On being an introvert

Some time ago… Over 2 years ago in fact, I posted about being an “ISFJ” personality type. You can read that post here if you like but for simplicity…

ISFJ stands for Introverted – Sensing – Feeling – Judging

I feel like the past 2+ years have been a real journey of finding out who I am, and what that means for me. Identity is a big *thing* for Christians, and while I know completely and wholeheartedly that my identity is in Him, my character which I believe is God-inspired but nonetheless shaped by relationships and experiences, is far more perplexing to me.

The concept of being an “introvert” was something I struggled to get a real handle on…I don’t know why but I felt that it had some kind of negative connotation and that made me uncomfortable.

However, and here’s the thing, I am so totally an introvert and accepting (even embracing!) that has been truly freeing for me.

Let me explain by bringing it back to my September 2013 blog post and this description of ISFJ personality types…

“Introverted Sensing personality types are dependable, reliable and trustworthy. They like to belong to solid organisations that are reasonable in their ambitions and loyal to their employees. They feel useful when their roles and responsibilities are clearly established and they can monitor their activities and productivity in tangible ways. They tend to be rather modest, traditional and conventional, to like sensible clothing, to be thrifty, careful and wise with both money and possessions”

The bit about ” sensible clothing” stll makes me laugh, but I know its totally true!

The main point here though is that, as you will know if you have followed any of my sporadic writings in the last few years, my previous employment situation was less than stellar. The weird thing about the above paragraph is that I wrote that a whole month before things started going far, far south at my old work…and yet I highlighted the section about “solid organisations…reasonable ambitions…loyal to employees”

If you know me ‘in real life’ or even if you have read this post you will know that my old place of work was the opposite of what I needed as an ISFJ.

Praise the Lord after working with my current organisation for 10 1/2 months (where has the time gone?) I can honestly say that statement completely applies to their management and leadership style, which enables me to not only do my job but to feel encouraged and supported to do it well…instead of feeling crippled with fear and anxiety! Yay for that. Moving on…

“They tend to like to stay in one neighbourhood, often choosing to live close to where they were themselves raised.  They may keep possessions for a lifetime and treasure those that were given to them.”

Oh how I wish I could stay in one neighbourhood! Hilariously (or not quite so) I have moved house TWICE since writing the original ISFJ post… Twice! This latest time really sucked. Even though I was totally on board and it went smoothly for all intents and purposes, it really drained me emotionally to have to pack up, move, unpack, resettle, make a home…for the fourteenth time in 26 years.

This one hit me harder than most and its hard to pinpoint why…but if you also read the section in the paragraph that says “They may keep possessions for a lifetime and treasure those that were given to them” maybe it makes more sense? For one such as I, who holds things deeply in her heart and firmly attaches memory and emotion to things – objects and places – the process of regular house moves is a real wrench.

Although admittedly I don’t live anywhere near where I was raised, haven’t done so for 8 years, I think there is a significant part of me that ties Canterbury to my “growing up” years, going from teen to young lady to fully-fledged independent grown up (supposedly) and I cannot contemplate being away from the place, and more importantly the people within that place, that made me who I am.

(And who I am is pretty great, dontcha know)

They tend to have a good memory for specific facts that are necessary in their day-to-day life at work and at home. They accumulate facts and details to orient themselves, relying on repeated experiences that have been proven trustworthy.”

This part of my personality had real significance when it came to my PTSD recovery. That’s something I haven’t really talked about with many people, with anyone actually (psst, I’m an introvert?!) But, in my times of extreme anxiety I developed some impressive strategies to manage, and this often involved recalling ‘trustworthy repeated experiences’ to orient and calm myself.

For example, I remember one day berating myself mentally for what I perceived to be negative feedback in an email I’d received and because the sender had copied in my line manager. I was convinced that my line manager’s reaction was going to be horror/anger/disgust/disappointment…because that is how my old boss would have reacted. However, on this day, my line manager sent me a quick one sentence email, saying something along the lines of “who spit in her bean curd!?” (If you don’t get that reference, please please watch Mulan and enjoy!)

My line manager clearly trusted what I had said in my original email and found the response I got quite ridiculous. Her reply to me made me laugh, but more importantly gave me the confidence to reply and stand my ground…and even more importantly, it gave me a trustworthy (positive) experience to replace the negative one I had held for so long. I had a new point of reference in those situations and was able to overcome feelings of anxiety by recalling that my line manager clearly had (and still has) my back.

(Also, just it turns out that technique is a known part of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, so I felt pretty chuffed to have come up with it on my own. ISFJ for the win!

They tend to shy away from surprises and what is perceived as unnecessary change

This is my final point, because this post is already so long! Also I feel like ending on a cliffhanger…

While I, the introvert, would totally avoid surprises and unnecessary change, there is a big change coming up in my life (big for me anyways) that will probably surprise a lot of people who know me, and that also might seem pretty unnecessary. But the truth is, as I have come to know and accept more of my Introvert self, I have realised that there is one area of my life that has remained unchanged for a significant period of time and I now feel really convicted/called to make a change if I am to challenge myself, to grow more in God and in myself… So stay tuned and maybe I’ll remember to update this blog sometime in the not too distant future and tell you all about it!

Until then