In the past years I have been looking for my “core”. With my broad range of interests, it has always been hard to make choices, because making a choice sort of implies ignoring parts of my personality. In our society, specialization is encouraged, and people want to be able to pinpoint the category in which you belong. As I have a Masters degree in Classical Singing and a Bachelors degree in Computer Science (and apart from that am also interested and skilled as a photographer, a knitter/spinner, a language lover, a painter, a cook, and more), this has been quite impossible.

… or is it?

How can someone be both an artist and a skilled logician? Is one of these “fake”, or, better said, not my real forte? I have been looking for answers in different places. One of the first things I discovered was that I’m an HSP. This high sensitivity level helps me in my art and in social connections, but it also has a downside. It means I am prone to empathizing too much (taking on other people’s feelings), and that I cannot bear certain noises, busy sights, smells, and that I sometimes lose track of my own feelings.

After finding out about this HSP stuff, I finally felt that I was in a certain way normal, that the things that made me different had a name, and that I was not alone in this. Reading more about HSP, I found out about the connection with introversion, which is quite strong. I am not able to stay in busy surroundings for extended periods of time because of my strong introversion. I need a lot of alone time and time off to replenish my energy.

I also read about being a multipotentialite. That resonated with me. Multipotentialites are people who can do anything, as long as it has their interest. I recognized myself in their descriptions and stories (on the Puttytribe), and tried to find my own way of being and combining a lot of things at the same time. However, I did not succeed, because I could not connect the things I love to do and am good at into one big kind of overarching theme. To be able to do that, I feel that I would have to let go of certain ideals, especially the one that I don’t want to do things just for the money, but mostly because I think they are great and important. This is really hard for me to let go of, and I despise being in a situation where I’m just doing something because I need to pay the rent, not because it is something useful, nice, or valuable. Especially when I’m betraying my passion to do that.

At some point I did the MBTI test. The result was INTJ, however, the “T” did not have a very strong, convincing value. At first I thought that I might be an INTJ indeed, as part of the description fit me very well. I am someone who usually uses logic to make her decisions. I was a programmer, a great job for an INTJ. I liked order and clarity.

The IN part of the score was quite convincing, and made a lot of sense. Especially the “N”. I was amazed that my way of processing stuff had a name. I did realize before knowing about these personality types that I think differently from most of the people I have met, especially during my Computer Science studies. I knew that, whenever an important decision needed to be made, I would just sort of feed the information to my brain and not actively think about it after that. Just sort of touching it gently and moving it around a bit, like a roast in the overn. Then, after a while, sometimes days, the answer would pop up and just be there.

I realized that this way of thinking does not work that well with programming. When I code, I have to neatly follow the steps to arrive at the desired outcome. I’m quite okay with doing that, but it does put reins on my brain, so to speak. I have to kind of force it to keep following the path, instead of jumping around in its own way, associating other information, checking the big picture, being free in how to process information.

Staying on the path takes a lot of energy. It’s like trying to ride a bike in a straight line when the wheels are curved to the left.
Looking at details made me feel lost, because I was always longing to fit them into the bigger picture (which I didn’t always get or care for). And because of that, I realized that coding may not be good for me after all. So I changed jobs and became a technical writer instead. This was a good move, because working with language is way more flexible than coding, and my brain could be itself a bit more. But not entirely. I’m still working on finding a job that matches my personality in such a way that my achilles heels become my strength. Suggestions are welcome.

… yes, quite in the middle!

Recently I took the MBTI test again, and now it said INFJ:

I: 91%
N: 41%
F: 12%
J: 47%

I agree with this outcome now that I’ve thought about it a bit more. It makes more sense that I’m an F person, seeing that I’m so involved in all kinds of creative and artistic things, and also how I’m quite the idealist. Also, the kind of unnatural feeling about coding has convinced me that I’m not a T in the end. I did develop my T(i) quite well, though, which explains why I managed to do it anyway. I don’t think it’s the other way around, because the things that I first associated with being a T (ordering stuff, wanting things to be precise and clear instead of hanging in the air, and the need for closure) are actually J qualities. And I realized that I’m more drawn toward the big picture, instead of the details. That I need to feel an emotional connection to what I’m doing. F, not T.

The other reason that I agree with the INFJ label is that I have a great awareness of other people’s feelings (however, it is usually quite subconsciously), but a bad connection with my own feelings. I often have no idea what I’m feeling, or why. This, combined with the N way of processing information, probably is a very dangerous combination. It causes other people’s feelings to be absorbed into my system to process. However, since I’m real bad at identifying my own feelings, those get mixed up with the ones I pick up from others, and because I don’t understand them, they stay in my subconscious, and I strongly suspect that at some point they present themselves as physical complaints. Even if I would only not process my own feelings correctly, it could lead to stress and unexplained physical reactions, I think.

I had fun reading about INFJ’s online. The descriptions usually are spot-on for me, almost painfully accurate. My husband laughed out loud after I told him that this thing where he always needs to kiss me goodnight (otherwise I’ll flip) is actually described here as something typical for INFJ’s. He said that I finally found my people…


Some side notes:

  • MBTI is not that reliable and as such should not be taken too seriously. It’s fun and you can learn things about yourself, but you’re still you, a unique individual, who is not just another similar copy of the master blueprint. Don’t identify or limit yourself by only looking at an insignificant label.
  • MBTI types are a nice way of starting a conversation, or connecting to other people. However, putting this stamp on people also can end the conversation right then and there.
  • As the material in this post consists of quite popular things nowadays (HSP, introversion, MBTI, etc), there’s a lot of crap about this on the internet that is presented as the truth. If you read about these things, go find the sources, because otherwise you may get all kinds of wrong ideas.

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