OR: My Life as an INTJ Female
As a child, it really doesn’t occur to you that your way of life and concept of the world differs so much from the majority. I was no exception, and I kept that for much longer than most INTJ girls would for one simple fact – all of my siblings are male. There was very little exposure to the idea that little girls were supposed to be giggly, empathetic and, well, girly. I spent most of my time out in the woods or the barn with my brothers; climbing trees, making up stories, plotting our next pirate raid on the kitchen, and generally being a tomboy. Our mother, wonderful woman that she is, let me be myself without recrimination. I had one doll and a tea set and they spent most of their time in my possession gathering dust on their respective shelves.
Once I reached school age, it began to become apparent that I wasn’t quite what most people considered ‘normal’ for a girl. I had no interest in clothes, or jewelry and makeup, or giggling over boys. I half-taught myself to read in kindergarten while my peers were shrieking as the boys chased them around the playground with whatever insects they could find. When my teacher realized what I was doing, she found some workbooks for me and proceeded to give me direction and a challenge to work for. In a years time, I was reading at a 4th grade level and extremely frustrated with my 1st grade cohorts who were still stumbling over ‘and’ and ‘the.’ My Elementary School had a reading program to encourage new readers – I had to be discouraged, as I was spending all of my free time holed up in the library. Books were my best friends, and I was quickly discovering that interaction with giggly, shrieky, diva-like human beings was extremely draining. I avoided my female classmates like the plague. When I did get kicked outside, I would usually make a beeline for the soccer field and insinuate myself into whatever game was currently in progress. Order and sense at last!
Until Middle School came along, homework was an unknown thing. It swiftly became the bane of my existence, as it cut into my evenings at home where I usually read whatever I could get my hands on. On the other hand, I discovered the Middle/High School Library. It got to the point that the librarian would scout through the library about 10 minutes before class was supposed to start in order to make sure I wouldn’t be late. Again. There was a permanent pass on the checkout desk with my name on it.
I always seemed to collect people here and there that would attach themselves to me for a while (much to my bemusement) and then wander off, but I finally made one good – loyal – friend.
Life was great. And then puberty hit me like a tank.
The worst part of being a teenager was abruptly discovering that my physical being and emotions were beyond my control. Nothing about either could be planned for, and that was incredibly distressing. Up to this point, life moved in predictable patterns that could be adjusted with minute planned interference. Now it seemed that the world had gone mad.
I withdrew from nearly everything that was not school, family and church, and threw myself into studying. Art classes were something I adored, once I had a good and competent teacher that was willing to take a few risks I was determined to excel. Physical activity a la weight training and running physically exhausted me to the point that I could actually shut down my overactive mind for a short time afterward – blissful silence at last. Music became another safe haven, and I loved (still love) to spend hours at the piano immersed in the patterns and rhythms of playing.
It took most of my higher Middle School years and most of High School to come to terms with Things As They Were. The one friend I had stayed around, and we became close to inseparable, opposites though we were. Then, when it finally seemed like life was leveling out and becoming a new sort of normal, the bottom dropped out of my world again.
There was a family at church that had started attending when I was around 8. They had become a very integral part of our church – he was one of our ministers – and to me they were a second family. I had worked for them for 4 summers by that point, and trusted and accepted them implicitly. So it was a shock when they called a meeting one Sunday evening and informed us, our congregation as a whole, of a few things. According to them, we were conniving, hypocritical goats on the fast track to hell, and they weren’t going to put up with it any more (the short, Cliff-notes version). So they walked out.
For me that was the first, and to date the worst, betrayal I have ever experienced. It came out of nowhere – I had no reason to suspect that they loathed us so much. They had given no indication of what they actually thought beforehand. Then, even after all of that directed at everyone in the room, that minister had the gall to tell me that they still thought of me as a daughter. At the time I couldn’t say anything as I was too stunned, but that hurt worse than the rest. Later, when I had a chance to stop and sort through my emotions and thoughts, I realized that it was because of the fact that I had grown up ‘knowing’ that family does not betray itself or abandon its members. From my parents down to my youngest brother, we all had each others backs. For someone I considered family to tell us we were a waste of their time and effort? Despicable.
That was the first time I ever cried in public. It was also the first time I removed anyone from my life with the delicate precision of a brain surgeon. I have yet to regret it.
I did end up working for that family for another two years. Jobs were extremely scarce in the area where I grew up, so once you had one you hung on to it tooth and claw. Thankfully it was seasonal work, so from November to March I was able to stay at home and muster my courage and determination for the next year. In that time I was still looking for another job but not sure what I wanted to do, or if I’d even be able to find anything.
My maternal Grandmother had hip replacement surgery the winter of the year I turned 20, and with my Grandpa steadily failing due to Parkinsons, she needed someone to stay with them for the first month or so if she was going to go home instead of a rehab. I had nothing else to do, so I volunteered (and was partly volun-told by Mom) to help. I spent four and a half weeks with them, and discovered that I had a fascination with the medical field. I didn’t have to do much besides change the dressing on the incision, but I soaked up everything the home health nurse, physical therapist and everyone else who came to my Grandparents house was happy to teach me. Once I got home, I informed my parents that nursing was something I wanted to try, and started researching.
Ironically enough, it was my employer that pointed out an avenue I hadn’t even considered: CNA.
In September of 2010, I was 21 and on my way from Michigan to Arkansas. People still look at me askance when I tell them that I knew no one here, had no connections, and just picked up and moved anyway. By myself. I worked as a CNA in a nursing home for almost 5 years as I put myself through college for my ADN. In that time I met a tremendous amount of people, and figured out a good many things about myself and the rest of the world as it reacted to me. The church I attended was quite a bit different than the one at home. It had a much narrower view of what was acceptable for a woman in personality, occupation and life goals. I nearly gave one of the ministers a coronary when I informed him that it was NOT my life’s dream, ultimate goal, and all-consuming reason for my existence to get married and have a passel of small people; and that NO, nursing was not my version of hanging in limbo, twiddling my thumbs and waiting for that to happen. I intended (still do) to go places and DO things, thankyouverymuch. He promptly assumed that something had gone horribly wrong in my childhood – abuse – and tried to ‘correct’ this alleged problem accordingly. Now, I do have problems, but that was never one of them and his assumption infuriated me on behalf of my parents. He, an extrovert, had spent maybe 48 hours in total with two introverts and their introvert adult child and assumed that he knew everything there was to know about their relationship. As a whole, my family is very formal and polite in public – which is anywhere that is not home or contains people that are not family – and affectionate only in private, so I’m sure to someone used to emoting all over the place it looked like a very strained alliance at best. The only strained alliance, if it can even be called that, is with him. He may think he knows me, but after that fiasco he only knows OF me.
By the time I hit the last semester of nursing school, I’d discovered Myer Briggs and realized that the reason that I felt odd and out of sync with the world was because I was. I also finally come to grips with the realization the the rest of the world – aside from a few new friends, one of which is ALSO a female INTJ, the other two are INFJ and INFP respectively – was simply not going to take me as is and had developed a facade or two in self-defense. I was someone else at work, closer to an ambivert, and another person entirely when dealing with people from church. The only places people didn’t judge me for being ME were in the relative safety and quiet of my dorm room, at college, or with my equally introverted friends. They were experiencing much of the same recrimination I was for simply living as themselves, and none of us were going to tell about the masks we wore.
I graduated in the spring of 2015 and took my RN-NCLEX three weeks later. Within four months time, I had also moved twice (once out of the dorm to the upstairs of a friend of a friends house, the second time to my current apartment), changed jobs (behavioral interview and all), bought a different car and found a different church that didn’t care that I wasn’t ‘normal’ by society’s standards. It was rather novel to have a job where I could be myself without people asking what was wrong with me, and a church that accepted me as I was without expecting anything other than living for God where I was with what I had.
A year as passed since then and it’s been a good one. The first I’ve had in a while. I’m finally comfortable in my own skin again because I don’t feel like I have to hide from anybody. There have been times when, as an introvert in what is logically an extrovert’s field, I’ve questioned my sanity over my career choice. Mostly I’ve just lived – and I love it.
– If you are an INTJ (or any type of introvert, really), how do people react to you? How do you react to them, especially when they tell you that they think there’s something wrong with you when you’re just being yourself?