I feel like I’m full of contradictions most of the time. Possibly that’s because I’m an INFJ. It’s driving me nuts quite often, but I’m also feeling like I’m reconciling more and more of the contrasting parts of me, accepting that this is who I am, and that there is room for both.
The contradictions can be part of how I “tick” emotionally and mentally: I deal with a lot of anxiety, for example, I usually dance on a very fine line there, and it’s a rare moment when I feel fully relaxed and safe and not worried. Very, very rare.
At the same time, I have made and keep making quite big courageous choices, despite the anxiety. Choices that my family was (and is) unhappy with, which causes anxiety. Choices about accepting being different, and standing up for it. Choices that are about self-care, very often. And choices to fight for equal rights – for women, for the LGBT Community etc. Often being a voice that makes some people uncomfortable, challenging the convenient status quo. The idealist in me is loud and clear. All of that takes lots of courage (and lots of energy).
And then there’s paradoxes in my personality: I’m an introvert. SUCH an introvert. I’m made up of layers and layers of internal worlds and thoughts and feelings and complexities, I need a LOT of solitude and silence to be able to process life and be well, and I get SO exhausted by being around people. I’m also an Empath, if you’ve heard of that. That’s not an uncommon INFJ thing, too, I think.
But – a lot of people have trouble believing that I’m an introvert. Some people meet me mostly in social situations and think I’m some sort of extrovert butterfly who thrives around people. Well. I don’t. I can do “social” for a limited amount of time, and then I absolutely have to stay away, for my sake, and for yours. I’m told that this too is part of being an INFJ. Since I work in a community-based organisation, a lot of people see the outgoing aspect of me – facilitating groups is part of my job there, for instance. Any introvert will know that it’s incredibly tiring to do that – and there’s a reason I only work part-time. I also pick up all the stress and tension and exhaustion and anxiety other people in the office carry around with them (the Empath thing…), and let me tell you, it’s NO FUN AT ALL. I have been offered a full-time role there. I don’t think I’m able to take that offer. It would ruin my health and wellbeing, in every way. And a better salary isn’t worth that.
There are contrasts in me as well that are about experience much more than about personality. One key example being: family. I am a family person. I’m a relationship person. But because my family is such a painful and dysfunctional place to be, I had to step away and stay away. And I keep wishing that wasn’t needed, but it still is. It takes me a lot of energy to not be there and care for these people in particular. But I cannot, purely because I have to protect myself – in terms of just being safe physically, but a lot more in terms of staying well mentally and emotionally. And most likely spiritually as well. I walked away from a lot of unhealthiness there.
And then there’s the future with all its open questions and unsolved conflicts in what I yearn for and hope for and would like my life to be – if you have been around my blog for a while, you will know that I have spent time considering the religious life as a path forward. That’s something that doesn’t go away. I take breaks from investing in exploring the idea because it’s emotionally exhausting, but like a boomerang it comes flying back at me in regular intervals… I have a deep yearning in me for prayer, for more time with God, and also for silence. I think I’d be well suited to many aspects of that life. Add to it that there may be a chance I could write and paint in the context of convent life, and serve people possibly in a meaningful way, and you have a very tempting idea of what that life could be like (I do know as well that living in a religious community is no walk in the park…especially as an Empath!).
The contrast to this is the yearning for love, a “romantic” relationship with another human being, male or female, I guess; to be loved and to love, to have a healthy, secure, committed experience of being with someone, growing together… There is nothing I have wanted more than this, ever, all my life. This is clearly in rather stark conflict with the discernment around the religious life. I have no solution for this. I often feel like I should finally choose one or the other. But I don’t think it really works like that, and the “should” never helps. At the moment, I can’t sacrifice either of these, and I don’t believe in a God who would force me to make a sacrifice that I can’t agree to. I trust that the loving and compassionate God I believe in knows a way, and that grace will be given for the right path for me, at the right time. I had this moment in the last days, the thought, that it’s okay to want both. There’s no ‘should’ here. It’s okay to want both, and it’s human. It’s who I am, two aspects of who I am. And there will be a way somehow. There can be reconciliation. Maybe it will be one or the other in the end, and maybe it will be aspects of both.
So this is some of the work that’s happening in me at the moment, I feel. Reconciliation between the different aspects of who I am. Learning to love each one, accept each one, and trust that it’s okay to want both, be both, desire both; and somehow, in the end, live that, and find balance.
Thank you for this post.
I believe that even fighter pilots are generally introverts who can, when needed, become extroverts for a short period.