In February, I wrote a post titled “I Hate Introverts. And Highly Sensitive People. And INFJs…”. I don’t hate introverts, highly sensitive people or INFJs. I hate how these labels sometimes make me and others defensive and divide people. I agreed with writer Katrina Kunstmann who wrote that these labels are keys that help us open a door and on the other side of that door is who we really are. Who we really are is big and immaculate and these labels cannot begin to contain it.
In that post I mentioned a Scientific American article, “23 Signs You’re Secretly a Narcissist Masquerading as a Sensitive Introvert”, that triggered and inspired the post. The author of that article, Scott Barry Kaufman, has done it again. He published another article, “Will the Real Introverts Please Stand Up?” in the same vein that questions the existence of true introverts and it has triggered the same reaction in me as the other article. Well, not exactly the same. I wanted to expand on the ideas I touched on in my other post.
Before I read both of Kaufman’s articles, I was proud to call myself an introvert or HSP. I write about introversion and high sensitivity all the time and I probably will continue to do so. But, articles like Kaufman’s don’t make me proud or so willing to embrace these labels because Kaufman and writers like him don’t make you understand yourself or other people better. These articles are written so that the labels we put on ourselves and others can be better understood, not that people can be better understood. These labels and any “scientific” explanations don’t even begin to describe what it’s like to be a real, breathing, complex human being. When I read this stuff something inside of me just cringes. Yeah, I’m an introvert, HSP, INFJ and I’m not. The part of me that is not is choked and strangled by these labels and words.
I want to run away screaming from them and never reduce myself or anyone else by using them. I agree with Leo Buscaglia who wrote: “Labels are distancing phenomena”. They do not bring you any closer to understanding anyone and in actuality create an “other”. Someone who isn’t like you. Someone to separate from, compare yourself to and measure yourself against. That’s what Kaufman pretty much does to define introverts: by defining how introversion is not like extroversion.
I’m going to do what Maya Angelou tried to do:
What I represent in fact, what I’m trying like hell to represent every time I go into that hotel room, is myself. That’s what I’m trying to do. And I miss most of the time on that: I do not represent blacks or tall women, or women or Sonomans or Californians or Americans. Or rather I hope I do, because I am all those things. But that is not all that I am. I am all of that and more and less. People often put labels on people so they don’t have to deal with the physical fact of those people. It’s easy to say, oh, that’s a honkie, that’s a Jew, that’s a junkie, or that’s a broad, or that’s a stud, or that’s a dude. So you don’t have to think: does this person long for Christmas? Is he afraid that the Easter bunny will become polluted? … I refuse that… I simply refuse to have my life narrowed and proscribed.
I will probably narrow my writing in the future and focus again on introverts, HSP, INFJs, loners, feminists and all the other labels I attach to myself. I am all of those things. And I will forever shrug them off because that is not all that I am. It’s a contradiction I’m OK with.