Most of us tend to oversimplify Myers-Briggs® personality types. Even the types we think of as more complicated and which some writers treat as almost otherworldly (like the INFJ) gets reduced to stereotypes. Some types are painted in broad strokes as boring traditionalist, others as logical geniuses, and still others as innovative daydreamers.
And then there are the SP types. They’re the live-in-the-moment adrenaline junkies and hedonists, who love to make art and party and never commit to anything. But is that really a fair stereotype? Or is it just as overly simplistic and unfair to these four personality types as are the myths surrounding other Myers-Briggs® types?
Roots of the Stereotype
When David Keirsey published his own personal take on the Myers-Briggs® personality types, he paid particular attention to the SP types. He’s the one who decided to categorize them together and labeled them the “Artisans.” He also called them the “hedonist” types and said they are looking for a “playmate” in relationships. Though he didn’t really use function theory to describe type, he mainly focused on the Extroverted Sensing side of their personalities to the exclusion of other factors.
This oversimplification of the SP types is one of the main reasons why I don’t like the way David Keirsey talked about personality types. He skips over their inner motivations (a problem that Lenore Thomson talks about in her book Personality Type: An Owner’s Manual) and leaves us with the hedonistic stereotype that has come to be so much a part of the definitions we use for ESFP, ISFP, ESTP, and ISTP types (especially the extroverts). Read more →
Do you ever feel like your self-expectations are wearing you out? You constantly want to grow and improve but it’s so exhausting that you don’t have the energy to do focused personal growth. Every time you try to improve something, you burn yourself out or get distracted by other things that clamor for your attention.
This is something any personality type can face, not just INFJs. And I’m sure other types (especially the other Extroverted Feeling types like ENFJ, ISFJ, and ESFJ) will relate to the feelings of guilt associated with not being able to do everything for everyone, including yourself. Even so, I’m mostly focusing on INFJs today because those are the most popular posts on my blog so I assume many of you readers will relate to this discussion. Maybe we’ll do a series of self-care and personal growth posts for the other types as well if it seems like there’s interest.
Often when we talk about self-care, it’s things like drink a cup of tea, make time for exercise, or get better sleep. Those are all great, but there are also big-picture things we can do for long term self-care and they’re closely tied to personal growth.
If we’re not working on personal growth in some form we can often feel “stagnant” and dissatisfied with our lives. If we’re not working on self-care, we quickly become burned out by everything going on, including our personal growth work. We need to take care of ourselves and encourage ourselves to keep growing at the same time.It’s my hope that these 5 tips will help you balance those two things as an INFJ.
1) Remember personal growth takes time
Many INFJs are also perfectionists. We want to get things right the first time and we easily get discouraged if something doesn’t work out as well as we hoped. But personal growth is one of those things that takes time. It doesn’t always happen in a straight line, either. Sometimes it may seem like we’re going in circles dealing with the same issues over and over again. We need patience with ourselves so we can stop negative self-talk about how we’re not growing fast enough. Talking to yourself in an encouraging way is an important part of self-care for INFJs.
Like other FJ types, INFJs prefer to make decisions based on what gets everyone’s needs met. Sometimes we forget that “everyone” includes us. One of the best self-care decisions you can make as an INFJ is to give yourself permission to tend to your own needs first. If it helps, think of it this way: you won’t be able to take care of others if you let yourself become worn down, ill, and unmotivated. So take care of yourself! This includes giving yourself permission to take the time to work on personal growth.
3) Ditch the guilt and shame
You’re not too broken to find healing. You haven’t failed so badly that there’s no point in continuing to try. Not everything is your fault. INFJs often live with ridiculous amounts of guilt, and if you’re going to grow you need to address this issue. This is going to be a personal growth goal as well as part of long-term self care. Make sure that while you’re working on taking care of yourself in this way, you also don’t neglect more short-term self care like getting enough sleep, eating well, and getting recharge time by yourself. This isn’t a goal any of us are likely to reach all at once, so you’ll need to be kind with yourself while you work on it.
I feel like a lot of stress in many INFJs’ lives comes from not feeling comfortable letting other people see who they really are. We’re chameleons who try to figure out who we “should” be in each situation and then be that person. Many INFJs believe that being themselves hasn’t worked out so well in the past and so we try to avoid rejection by hiding our authentic selves. But that leads to dissatisfaction, as well as the aforementioned feelings of gilt and shame. Learning to embrace vulnerability and having the courage to be yourself is often a life-long challenge, but it’s one that will help you take care of yourself better and grow as a person.
If you need to take the time for some self-care and meeting your own needs (like having an introvert night once a week), don’t be afraid to tell people this. Learning to enforce healthy boundaries and stand up for yourself is one of the best things you can do as an INFJ. This doesn’t mean you need to do everything on your own, though. It’s okay to reach out and ask friends for help or to seek professional counseling. In fact, I highly recommend counseling if you’re struggling to work through something, need a trusted person to talk to, or want some help achieving your goals.
The introvert possibility movement has been a wonderful thing for quiet people. Finally, we introverts are being seen as people with their own unique gifts and talents rather than a “broken” extroverts.
It has also had some unintended negative effects, though. One of these is that some (though of course not all) introverts use their introverted nature to excuse behaviors that most people actually consider rude or annoying. I’ve done it myself from time to time. But it’s not a good things and I really think we should stop.
I hesitated to write this post because so many introverts have been wrongly accused of being rude simply because people misinterpret our introverted natures. We talked about that in a post earlier this week, “5 Things Introverts Do That Might Seem Rude to Others, but Are Actually Normal For Us.” But setting that aside, there are certain things that some introverts do that really can be rude or annoying and which we use our introverted nature as an excuse for. Let’s take a look at five of them.
1) Refusing To Small Talk
I know, I know — introverts hate small talk because it creates barriers between people. Well guess what? Most people hate spending all their time on small talk. But they also recognize that small talk is an important step in relationships and there are times when refusing to engage in small talk is just plain rude. Read more →
Many introverts, including me, have been accused at various time of being rude, annoying, or arrogant. While it’s true that an introvert could be all those things, in many cases the issue is a misunderstanding rather than intentional rudeness on the introvert’s part.
No one should get a pass on being rude, including introverts. But sometimes things that may come across as rude to others are just an accidental “side effect” of how the introvert prefers to interact with the world. Instead of being caused by something the introvert is doing wrong, the idea that we’re rude is based on false assumptions other people make about our motives.
This sort of misinterpretation can come from fellow introverts as well as from extroverts. I’ve heard several people who I know are introverted make comments about how someone who’s quiet (and who I know is uncomfortable in groups) seems stand-offish or stuck-up. Even when we ourselves know what it’s like to be a quiet person we can still misinterpret quietness in others.
1) Watching Instead of Interacting
This is one of the most common things introverts do and it’s also one of the things that’s most often interpreted as being rude. Usually what happens is the introvert is in some kind of group where there’s more than one other person around, and the introvert is watching what’s happening instead of engaging in conversation or participating in an activity.
People assume this is rude when they start pretending they can read minds. They may think the introvert is bored with what’s going on and wants to leave. Some might assume the introvert is silently judging everyone else and feels like they’re “too good” for the people around them. Other could say the introvert must hate people because they’re not having fun.
In the introvert’s head, though, it’s far more likely that they’re enjoying the gathering in their own way. We like listening and observing. We’re comfortable with silence. We’re probably having more fun on the sidelines than we would be as the center of attention. Of course, there’s always a chance that we might be distracted by our own thoughts or trying to think of a polite way to leave because our social batteries have run low but even then most of us don’t mean to be rude.
2) Avoiding Other People
This one can be rude or not rude depending on the context. Actively avoiding someone for no good reason, refusing to answer a friend’s message, or otherwise vanishing from people’s lives is (usually) rude. But it’s not rude to eat lunch alone because you need a break from people during your workday. It’s not rude to decline an invitation to a weekend party because you’ve been doing something social most of the week and need a break.
We need to learn to balance our “introvert time” and our investments in relationships. But the people around us also need to learn that introverts need their down time in order to function. Let introverts recharge and we’ll be much more likely not to avoid all human interaction.
3) Keeping Your Personal Life Private
This should be a no-brainer. After all, someone’s personal life is by definition personal. But sometimes people think it’s rude if someone decides not to share personal information. This is, quite frankly, a “them problem.” Neither introverts nor extroverts are obligated to share things they want to keep private with other people. It’s not rude if you choose not to share personal stories.
Introverts tend to be fairly private people and may keep things to themselves that others are comfortable letting everyone know. If an introvert chooses not to share something with you, don’t take it as a sign that they don’t trust or like you. They might simply be choosing to keep their personal lives private and that’s okay.
4) Being Nervous in Social Situations
Introverts tend to have a limited amount of social energy. While we all have an extroverted side, how strong it is varies depending on the individual introvert. Every introvert can reach a point where socialization is too overwhelming and they’re ready to go home and recharge. Plus, on top of the fact that social situations are draining, many introverts also struggle with nervousness when meeting new people. And some of us have social anxiety and/or shyness that we’re dealing with, too.
A nervous introvert can come across to others as standoffish. The introvert might be panicking about what to say next while the other person thinks its rude that they’re being so quiet. Though some may assume the introvert thinks they’re better than everyone else, it’s much more likely that a socially nervous introvert is just really worried about making a good impression or is wondering why someone wanted to talk with them.
For example, if an introvert declines an invitation to stick around after they’ve unexpectedly run across someone, they probably mean to be polite by not inconveniencing them. An extrovert in a similar situation might think turning down that invitation is rude or insulting because it sends the message you don’t want to be around the other person. Same situation, different perspectives on what’s polite. Neither perspective is necessarily wrong but if we don’t recognize that there are different perspectives it can lead to misunderstandings.
What are some things you do as an introvert that people have incorrectly interpreted as you trying to be rude?
I recently read an article that made the claim extroverts will never understand that an introverted personality has multiple layers. I’m not going to link to this article because it’s not my intention to attack the writer, but I mention it to highlight a common misconception among introverts — that our personalities are more complex than extroverts.
The truth is, all people have layers. And we all — both introverts and extroverts — have a tendency to assume that how we see people act initially is how they act all the time. We meet someone who seems chatty and friendly, we assume they’re generally a talkative and friendly person. We meet someone who’s quiet and reserved, we assume they’re generally a private, quiet person.
But just as introverts don’t want people to assume they’re nothing more than a quiet person who doesn’t speak up much in crowds, extroverts don’t want people to assume there’s nothing more to them than the life-of-the-party social butterfly. We’re all complex, layered people with nuances to our personalities.
The Masks We Wear
Introverts often talk about how we wear different “masks” in different situations. We have our social mask that we put on when hanging out with a group or meeting new people. In this mask, we can be so engaging and talkative that sometimes people might even mistake us for extroverts. And we might have other masks, too — the professional one we put on for work, the polite one we wear interacting with retail workers, the “don’t talk to me” one we wear when in a public place and we don’t want disturbed.
We don’t usually think of the version of ourselves we show the world (especially new acquaintances) as a complete picture of who we really are. Introverts tend to be private people who keep a large part of their personalities hidden. We take time to open up to people and let them see behind any of our masks.
The thing is, extroverts do this too. Even the most social extrovert has layers to their personality that they don’t share with everyone. Extroverts also wear masks to fit in with different social situations and groups, just like introverts do. Depending on their personality type and individual preferences, some extroverts might be even more private than introverts regarding their personal lives.
Introversion is not the same thing as being shy. Every decent definition of “introvert” makes that distinction. Being an introvert means the outer world drains you and the inner world recharges you. Being shy means you get nervous and self-conscious when in social situations. They’re different things.
But what if you’re an introvert who’s also shy?
Even though shyness and introversion are different, there are quite a few introverts who are also shy (it’s worth noting there are also shy extroverts as well, though they’re not the focus of this post). And when you’re a shy introvert, there are certain struggles that other introverts don’t always resonate with. In today’s post, we’ll talk about 10 that I’ve dealt with.
1) You don’t always fit in with the introverts
I struggle with social anxiety. When I first started reading about introversion, I kept coming across people saying things like “introverts aren’t shy” or “introverts aren’t socially awkward.” This made me feel a little out-of-place. I’m an introvert and I’m also shy and socially awkward. So where do I fit in? I’m sure I’m not the only shy introvert who has asked themselves this question.
2) You wonder if you need to change
Introversion is an inborn personality trait and it’s not something that you need to “fix.” Social anxiety is a mental-health disorder that can negatively impact your life, and it’s a good idea to seek professional counseling if you’re struggling with that. But what about the in-between area where shyness lives? For those who are more shy than other introverts but not always socially anxious, it can be a struggle to figure out how much of your shyness is just part of your personality and how much is something you might want to work on overcoming.
3) People mistake your intentions
I’ve had so many people mistake me for being rude or stuck-up simply because my shyness made it hard for me to join-in to groups. I don’t think I’m better than others just because I’m off on the side watching instead of in the middle of the dance floor gyrating. I don’t mean to be rude when I have trouble coming up with small talk when I first meet someone. And I’ve talked with or read articles by many introverts who face this struggle, especially if they’re also shy.
4) Starting a conversation is hard
Actually, “hard” doesn’t do the feeling justice. It’s more like well-nigh impossible at times. Not only are you more comfortable inside your safe introvert shell, but you also have your shyness worrying about how terribly wrong this conversation could go. Maybe they’ll think it’s weird you started a conversation with them. Maybe you’ll run out of things to say and embarrass yourself. Maybe you’ll want to escape the conversation later and won’t know how. You know you’re probably over-thinking things, but it still makes starting a conversation challenging.
5) Sometimes you just need to leave
Being in groups of people can be a struggle for any introvert. But when you’re shy on top of being introverted there are going to be times when you’re in a group of people and suddenly feel like you just have to leave RIGHT NOW. Maybe this is more my anxiety speaking than my shyness, but sometimes I just hit a point where I’m overwhelmed and/or totally drained and I have to bail on a group, event, or other gathering. In many cases, my energy starts to return as soon as I’m alone.
6) You feel underestimated
Sure you’re not the most outgoing person around, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have valuable skills and talents. Unfortunately for shy introverts, people often assume that because we’re hesitant to speak up it means we don’t have anything valuable to contribute. That can lead to people vastly underestimating us. From people talking over you in meetings to people assuming you can’t handle a task on your own, it’s often quite a challenge to try and convince others to stop underestimating you.
7) Avoiding people you know
Introverts, even shy ones, don’t hate people. But we vastly prefer interacting with people when we can plan ahead for it. Bumping into people accidentally seems incredibly awkward. If we spot someone we know out in public and they haven’t seen us yet, there’s a good chance we’ll go out of our way to avoid running into them. We might also avoid planning activities with people because we know they’ll be draining and overwhelming, so it just seems easier to not go in the first place than to leave early.
8) Your body gives away your shyness
Shyness and anxiety have some very real physical effects and sometimes they’re impossible to hide. One minute you seem calm, put-together, and in control of the situation. You might be worried on the inside but outside you can make it seem like everything’s okay. Then suddenly your palms are sweating, your voice starts shaking, and your nerves take over so much that you’re not even sure what you’re saying anymore. It’s embarrassing, but it’s not something we’re really in control of so we just have to live with it (though there are grounding techniques that can help).
9) You agree to things you don’t want to
Fear of confrontation is something lots of people struggle with, and it can be a particular challenge for shy introverts. It’s hard enough talking to people at all but when you have to contradict them it’s, like, 100 times more difficult. So you might end up agreeing to things you don’t want to or losing arguments that you should have won. It can get pretty frustrating at times. And if you avoid conflict too much, you might also have to deal with the added uncomfortableness of later trying to get out of something you agreed to when you were too shy to speak up.
10) You listen better than you speak
Listening is an underappreciated skill that shy people are often really good at. Just because social situations make us anxious doesn’t mean we’re not attuned to other people and their needs. Many of us are really good listeners and we’re often much more happy sitting back and listening than with taking a more active role in the conversation. We get so comfortable listening that it can be really jarring when someone encourages us to speak up more. In fact, the more someone draws attention to the fact that we’re not speaking “enough,” the less likely we are to want to say anything.
What are your experiences with living as a shy introvert? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!