I don’t hate introverts or highly sensitive people or INFJs actually.
But, you probably felt one of two things when you read the title: either deeply offended and defensive because you are an introvert, highly sensitive and/or an INFJ OR you felt elated because you aren’t a highly sensitive introvert or INFJ but you know people who are and you can’t stand them and you’re relieved that someone agrees with you.
It doesn’t matter if you felt offended or elated. My point is that these labels can be informative and empowering, but they can also cause defensiveness and divisiveness. These labels can be limiting.
This post was inspired by a great article written by Katrina Kunstmann titled “I Hate Introverts: A Label Breakdown”. Like her
I understand the importance of labels, their necessity. Labels spread awareness and create a point of contact, build a platform for understanding other people and the diversity of our lives. Their ability to empower us is undeniable, but the party kinda stops there. I’m not simply referring to the capacity of labels to be used against us, but the ability of labels to limit ourselves and hold us in place.
More than just holding us in place, over-identifying with these labels can hurt and unnecessarily so. For example, recently I read the title of an article online “23 Signs You’re Secretly A Narcissist Masquerading As A Sensitive Introvert” and immediately felt defensive and tense. I didn’t like the idea that I, as a sensitive introvert, could be a closeted narcissist! No way, Jose! My feelings were hurt even before reading the article (which by the way has nothing to do with authentic highly sensitive introverts). Identifying strongly as a HSP and an introvert has given me one more thing to be upset about even though that identification has helped me understand myself better and accept my natural tendencies.
Some INTJ jerk wrote online: “do you guys know of any ambitious INFJs? I know a few INFJ girls and I like their personality, but they are just so unambitious career-wise. It’s a turn off. And they’re all so similar too… personality and chosen career/lack thereof.” I called this guy a jerk for suggesting INFJs weren’t ambitious. Which meant I wasn’t ambitious. Compared to other personality types, we probably aren’t as ambitious, but who cares! Me and my INFJ peeps have been besmirched! I’m partly kidding, but only partly. Finding out that I’m an INFJ is just another label, another thing, another minority group I belong to and feel touchy about.
It’s hard enough to just be a human being and like Katrina, I don’t even feel entirely human all the time. More like an alien. Like when people get married on TV and no one else seems to think that’s crazy. Most of the time I don’t even think I’m an introvert. I just like being inside my own head. I’m not highly sensitive. I’m just feeling stuff. I’m not a loner. I just like being alone sometimes. These labels aren’t who I am.
I’m not even a writer. I just like to write. A few weeks ago I was so fed up trying to be a “writer”, I gave up on trying to be one. As soon as I stopped trying to be a “writer”, I suddenly had a lot of writing ideas.
Some might find power in their labels, I find power in my limitlessness. — Katrina Kunstmann
There is freedom in letting go of these labels once in a while.
Labels have the capacity to prevent people from knowing themselves and from knowing each other — they have the potential to open someone to deeper connection or take an individual for granted and walk away.
Labels are keys, that’s all they are.
They are keys to opening the doors to ourselves and to others. But the doors are all European — they have latches, not locks, and once you turn the key and open the door, they key is stuck in the latch.You have to let go of the key to walk through the door. You’ll always know and remember that key — it was once part of you — but that key does not define what lies beyond the door. What lies beyond the door defines the key.
I believe that what lies behind the door is so big and immaculate that no word could ever contain it. Real power comes from remembering how big and immaculate we truly are.
I’m going to make the same declaration Katrina did. I’m not an introvert, highly sensitive, a loner, or an INFJ.
I am a Melene. That’s all. That’s enough.