, Te. You who are always trying to grab the wheel and steering me straight into a ditch. I understand where you’re coming from, I really do. You like order, you like to occasionally FINISH something. You’re absolutely right about my flaws: I’ve got focus issues, I tend to swallow my opinions in favor of keeping the peace. But you could find a less…all or nothing approach to it? I see where you’re coming from and I acknowledge the validity of your points, but let’s not overcompensate. Going “Can’t focus so let’s make lists and schedules and deadlines and punishments” isn’t helpful. Switching between uber-emotion Fi to overly-rigid you just makes people doubt my sanity. And I’m not convinced being a obnoxious, bossy bitch is the best alternative to “doormat”. Let’s try to let Ne and Si into the next spat between you and Fi, okay?

Categories: INFP | Tags: | 4 Comments

INFP, part 1: the spectrum of normal

May 4, 2014

INFP, part one: the spectrum of normal

Disclaimer: While I have encountered many people who are dismissive of me, I am also surrounded by awesome and accepting friends and family. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your generosity and gentleness with me.
Consider yourselves exempt from the “they” and “Americans” used in this blog post…if you’re still in my life, you’ve proved your awesomeness to me.

“That’s just not normal.”
This is an accusation I hear quite a lot; another version is “what a weirdo”.
I hear these from all over, leveled at different aspects of my life: my love of my CNA job, my quirkiness, and my admittedly unusual tendency to “pull away” after a date. It’s not that I didn’t have a good time, usually. It’s just, even if I really liked the guy, I don’t feel an overwhelming urge to spend every possible moment in his presence.
This has been a source of great confusion and frustration for both me and my dating partners. They’d see me as blowing hot and cold; I’d be unable to explain that I still liked them, even though I did not currently wish to see or talk to them. “Space”, to them, meant maybe a day. I kind of meant a week.
The relationship did not continue for very long after this.

And listening to my friends describe their relationships, I could kind of see where the guy was coming from (though I was still mad as hell from being pressured and called a weirdo). It’s just something that’s taken for granted: if you like someone, you spend more time with them. It’s practically a rule of American dating.
So why did I find dating to be so draining? Was it really so not-normal, this desire for space and reflection? And why was my mother, who is always ready to kick my ass if I need it, okay with this tendency? Time to find out.

I already knew my type on the well-respected MBTI personality test: INFP.
Introvert, intuitive, feeler, perceiver. Function stack, from dominant to inferior is Fi (Introverted Feeling), Ne (extroverted intuition), Si (introverted sensing) and Te (extroverted thinking).
I knew the name, time to find out what it meant.

Here’s what I found.

Some common traits include:
•Finds the typical American dating to be draining. Tends to withdraw after a date, even though they are still interested. Becomes resentful when pressured. Check!
•Have trouble smiling in photographs. Check!
•Friendly but does not have many close friends. Check!
•Often seen in health care or caregiver roles. Check!
•May have trouble over expressing themselves verbally but excellent writers. Hello!
•Tends to be “arty”. Okay, this is getting creepy…
•Devotes themselves to specific causes. Will become uncharacteristically harsh and outspoken if core values or crusades are threatened. All right now, who’s my stalker?
•Enjoys alone time and solo activities. Needs time to recharge after social interaction.
•Have a sense of adventure, but loves routine.
•Not driven by sense of monetary gain. Tends toward a Bohemian lifestyle.
•Seen as cold and aloof, but also sought out because they have exceptional listening skills. May feel like they are a “dumping ground” for other people.
•Needs more time to open up than other types.
•Does not like harsh criticism.
•Dislike conflict. Will go out of their way to avoid it unless they perceive that their core values are being threatened.
•While generally serene, they become highly irrational when upset. No transition between the two. Tends to be passive-aggressive.
•Tends to idealize romantic partners.
•Interested in humanities. Places great importance on deeper meanings, self-discovery and self-expression.
•Often indecisive. Has very strong opinions, though they do not always express them.
•Intense emotions. Often will not express what they are feeling until it reaches critical mass.
•Female INFPs not very concerned with fashion. Light on make up. Again, very Bohemian taste.

In short, I saw me on that screen. What I felt wasn’t relief. It wasn’t just finding that there are, in fact, other people just like me.
No, it went much deeper than that. What I felt was validation.
Validation:
1) to substantiate, confirm.
2) to give legal force to.
3) to give official sanction, confirmation or approval to.

It was like the voice of God reached out through words on my iPad and said, “See here, you of little faith. I made you this way, did you think I didn’t know what I was doing? It’s okay to be who you are. In fact, it is required that you be who you are.”

So who am I?
INFPs are described as dreamers, idealists, sensitive, compassionate, creative, artistic, reflective, disorganized about everything except for our special causes, more concerned with authentic feelings than with hard logic. We are among the rarest of personality types, ranked at 4% of the general population (most rare type is INFJ, aka my mom, at 1%). We are the most misunderstood type. We’re among the most likely to have suicidal thoughts during our college years. We’re the second most likely type to report marital and job dissatisfaction. We’re among the least likely to suffer heart disease. We tend to flood the job markets of counselor, writer and artist. We’re creatures of contradictions: quiet until we’re talking your ear off. Aloof until we’re passionate. Reserved but nice. Perfectionists but incredibly non-judgmental. Extremely empathetic but loners. We don’t care about what people think of us until we suddenly care very much.

All this just goes to say that, no matter how hard we try, an INFP will never completely fit the brash, extraverted American ideal. Whether that is a good thing or a handicap is determined by your attitude. INFPs are not innately awesome.
We start out as stubborn children, quick to judge and eager to please. We go through a hell of an adolescence where our Fi and Te functions take up arms against each other. (Seriously. I thought my teenaged years were going to kill everyone around me.) We struggle to find our own truth, our own voices.
And then we arrive at phase three, where we either find balance within ourselves or we don’t. We either become what I call a victim INFP or a healthy INFP.

The victim INFP focuses on the negative. They look and see only weaknesses. There is a battle warring inside us at all times, a tug of war between Fi and Te tearing at our souls. The victim INFP gets stuck in this battle. They become, for lack of a better term, a Bella Swan: passive, depressed, bemoaning their flaws and blinded to their strengths. They see only what they are not, what they will never be: the American extroverted ideal. I’ve written before on what this, personally, feels like. It’s a dark place, confining but strangely enticing. If you go in deep enough, no beautiful, painful shards of light will ever find you. I think it’d be very easy for an INFP to become in love with pain. Addicted to misery. All you have to do is think “hey, I’m drowning anyway, why not open my mouth?”
But I’m not. I don’t want to become this kind of INFP. We’re the dreamers, so I’m gonna dream. I’m gonna carry a grappling line with me at all times, to haul my ass out of that dark place whenever I fall in. And I’m gonna teach my feet to be careful, so I don’t fall in the first place. I’m gonna be the other kind of INFP. (I feel like I should that No person lacks the ability to change. God gave us free will; we CAN use it to turn ourselves around. Just be because you struggled and lost once does not mean you are doomed and destined to lose again.

The healthy INFP embraces what makes them different. Other INFPs have expressed a great sense of empowerment after “coming out”.
Authentic INFPs learn to cultivate conditions that support our natural strengths: our dominant and auxiliary functions of Fi (introverted feeling) and Ne (extraverted intuition). They learn how to use their tertiary function of Si (introverted sensing) to listen to their bodies, often through a more Eastern, holistic approach to health and well being. They learn to integrate the often insidious Te through the authentic use of Fi and Ne. They find their niche. They’re dreamers, writers, artists, activists, caregivers, counselors, teachers. And yes, they’re loners and outsiders…but us INFPs, we bring the party with us. We might be sitting at a table alone, but the voices in our heads will never leave us. The questions will always keep us company.

P.S. Wow. Authentic truth is like whiskey in a wound: it stings badly but then everything’s okay. Hands down, this was the hardest thing I have ever written…not the best, but the hardest. INFPs, we’re usually so private about our inner-most feelings; putting this out for all the world to see is terrifying and empowering all at once.
Anyways, this is part one of an on-going series about life as an Authentic INFP. Coming up next, function stacks.

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