I always knew I was different. From a very young age I felt deeply, I noticed beauty in a person, a flower, a hug. I was tentative with my relationships while I waited…I watched …I observed. I took it all in and was extremely reflective, while taking in the big picture of every situation.
If something was uncomfortable for me, I recoiled or extricated myself from the situation or person in age appropriate ways. Of course, at a young age, I would cling to my parents and they were always quite understanding. They never left me in uncomfortable situations unless they had to (early school) where they validated and supported me.
Luckily, I had wonderful friends in my neighborhood. There were no judgments; we joyfully accepted one another where we played non-competitive kickball, volleyball, hopscotch, Red Light, Green Light 1-2-3, in the street until our mothers called all the hungry and exhausted children in for dinner.
I had a particularly close friend named Judi. I remember my mother informing me that a new family had moved in at the corner house across the street. She encouraged me to go over and introduce my 9 year old self and welcome her to the neighborhood. I would make a new friend! As an introvert, it took courage to go by myself and knock at the door. I would practice and repeat the scenario in my head until I procured the courage necessary.
I knocked at the door. An adorable, sweet looking girl stood at the open door. ( We did that in those days.) “Hi, my name is Susan. I live across the street.” I anxiously awaited her invitation to enter her home.
Judi stared at me, not quite knowing how to react. It absolutely seemed like a rejection after she offered a “hello” and literally closed the door in my face! We will both never forget our first meeting!
(Note- Judi is a lifelong friend and we have especially grown closer during our Covid Facetimes. Unfortunately, we now live three hours apart!)
Judi, was actually an intuitive/ introvert too, even though the two of us can now, both be mistaken as extroverts in various situations.
We rode bikes, played every outdoor game, had constant sleepovers- and yes- we would walk to and from our houses in our pajamas! Our favorite game was Barbie. We played for hours on end, time never entering our minds. We just kept creating and recreating endless situations for Barbie and Ken and excitedly traded doll clothes! (This was the beginning of my love of creativity with fashion, which would not really fully manifest itself until my thirties.)
Judi was not in all my classes, but I always had a few close, like- minded friends. If they were absent from school, I would contentedly get lost in a book at recess by myself as I am, and always will be, an independent person and thinker.
Large groups of noisy, competitive children would make me uneasy. In school, I was focused on my work and loved art, music and creative writing. I was always polite, but didn’t speak much to adults until I discovered the magic of performance art…
Judi was involved at the age of 12 in community theatre with her beautiful mother, Dorothy. My parents and I attended the musical Gypsy, to cheer them on. As I watched the performances, an incredible chill went through my body- it was like I was being hit with a lightning bolt of passion!
I auditioned for the next musical, Carnival and was thrilled to be in the chorus. This quiet introspective young girl, literally went into a different zone and felt light and energy and confidence fill my inner being. I started opening up to people and from 7th grade through my first two years of college was theatrically involved. My intuitive sense, feeling nature, and constant observations of people, were being siphoned into every character I played! People refused to believe I was an introvert. You would not believe how many introverts there are as speakers and performers- including comedians!
Throughout all of my experiences, I continued to always have a different perspective than most people. I always looked for others with whom I could relate to and be totally myself. Deep, meaningful conversations were of the utmost importance; I never was much for small talk. Parties made me uncomfortable, unless I really knew and liked the people. They also ended up sapping my energy even when I was having a wonderful time- I was never the last to leave!
My Love and Obsession
In 1989, I wandered into a mall book store and found myself at the usual section- Psychology and Self-Help. One book in particular caught my eye- Type Talk by Otto Kroeger and Janet M. Thuesen. It seemed quite intriguing as I leafed through the pages and could not put it down.
I was mesmerized and deeply affected. After studying it for an hour, I succumbed to its purchase. After reading it and reviewing various passages numerous times, I finally understood and completely embraced its concepts. A whole new world and its possibilities created an entirely new vista. It validated what I had been feeling and experiencing all of these years!
I was a quintessential INFP, one of the rarer types in the population. There was actually a term for who I was and how I felt! It described me perfectly!
I excitedly told my husband and anyone and everyone who was interested about the MBTI and the personality types. I collected a plethora of books including Nurture by Nature by Paul D. Tiger & Barbara Barron-Tieger, which involves observing, recognizing, and nurturing a child’s personality type from a very young age!
I continued to devour everything I could about The MBTI and Personality Types and became certified as an MBTI Practitioner. I designed a course to teach in my school district for any staff member who wanted to take it.
I eventually presented condensed versions of the class to medium and large groups, as well as my eighth grade students. I enjoyed when it resonated with people and increased their understanding of themselves and all the people in their lives with whom they interacted. I loved their stories and epiphanies while sharing my own! I thought if I could help people understand themselves and others, in my own small way, I could help to create a more peaceful and happy existence both internally and externally.
I have often thought about how I would have felt about myself if my parents hadn’t validated my inborn preferences and ultimately my INFP personality type. What would have happened if my parents admonished and suppressed my emotionality after sharing my experiences and told me to just “toughen up?” INFPs do not react well to this! We need support and nurturing and loving words or we would not thrive and internally wither.
What if they forced me to socialize in large groups because they thought it would be a positive experience for me? What if they didn’t realize that I CAN study and achieve with all the piles on my desk and I really knew where everything was all along? Or made me go to camp or goodness forbid sleep away camp- (a true nightmare for a sensitive, non-competitive INFP who needs alone time?)
Thankfully, I was understood and validated. My parents were proud of my kindness, where others could have easily seen it as a weakness. They never forced me to be anywhere where I felt pressured or ill at ease and appreciated me for innate qualities. Luckily, they were both intuitive feelers and could relate to my personal needs and natural proclivities!
They acknowledged who I was and whom I was meant to be… Every one of the 16 Personality Types deserves to be valued and understood that way…