As an introverted child, I always felt different. Sometimes it even felt like I was not from this world. I didn’t like the same things as most of my classmates. I didn’t view the world in the same way that they did.Growing up, this feeling got stronger. While many people liked hanging out in big groups, I found myself more comfortable talking with just one or two friends. I knew this was the case, but I didn’t know how to voice it. Every time I tried explaining this feeling to people, my words seemed lost on them.
So many things made me feel different. One was my tendency to thoroughly think things through. I remember one time in class. With two other students, I had to stand in front of everyone. We were placed on a specific tile next to each other. The teacher fired off a mathematical question. The first person to give the correct answer was allowed to advance one tile. The first person to reach a certain row of tiles was the winner of the “game.”
I lost the “game” before it even began. Every question asked immediately received a response from one of my classmates. Most of their answers were right, but sometimes they were wrong.
I knew all the answers; I just didn’t want to open my mouth until I was sure. I was always just a second too late. I thought things through instead of blurting out the first thing that came to mind — and I got humiliated for it in front of the entire class.
I tried explaining my way of thinking to my teacher and classmates. All I got was blank faces.
About two years ago, I made a huge mistake. I was part of an awesome ultimate frisbee community. A community I loved a lot. I dedicated a lot of time to it.
Along the way, in my efforts for that community, I garnered some frustrations. Instead of talking about them, I bottled them up. After a while, I collected so many frustrations that I couldn’t take it anymore. I exploded and sent an angry email to the people that governed the community. I wrote many pages in which I threw around blame like it was confetti.
Long before I got a response, I felt a sea of shame and guilt wash over me. Suddenly, I realized what I had done. I loved all those people, and in a moment of weakness, I messed up. I hurt many of them.
It wasn’t long before I received the anger I deserved. Months went by and the anger subsided. I needed a conversation to learn from my mistake and admit my guilt. Some gave me that conversation, after a time. Others just wanted to pretend it never happened and move on.
I tried explaining why I needed those one-on-one conversations. I tried telling them I didn’t feel good just letting it be forgotten. Once again, I was unable to voice my thoughts and feelings in a way they could understand. Many months of trying and failing burdened me more than I could handle. In the end, I left the community, because I didn’t want to hurt them any more than I already had.
During my struggles of the last two years, I tried to find understanding. Other people couldn’t understand me, so I figured I would try to understand myself. By accident, I came across a personality type website. This site asked me more than one hundred questions and provided me with four letters: INFP.
As I read the INFP description, it blew me away. It was like I was reading the diary of someone who had been stalking me the past 10 years. I learned that the test is called the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). As a sceptic, I searched far and wide for more MBTI resources. At first, I was afraid that the letters INFP (and its description) were just a lucky guess, but many sources validated my test results.
My time of discovery had begun.
I scoured the internet for more information about INFPs. I learned that this personality type:
(What’s your personality type? Take a free personality assessment.)
My entire life, I tried to understand my feelings and thoughts. Now it has almost become like second nature. “Introvert” is just one word, but it described many of the things I had struggled with. INFP and its cognitive functions explain the few things left unexplained by “introvert.”
Time has taught me to apply these answers to my life. When I was a child, I couldn’t explain to my teacher why I needed more time to think. Now I know that I have a more abstract thought process compared to the more concrete thought processes of many others. It explains why mathematics will always be a chore for my mind, while writing an entire wall of text happens more automatically.
Being an introvert also means that simple word retrieval during a conversation doesn’t come easily — another reason answering on the spot is difficult while writing on my own time is enjoyable.
The self-knowledge I gained helped me make sense of what happened with my former community. My strongest function, Fi, made me feel bad about sweeping what happened under the rug. As an INFP, I value honesty, integrity, and authenticity. By pretending my mistake never happened, I betrayed my most cherished values. The stress of trying to live with it pulled me into an Fi-Si loop. This is when an INFP loses their Extroverted Intuition ability to take in new ideas and make connections. As a result, the INFP gets stuck repeating the past and makes unrealistic moral judgements. My irritating behavior was a result of that loop.
I’ve also come to realize that I cannot expect those people to know how I felt. They probably think there is a different reason I left their community. I don’t think I can ever make them understand, and I’m slowly starting to accept that.
Becoming self-aware is what helped me through it. All I needed was the ability to realize what was so different about me. Now I can define who and what I am. I’ve used this knowledge to get out of my Fi-Si loop and to try to prevent it from happening again.
I learned I’m not so alone and found quite a few like-minded individuals. Defining my introversion has changed my life for the better. I hope it can mean the same for you, too.