As a young girl, when my mother or father introduced me to a big person, s/he would say, Don't be shy. Speak. Or, Say thank you. Come on, Marjolaine, say something! This repeated experience left me wanting to remain silent, but also feeling that something must clearly be wrong with me. It musn't be normal to be me, I thought, or I would want to speak to strangers, maybe engage them in a conversation about my favourite food this week, or how many cartwheels I can do without falling?
It was made clear to me from an early age that 1) being introverted equalled being shy, and 2) being introverted was something in need of fixing. Some of us were broken is all, and if I were to make my way through this dog-eat-dog world, I'd better stop it. IT was showing weakness to my peers by my choice not to lead, and IT apparently gave the self-proclaimed little leaders about me permission to do and say as they wanted.
As a young adult, I rehearsed a script to spew out at interviews so I would come across as a well groomed leader and team player. These were the buzz words of the '80s and one had to presume that every employer out there was looking for one idyllic person times three dozen or three thousand. The whole system was centred around how extroverts worked. Seemingly, nothing had changed since I was three that allowed me to 'fit' into normal, in a world that might value what I really had to offer. And it would take me a while longer to realize my own assets, to accept them as gifts that extroverts just had to do without.
I knew a very long time ago that I didn't belong in this world of corporate finance. That is not to say I wasn't good at what I did, but it meant I was unhappy with what I did. For 18 years leading up to my departure from the corporate world, I joined several organizations who, without judgment, told me who I was and what I had to offer. Slowly it worked its magic, until one day I left my cubicle behind.
When I took the Keirsey Temperament test (which showed me to be wholeheartedly INFJ), I suddenly found myself in a group of people that included the likes of Ghandi, Carl Jung, and Jane Goodall. And it described me with such accuracy that I felt understood, and for the first time in my 42 years, I was genuinely pleased and proud to be an introvert.
That was several years ago now. Extroverts were ruling the world with an iron fist and making bad choices, fighting unnecessary wars and lining their pockets with other people's money. I say this because I suspect that this past decade had a large influence on what came next. Six months ago, introverts made the cover of MACLEAN'S magazine (equivalent to U.S.A.'s TIME)! I was shocked and so very pleased. I sort of felt outed, really, and recognized as a valuable and needed part of my community by an entity bigger than me. Studies were being done, and people were writing books (extroverts were publishing them!) about us.
Oh, I so relate to this.... :) have a great day...
I enjoyed this very much. I have the same letters, and went through similar experiences. In my case I learned to pretend, imitating what others wanted. I was successful, but what a miserable period. When I made enough, I left, and went back to being the artist i was as a kid.
Wow! Hello, fellow INFJ..you're now the 4th I meet, though not in person of course. We are such a very small group of people, I feel that I'm now speaking to you for the first time..
I understand the pretend part - I hope I never find myself there again. I am happy being self-employed, finding my own way. It's worth the lower pay.
Thanks so much for sharing, Anthony.
Wonderful post - I understand it all too well. You have to be like the others to survive, particularly in corporate environments. Laugh at the same jokes, think the same thoughts, like the same things. Eventually, all trace of self is drained out of you, and they call this "success" and "being a team player." Of course, their team has nothing to do with play and isn't so much a team as countless mirrors reflecting the empty ideal to which they aspire.
Being an introvert is a "problem" to society. If you don't enjoying drinking yourself into a coma and obsessing over "the game," they see you as "broken." It's frustrating, and may explain why all artists suffer for their work.
Well said, Matthew. I appreciate your words, your sharing. Thank you.
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