At the beginning…
I spent my childhood in the Spanish countryside, close to nature and away from people. I didn’t have a lot of friends. My days consisted of playing in the garden on my own, collecting rocks or reading science books. I was fascinated by nature but, in turn, extremely shy. These two traits still accompany me today.
When I moved to the city during primary school, I dedicated most of my time to homework. Maybe because I didn’t have close friends to spend it with. The thing is, all the studying facilitated the task of learning in high school and earned me good marks.
Other than working, I remember getting into crafts (origami), sports, foreign languages or strange theories like the existence of a 4th spatial dimension.
The most useful skill I acquired during high school was a good level of English. It has opened many doors for me like writing this article or retrieving any kind of information from the internet.
On the other hand, I still didn’t talk a lot to people. I found things like discussing football games boring. Also, I didn’t reveal anything important about myself. This was accentuated since I didn’t live in a very open-minded place and was advised to keep quiet to stay out of trouble.
The pursuing of my passion: biology
My environment changed radically when I moved countries for my studies. I was 17 years old and I started following a biology course in a boarding school. The unusual context leads me to be surrounded by intelligent, passionate people. But the work requirement of the course left little space for socializing. Plus, my social skills being poor, I just sort of became friends by default with the people I hung out with. I felt comfortable with them, but not too close.
Two years later, I changed schools again. Having more free time to do what I wanted, I realized I had few interests outside of work. I had a general feeling of having wasted my youth. At one point I realized how difficult it was to make new connections. I took no initiative in conversations, no risks, and I didn’t stand up for myself, keeping my thoughts secret. My social life was seriously underdeveloped.
Moreover, with time, I was also let down by the part of my life that I had bet everything on. Science wasn’t the perfect, infallible discipline that I had imagined. It has its flaws. There are no universal truths and all studies are directed. Research is not a fascinating job where you discover wonders every day. It’s more comparable to a search for diamonds in your backyard digging with a spoon. You invest a lot of effort to find small conclusions that may seem far-fetched.
The existential crisis
So, being less confident in my life purpose, I fell into a crisis where I questioned everything. What am I meant to do here? Am I good at anything? What’s the point of working if I’m not happy?
It felt a bit like the INTJ depression on INTJvision.
Eventually, by analyzing my future possibilities I realized it makes sense to follow my current degree in biology/forestry. There are just some parts of it that seem more difficult, but what’s important is where it gets to. So if you need to readjust your compass as well, here is my advice :
1) Where does your current path take you? Do you want to get there? Consider the alternatives. Which option resonates more with you? If you cannot take your preferred path, what can you do to get there in the long run?
2) Make sure to surround yourself with people who understand you. Life is just so much better if you feel supported.
The social barrier
At this point, as you might have probably grasped from my hints, I was terrible at speaking with people. Changing schools a lot doesn’t give me enough time to connect.
But a condition has changed: Now, I am in a favorable environment for creating strong bonds. In my forestry degree, most of my classmates are a similar type of myself. In particular, most of them are intuitive. Among these smart, open-minded students, I feel safe and accepted. I trust them and are more prone to open up. However, as much as I try, I still struggle and sometimes catch myself using defensive language.
The discovery of MBTI
Since I discovered Myers-Briggs two years ago, I’ve been diving deep into it almost every day. It’s helped me understand the “why” of all the events in my life.
– Why my family always reacted in a weird way when I asked abstract questions (“Mum, what would happen if the Neandertals were still alive ?”)
– Why I did so many things in secret (to avoid feeling rejected by the people who didn’t care about my questions).
– Why I didn’t manage to connect with anyone in my childhood (because we weren’t interested in the same things).
– Why the relationship with my boyfriend hadn’t worked (because I enjoyed deep, intellectual conversations and he was more light-hearted).
– Why I’d never felt identified with girls of my age: I was more of a tomboy, hated wearing dresses and make-up. (I guess that’s because I don’t have the Extraverted Feeling (Fe) function in my stack).
– Why I was so stubborn (my Extraverted Thinking (Te) auxiliary liked to think there was one optimal way of doing things).
– Why I was such a “good” student (because it’s in my nature to wonder about why things happen and find the underlying patterns).
– But also why I had those defensive mechanisms: “You tried to hurt me deliberately!” (that’s my Introverted Feeling (Fi) tertiary misinterpreting people’s intentions)
Apart from myself, I’ve been truly interested in others through the lens of the MBTI. I’ve started typing everyone around me. It makes me curious and more prone to socializing. So it has been a fantastically useful tool.
My current challenges
Of course, knowing the system doesn’t solve everything automatically.
I still have trust issues with strangers, taking a lot of time to form connections.
In particular, I struggle with my search for my significant other. Partly because I don’t rely on my feelings (I don’t know if I’m in love or not); partly because I don’t want to admit I love someone -I unconsciously see it as a weakness.
I also have a lot of self-doubts and the impostor syndrome, thinking of myself as incompetent. Which surprised me because INTJs are often seen as confident people, aren’t they?
In any case, Myers-Briggs has given me the insight and the tools to identify this struggles, where they are coming from and what actions I could take to improve myself.
My developmental path
As much as building a wall between my feelings and the world is a safe strategy, it will never take me through fascinating roads.
So what to do instead in order to connect with people?
Basically, what I want to focus on, in the future, is finding more iNtuitive types. For that purpose, I need to open up and talk about my passions, like the MBTI. Revealing my true self will help reveal the others because we are all hiding in the shadows.
To reach that goal, one thing I’ve done is write “INTJ” on my T-shirt sleeve. As friends ask me what it means, I’ve learned more about their types in the last week than in a whole year. And that’s when I realized I was literally surrounded by iNtuitives.
So, in spite of all my fear to show up in the world, I have actually discovered that the ones nearest me could be my best friends.
I still have a lot to figure out, like my mission, and a lot of social skills. But I think the first step is this lesson of self-acceptance. Because it is only by showing yourself out there that you will make your life meaningful.
What about you, fellow INTJ? Do you feel identified with any part of my story? Or have you experienced totally opposite scenarios? I am excited to discover where you stand.
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