Everyone has a preconceived notion of who you are. They’re never right. No one knows you. You are your own mystery. Tell them. Scream it. Make them believe you could leap tall buildings in a single bound if the thought occurred to you.
This quote is from an essay entitled “Passion” that was printed in Violent Gusts of Wind, a kind of journal published in my high school as a sort of alternative to our official school paper, Breezes. When I first read this essay, it really spoke to me, and I’ve thought about it a lot ever since.
As I got older and learned a little bit about the MBTI/typology, I realized that this quote is especially relevant for introverts, and even more so for me and my fellow INFJs, as one attribute of that type is that we are often enigmatic and hard to get to know. Just the other day a friend posted a link to this Buzzfeed article, in which the author assigns a sort of spirit animal to each personality type. The animal she chose for INFJs was the wolf, with the following description:
INFJs are value-driven individuals who tend to remain mysterious and complex even after you’ve become close to one. They are often creative and inspired individuals. They are good at perceiving emotions and are sensitive to the feelings of others, but they are not very prone to revealing much of themselves until they trust someone completely. That said, they are intensely interested in the well-being of others and are often seen as protectors as well as natural leaders.
This is a pretty simple explanation of an INFJ, but it really resonates with me, at least with the first part. I’ve had many people tell me that I’m a complex individual, that just when they think they’ve got me “figured out,” I do something that doesn’t fit with their perception of who I am. Usually, I think of this as a great compliment. Everyone has their own preconceived notion of who I am. They’re never right.
But sometimes, being my own mystery is problematic. For example, sometimes I notice that people don’t invite or ask me to do certain things, seemingly because they assume I wouldn’t be interested. Now, I know I probably contribute quite a bit to this perception by frequently turning down invitations to social events. A lot of times, I’m just not up for socializing, for whatever reason. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be invited. I like people to understand and not be offended if I turn down an invite, but it can be painful not to be asked at all. And I do get in a social mood sometimes, so when that comes around and I know something’s going on, it’s nice to be asked.
Once I am out socializing, I often think people assume I’m not interested in doing anything that makes some people uncomfortable. This actually isn’t true. The most uncomfortable thing for me is usually being social in general, so if it’s one of the rare occasions when I’m in the mood for that, I’m usually up for pretty much anything (within reason, of course). For example, the other night I went to a reception for a work conference that was in town. I was there with several coworkers, and I was having a good time– there was a Prince cover band, which was pretty awesome. The music was actually decent, and some of my coworkers went out to dance, and later came back to encourage/coerce other members of the group to join in the dancing. No one even tried to get me on the floor, but actually I could have pretty easily been convinced to dance. I wasn’t drinking, so I was feeling a little self-conscious in my sober state of mind, or else I probably would have just danced without any coercion (I almost did anyway, when they played “When Doves Cry,” which is my favorite Prince song), but a tiny bit of peer pressure wouldn’t have met with much resistance. I like dancing, if the music is good. And I’m actually pretty good at it, or so I’ve been told.
(Digression: I’ve been told that I’m a decent dancer several times, but most memorably by a Danish professor I danced with a few years ago at another work event. “Do you dance?” he asked. “I’ve been known to dance,” I answered. He extended his had and I accepted. Unlike most American men, he was a strong leader, and I easily followed his cues. “You sure can dance,” he remarked, his appreciation clear.)
A more recent development is that I sing in public now. Like, in front of people. I’ve always loved singing, but being in the band has definitely increased my confidence in my ability to sing decently, and my comfort at doing so in front of people. This surprises people, I think. Even my own mother, who knows me better than just about anyone– when she first saw me singing lead on a song with Hardtack Jack at Fest this summer, her jaw literally dropped (I saw it!). I hadn’t told her that I sang lead on any songs. I still don’t consider myself a great vocalist, but I can sing well enough. And I learned how to be comfortable performing on stage years ago when I was doing recitals and contests on the flute; this skill was fairly easily transferable to singing, once I developed a little bit of confidence in my voice.
So yes, I am my own mystery. And most of the time, I like it that way. Maybe I can’t literally leap tall buildings in a single bound, but some of the things I can/will/do do are perhaps nearly as surprising for an almost off-the-chart introvert.