Much To My Delight

Much To My Delight


On Being an Introvert

 

I’ve taken the Myers-Briggs tests at least 10 times over the past 10 years, always thinking I can somehow outsmart the test and end up with a different result. Nope. Every time, same one.

INFJ. Introversion. Intuition. Feeling. Judging. Apparently it’s the most rare of all personality types, with only 1% of the population testing this particular combination. It’s the one area in my life where I actually feel exotic.

The first times I took the test, I was sure I must have done something wrong. The introverted part of the equation really threw me off because I always considered myself a pretty outgoing person. I was confused. But I can be so chatty! I love throwing parties! I’m not meek or shy! But the more I really learned about what it means to be an introvert, the more I understood that the test was bang on.

Introversion is not about being shy, and extraversion is not about being gregarious. It’s about energy, and where you draw it from. Extroverts gain the most energy from being with others; introverts from within. If you haven’t read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, I definitely recommend it, especially if you other introverted types want to feel very understood.

The following is a passage from the book, but if someone ever asked me for a soundbite on how to best describe myself, this would basically be it:

Introverts may have strong social skills and enjoy parties and business meetings, but after a while wish they were home in their pajamas. They prefer to devote their social energies to close friends, colleagues and family. They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation. They tend to dislike conflict. Many have a horror of small talk, but enjoy deep discussions.

This is me to the letter. In addition, there are other qualities inhabited by INFJs that really describe me as well– perfectionism, overly sensitive to criticism, prone to burnout. I also carry a lot of guilt with me for not keeping up with old friends as well as I should. Talking on the phone has never been one of my favored activities.

When I was a kid, I attended a lot of slumber parties. I would have a great time at them, doing the typical girl things–braiding hair, making Rice Krispies treats, prank-calling boys–but there would always come a point in the evening when I would retreat in a corner and start reading magazines (as an adult, it’s cookbooks:). In college, I loved hanging out with my roommates and going to parties but I also spent a whole lot of time driving through town alone to clear my thoughts. Sometimes I would park my car and sit on the side of a hill for hours to write or think. Being alone wasn’t something that bothered me or made me feel lonely; it was something that nourished and refreshed me, as long as it was in the right doses.

quiet

(Vin caught me taking a break from the party at a friend’s cabin)

My social engine is in very good working condition, but it peters out after four to six hours of activity. I’m not someone who needs or wants constant social plans. I’ve never partied till I dropped. I party till about 11 or 12 (max), so I can make sure and get enough rest so I can wake up early and have my precious alone time. I realize this makes me sound about as fun as a night of staying in and doing taxes. And yes–for the curious– the idea of having someone around ALL THE TIME (ahem, like a baby) is very frightening for someone who cherishes solitary time the way that I do.

I’ve learned to accept that I may never be considered the life of the party, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like going to them!  In fact, Friday night I was so desperate to be sociable that I practically begged my coworker and her boyfriend to go out with me after work.  We had drinks and dinner and dessert and talked to junkies in Tomkins Square Park. I got the social interaction that I craved and then I was ready to go home and hang out with myself. At 8:45.

Like many introverts, I spend a lot of time in my own head and tend to consider my thoughts one of my better companions. It is no coincidence that my personality type and a lifelong love for writing go hand in hand. My career choice as a therapist makes a whole lot of sense in that context too.  One-on-one interactions tend to be my favorite, and if a group is any larger than six, my voice may be the one you hear the least often. I’m not always a quiet or reserved person, but I sure can be. I absolutely hate to yell over other people. I hate to yell, period. If a situation requires yelling in order to be heard, I’d rather sit and listen. Or leave the room.

When I was 25, I made an attempt to teach 3rd grade in the South Bronx. It was a very unfortunate circumstance that the particular school where I taught was incredibly poorly run, with very little support from the administration, veteran teachers, and parents. A disproportionate amount of the students had significant behavioral issues, and I spent more time each day breaking up fights than I did teaching anything. After so many times sending kids to his office, the principal finally suggested I begin shutting my door and yelling at the students to improve classroom management.

You can imagine how well that went.

I couldn’t sleep. I barely ate. I cried every Sunday night. I dropped 15 pounds in less than three months. I was miserable, a nervous wreck. I was working against my natural disposition, my temperament, and my core self. I quit the day before Thanksgiving break. (that’s where the N for Intuition part comes in–when you know something is off, you just know). Still, that job taught me a lot. Working with large groups and being the focus of attention in a room? No thanks. Not for me. Pulling someone aside and talking to them one on one? Much better. My failure as a teacher was my inspiration to become a therapist, and even though there are stressful days in my current occupation, there has never been a day– not one– that stressed me out like teaching did. Play to your strengths! (PS: There might not be another group of people in the world I respect more than teachers.)

get ur freak on

(See? Introverts can have fun too! Here I am…puttin’ my back into it.)

Anyway, enough talking about myself.

I’m starting to feel uncomfortable.

 

Have you taken the Myers-Briggs Test? Are you an introvert or an extrovert, or a little bit of both? I’m very curious…please share!

 

 

 

 

Jenn P.

30-something psychotherapist. Loves cooking, hosting parties, exploring new places. Texan by birth. New Yorker by choice. Likes to tell little stories. Pull up a chair; I'll tell you one.

  • http://nicolemarica.com/ Nicole Marica
    I took it about 2 years ago and I was an IFSJ. I don’t think I truly understood what it all meant at the time. I should probably go back and do it again. You’re right about the introvert part, I didn’t fully realize it until now. Its not that I don’t want to be around people, it’s just that I need “me” time to re energize myself. It’s so true. If I spend a whole weekend hanging out with friends and don’t take at least one day for myself I ended up starting the new week exhausted.
    • http://muchtomydelight.com/ Jenn from much to my delight
      Yes! If I don’t have a few hours Sunday night to relax at home I feel completely unprepared for my work week.
  • http://cocktailsat6.blogspot.com Catybarb
    I’m also an INFJ! And I was so excited to see that you’d read the “Quiet” book; I just recommended it to my Mom. I loved that it went beyond all the other books abput introversion – hitting on the broad characteristics – and got down to the nitty-gritty of how the introverted mind works, biologically speaking. That book made sense of so many things for me that I hadn’t considered before.
    How about Vinny? Is he an extrovert type? (My husband totally is, and he’s still working on wrapping his head around what it means to be introverted.) It sounds as though Vinny’s learned to understand how you work. As an introvert living in New York, do you feel as though your environment can be more imposing than, say, Texas? New York City is my all-time favorite city, but I can hardly imagine living there…but then again, maybe that’s what headphones are for?
    • http://muchtomydelight.com/ Jenn from much to my delight
      I would have guessed as much from some of your previous comments Catybarb! I thought Quiet was such an interesting read, and it was really kind of eerie to recognize so many of my own traits in the text. Vinny is absolutely more extroverted than I am (he is the last one to leave every party, he never gets overstimulated by noise, etc.) but he is someone who appreciates alone time as well and definitely has his quiet moments too. As for NYC, I tend to really enjoy the hustle and bustle of it, and it never really overwhelms me in that way. I’m a big-time observer, and NY has no shortage of things to see, notice, appreciate and think about. I think that’s actually why I love it so much. Also, the subway is great for nights when Vin wants to stay out late and I don’t!!
  • Andrea
    INFJs unite! I’ve been enjoying your blog for over a year and am finally chiming in. You’ve described my way of socializing and re-charging exactly. I’ve been working in public relations for close to a decade, and my stamina is wearing thin. I’m about halfway through “Quiet” and keep marking sections for my husband to read. He’s an ENTP and the dynamic can be stressful (though we also balance each other well in many situations). @disqus_hqb6PGQOrk:disqus, sounds like we’re in similar boats. :) Thanks for the great posts and for blogging! -Andrea
    lovefromportland.com
    • http://muchtomydelight.com/ Jenn from much to my delight
      Oh man, working in PR must be kind of a challenge if you’re an introvert. Isn’t there a lot of small talk involved? Thanks so much for your sweet comment, and for reading Andrea! I’ll be check out your blog because I’m fascinated by Portland and you’ve hooked me with your title:).
  • J W
    Wow this was so great to read. It explains why I’ve been happier since living on my own, even though I LOVE parties and socializing. At Christmas when I go home for the holidays I find this side of me really coming out because I start to feel “smothered” by people constantly being around. I also wonder if I can ever be married of have children because of this. However the funniest thing about it is I happen to be a third grade teacher. Ha! I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you. It’s a career I love and is a perfect fit for me.
    • http://muchtomydelight.com/ Jenn from much to my delight
      I’m so glad you love teaching! I think it’s one of those fields that you really have to be born to do. We need teachers who love to teach! I loved the kids one on one, but when they were in a group they really stressed me out!
  • http://www.luvinthebubble.com/ Erica
    I’m close to you…an INTJ. A lot of people are surprised that I’m an introvert. If I know you (and like you), I am very comfortable and talkative, but small talk in a setting where I don’t know anyone makes me sweaty. I bought Quiet months ago and really need to read it!
    • http://muchtomydelight.com/ Jenn from much to my delight
      Do read Quiet–it’s an interesting read no matter what your personality type. I actually talk more around people I don’t know, but I find myself making less sense because I’m kind of nervous.
  • http://thekeri.blogspot.com Keri
    INTJ here, and it’s spot on. I’ve read posts on different blogs about the myers-briggs test and find it really interesting that the posters and commenters are usually the same or similar types. I guess like attracts like. :) I’ve been teaching pre-k for a few years now (I feel you on the introverted burn-out), and I’m actually career hopping to start law school this fall. College advisors should use myers-briggs! Quiet has been on my library to-do list for awhile–I actually started it last summer but had to return it before I was done. Have you seen Susan Cain’s TED talk?
    • http://muchtomydelight.com/ Jenn from much to my delight
      My brother and his wife are both very introverted, and successful lawyers:). Teaching Pre-K must be fun, but exhausting on a couple levels! I haven’t seen that TED talk, but thanks for the heads up. I’ll check it out!
  • pbw
  • Alaine Mahoney
    I’m flabbergasted how in describing yourself, you SO accurately described me. I always assumed I must have some sensory overstimulation disorder because I could be the life of the party but when I was done, I would literally turn off. My husband already knows that I can’t have an entire weekend packed with social plans or I get really stressed out (even if they’re fun plans). Funny thing is, him and my best friend are the complete opposite of me. Talk about a struggle!
    • http://muchtomydelight.com/ Jenn from much to my delight
      You should REALLY read Quiet Alaine. You’ll really enjoy it, I think! Vin can’t get enough stimulation- loud music, huge crowds, up and out all night…that’s why I love the subway- I can leave the party when I want to!
  • Brandi James
    INTJ here! When I was younger I would always tell people I was an ENTJ because I wanted to be seen as extroverted since I do like being around people and I like going out and doing things. It took me a long time to understand that it isn’t about not wanting to go out or being shy but about how I recharge myself. I spent the past week in Vegas for a work trip and here I am sitting alone in my apartment on a Friday night while my boyfriend is out at a really cool brewery that normally I would be all about but I know I need my alone time. And I don’t feel guilty about it at all! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLNCI8Ls3-EYzMyuCJhf_Fw
    • http://muchtomydelight.com/ Jenn from much to my delight
      A week in Vegas would require a trip to the spa afterward for me to recover. Don’t feel guilty– you gotta do you! :)