On Knowing You Are Your Own Worst Enemy…

I have always been interested in Myers Briggs Personality Tests and find it intriguing to reflect on how my beliefs, attitudes and approaches can impact on so many aspects of my life, even in ways I have never fully recognised! There is a lot to be said for knowing yourself – both the good and the not so good!

The Myers Briggs model of personality is based on four preferences:

  • E or I (Extraversion or Introversion)
  • S or N (Sensing or iNtuition)
  • T or F (Thinking or Feeling)
  • J or P (Judgment or Perception)

Apparently, I am an INFP personality type meaning I show preferences for Introversion, Intuition, Feeling and Perception. What that should actually say is that I am basically my own worst enemy!

When reading through my personality type, there were more than a few things that ran so very true.

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Unlike their Extraverted cousins though, INFPs will focus their attention on just a few people, a single worthy cause – spread too thinly, they’ll run out of energy, and even become dejected and overwhelmed by all the bad in the world that they can’t fix. This is a sad sight for INFPs’ friends, who will come to depend on their rosy outlook.

Anyone who knows me at all will be familiar with my ‘I need to fix it’ attitude. I am passionate about changing the injustices of our world and do sometimes feel as if I can’t do enough to help fix all the bad in the world. I get upset and discouraged and overwhelmed when I can’t help as much as I feel I should!  A boyfriend of mine once said, ‘You can’t fix everything, Lynsey. You’re not meant to.’ Yet my idealism will always long to be able to!

 INFPs’ friends and loved ones will come to admire and depend on them for their optimism. Their unshaken belief that all people are inherently good, perhaps simply misunderstood, lends itself to an incredibly resilient attitude in the face of hardship.

In my studies on early years education  it is clear that one of the most essential skills for children to learn from a young age is resilience. More so than any other skill for life, the ability to be resilient and have the grit and determination to keep going, is vital. I do have a ‘glass half-full’ attitude to life and to people, and my eternal optimism can bring both frustration and admiration from others. My mum always says ‘This too shall pass’ and I truly believe that. When faced with hardship, I know that it will not last forever and it is simply my role to make it through to the other side. I do believe that all people are inherently good. A child is not born evil. People are a product of their circumstances and their experiences. People make mistakes.  I am a forgiving person and when people let me down, I tend to give them second, third and fourth chances – much to the dismay of my friends!

INFPs often take challenges and criticisms personally, rather than as inspiration to reassess their positions. Avoiding conflict as much as possible, INFPs will put a great deal of time and energy into trying to align their principles and the criticisms into a middle ground that satisfies everybody.

I loathe conflict and confrontation – so much so that I will often become very passive in order to avoid having an argument over something. I’m almost incapable of having an argument without breaking down into tears, and I do take challenges or criticisms personally. This, I know, is a source of great frustration with friends who fall into more ‘debate-driven’ personality types, who long for me to rise to their challenge! Within my professional life, this is an aspect of my personality I have to exercise great control over, particularly when faced with a confrontational parent or fighting for opportunities for the children I teach.

Never short on imagination, INFPs dream of the perfect relationship, forming an image of this pedestalled ideal that is their soul mate, playing and replaying scenarios in their heads of how things will be. This is a role that no person can hope to fill, and people with the INFP personality type need to recognize that nobody’s perfect, and that relationships don’t just magically fall into place – they take compromise, understanding and effort.

91ee2599bb7fd480dd2449e2d21e0df6This is perhaps one of my biggest flaws and, in matters of the heart, makes me my own worst enemy. It is true that nobody is perfect, and surely my forgiving attitude should counteract this?! Unfortunately not! I am completely guilty of having a pedestalled ideal of ‘The One’ and being a bit of a hopeless romantic about all matters of the heart. In reality, I know this is not going to happen. I expect too much and am so unrealistic about how things could be – which means I’m sabotaging any change of actually finding the real ‘One’ (i.e. the real-life version, not my pedestalled version). Own. Worst. Enemy!

INFPs crave the depth of mutual human understanding, but tire easily in social situations; they are excellent at reading into others’ feelings and motivations, but are often unwilling to provide others the same insight into themselves

I love to listen to people and hear their stories, but I’m intensely private about my own feelings and what is going on in my life. Even my closest friends have been known to cry out in frustration when I finally share what’s been going on in my head: ‘Why didn’t you tell me?!’ And the truth is, I don’t know why I didn’t say. I sometimes feel as if my own feelings or what’s going on in my own life is not significant enough to share. Sometimes it is because I want to avoid confrontation or judgement. Sometimes it’s because I just don’t want to tell. Yet, as we all know, sometimes holding back and not sharing can lead to all these feelings, worries, anxieties and thoughts building up so much that they eventually pour out in a tearful mess.

INFPs will always need to disappear for a while, removing themselves from others so they can re-center on their own minds and feelings. Often enough people with the INFP personality type will emerge from this time alone having come to some momentous decision that even their closest friends didn’t know was weighing on them, evading even the option of receiving the sort of support and advice they so readily give. Such is INFPs’ way, for better or for worse.

For better or worse, indeed. There is a strength in recognising your own flaws and knowing when you need to control them and when you can allow yourself to be ‘you’! I also like to hope that my flaws are also some of the things that people love about me!!

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