who are YOU really?

This past week I have learned something about myself. Those of you who know me well may fall about laughing. Here it is…

I’m more introverted than extroverted.

I recently stated that I was a quiet extrovert. I thought that was true. Until I watched a TED talk by Prof. Brian Little titled, Who are you really? The puzzle of personality (you can watch it at the end of the post). He focuses on the differences between introverts and extroverts and how malleable our personality types are.

I realised that I didn’t know my personality type. I had heard about introversion and extroversion being to do with where you draw energy and so I thought, because I didn’t like to be by myself all that much, that I must be a quiet extrovert.

I took a personality test on http://www.truity.com. This test is based on the Myers-Briggs Indicator that has been developed out of the work of Carl Jung and his book Psychological Types. I am this:

INFJ

This stands for:

Introversion – energised by quiet time alone

Intuition – see patterns and possibilities

Feeling – prioritise people and emotions

Judgment – prefer structure and order

When I read the full description I thought: YES. That. Is. Me. And then I started to think… Yes ok, the introversion thing makes sense and explains why…

  1. I spend 80% of my life not talking.
  2. As a child, I was content to have my sister speak on my behalf and said so.
  3. I look forward to going to a toddler group to see my close friends but within the first half hour I feel like I want to retreat.
  4. I have started a book club… That is virtual!!
  5. I really need people to be attentive and listen to me otherwise I won’t feel able to share what I’m feeling.
  6. I don’t like the fact that I have to ‘check in’ at the start of every session of my counselling course and tell 21 people how I’m feeling. It’s like I’m being asked to show them all my pants drawer.
  7. In college, people often told me they thought I hated them (because I didn’t talk much).
  8. I can’t understand why my husband would be playing a podcast whilst the radio is still on when I feel like my brain will implode from the pressure of the noise.
  9. I don’t like to use a public lavatory (this may be universal but some people seem to have no shame).

Ok, some of that is exaggerated for comedy value but I’ve noted that when you go through a time of struggle, who you really are is illuminated. As I look back on my journey’s of grief the main thing I have done is:

Retreat to be alone.

The main thing I’ve needed is:

To be asked what I’m thinking and feeling and properly listened to because I hold my feelings close.

Discovering my personality type has been an incredible eye-opener. It’s not about putting yourself into a box that you can never leave. The main benefit of reflecting on this is for self-development and growth; not to place you into an inflexible category.

Me about me
Me trying to look comfortable having my photo taken in front of an audience of elderly people on benches

I have had a much better week since finding this stuff out and here’s why…

the benefits of knowing your personality type

1.You can have higher energy levels

Often I have felt frustrated by how tired I might be in the evening or at times during the day. I can sit down and not want to do a single thing. Well, now I have realised that I can be over-stimulated and need some quiet time in my own head to re-energise myself. It is just who I am. So I’ve given myself five or ten minutes to sit and stare into space, or lie down and close my eyes, when I’ve felt drained. Interestingly, when I embrace that innate need I don’t have to spend long there before I can be productive.

2. It can be easier to recognise what you might like to do with your time

I started this counselling course and shortly after doing so I said to friends and family, I feel I’ve finally landed on something I would love to do as a career. Something that “fits” me entirely. Well, the truity website gives a title to each personality type to help you connect with their traits and mine is called:

‘The Counsellor’

Huh. Now this doesn’t mean you have to be INFJ to be a counsellor, or you have to be a counsellor if you’re an INFJ. It’s just a term used to help you define this personality type. ‘A creative nurturer’. I bang on quite a bit about creativity. I probably write most about emotions, personal struggle, vulnerability, and self-development… Makes sense to me!

3. You can stop trying to be someone you’re not

Susan Cain has written a book about the power of introverts and has done a TED talk about her research. She has observed how our culture can put too much emphasis on group work and open plan offices and being the life and soul of a party. But actually, introverts need to get into their own heads in their own space in order to create things and ideas that are essential for the world to encounter. You may have heard of an introvert called Albert Einstein…

It’s one thing to choose to behave differently because circumstances require it, but quite another to feel you’ll have more value as a human being if you deny your unique blend of personality traits and try to replicate another person.

Self-acceptance is often something we’re reaching for but never quite grasp.

4. You can reflect on where you could be/should be/have been, more malleable

I’m a mother. This involves spending all day every day with at least one little person. They are often loud, demanding, non-stop, always right there every freakin’ moment… No wonder I’m desperate to be alone at various points throughout the day. I have been able to forgive myself for not loving this job role every second of the day when it is rather tough for me to not get much peace and quiet. But, as Brian Little discusses, your personality type isn’t a box you’re now stuck in and defined by. Circumstances in life can force us to step out of our personality types and become more of something else. I can be around them all day and still be nice if I take certain steps to help myself manage how much it drains me. But I have to know that it drains me in the first place and how to re-energise. Mothers with a higher level of extroversion I’m sure also feel drained but possibly in a different way.

Another example… I know what it feels like to be the new person in a situation where everyone else knows one another. It can be awful, especially for an introvert. After a specific experience of not feeling welcomed in during my early twenties, I determined to undermine my nature and make more of an effort to be friendly and chatty when I see someone else in that situation. Nearly a decade later, I have definitely changed in that regard and become more practised in the art of “small talk” so that it’s less of a source of anxiety to walk up to someone I don’t know and engage in conversation.

5. Knowing yourself better can help you in your relationships

If I know myself I can help those close to me know myself. It’s interesting to reflect on how you and a spouse, partner, or colleague make decisions together. My feelings tend to dominate when I make decisions. However, I think my husband decides based on reason and logic over feelings and intuition. Though I think that balance is probably ideal, it can create some friction and misunderstandings at times.

Finally, it’s made me reflect about my children’s personalities and how I can be respectful of them. It wouldn’t be possible to define them at their young ages but I can see signs of my eldest being introverted. It could explain why I always had this feeling he couldn’t handle environments with too many people, as a toddler, and that’s why he basically needed an ASBO at the age of 18 months. There seemed to be no reason for his relentless hitting out but I remember wondering if he just couldn’t hack other kids getting all up in his business all the time, as they do at toddler groups. Perhaps he was over-stimulated.

I guess I’ll know for sure in a few years…

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9 comments

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  1. Nicola

    Really interesting Jeni. I picked that book about the power of introvert recently but didn’t buy it, wanted to read some reviews first. Have you read? I’m recently starting to think I’ve categorised myself in with extroverts my whole life when actually, as much as I can keep up with them and am well practiced in being heard amongst extroverts (especially in my job) I will sit in a toilet longer than needed at parties. Or make a dash for the next aisle at the supermarket when I see someone I vaguely know (to avoid small talk). I think we are definitely in a world that over-values extrovert-ism(?). Even in a church setting recently I’ve wondered if leaders are feeling more and more pressure to be part stand-up comedians and entertainers to keep ‘relevant’.
    Going to watch that talk now.

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    • Where I Write

      Thanks for sharing that Nicola, it’s amazing isn’t it to think how many years you’ve lived with yourself not really understanding how you operate and what you need. I’ve found it hugely freeing. What did you think of the talk? I love your engagement with my blog btw, hope things are good with you. x

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