In this day and (information) age we are continually being bombarded by feedback and updates from friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances from every angle. In addition to our ‘real life’ updates and conversations, we are subject to the onslaught of Facebook statuses, Instagram selfies, Tweets and Pinterest posts (just the tip of the ever-growing iceberg). So it’s no wonder that in absorbing all this information – most of which is positive, upbeat and showing the good side of life – we sometimes sit and compare our own lives and can start to feel a little depressed, envious and angry even – at how our own circumstances and situations do not live up to these seemingly wonderful lives led by others. But there is cause to be mindful and take things with a pinch of salt…
The reason why we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind the scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel. ~ Steven Furtick
There are many reasons why we post and share our ‘highlight reels’ as opposed to sharing the less favourable aspects of our lives. It can be not wanting to show ourselves in a negative light which can result in criticism and ridicule from small-minded friends; it can be an ego thing (selfies seeking validation as a result of low self esteem); a mask/public face to hide deeper issues that affect us (oversharing happy, relationship, couple statuses); or it can be simply not wanting to burden others with the gloomier aspects of our lives and instead wanting to lift them up as opposed to bringing them down.
Now I’m as guilty as the next person for posting only the good stuff, not necessarily from an ego/validation point of view (but fully admit I’ve done that from time to time) but in trying to come across positive, in helping others feel confident and upbeat about their life and prospects, and to provide support, motivation and encouragement where needed. The last thing I want to do is to put others on a downer by participating in gossip, moaning about my life (I’m blessed more than most), attacking others, going on angry rants… and generally throwing negative vibes out there. For me it doesn’t solve a thing, breeds a negative atmosphere and is detrimental to all involved. Plus there is already too much in the way of negativity out there and I feel it’s part of my calling to counteract that. That reminds me of a couple of quotes I came across a while back, about the effect of presuming life to be difficult and teaching our children that they need to be ‘hard’ to succeed in life…
It’s not our job to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world. It’s our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless.” ~ L.R. Knost, Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages
One generation of deeply loving parents would change the brain of the next generation, and with that, the world. – Charles Raison
Which makes perfect sense… if we teach our children to be hard, selfish and to only look after themselves, then what picture does that paint of future generations and life on this planet? Pretty bleak I would imagine. But in contrast, teaching our children love, compassion and selflessness would change our world for the better inside a couple of generations.
Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that ~ Martin Luther King
However I digress.
Coming back to the original focus of this post… The fact that we tend to hold back the negative sides of our lives and psyche and show others only the positive side. Does holding back on our sadder, and darker feelings negate the authenticity of our beings? Are we being true to ourselves in doing this? And does this erect walls and create barriers between us all?
I guess it’s akin to being asked “How are you?” – how many of us genuinely reply with the truth of how we are, and how many respond with the standard line “I’m Fine”? [Note: I’m as guilty as the next person for doing this]. It’s kind of become the norm to gloss over any negativity in our lives, put on a brave face and carry on regardless. And this tendency makes it harder for anyone to open up, be honest, be genuine and allow people in. The “I’m Fine” response simply ends the conversation and allows both parties to move on with their lives. Whereas a deeper, honest response could open the gateway for a better connection, more understanding and growth by all. But I suppose it works both ways, we need to learn to be receptive to others when they are down or react negatively – not pull away, fail to respond, or worse… respond negatively and with judgement.
With that in mind I thought I’d disclose what I see as my internal conflicts, battles and negativities that pre-occupy much of my daily thought patterns, but yet never seem to see the light of day. Not for sympathy, but purely to show that outward appearances often belie our inner turmoil and that consequently care should be taken not to judge people on those appearances (although I’m of the mindset that no-one should be judged at all)…
Be kind, for everyone is fighting a battle we know nothing about”~ Plato
1. Money vs Freedom
One of the conflicts which I’m sure a great many of us relate to. Money, or rather the lack of it. It’s frustrating for me in a few ways… one because I don’t consider myself a materialistic person (although I do appreciate quality ‘stuff’) and so the thought of being influenced and controlled by money is disheartening – although it’s somewhat of a necessary evil in Western society (pay bills, home, food, clothes, support kids etc). Money being the driving force behind politics, religion, power and systems of control also increases my distaste towards it, and in turn towards those establishments. I crave the simple life and there’s nothing I would like better than to be able to retreat to some small remote cottage in Scotland as my base and be able to travel/help others along the way – but even that costs money and I would still have my current responsibilities and commitments that again require expense. I guess in the end it’s not the ‘things’ that money can buy that is enticing, but the freedom it affords – it gives us the opportunity to learn/discover/travel and follow our dreams much more readily. All of which can be used to foster growth, change, diversity rather than feeling stagnant and stuck – a place where I feel I am now. That said, things that are easy to come by aren’t as appreciated… So perhaps the challenges and obstacles that are placed in front of us in order to reach those (monetary) goals are there for a purpose… yet another experience to aid growth and understanding.
2. Personal Dreams vs Responsibilities
Similar to the work/life balance dichotomy that plagues many of us. As an INFJ who wants to achieve something in life, to create something of value, that both helps others and leaves a legacy – this conflicts with wanting to be the best and supportive father for my two children. To be there whenever I’m needed and to be able to support them, both emotionally and financially (at least while they are dependent). Both these routes I often feel are mutually exclusive, although I’m consciously trying to forge a path that covers both. For me, pursuing one over the other simply doesn’t work. Focusing solely on building a legacy/foundation, on work, on creating something of value… My children would suffer from a neglective father. And if I focused solely on my kids then they would get an unhappy dad (as I would be neglecting my own needs and passions) who is unable to fulfil their needs both emotionally and financially. I realise that this may sound a little selfish to some but in response I would say we all need to look after ourselves first and foremost in order to look after others better…
Self-care is not selfish. You cannot serve from an empty vessel. ~ Eleanor Brownn
As always, and what is often fleeting for INFJs (hence the conflict), is creating a balance. As mentioned in previous posts, we tend to be creatures that live at both extremes and have an all or nothing approach in many of our endeavours. This probably plays out in my reality where I might spend too much time doing work one week, thus neglecting the kids… and vice versa the next week – so they both end up suffering in some respect.[Side note: I find it quite telling/synchronistic that both my children are born under the start sign of Libra (illustrated by a set of scales) and also my attraction to the theme of roots/wings. Both seem to highlight that throughout life I will be challenged by trying to strike a balance whilst dealing with conflicting emotions and desires.]
Life is a balance between holding on and letting go” ~ Rumi
This balance is what I feel is needed for all parties to grow and progress well through life. My children need to see a happy, creative and successful father (not in the material aspect but in giving back to society/helping others – which paradoxically needs money so another conflict) – someone they respect, look up to, and aspire to be like. But also a father that is present and there for them emotionally. At the moment the only thing I can really give them is my time and love. And I hope that through hard work, belief and perseverence that I can become the other father that they need. One to be proud of and look up to, and who shows them that they need to pursue their own dreams and ambitions too.
3. Life Partner vs Solitude
The conflict of romantic love vs the love of solitude. One that I know afflicts many INFJs. For me both points 1 and 2 (and perhaps some of the others to come) means that my time and resources are in limited supply. And in my all or nothing, love passionately or not at all nature of being, then a relationship is right at the bottom of the to do list. Unless I can give my all, then it’s a no goer. And while it’s true that it would be nice to have someone along for the journey I just feel given my current circumstances and situation it would be unfair on them, my kids and me – as I would not be able to give everyone the time I feel they would deserve. And this for someone who feels they have an awful lot of love to give, can be quite hard to stomach. Not saying that I write a relationship off but it will take a special person and set of circumstances that will draw me away from the solitude that I’m growing to enjoy and embrace. The time to get to know someone (properly) and the perils of the dating game are not an attractive proposition. Plus I’ve learnt that the emotional investment expended can be a rather torturous affair.
I’ve also found this train of thought also applies to my friendships. I have many online (INFJ) friends and am sorry to say that I have neglected these due to current commitments, responsibilities and a yearning for solitude and introspection. Plus a need to forge ahead and get out of the mire I feel I am stuck in. Perhaps I really am becoming more of a hermit as I grow older.
4. Food vs Fitness
I’m a chocoholic, and addicted to ice-cream. I’m blessed (or cursed?) with a radar that can track any chocolate bar or ice-cream within the immediate vicinity in a matter of minutes. Once found, the internal monologue invariably begins… and it’s rarely a 5 or 10 minute thing, it can last a few hours or the best part of the day – the pros and cons of eating or not eating that hunk of delicious chocolatey goodness or swirling caramel with cookie dough ice cream/chocolate chips (Karamel Sutra Ben & Jerrys for anyone interested). I can come up with an elaborate and detailed mental plan of what I should eat over the next couple of days and revised training regime to justify giving in. Yet, when I do give in (90% of the time), those plans seemingly go out the window and the floodgates of laziness and gluttony burst right open.
I have battled with my weight and eating for most of my adult life (been up and down from 16.5st to 12st a couple of times). And the internal conflict is a constant one. Perhaps more so as unlike other addictions, food is not something that we can go cold turkey on, and the temptation is always there. Again the striving for balance is elusive, and can go from one extreme of healthy eating and working out twice a day to weeks on end of unhealthy eating and no exercise. This has been a pattern of the last 4 years, although thankfully I seem to be maintaining a decent weight and level of fitness even through these momentary lapses…
A body in motion wants to stay in motion. A body at rest seeks more rest.
5. No vs Yes
Although ten times better than I used to be – being empathetic and having having a conscience/innate yearning to help others still has me saying Yes more often than I should do… and often feeling guilty when I say no. The often negative feedback and guilt trip from saying No doesn’t help given we are prone to wanting to avoid conflict…
If you must say yes, say it with an open heart. If you must say no , say it without fear. ~ Paulo Coelho
6. Sex vs Relationships
I guess this is in a similar vein to point three… but I feel sex deserves it’s own special place (usually a room with handcuffs, blindfolds, silk scarves and various toys etc). That aside, the INFJ yearning for closeness and intimacy, for passion – yet that need for solitude and freedom feels like an eternal conflict. I’d like to be able to separate emotions from sex but know it’s impossible. So instead I choose a life of singledom and celibacy despite my lust for otherwise…
I demand unconditional love and complete freedom. That is why I am terrible. ~ Tomaž Šalamun
7. Work vs Ethics
My learned trade is graphic design and over the years this has expanded into the fields of marketing, brand and advertising. But while this can cater to my creative juices (depending on the client) it can also be a very fake and disingenous industry to be part of. One littered by egos and a corporate ethos that often thrives on manipulation and lies (can you tell I’ve become a bit disillusioned with it?). I’ve often thought that doing creative work for charities would be a noble goal within the industry, but my experience dealing with some of the bigger charities (in a different capacity I should add) has soured my opinion of them somewhat. Many seem to be run more like a for-profit corporation with a similar ethos than a charitable institution. Understandable in a way I suppose but for me it leaves somewhat of a bitter aftertaste.
Again, all this harks back to the conflict raised in point one – that need to make money… to attain freedom… to achieve good in this world. And that my primary skill being something, that granted, can be used for raising awareness, passing on useful information, is utilised more these days for manipulative marketing purposes. This could be a reason why I have set up so many side projects over the years, I can use these design and marketing skills for my own ventures that are less, morally conflicting, shall we say. This Cacofony project being a perfect case in point – something that I feel gives back to others in the INFJ community. And which I have already seen in action… giving solace, comfort and insight to at least a few people.
You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.’ ~ Steve Jobs, from his Stanford Commencement Speech
8. Rebel vs homogeneity
homogeneity noun the quality or state of being homogeneous. “the cultural homogeneity of our society” synonyms: uniformity, homogeneousness, similarity, similar nature, similitude, likeness, alikeness, sameness, identicalness, consistency, resemblance, comparability, correspondence; rareanalogousness “the cultural homogeneity of Europe
I included the definition as even I was unsure when I first thought of the word. [Side note: Do any other INFJ do that? Think up a word that seems to fit in with what they are saying/writing but haven’t got a clue what it actually means? Then Google it only to find it fits perfectly?]
So… Being true to oneself… how does one truly know if they are doing that? Could someone simply be rebelling against what they feel they have been moulded into by society, life experiences and peers? There is a lot of talk in marketing nowadays is on developing a personal brand which is something I even touched upon here. And it makes me think… who am I really? Who is this ‘me” I refer to? Am I a true individual or just a combination of a set of experiences that has moulded this ‘me’ (forgive me if that makes no sense – I’m rambling a little).
I suppose as an INFJ I like to think I’m an individual that is unfettered by society and things going on around me – that I have my own unique ideas, thought processes, my own agenda and my own direction. But do I (and we) really? Perhaps I’m going too far into the the existentialist side of it – the whole ‘who are we, where we have come from, who controls ‘us’ aspects. [Another side note: I often watch my kids sleeping and wonder when they twitch, move the pillows etc… ‘who is actually doing that?’ – they are unaware and unconscious so ‘who’ is driving that subconscious mind? (Yes, I’m rambling again)]
This reminds me a little of the Rise of The Spornosexual article in Esquire a while back and was a little taken aback as to how it related to some of my own actions, and whether I was influenced more by society than I’d care to admit…
The spornosexual is a more extreme breed of man than his metro forebear. He is just as plucked, tanned and moisturised, but leaner, buffer, more jacked and obsessed not just with “looking good” in the abstract, but with the actual physical proportions of his frame ~ Rise of the Spornosexual, Esquire.co.uk
It does make me wonder… My focus on health and fitness, following the trend of tattoos (even though I’ve wanted them for years), the growth of the beard in the last year or so. Is it ‘me’ or just a way of rebelling against who I was years ago? I always felt that person was too influenced by others and society, but now, given my ‘personal brand’ seems in keeping with what is prevalent in society nowadays, I’m not too sure…
To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson