I’ve mentioned this to everyone in my inner circle about twenty times now, but I recently took a Myers-Briggs personality test and, as it turns out, I’m an INFJ. This is a huge discovery for me, which explains why I really can’t shut up about it. When I first saw those letters, I had no idea that they represented a very rare personality type. But the more I read, the more I fist-pumped.
This is a thing? I thought. I’m not just…incredibly weird?
Okay, so maybe I am. But I’m not alone in my weirdness!Like other INFJs and many introverts, I love being around close confidantes for hours on end, and I like to talk (a lot), but if you take me to a party where I don’t know many people, I’ll clam up and be ready to go in thirty minutes.
I used to think this was because I was more selfish than I’d like to admit (certainly true in other cases). But now I realize it’s because I expend energy in social situations rather than gain it like extroverts do. I don’t dislike social settings; just the opposite, in fact. But I tend to be “done” much faster than some of my friends. I can recall many a get-together growing up where I would be waiting ever-so-impatiently for my friends to turn and ask, “Are you ready to go?” Now I understand why.
As an INFJ, I was already well aware of how I felt about the world around me. But taking this little test gave me a greater understanding about how I was created and why I feel the way I do, which makes me want to embrace my quirks rather than shy away from them.
I can go from waxing philosophical about the spiritual impact of social media to singing along (sans toddler) with Tangled in about 2.5 seconds. I will jump in a rain puddle with you and then turn around and gleefully debate the merits (or lack thereof) of our presidential candidates. I will be silly and tell you too much, then probably apologize that I did, then beat myself up for apologizing.
I am a dreamer and a doer, but I only do what really moves me. I struggle to commit myself to something simply because I should, and for a long time I wondered if I was lazy because I saw so many people around me running after stuff and status. I’ve done it, too, and I still do it. But it’s not something that comes naturally to me in every circumstance. I’ll stay busy reading and writing all day long, but trying to grow my social media presence for the sake of selling my own book? That’s tough. It feels a little bit like putting on a cute but very itchy sweater. It looks nice, but it’s not very comfortable.
I feel compelled to run after stuff because the world I live in says I should. It’s peer-pressure on steroids and my innate response is to want to rebel.
For some people–like my INTJ husband, Pierce–the pursuit of status is not about gaining the approval of other people. It’s the way he was created. Pierce thrives on opportunities to lead and talk to people he admires. He relishes the chance to solve someone’s problem by developing strategies for success. It’s the “thinker” in him, and he’s good at it.
The very thought of networking makes me want to snuggle up with my fleece blanket and console myself with another cup of coffee. But while Pierce and I are wired differently in our approaches to work, we both work hard. We are simply two sides of the same coin: Pierce works hard while sitting in the corporate office of a professional football team, wearing a suit and tie, while I work hard by writing for hours in yoga pants on the couch, sipping a mug of something caffeinated. At night, while I’m over on one side of the bed breezing through another historical romance, Pierce is on his side highlighting a biography on Theodore Roosevelt. (But who cares as long as he’s reading, is what I say.)
On so many levels, Pierce and I are eerily similar. We love to be alone together, each of us doing our own thing while still remaining close enough to touch. We are disgustingly affectionate and even a little immature in our approach to romance. We both love spending time with the people closest to us. And while we can adapt to large gatherings, we like to stick together and have down time once we’re back at home. We both take great pleasure in small details, like the way our daughter blinks fast when she’s thinking, and delight in new experiences. But when it comes to how we see the world, that single letter difference in our personality types makes a big impact.
Because I am a “feeler” and Pierce is a “thinker,” I tend to overwhelm him. He is practical and realistic, whereas I am highly sensitive and open to strange and unique possibilities. One recent example is my love for tiny houses. For months, I have personally been falling in love with the idea of less and making changes in the way I approach eating, cleaning, shopping, and consuming. We already live in a fairly small house–at just over 1,200 square feet–but, to me, there is something so freeing about the idea of going even smaller. Pierce, on the other hand, finds it nonsensical. I call him “rigid” and he tells me to “grow up, Peter Pan.”
We’ve been married for almost eight years, and I like to think that even though we are still learning about one another, especially as we parent our two-year-old daughter, Pierce and I have figured out what works for us. There are some things that we will never understand about each other, and that’s the key. For a couple of years, we spent too much time trying to convince one another why our way of doing life–whether it be laundry, relationships, or work ethics–was the correct way. We began arguing and building up resentment. And it was exhausting.
Until eventually, we decided to just accept the fact that we were built differently and stop trying to “fix” each other. Over many cups of coffee and some intense conversation, Pierce has learned to let me wallow in my emotions until I’m ready to get up again, and I’ve learned to give him time for analyzing the pros and cons of a given circumstance. But it’s a constant process of checking ourselves against our own expectations. No one way is better than the other and, thankfully, the learning curve is forgiving.
Being married to a thinker keeps me focused when I could easily get lost. There is a beautiful, if somewhat tenuous, balance to maintain when it comes to how we view the world. But while the lenses vary, the goals are the same.
And that’s a gift.