Tuesday, August 21, 2012

[My Personality, My Past, and Understanding Why I Do What I Do (or Don't)]

...or Dating and Romance in My Late 20s, Take Two.

According to the free, online version of the Myers-Briggs personality test, I am a INFP: moderately introverted, moderately intuitive, STRONG (80%) feeling, and slightly perceiving (it switches over to judging during certain times of the semester--big surprise there). I still remember reading the descriptions of someone with that particular type and wondering who had been spying on me. 

From PersonalityPage.com, a few descriptors in particular stand out (speak up if you think any of this describes me):
[Bold sections emphasized by me, not the original article]
Portrait of an INFP - Introverted iNtuitive Feeling Perceiving
(Introverted Feeling with Extraverted Intuition) 
The Idealist

As an INFP, your primary mode of living is focused internally, where you deal with things according to how you feel about them, or how they fit into your personal value system. 
Your secondary mode is external, where you take things in primarily via your intuition.
INFPs, more than other iNtuitive Feeling types, are focused on making the world a better place for people. Their primary goal is to find out their meaning in life. What is their purpose? How can they best serve humanity in their lives? They are idealists and perfectionists, who drive themselves hard in their quest for achieving the goals they have identified for themselves 
INFPs are highly intuitive about people. They rely heavily on their intuitions to guide them, and use their discoveries to constantly search for value in life. They are on a continuous mission to find the truth and meaning underlying things. Every encounter and every piece of knowledge gained gets sifted through the INFP's value system, and is evaluated to see if it has any potential to help the INFP define or refine their own path in life. The goal at the end of the path is always the same - the INFP is driven to help people and make the world a better place. 
Generally thoughtful and considerate, INFPs are good listeners and put people at ease. Although they may be reserved in expressing emotion, they have a very deep well of caring and are genuinely interested in understanding people. This sincerity is sensed by others, making the INFP a valued friend and confidante. An INFP can be quite warm with people he or she knows well. 
INFPs do not like conflict, and go to great lengths to avoid it. If they must face it, they will always approach it from the perspective of their feelings. In conflict situations, INFPs place little importance on who is right and who is wrong. They focus on the way that the conflict makes them feel, and indeed don't really care whether or not they're right. They don't want to feel badly. This trait sometimes makes them appear irrational and illogical in conflict situations. On the other hand, INFPs make very good mediators, and are typically good at solving other people's conflicts, because they intuitively understand people's perspectives and feelings, and genuinely want to help them. 
INFPs are flexible and laid-back, until one of their values is violated. In the face of their value system being threatened, INFPs can become aggressive defenders, fighting passionately for their cause. When an INFP has adopted a project or job which they're interested in, it usually becomes a "cause" for them. Although they are not detail-oriented individuals, they will cover every possible detail with determination and vigor when working for their "cause". 
When it comes to the mundane details of life maintenance, INFPs are typically completely unaware of such things. They might go for long periods without noticing a stain on the carpet, but carefully and meticulously brush a speck of dust off of their project booklet. [Niki's addition: If my mother ever reads this, she'll probably laugh hysterically at how true this statement is about me!]
INFPs do not like to deal with hard facts and logic. Their focus on their feelings and the Human Condition makes it difficult for them to deal with impersonal judgment. They don't understand or believe in the validity of impersonal judgment, which makes them naturally rather ineffective at using it. Most INFPs will avoid impersonal analysis, although some have developed this ability and are able to be quite logical. Under stress, it's not uncommon for INFPs to mis-use hard logic in the heat of anger, throwing out fact after (often inaccurate) fact in an emotional outburst. 
INFPs have very high standards and are perfectionists. Consequently, they are usually hard on themselves, and don't give themselves enough credit. INFPs may have problems working on a project in a group, because their standards are likely to be higher than other members' of the group. In group situations, they may have a "control" problem. The INFP needs to work on balancing their high ideals with the requirements of every day living. Without resolving this conflict, they will never be happy with themselves, and they may become confused and paralyzed about what to do with their lives. 
INFPs are usually talented writers. They may be awkward and uncomfortable with expressing themselves verbally, but have a wonderful ability to define and express what they're feeling on paper. INFPs also appear frequently in social service professions, such as counselling or teaching. They are at their best in situations where they're working towards the public good, and in which they don't need to use hard logic. 
INFPs who function in their well-developed sides can accomplish great and wonderful things, which they will rarely give themselves credit for. Some of the great, humanistic catalysts in the world have been INFPs.

Jungian functional preference ordering:
Dominant: Introverted Feeling
Auxiliary: Extraverted Intuition
Tertiary: Introverted Sensing
Inferior: Extraverted Thinking
And when it comes to relationships:

INFP Relationships

INFPs present a calm, pleasant face to the world. They appear to be tranquil and peaceful to others, with simple desires. In fact, the INFP internally feels his or her life intensely. In the relationship arena, this causes them to have a very deep capacity for love and caring which is not frequently found with such intensity in the other types. The INFP does not devote their intense feelings towards just anyone, and are relatively reserved about expressing their inner-most feelings. They reserve their deepest love and caring for a select few who are closest to them. INFPs are generally laid-back, supportive and nurturing in their close relationships. With Introverted Feeling dominating their personality, they're very sensitive and in-tune with people's feelings, and feel genuine concern and caring for others. Slow to trust others and cautious in the beginning of a relationship, an INFP will be fiercely loyal once they are committed. With their strong inner core of values, they are intense individuals who value depth and authenticity in their relationships, and hold those who understand and accept the INFP's perspectives in especially high regard. INFPs are usually adaptable and congenial, unless one of their ruling principles has been violated, in which case they stop adapting and become staunch defenders of their values. They will be uncharacteristically harsh and rigid in such a situation.

INFP Strengths
Most INFPs will exhibit the following strengths with regards to relationship issues:
  • Warmly concerned and caring towards others
  • Sensitive and perceptive about what others are feeling
  • Loyal and committed - they want lifelong relationships
  • Deep capacity for love and caring
  • Driven to meet others' needs
  • Strive for "win-win" situations
  • Nurturing, supportive and encouraging
  • Likely to recognize and appreciate other's need for space
  • Able to express themselves well
  • Flexible and diverse

INFP Weaknesses
Most INFPs will exhibit the following weaknesses with regards to relationship issues:
  • May tend to be shy and reserved
  • Don't like to have their "space" invaded
  • Extreme dislike of conflict
  • Extreme dislike of criticism
  • Strong need to receive praise and positive affirmation
  • May react very emotionally to stressful situations
  • Have difficulty leaving a bad relationship [Niki's note: this one, not so much. I've seen so many bad relationships that I pay hyper attention to red flags, and as such, I look for an out, even in the early stages, if I see those flags.]
  • Have difficulty scolding or punishing others
  • Tend to be reserved about expressing their feelings [Niki's note: instinctively, yes, but I've honed my skills, at least in writing, in being more outward about my feelings lest others unintentionally end up walking over me.]
  • Perfectionistic tendancies may cause them to not give themselves enough credit
  • Tendency to blame themselves for problems, and hold everything on their own shoulders

INFPs as Lovers
"To love means to open ourselves to the negative as well as the positive - to grief, sorrow, and disappointment as well as to joy, fulfillment, and an intensity of consciousness we did not know was possible before." -- Rollo May

INFPs feels tremendous loyalty and commitment to their relationships. With the Feeling preference dominating their personality, harmony and warm feelings are central to the INFP's being. They feel a need to be in a committed, loving relationship. If they are not involved in such a relationship, the INFP will be either actively searching for one, or creating one in their own minds. [Niki's note: Suddenly, my entire adolescence and early 20s makes perfect sense. It's also why I've become guarded of late, something I'm going to expand on later on in this entry.]
INFPs tendency to be idealistic and romantically-minded may cause them to fantasize frequently about a "more perfect" relationship or situation. They may also romanticize their mates into having qualities which they do not actually possess. Most INFPs have a problem with reconciling their highly idealistic and romantic views of life with the reality of their own lives, and so they are constantly somewhat unsettled with themselves and with their close personal relationships. However, the INFP's deeply-felt, sincere love for their mates and their intense dislike of conflict keeps the INFP loyal to their relationships, in spite of their troubles achieving peace of mind. 
Unlike other types who tend to hold their mates up on a pedastal, the INFP's tendency to do so does not really turn into a negative thing in the relationship. INFPs hold tightly to their ideals, and work hard at constantly seeing their mates up on that pedastal. The frequent INFP result is a strongly affirming, proud and affectionate attitude towards their mates which stands the test of time. 
INFPs are not naturally interested in administrative matters such as bill-paying and house-cleaning, but they can be very good at performing these tasks when they must. They can be really good money managers when they apply themselves. 
Sexually, the INFP is likely to be initially slow to open up to their mates. Once their trust has been earned, the INFP will view sexual intimacy as an opportunity for expressing their deep-seated love and affection. More than the actual sexual act, they will value giving and receiving love and sweet words. With their tendency to enjoy serving others, they may value their mate's satisfaction above their own. 
One real problem area for the INFP is their intensive dislike of conflict and criticism. The INFP is quick to find a personal angle in any critical comment, whether or not anything personal was intended. They will tend to take any sort of criticism as a personal attack on their character, and will usually become irrational and emotional in such situations. This can be a real problem for INFPs who are involved with persons who have Thinking and Judging preferences. "TJ"s relate to others with a objective, decisive attitude that frequently shows an opinion on the topic of conversation. If the opinion is negative, the TJ's attitude may be threatening to the INFP, who will tend to respond emotionally to the negativity and be vaguely but emphatically convinced that the negativity is somehow the INFP's fault. 
For INFPs with extremely dominant Feeling preferences who have not developed their Intuitive sides sufficiently to gather good data for their decision making processes, their dislike of conflict and criticism can foretell doom and gloom for intimate relationships. These INFPs will react with extreme emotional distress to conflict situations, and will not know what to do about it. Since they will have no basis for determining what action to take, they will do whatever they can to get rid of the conflict - which frequently means lashing out irrationally at others, or using guilt manipulation to get their mates to give them the positive support that they crave. This kind of behavior does not bode well for healthy, long-term relationships. Individuals who recognize this tendency in themselves should work on their ability to take criticism objectively rather than personally. They should also try to remember that conflict situations are not always their fault, and they're definitely not the end of the world. Conflict is a fact of life, and facing it and addressing it immediately avoids having to deal with it in the future, after it has become a much larger problem. 
INFPs are very aware of their own space, and the space of others. They value their personal space, and the freedom to do their own thing. They will cherish the mate who sees the INFP for who they are, and respects their unique style and perspectives. The INFP is not likely to be overly jealous or possessive, and is likely to respect their mate's privacy and independence. In fact, the INFP is likely to not only respect their mate's perspectives and goals, but to support them with loyal firmness. 
In general, INFPs are warmly affirming and loving partners who make the health of their relationships central in their lives. Although cautious in the beginning, they become firmly loyal to their committed relationships, which are likely to last a lifetime. They take their relationships very seriously, and will put forth a great deal of effort into making them work.
Sorry... I know that was a lot to read. But I think this information about my personality (which, as I said, is pretty much spot-on) helps to understand why my dating history (or largely, lack thereof) explains why I sometimes create personal roadblocks and will probably never be the one who makes the first "official" move in moving a friendship in the direction of "more than friends," no matter how hard I've fallen.

I do tend to feel things very keenly and make things mean more of a negative reflection on me than I should. And if you've known me for awhile, or at least have followed this blog for awhile, you know that, outside of a handful of first dates (one didn't work out because of awkwardness and his not understanding my sense of humor AT ALL, another because of the distance (I can't afford to travel, so...), and another because, though we had things in common, we did not share anything like a common faith, and, well, that faith thing matters (in my eyes) in an intimate relationship in a way that it doesn't matter with friendship and being pals), I have not dated. I'm nearly 29, and I have not had a boyfriend or even a first kiss *cue shocked gasp from people who can't imagine this outside of a monastery*.

My history with boys, guys, and men has been a constant series of unrequited crushes. To be fair, a few of these guys eventually came out of the closet, and others ended up marrying women who really suit them better than I ever would've done. It's been a long time of frustration, and this whole lack of mutual romantic interest has burned me. I've developed a defense mechanism to try to avoid falling for any guy unless he specifically asks me out (though I do sometimes end up falling after a few good, easy conversations--y'know, a real connection), so you can imagine why, for the past few years, I have not let myself develop any major crushes.

If I do suspect a guy likes me and I think I might like him back, I do actually approach that friendship with "cautio[n] in the beginning..." For this reason, I'm not the woman who will be the first to confess my feelings (at least not anymore). I don't press the guy's space, even if we're friends, because I know how I can get a little panicky when someone presses me too hard about an interest in dating. Herein lies my hypocrisy: I won't be the one to speak up, but because I do tend to fall for those with at least a few similar personality factors, I often am waiting for someone who might be just introverted as I am to make the first clearly-stated move (because, as I implied, I've had crushes that I thought had potential due to our real friendship, but they never saw us as anything more than good friends or pals). I need a potential boyfriend/partner/etc. to be direct but not too pushy about it. "Hanging out" has so often been just that--hanging out--that I will second-guess what seems to be a genuine interest from someone else unless the "d" word is explicitly stated. Double standard alert, anyone?

Oh, and behold, I just proved how true the needing-to-figure-out-the-larger-meaning-of-everything part of being an INFP. I'm telling you... they're spying on me! It's true! *Looks around the house for the hidden cameras*

Until next time, kids! Sorry for the novella--I've been saving this up for quite awhile, and I finally had figured out a way to illustrate why I can be so awkward and clueless about myself and who might be interested despite being able to immediately identify in my friends' relationships. :)


Laura jane said...

Good golly, lady. I connect with this on SO many levels. I'm actually an ENFP, but I straddle that space between I and E pretty evenly most days. I also waited a long time for that first relationship, first kiss, etc. And it was FRUSTRATING. I felt like I could do no right. If I liked a guy, then I could just go ahead and give up any hope that it would ever happen. I was always in that weird awful place that guys (and, I'll go ahead and say it: mostly Christian guys) like to put you in by giving you serious mixed signals(read: side hugs and going dutch on the bill, but then spilling their hearts out on you and expecting you not to feel anything for them.)

Chin up though, dearie. I can tell you from very real personal experience that once you're open to possibilities, they suddenly have a way of popping up all over the place out of nowhere.

Niki Cox said...
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