During a quiet moment at work today I thought back to a conversation I had with a friend with regards to labelling oneself, and in particular, how she tries to avoid the process. Primarily because the subsequent over-analysing can create confusion and restriction… and as such takes away the freedom to be your own person. I thought this was a great point – I’ve noticed myself that when some find a label that they empathise with, that they end up adopting the associated traits a little too readily, and rather than using the new understanding of self as a catalyst for growth, they restrict themselves to the mannerisms and nature of that type. MBTI can be a perfect example of this – we secure a knowledge of our ‘type’ and when we do something negative, we can be quick to say “well it’s because I am an INFJ, it’s just the way I am…” – Which is a cop-out or excuse for said behaviour. They are falling into type instead of stepping back, assessing the issue and being a bit more self-introspecting as to the reasons why they are doing this.
Although I identify completely with the INFJ label, I try to not let it define me. Funnily enough, finding a label to which I relate has actually brought me freedom to be myself. This has happened after going through several stages in life…
1. Before discovering I was INFJ
This was a time of feeling alone, different, out-of-place and also a time of trying to fit in and conform. I blindly followed the rules and path dictated by society (i.e. school, college, university, work, relationship, kids etc), which felt too restrictive and authoritarian (visions of 1984 spring to mind). I recall being uncomfortable with it all, but I was too young/naive to think it should be any different.
Note: My only act of rebellion in my younger years was a refusal to conform to peer pressure, in particular drinking and clubbing (although with a hearing disability, the latter was pretty much impossible for me anyway).
2. Finding out I was INFJ
I initially discovered the INFJ label in my early thirties when I was in a relationship, and although I identified with it immensely, I didn’t look into it much further. It wasn’t till my relationship ended and that succession of events (school, college, relationship, kids etc) was finally broken, that I delved into it again. Feeling lost and unsure had me reading up on personality types, relationship dynamics, human nature and more, in a bid to discover where I, and the relationship, went wrong. This process led me to the MBTI forums on personalitycafe.com, and eventually to the various INFJ groups on Facebook.
This voyage of discovery into how we all have unique personalities, nuances and experiences gave me a much needed understanding and respect for how we all perceive the same things differently. And as such, it also made me less judgemental…
But perhaps the greatest and most influential part of the journey was befriending fellow INFJs through the forums and Facebook groups… simply because it made me realise that I wasn’t alone, I wasn’t weird or a freak (well, not that much). Just that I was different from members of my family, and many of the people I grew up with.
3. After discovering I was INFJ
Finding out that there are many out there who share the same ideas, insights and way of thinking to me, actually brought me freedom to be my own person, an individual. It may sound a contradiction – I know, I know we are by nature contradictory types, and I know I’m contradicting myself again about trying not to fall into type (I’m digging myself a hole here) – but knowing I belong to a certain group made me realise I wasn’t alone, and in turn it gave me the confidence to change and embrace the differences that plagued me when I was younger. So I’m quiet, introverted, don’t like authority or rules, or conforming to society, I like to challenge people and their judgements of others, I like being controversial, I have a feminine, sensitive side – and that’s what I embrace now – the things I related to before discovering I was INFJ… even though some can be seen to be typically INFJ.
4. The way forward…
Yes, I will always associate with the INFJ label, it has been the source of much personal discovery, acceptance, growth and a great many friendships. I don’t get involved in many INFJ groups any more – as the same topics often get rehashed, and consequently being in and around these groups (in my opinion) will only restrict moving forwards and upwards. As for this website/blog I will continue to share thoughts and musings whilst using the INFJ description – not necessarily because I am an INFJ and what I write depicts the nature of INFJ, but in the hope that other INFJs come across it, read the posts and through the same journey of discovery, acceptance and growth realise that they can embrace who they really are, and have the confidence to let that shine through.
Accept no one’s definition of your life, define yourself. ~ Harvey Fierstein