On healing, hiding, helping, and the natural habitat of one INFP

Introversion. I’ve been reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, and have confirmed and learned some things about myself. More specifically, I’ve confirmed my behaviors as introverted ones and learned the names for them. I’m an introvert of the high-sensitive, high-self-monitoring variety, which means I’m easily moved by sensory triggers but am also adept at masking my introversion and “putting on a show” – which is what helps me fit in to my extroverted society.

I wondered, before reading Quiet, how it was that I could be so definitely introverted and yet love to perform. But a few things have come clear – my performance in any field is geared to move people, whether that be emotionally, personally, or just to get them to agree with me. But it’s always geared toward connection, a hallmark of my profile as an (MBTI) INFP. In singing and speaking I want to open the doors to feeling; in acting the same, but acting has the extra dimension of being a place to hide in plain sight. After all, the beauty of acting is that I don’t have to worry what people think of me because that’s not me up there, it’s just a personality I’m putting on. Extroverts might be confused as to the difference between the two, but the introverts will know.

Last week I did a lot of reading about what kind of job an INFP should do, ideally. I learned that the Introverted, iNtuitive, Feeling, Perceiving types are the ones who need to spend their work time doing something that resonates with their deeply-held values, their need to connect with others on an intimate (i.e. one-on-one or in small groups) level. Careers like therapy/counseling, teaching, and – surprise, surprise – writing all came up a lot in the various sources I checked. There’s also a lot of “community-oriented service jobs,” but for me the key is SMALL groups – as much as it clashes with the GO MORE DO MORE GET MORE BE MORE mentality of my extroverted nation, I just really prefer people in small doses. Were I to see a stream of people over the course of the day, I’d want it to be one-on-one, and I’d want our time together to be spent delving into the deep stuff. Maybe it’s an INFP trait, maybe it’s a Scorpio trait, maybe some combination, but I love to know what makes people tick.

For example, when my new boss joined our company in October of 2013, she asked in our first one on one meeting whether I had any questions for her. I asked her “What are you passionate about? What drives you?” She immediately launched into talking about work. Not…really what I was going for. Quite frankly, I don’t care who people are at work – not because they’re not nice people, but because it’s largely not who they are. I couldn’t care less about the projects you completed last year. Tell me about the dream you had last night, tell me what constitutes relaxation for you, tell me what riles you up, tell me what stirs your passions. Those are the things that interest me. I know that who I am at my core is threaded through my “work personality” and shows in flashes, but it’s by no means the dominant strain when I’m within work’s walls. Maybe that’s not true for everyone, though largely – and even for the extroverts – I bet it is, to at least some degree.

So now I’m trying to figure things out – I know that I need something more than what I’m doing right now, something that allows me to connect on a personal level, something that allows me to explore people. Not sales – god, not sales – because that’s not the kind of interaction I’m talking about. I have writing, of course, the promise and practice of which gets me through having to do the things I don’t like. But I still feel like something’s missing.

This whole self-examination started a couple of weeks ago, when I took a stress-management seminar. At the end, we did a meditation. Some of the folks in there had never meditated; a few, like me, had enough practice to get right into a good seated position and sink into a deeper state. It felt great, and it got me to thinking I’d like to feel that way all the time, or at least more often, and help others feel that way too. So, I thought, meditation counselor? Possibly, though I don’t know how much of a market there is for that as a job you could live on.

My mom is a Reiki practitioner, and my meditative state reminded me of how it felt to be in her hands. Maybe Reiki would be a good thing for me to get into. I’ve always considered myself a healer. My mother said I have healing hands, unprovoked – I didn’t ask any leading questions or anything. And one thing I know with conviction – laugh or be skeptical if you must, but this is my absolute truth – back in middle and high school, I was powerful. I read tarot cards and stones with compassion, openness and, much to my friends’ surprise and delight, accuracy. I was tapped into something, I was connecting, and it felt great.

Then, when I went to college, I learned fear. I had very low self-esteem and wanted just to fit in, just to be wanted – so I stomped down hard on all the stuff that made me “weird,” a label I had once worn with pride. It’s been a long uphill battle since then to tap back into what used to come so naturally, and the journey is only beginning.

My wants are simple. I want to live within 30 minutes of the ocean, I want to do a job that allows me to make use of my vast collection of jeans and t-shirts, and I want to do work that fulfills me personally and spiritually. But fear kicks in. Jobs that allow jeans and tees – at least on the East Coast, I don’t know what it’s like on the other side of the country – aren’t jobs that make enough money to live near the ocean, for example. So it’s a conundrum that I have to keep working at figuring out.

But shifting gears toward something more fulfilling, even in a small way at first, would be a good start.

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2 thoughts on “On healing, hiding, helping, and the natural habitat of one INFP

  1. I’m an INFJ and we sound very similar on a lot of levels. I’m right there with you on the performing vs. being you in front of people. I’ve been struggling a lot lately to figure out what career direction I should take and what I need to do in the short term to get there. I wish you luck with figuring out where you might end up next. I think I might need to check out that book too.

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