My composure is a veneer. Just beneath the surface lies the complicated and contradictory strands of my true identity. Within the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, I’m an INFJ, which makes up less than one percent of the population and mingles together seemingly opposite traits into one personality. One of the most significant contradictions of all is the intense desire to be understood while keeping everyone just far enough away to avoid the risk that accompanies such understanding. Four ironic juxtapositions summarize the confessions of this INFJ.
Skepticism and optimism don’t typically go hand in hand. I was even skeptical about the Myers-Briggs personality profiles until I took the test, starting researching my personality type, and saw the eerily accurate descriptions. Such skepticism doesn’t preclude a positive outlook. It merely begins with questions and a healthy dose of realism. Nonetheless, sometimes friends scratch their heads in disbelief that I could be so critical and, at other times, that I could be so hopeful.
Though you might not be able to tell from looking at me or even interacting with me, inner anxiety and self-doubt are always close at hand. It’s amusing when others make remarks like “Don’t sweat it” or “No need to worry” as if hearing those words flicks a switch on and turns apprehension off. Some people understand what it’s like to have strong inner anxiety all the time. For those who don’t, I wish I could adequately describe it while sparing you the effects. Imagine something deep inside questioning your every action and whispering words of doubt at every turn while outwardly showing no evidence of inner turmoil. A facade of tranquility disguises anxiety.
My boss often calls me the Vulcan or Mr. Spock. He does so because of my logical and unemotional demeanor; however, as Star Trek aficionados are aware, Vulcans do have emotions. In fact, they have strong feelings, but bury and mask them. Laughter, tears, anger, joy, and sorrow are all part of the daily ebb and flow of my emotional roller coaster, but you’d typically never see the ups and downs. Recently, I was having a very down day. I tried to put into words exactly how I was feeling. Below is what I typed into the notepad on my phone.
One minute I’m confident and ambitious and the next I feel the gnawing grip of depression. Perhaps it’s merely the week of rainy, dreary days I think to myself but it feels deeper. I’m conflicted, disillusioned, bereft of passion or joy, and immensely lonely. Torn between the obligation of obedience and a desire for a life that exhibits some spark of laughter and purpose, it’s as if I’m sinking but bound by a code of allegiance to go down rather than abandon ship. It’s like a slow, perpetual kind of sinking. Occasionally, it feels like I might resurface and I can almost see clearly again, but only for a moment. Lord, my sin has brought me here. My humanity has brought me here. You have brought me here. But I don’t know where to go.
I share this to try and break the cycle and provide a rare glimpse into my emotional life. Had you been with me on that day, you’d have likely never detected what I was feeling. For me, being a “Vulcan” doesn’t indicate that I don’t have emotions. It means that I’ve learned to conceal just how volatile they are.
Yes and No
In any given situation, I’m always willing to listen, understand the other side, and play devil’s advocate. Often, that can lead to those on both sides of the issue being frustrated. I possess strong convictions and opinions; however, I’m open-minded enough to listen to differing views and try to engage critically such that I could make a philosophical opponent’s arguments for them.
I also admit that at times I can fall prey to the paralysis of analysis. In such situations, I find myself evaluating all the various possible outcomes and variables at play and incapable of making a decision. One minute it’s yes and the next it’s no. The choice becomes like a temporal anomaly episode of Star Trek where various scenarios play out over and over with slight variations until there is an eventual resolution.
They say confession is good for the soul. I must confess that while this confession is honest, it barely scratches the surface of the personality juxtapositions at work in my daily life. Nonetheless, to the degree that this small step resonates with someone, it does provide a measure of comfort. For all of the extroverted introverts, practically minded philosophers, and emotional stoics like myself out there, I hope these concise confessions encourage you to open up a little as well. You’re not alone.