Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Fitting In

(photo by An_Tarzan on flickr)

I've been struggling with blogging lately. My interest in personality theory continues to be a huge part of my conscious thoughts, but I don't want that to be the focus of my blog.

So today I thought I'd share a glimpse into the zany, illogical way my brain works. (Which I'm sure is in large part due to my INFJ preferences.)

I had a revelation this morning. Throughout my life I've always categorized people (big surprise, eh?). But my intention has never been to label people or confine them by limitations. Rather, I use the categorizations to make interactions easier and smoother. As an introvert, I'm not a natural socializer. But I became very skilled in getting along with everyone by recognizing people's motivations, different ways of thinking, values, etc. and using that knowledge to find connections. I can't relate to everyone, but I can relate to a part of everyone.

By high school I was able to move in and out of different social cliques with ease. I was an "A" student, president of the National Honor Society, and my best friends were "brains." But, I was also a varsity cheerleader and could hang with the jocks. At school dances I was known to break dance with the basketball players. And the first guy I dated was a hard partier. At home, I was a "tomboy" and very comfortable hanging out with my brother's friends (think "greaser" meets southern rock lovers--I think I confused my classmates when I greeted those guys in the halls!) And my ballet background gave me a solid position among the drama/theater crowd.

But what I didn't know was how to label me.

So that brings me to my revelation. I started watching the vlogbrothers on Youtube. Those guys are brilliant! They are very intelligent and hilarious, but what I love most about them is the relationship they share. They just adore each other and their families. One is an award-winning novelist and the other is a web designer and environmentalist who runs What hit me while watching them, is that they are of the "type" that I most admire and (naturally) feel most awkward around. So, I created a new label for me: I am a nerd-wannabe. (Ha! Who would ever admit THAT?) I want to be as intelligent and quick witted as they are. I want to understand the nuances and implications of each reference they make. I want to be able to respond in kind: have a witty comeback, a creative thought that takes the conversation to new possibilities. I want to be like them.

So, why is it that the one "type" who I feel most awkward with is the one type I most want to be like?


JaneyV said...

Aine - I actually felt queezy reading this because you might as well have been describing me. I too was a social chameleon. And like you what I most craved to be was witty, verbally dextrous and intellectually capable - like my best friend. I'm fine with the written word because I can take my time and be considered - but that "off the cuff" smart - the people who can verbally hold court - I feel almost shy near them. Yet I adore the company.

I discovered Vlogbrothers during Brotherhood 2.0 and I love them. My older kids are also fans. I think that they are the coolest nerds eh-ver! And what fantastic role models - encouraging kids to read, think abut the environment , be politically aware, be aware of global politics and be thoughtful of the less fortunate. I love 'em.

Nerdfighters Hoo-Haa!

Aniket Thakkar said...

Finally the girls are noticing us nerds... about time one gave preference to brains over abs. (Smelling sarcasm anyone? :) ) Well, my bro. and I are more geeks than nerds. (My bro. gifted his GF a necklace which could get converted to a flash drive...Go figure :P )

Will surely check the Vlogbrothers. And as you already know that am an INFJ too, you have now made me realise that I never exactly belonged to any particular social circle either. I was friendly with all, but not like buddies and all. I have a very close niche of friends. I loved to grab the stage every chance I got be it mimicry, plays, turn coat, extempore , anything. But I could not stand talking for 5 min. with people who bored me.

Beauty I can compromise on (not much though... lolzzz), but minimal intelligence is a must to grab my interest (I am no Einstien, but I hate to explain what 'et tu Brute' means to anyone :D)

Sarah Hina said...

We're probably always going to be attracted to people who have some quality that is lacking within ourselves (or we perceive as lacking, anyway). I remember feeling that mixture of longing and awkwardness in plenty of similar situations. There's a desire to join, but a fear of being "exposed" as a wannabe. Hence, I'd usually just stay quiet, and in the background.

I also admired people who could do what you do, though. Who could effortlessly (or seemingly so) relate to different kinds of people, and be a chameleon. It's not a small talent to have. :)

And I suspect that you're a bigger nerd than you imagine. :D Maybe it just takes a few drinks for you to let that side go...


jaz said...

This is such a great post. So thought-provoking! (First, I had to get over that picture, and I think Aniket will know why! :) )

I was like you, every social, very able to move between groups, but I people I admired were the ones who were comfortable being alone. I think I never wanted to be alone, and I am sure that this could be traced to my parents' divorce if one poked around in my childhood for even just a bit. College and even law school were extremely frenetic, social times for me, and then working as a young lawyer, too. The big change was taking time off from work when I had kids, but then you can fill your time with "play dates"--you know, social time with the other mothers and volunteering. It is just this year, with all of my kids in school part of the day, that I have made myself take that part of the day and be alone, and now I am finally getting to do what I love consistently, which is write. Who knew you had to be alone to really crank those pages out? ;)

Thanks for this post, Aine. It is interesting to hear more about you and to see how you analyze yourself and your world. :)

Aniket Thakkar said...

@ Jennifer:

Oh I know why!!! lolzzz

@ Ainne: Hey, you promised to explain how to be a good INFJ...

Aniket Thakkar said...

Ooops.... sorry for butchering your name. Typo error. :P

Aine said...

Janey~ Yikes-- sorry about the queasiness! But I'm so glad to find others like me! You always seem to put my thoughts into words-- you did that with my Harry Potter post, and again now with your description of "off the cuff smart" and the nerdfighters!

*doing my happy dance*

Aniket~ Nerd-loving girls are out there...I just know you'll find one who cherishes you!

About the flash drive necklace-- I hope she's a tech-loving Rational type! LOL!

And do check out the vlogbrothers-- they'll put a smile on your face, I guarantee it!!

Sarah~ So true! We are often attracted to those with qualities we lack.

And pomegranite martinis do seem to sharpen my wit... :P

Jennifer~ Oh no! Did I commit a cultural faux pas? I'm curious--what's the issue with the photo?

I can hear your personality type in your words. Sounds like you've always been naturally extraverting, rather than becoming so in response to a childhood issue. (But I could be wrong...) And now, with age/maturity, you're finding balance.

Yay! Keep making time to do what you love!

jaz said...

Aine, not at all! We've just had a potential security breach in the lizard habitat in our home, and I am terrified of lizards. That's all. :)

Aine said...

Aniket~ Now I'm really curious about the chameleon...

LOL-- I'm used to typos. Jason is the king of typos. :) to be a "good INFJ"...perhaps that's a contradiction. LOL! Just joking!

Have you read through my other posts? Do you have a grasp of the underlying basis of the theory (the eight cognitive processes)? That's the best place to start if you want to understand how your way of thinking is different from other types. In the meantime, I'll gather more specific info on INFJs for you.

I also got the book with the type pairings that I mentioned. Do you know what type she is? I can send you a description of the dynamics between your types.

Aine said...

Jennifer~ D'oh! I did read that on your blog! Sorry for the jolt of anxiety! I hope the critter is found (preferably by someone else) and returned to confinement soon.

Charles Gramlich said...

I'm introverted, but I've generally always been uncomfortable with everyone. I have some of the worst social skills imaginable.

SzélsőFa said...

First of all, thank you for making me a sunflower, Aine! I love sunflowers :)

As for the topic: Sometimes I feel I never really managed to get truly accepted by any sort of group. This might not be the truth, but the way I sometimes feel.

I remember watching various groups of people from the outside. Always from the outside.

Now, as a grown-up person I tend to join groups in which I somehow do not fit.
This came as a relavation to me recently giving me some tough moments...
This is yet to be explainde to my very own self as well :S

Aniket Thakkar said...

Oops... Guilty as charged. I just realized I haven't yet gone through your blog completely. (I always comment on everything I read :D) So I'll live up to my end of the deal. Its just that work has been tough lately (no points for guessing why?), and Elanora (my guitar) is upset with me too, coz I dont spend enough time with her.

And sadly I wont be able to get you her type soon. I followed Sarah and Catherine's (yeah Catvibe, she can beat Lena on love advice, when she is in her groove :D ) advice and took a couple steps backwards with her. (I realized I was trying a bit too hard) But am still in the business, as I love psychology and behavioral science. (And yet I became a developer... dun know why or how).

PS: "cultural faux pas" lolzz.... you dun have to worry abt me on that front. I believe in no religion, caste or country. My name means "a person to whom, whole world is his home". Couldn't be more apt.

I'd love to get married in an altar rather than have an Indian wedding. I want "you may kiss the bride" option, over waiting for 8 hrs to great the relatives after getting married. :) ;) (Did I think that out aloud??? lolzz)

Unknown said...

We could start an NF school of social chameleonism! I think it took me until I was in my mid-40's to stop doing that and just figure out the me-ness of things. Maybe even not until I was 48. Hey wait, I am 48. Love this post. And Aniket, you are so darn cute I just want to squeeze you.

Aniket Thakkar said...

@ Catherine: :) :) :)
e-Hugs are always welcome! lolz

Anonymous said...

Such a great post!

It strikes me how similar, yet different, I was. Of course, it fits my type, INTP.

While I had a similar ability to move among the different circles, I felt that I was doing it by bringing certain elements of myself forward to speak their language and elicit a positive reaction in return. I suppose the effect was that I tended to occupy a unique place is those groups because my core self (along with all of the other facets of myself) were still there. I didn't have that sense of, "but who am I?" Each group wouldn't be suprised to see me with the others, because all of those other sides of me were present, I was just emphasizing a certain portion for them. Because of that, I was both in the group and outside of the group at the same time. The downside was that I never fully felt "in." As included and liked as I was, I always felt that essentially I was the consummate outsider. A maverick. (LOL. A mavericky maverick. RIP--rest in Palin.)

Aine said...

Charles~ I find that hard to believe. You've got very nice social skills in cyberspace!

Szelsofa~ I actually had you in mind when I chose "sunflowers"! :)

There does seem to be some interesting psychology behind your experiences. Not sure what it is, either. Perhaps you value individuality so strongly that your subconscious ensures that you are always unique? Interesting... :P

Aniket~ No guilt necessary! Read through it when you have time. I'll send more info your way by the end of today (hopefully...I'll be at school all afternoon making popcorn for the kids. :D)

I love the meaning of your name! That's so perfect!

Now go spend some time with Elanora! Before she finds some other guy to tune her... LOL

Catvibe~ Ha! Yes! We NFs do need to stop absorbing everyone else's emotions sometimes. But, we certainly are needed for our ability to connect and empathize at other times. :)

You do seem to be finding your true colors now. And you are beautiful!

Aine said...

Jason~ :D So very Rational of you-- great observation of how our approaches and experiences were different yet looked similar!

My question wasn't so much "who am I?" It was more "where do I belong?" I had a strong core sense of self, but like you, there were so many facets. The core difference is that I developed many facets in order to relate to everyone (my Fe in action!) I wanted to genuinely "be" everything. But I was grounded, not searching to define a sense of self. Just searching for a label for what that self was, I guess...

Ewwww-- there's no rest in Palin...but I'm glad to put her candidacy to rest!

Unknown said...

Aine - :-) So are you my friend.

Aniket - One hug coming up. Come to my blog once in a while would you? I want to serve you tea and cookies.

SzélsőFa said...

OMG, I'm so happy with what you've just said about sunflowers.
If I had to choose among the flowers you mention this is the one I feel most familiar with :))

As for individuality...yes, perhaps. Perhaps I need to feel the way I am, perhaps I get feedback of what/who I am by experiencing the contrast between me and others...

laughingwolf said...

as a kid, i was so shy i nearly peed myself if anyone said something to me

i forced myself to get over it, in part i have

all changes take courage...

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Aine - I never thought I would say this as a compliment to someone, but, since being a nerd is what you aspire to - I think you are very nerdish!
i.e. - you are WAY intelligent.

I really can't say about myself in any definitive terms. I alwasys thought of myself as an introverted extrovert....I was a ballerina, had high tea with my family, wore John Myers clothes and t-straps or weejuns, curtseyed to my mother's visitors on bridge day ...but tended to gravitate toward bikers! (in secret of course) Then hippie types ...I married a hippie (who is still a hippie) and we have been married since we graduated college.

I remember my mother - the day my husband asked my father for my hand in marriage - she cried and said, "but he's not our type!"

Ended up he was her favorite son-in-law and she had five! LOL

I was a cheerleader, too, Aine.
But, got caught smoking in the girls bathroom and got kicked off the squad. They didn't believe I was just holding it for a friend. What do you think???

Linda S. Socha said...


What a great post! Love the comments. I love the Myers Briggs and the info that can be gained from doing and reviewing it.

I am an NFP as in ENFP . At times I lean more or less toward the I but tend to stay more toward the E. I expect I was more an I as a child.
I have come to believe that NF and NFP folks ten to be natural empaths...I cannot demonstrate proof of that....:>)

As a consultant and psychologist I find that it is a great jumping off point for conversations in almost any group as well as a conversation starter with one individual.

Over the years I have developed research oriented reports for each type I have attempted to tie it into spiritual paths with a little success. I am not using it as much now just because of the time factor for me...not because of loss of love for the process.

Thanks for sharing the info and the comments ! Great group here


Aine said...

Catvibe~ Thanks! :)

Szelsofa~ Sunflowers make me feel warm, as do you! :)

laughing wolf~ Courage indeed!! I once hid under my mother's skirt, literally. I was so glad to have a twin brother who is extroverted-- he always broke the ice for me, and taught me how to do that by example.

Kaye~ Thanks for sharing! I love learning about everyone. I would not have guessed these things about you. A good girl rebel, indeed! :)

And we have another thing in common-- my parents weren't too sure about Jason either...and now he's their favorite, too! (But he's not a hippie...)

Linda~ Oh yay! Another NF--there seems to be many of us in the blogosphere. And yes-- I'm finding that NFPs have special empath skills too!! Keirsey chose the perfect names for them: Healers (INFP) and Teachers (ENFP). :)

I am so excited to hear that you use "type" to facilitate interactions in your practice! And connecting type to spiritual paths sounds fascinating. I'd love to hear your findings sometime. If I ever get back to working in rehab (physical rehab), I'm curious if type plays any role in motivation strategies (which interventions will be most effective with a given individual) and length of rehab.

Thanks for commenting! :)

Vesper said...

Aine, I felt so weird reading your post 'cause I recognised in myself some of the things of which you wrote. At the same time, in a way, I was extremely shy when I was a child and a teenager, and forced myself a lot to overcome this. I guess, I still am, and that is why writing is such a good place for me to hide and to reveal equally.

I love the dialogue your posts elicit! :-) And I will have to check out those brothers!

Khaled KEM said...

I can relate to this post. Through the years I learned how to fit with different personalities and different characters. I have been the intellectual one, the regular one, the artistic one, the sportsman one, the naughty one, etc...

I have that ability to fit in with different people in different niches with no hypocrisy from my part or trying to deceive any one who really am I?! It's a part of a rich and curious life I traveled.

Now I am becoming less and less of all that as I developed over the years my own personality.

Deepa Gopal said...

Thats so true Aine, we are all in a way seeking the eternal question "Who am I?" and/or "Why am I here?" I could say that even I can adjust with almost any type of people coz I can adapt very well. "I can relate to part of everyone" is so true!