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Thursday, 18 March 2021

coming out of the introvert's closet

I am an INPF. As far as I remember (since the first time I took the MBTI test seven years ago), I have always been an INFP.

INFPs are known to be one of the laziest, most disorganised, most poetic, most idealistic, most depressed, most averse to conflict and most introverted people in the world. (See INFP memes below.) And this very accurately describes, me; mostly when I'm all by myself or with the people that I'm most comfortable with.



But the funny thing is that most people (especially the people who have worked with me) guffaw when they hear that I'm an introvert, let alone an INFP, because I have always been the outspoken and confident type - very much like the stereotypical extrovert. As a result, I'm always trying to explain that while the confidence or candour of a person may be a by-product of one's level of extroversion or introversion, they are by no means indicators of extroversion and introversion.
(Note: One's level of extroversion or introversion is determined by where one draws energy from, with extroverts drawing energy from social interactions while introverts draw energy from spending time alone.)

What, then, explains the disparity between my personality type and my behaviour (around most people and at work)? Without going into the details of Carl Jung's theory of cognitive functions (from his book Psychological Types), let me introduce you to the dominant and auxiliary functions. Each personality type has certain dominant and auxiliary functions that help them consume information and make decisions. The dominant function is the most developed psychological function of a person - the one that you're most familiar and comfortable with; the 'default'. Whereas, the auxiliary function is the secondary function that complements or balances your dominant function.

As an INFP, my dominant function is 'introverted feeling', which Jung describes as 'continually seeking an image which has no existence in reality, but which it has seen in a kind of vision. It glides over all objects that do not fit in with its aim. It strives after inner intensity, for which the objects serve at most as a stimulus. The depth of this feeling can only be guessed—it can never be clearly grasped. It makes people silent and difficult of access; it shrinks back like a violet from the brute nature of the object in order to fill the depths of the subject. It comes out with negative judgments or assumes an air of profound indifference as a means of defense.' It's spot on, and perfectly describes me and what goes on in my head most of the time.

But this is not what most people see, especially not when I'm at work. Why? Because I know that in my line of work, as with most kinds of work that require a lot of human interaction, my dominant function is of little value. Instead, my auxiliary function thrives. Extraverted intuition. Jung writers of extraverted intuition that it 'is never to be found among the generally recognized reality values, but he is always present where possibilities exist. He has a keen nose for things in the bud pregnant with future promise...He seizes hold of new objects and new ways with eager intensity, sometimes with extraordinary enthusiasm, only to abandon them cold-bloodedly, without regard and apparently without remembrance, as soon as their range becomes clearly defined and a promise of any considerable future development no longer clings to them.' Not a hundred percent me, but something I can still bring out as a high-functioning INFP, albeit always feeling a little tired.

If we, introverts, could all be true to ourselves and not give two hoots about meritocracy that is so narrowly defined performing well at work and unrealistic societal expectations fulfilling our social obligations, we would probably be a lot more comfortable in our own skin and less tired all the time. But that's a utopia (that yes, my INFP brain has taken its natural course to conjure). 

In a society where there is barely any room for poetry and the loudest person commands the attention of the room, where idealism fall to its knees in the face of realism, and where networking is basic survival instinct, we are forced to conform to become the perfect man that we have construed in our own minds. And to make our auxiliary become the dominant. Thankfully, I have that glass of gin and tonic waiting for me at home after a long day at work, that Spotify playlist that I've curated for a quiet Sunday afternoon, and this little rant space of mine that I can write. for. myself. to remind me that at my core, I'm still in INFP. 

And more so, a proud one. 

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