Someone found my blog by Googling “INFJ feel guilty for liking myself”.
So many thoughts about INFJs and personality types, about guilt, and about liking yourself. So many thoughts about all three things together and who would Google this and why. But, I’m going to keep it brief like some jerk suggested I do in a comment.
Do you think Beyoncé:
Knows or cares what her personality type is?
Feels guilty about liking herself? Feels guilty about anything?
Considers her high self-esteem such a problem that she goes to Google for answers?
The answer to all three is very likely Hell. No. She’s too busy capitalizing on her belief in herself.
We should all take her lead.
I am curious if she uses Google and what her search history looks like though. I’m going to Google it.
Enjoy this photo of Beyoncé and enjoy yourselves without guilt.
The only real valuable thing is intuition.
The only real valuable thing is intuition.
The only real valuable thing is intuition.
— Albert Einstein.*
This week a confused young woman’s letter asking for clarity about her relationship went viral. At least it was shared and discussed by many of the people I follow, on more than one social media platform. It was shared so much I got sick of seeing it.
But, I was also grateful it was shared often. Every time I read a new shocked response, my reaction intensified and forced me to write this.
I’m going to sum it up: a 23-year-old woman wrote a letter asking for help from Ask Metafilter users. She wondered if she was crazy or was her long-distance boyfriend married. She found very realistic pictures of him and his ex at what looked like his wedding. You can read the whole story here.
I didn’t read very closely after these few details. I skimmed the rest. I read the comments. I read the tweets that linked to the story and the responses to it. I read a couple of takes on this woman’s story at Jezebel and Raw Story.
Surprisingly, no one had the reaction I had.
There are three topics I’ve written about more than once and will probably revisit. One is on feeling and letting yourself feel everything. The other is on loneliness and the necessity of learning to do solitude well. Those two topics are linked to the third topic I’ve written about twice and I need to write about again: intuition.
Not one comment (that I read; there are a lot) mentioned her broken down, seemingly non-existent intuition. That’s all I thought about after reading two lines of her story. “Is my boyfriend married?” Listen your intuition. What would strangers know?
It can help to ask uninvested outsiders for perspective. I’m not blaming her for possibly falling prey to a lying, cheating, sicko, fucked up asshole. But..
All of us, especially women, already know the answers to questions like the one she posted. The answer is “listen your intuition.”
Most people were kind and direct and confirmed that her boyfriend is trash, she’s not crazy and he’s married. The writer at Jezebel, Ellie Shechet, suggested that this woman’s desire to be “chill” is the reason she is so confused. Amanda Marcotte at Raw Story agreed and also blamed the boyfriend for “gaslighting” her, which is “a form of mental abuse in which information is twisted or spun, selectively omitted to favor the abuser, or false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception, and sanity.” Marcotte ended her piece with “These are extreme examples, but a good learning tool to see what the pattern (of gaslighting) looks like.” That’s her takeaway?
When I read this woman’s story, I thought “she knows what’s happening”. Yeah, it’s possibly the “chill” phenomenon and being gaslighted contributed to her confusion, but these things are only problems when you aren’t listening to yourself.
Her story is a cautionary tale, but not about psychopathic boyfriends. It’s not about him or men or anyone else but her. It’s about me and every woman reading it. It’s about being so estranged from feeling, so afraid to be alone, that you shut down the one thing that cares about you, protects you, loves you.
The following excerpt is long, but so perfectly makes my point about women and intuition and how necessary it is. It’s from an article in Psychology Today by Sandra Brown that breaks down what happens when you don’t listen to your intuition. Instead of “violence”, substitute the words “danger” or “abuse” or “some ill-advised choice”.
“We get a signal prior to violence,” Gavin (De Becker, author of The Gift of Fear) says. “There are preincident indicators. Things that happen before violence occurs.” Gavin says that unlike any other living creature, humans will sense danger, yet still walk right into it.
“You’re in a hallway waiting for an elevator late at night. The elevator door opens, and there’s a guy inside, and he makes you afraid. You don’t know why, you don’t know what it is. And many women will stand there and look at that guy and say, ‘Oh, I don’t want to think like that. I don’t want to be the kind of person who lets the door close in his face. I’ve got to be nice. I don’t want him to think I’m not nice.’
And so human beings will get into a steel soundproof chamber with someone they’re afraid of, and there’s not another animal in nature that would even consider it.”
Gavin says that “eerie feelings” are exactly what he wants women to pay attention to. “We’re trying to analyze the warning signs,” he says. “And what I really want to teach today and forever is the feeling of the warning sign. All the other stuff is our explanation for the feeling. Why it was this, why it was that. The feeling itself IS the warning sign.”
What happens over and over again is that women dismantle their OWN internal safety system by ignoring it. The longer she ignores it, the more ‘over rides’ it receives and retrains the brain to ignore the fear signal. Once rewired women are at tremendous risks of all kinds…risks of picking the wrong men, of squelching fear signals of impending violence, shutting off alarms about potential sexual assaults, shutting down red flags about financial rip offs, squeeking out hints about poor character in other people…and the list goes on. What is left after your whole entire safety system is dismantled? Not much….
Women, subconsciously sensing they need to have ‘something’ to fall back on, swap out true and profoundly accurate fear signals with the miserly counterfeit and highly unproductive feeling of worry/anxiety.
LADIES– WRONG FEELING!
Then they end up in counseling for their 4th dangerous relationship and wonder if they have a target sign on their forehead. No they don’t. They have learned to dismantle, rename, minimize, justify, or deny the fear signals they get or got in the relationship. As if their ability to ‘take it’ or ‘not be afraid’ of very dangerous behavior is some sort of win for them. As if their ability to look danger in the face and STAY means they are as tough or competitive as he is…
Then later, or another day or week passes and she has mounting anxiety–over what she wonders? She has a chronic low-grade worry, whisps of anxiety that waife thru her life. She can’t put 2+2 together to figure out that ignoring true fear will demand to be recognized by her subconscious in some way—an illegitimate way through worry and anxiety that does nothing to save her from real danger. Her real ally (her true fear) has been squelched and banished.
When coming to us for counseling she wants us to help her ‘feel safe again’ when actually, we can’t do any of that. It’s all in her internal system as it’s always been. Her safety is inside her and her future healing is too.
She will sit in the counselor’s office denying true fear and begging for relief from the mounting anxiety she is experiencing. She doesn’t trust herself, her intuition, her judgments–all she can feel is anxiety. And with good reason! True fear is her true intuition…not anxiety. But she’s already canned what can save her and now on some level she must know she has nothing left that can help her feel and react.
The best line in the article is “You don’t see animals ‘stuck’ in abusive mating environments.” Hmmm…
Our culture perpetuates this myth that women are clueless, powerless victims of charming, evil masterminds (See Dexter or The Fall on Netflix). Or it encourages us to be emotionless, unaffected, living-in-our-heads robots like it gives you power to be dead on the inside.
Facts: There are psychopaths. There are narcissistic, abusive boyfriends. Women don’t have to be victims of either.
I will always believe our intuition is the ANSWER and the closest thing to the truth we can have. The point isn’t to always be right or for it to always be reliable. The point is to listen to it. It’s where our power lies.
I thank this confused woman for the reminder. I hope she, all of us, stop overriding who we are.
… The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson. I’m half way through but it’s still the best thing I read this week.
I’m sure everyone waits to find out what I’ve decided is the best thing I read this week. Oh, wait … It’s just me. Just an aside, sometimes I think about not doing these posts because they’re not that popular but I do them really for myself and because I like to share. I hope someone is getting value out of these posts.
So, what makes this book worthy of The Best Thing I Read This Week designation?
First of all, I’m actually reading a book. A book with soft pages. It’s so amazing to touch paper.
I always have a pile of books – regular books and e-books – I want to read that I never get to read. I’ll start it, read the first page, and then never read a page again.
But, I started The Argonauts. Put it down. Started it again, sought it out, because it’s the opposite of the regurgitated, boring, boring, boring crap I read everyday. It was an antidote to all the twittering (that I sometimes enjoy) and think pieces (that I sometimes enjoy) that just read like noise. Can something read like noise? I skim a lot and I was forced not to skim through this book and I enjoyed not being able to do that.
It’s a challenging, sometimes difficult read. Very academic, like Nelson’s writing to and for other professors and I wanted to stop reading. At times while reading I’ll think “Is this brilliant and over my head or just bad, uninteresting writing, and poorly edited?” Then she’ll write something intriguing and fascinating and I’ll want to know more, know everything.
What does she write about? Being in love with and marrying a transgender man, being a step parent, having a step parent, motherhood, being a professor, feminism, being a woman, woman artists, female sexuality, identity politics, and more. Again, I’m only half way through.
I think (Judith) Butler is generous to name the diffuse “commodification of identity” as the problem. Less generously, I’d say that the simple fact that she’s a lesbian is so blinding for some, that whatever words come out of her mouth — whatever words come out of the lesbian’s mouth, whatever ideas spout from her head — certain listeners hear only one thing: lesbian, lesbian, lesbian. It’s a quick step from there to discounting the lesbian — or, for that matter, anyone who refuses to slip quietly into a “postracial” future that resembles all too closely the racist past and present— as identitarian, when it’s actually the listener who cannot get beyond the identity that he has imputed to the speaker. Calling the speaker identitarian then serves as an efficient excuse not to listen to her, in which case the listener can resume his role as speaker. And then we can scamper off to yet another conference with a keynote by Jacques Rancière, Alain Badiou, Slavoj Zizek, at which we can meditate on Self and Other, grapple with radical difference, exalt the decisiveness of the Two, an shame the unsophisticated identitarians, all at the feet of yet another great white man pontificating from the podium, just as we’ve done for centuries.
The length of the book is interesting. 143 pages. The way she gives attribution is interesting. By “interesting” I mean “I’m grateful she didn’t drone on for 300 pages and have a thousand notes.”
The book is part memoir, part intellectual inquiry, part journal. No chapters. I feel like if I ever wrote a book it’d be like this: thought to thought, scene to scene, moment to moment with no thread or no discernible thread.
I also want to point out how I discovered the book. I think Roxane Gay tweeted about it first and quoted a line from the first paragraph that was shockingly profane and ballsy to put in a first paragraph and I immediately wanted to know more.
Austin Kleon wrote about the book as well. Here’s the first thing he mentioned in his review: “The first thing I like about this book is the way she uses the margins and italicized text to weave other people’s writing into her own while still attributing the source.” That was cool, but who cares?
He also wrote about her take on motherhood. I enjoyed her thoughts/feelings on motherhood despite not being a mother or being interested in reading about it. But …
If I read only Kleon’s review, I would have never picked up this book. My point? Follow. Different. Types. Of. People. Or just follow Roxane Gay.
Would I recommend this book? Yes. If you’re bored, oh so bored with everything. It will challenge you out of that boredom. I’ll probably be done reading it by the time I publish this post.
What do people mean when they say they want to be more confident? What do they mean when they say they are attracted to or desire confidence in a romantic partner?
These are serious questions. I really don’t completely understand what the desire for confidence is all about.
I’ve been thinking about this for at least a year. Maybe longer. I’d hear about or read someone listing the traits they’re seeking in a date or potential spouse and many people, both men and women, would say “confidence” and I’d ask myself the same question and think “confidence” isn’t even in my top ten of desirable traits, so what gives? Why is confidence so important to so many people in romantic relationships?
What’s really become prevalent over the last two decades is the idea that being highly self-confident – loving yourself, believing in yourself – is the key to success.
Now the interesting thing about that belief is it’s widely held, it’s very deeply held, and it’s also untrue.
Also: “psychologists rarely use the word ‘confidence’.”
So why do many people desire this thing that is not the key to success? What do people really want when they say they desire confidence?
I touched on the topic of confidence last year in my post “The Future Will Belong to Those with Empathy”. The point I made about the desire for and focus on confidence possibly being related to the fact that we are increasingly called on to sell ourselves may partly explain why people think confidence is key.
Do people really want to be able to sell themselves well? Do they what this in other people?
I’ve lost my confidence. I used to be able to wake up in the morning knowing who I was, feeling sure of myself and ready to take on the world. But over the past few years, I’ve felt myself slipping away and it’s come to the point where I no longer recognize myself.
…Or look confident?
Yet when I look at my life, I feel boring — like there’s nothing outwardly special or impressive about me these days.
Is confidence swagger? Or as Andrew W.K. suggests “an (unseen) inner conviction”? Can you be confident without feeling confident?
These questions are sincere because I’m really unsure what people are talking about when they are talking about confidence. Is it a feeling like happiness? Is it necessary for success or does success breed confidence? Are people delusional when they seek confidence? Is it magical thinking to believe confidence will abolish all fear and doubt in your life? Is it a lazy substitute for actually becoming skilled at something? Is it a cheap substitute for simply being a decent human being?
I don’t understand those who believe that they should believe in their ability to be and do whatever you want before they do it. I don’t understand those who think they should always feel good about themselves.
I believe in gaining skills and abilities and trusting yourself. But you’re never done. You never arrive at the point of complete mastery and complete self-belief. Ever.
There’s no place anywhere inside of me that believes I will feel good all the time and in any situation. No place at all.
So I never seek to be confident. I never seek it in other people. I will never be completely sure and I don’t believe other people can be completely sure of anything either all the time.
What will confidence bring to a romantic relationship? I’d put kindness, reasonableness, and the ability to communicate well above confidence.
Do people who want to be confident and seek a mate who is confident because having confidence is the opposite of weakness and a confident person is low maintenance?
Do people think “I want to be able to get from point A to point B without any pesky emotions getting in the way” and do they want it to look effortless? I’ve found commitment, curiosity and desire can work as well.
As you can read, I have trouble understanding the concept of confidence. I’ve never thought “I can do anything I want!” or needed to think that before attempting things. I let desire and curiosity motivate me. Maybe that’s what people mean by confidence — desire and curiosity. I have no idea.
Thinking you need confidence seems like a hindrance and not helpful.
Twenge notes in the BBC article that since the 1960s and 1970s when more focus was put on high self-esteem and confidence, kids have grown up with higher expectations and as expectations grew so did the incidences of anxiety and depression.
It’s similar to how the rates of obesity increased the more our society focused on healthy eating, thinness, and dieting.
Should we forget about focusing on confidence? Yes. That’s the only question can answer with confidence.
I don’t need help with feeling. It kind of happens on its own. And I like it that way. Even when I’m feeling awful, no one is feeling exactly as awful as I am in exactly the same way and for the same reasons as I am.
I am open to changing my mind, though. Nothing brings me more pleasure than having a closed mind, being sure, assuming I know, and being confronted with some new information. Or a new perspective. Or being flat-out wrong.
I love when I’m thinking thoughts, going around and around my mind, digging into a position and someone comes along with a new way of seeing, a perfect new atomic thought that blows my mind wide open. I love when someone smart, awake, and willing to share comes along and gets you closer to what’s true.
It’s easier and lazier to advise someone “Don’t feel “. This requires no further thinking.
It’s harder to see clearly in a world that wants us all to be blind, undisruptive, and meek. It’s harder to find new ways of operating.
It’s easier to say “Just be positive!”, “Just forgive!”, “Just be confident!”
Just. Just. Just. How? How? How?
Don’t tell me not to be judgmental. How do I see people clearly? Give me new eyes. Be my new eyes.
True confidence is a quiet and largely invisible state of inner conviction. You don’t need to outwardly prove your bravery to yourself or anyone else. When you’re genuinely confident, it’s a choice you perpetually make to be true to yourself, even when that truth is full of vulnerability and risk.
I’ll share that a hundred times. I don’t care.
We need more Ane Axfords offering new ways of thinking about sensitivity. She released a video titled “Meeting Your Needs” in which she walks us through discussing high sensitivity with the people in your life. The video is an hour and a half long but there are so many thought-provoking ideas in it that it’s worth listening to/watching:
Sensitivity is the mechanism through which you’re interacting and experiencing the world… the volume at which you experience life.
I will continue to share her ideas. I don’t care.
We need more Rebecca Solnits. Who would have thought you could think differently about the most human and most mundane of activities, walking? Well she did it. From her book Wanderlust:
Thinking is generally thought of as doing nothing in a production-oriented culture, and doing nothing is hard to do. It’s best done by disguising it as doing something, and the something closest to doing nothing is walking. Walking itself is the intentional act closest to the unwilled rhythms of the body, to breathing and the beating of the heart. It strikes a delicate balance between working and idling, being and doing. It is a bodily labor that produces nothing but thoughts, experiences, arrivals.
Walking, ideally, is a state in which the mind, the body, and the world are aligned, as though they were three characters finally in conversation together, three notes suddenly making a chord. Walking allows us to be in our bodies and in the world without being made busy by them. It leaves us free to think without being wholly lost in our thoughts.
Never thought about it that way, but true, right?
We need more thoughtful, curious people who have felt their way through life and can see and report what they see. Feelings will sort themselves out.
There is no “old self” to get back to. There is only yourself now. There is no real way to “be who you were;” you can only to be who you are.
The longer you live, the more you’ll realize the impossibility of holding onto anything other than where you currently are. And even that moment is in motion. It’s all one, big, huge, solid moment — a moment called “your life.” Don’t go back and live in a moment that doesn’t exist any more when you have this precious moment right in front of you now. You’ve earned it. Be worthy of your own life.
His take on confidence is what I’ve been waiting to read:
As far as the concept of confidence goes, it seems that the idea of being confident is a largely misinterpreted, poorly-applied, extremely over-valued and distorted version of integrity. What is commonly described as confidence is the sort of artificially well-adjusted swagger we secretly wished we had, but generally loathe when we see it aggressively displayed by others. It’s an unnecessarily brazen boldness that seems to be trying a little too hard to compensate for some poorly concealed weakness. This type of impudence really isn’t confidence at all, but just a loud and futile attempt to drown out fear with pompous boasting rather than truly overcoming it and transforming doubts into actual strengths. What may first appear as certitude and ability, even to the person showcasing these traits, is really just a sort of disconnection masquerading as self-assurance.
Intentionally blinding ourselves to the inherent insecurity found in nearly all aspects of our daily existence does not count as confidence. Pushing those feelings of doubt, confusion, and instability out of one’s mind doesn’t count as belief in oneself. It’s more like an aggressive ignorance, an unwillingness to go through the humbling and painful process of true self-evaluation and growth.
True confidence is a quiet and largely invisible state of inner conviction. You don’t need to outwardly prove your bravery to yourself or anyone else. When you’re genuinely confident, it’s a choice you perpetually make to be true to yourself, even when that true is full of vulnerability and risk.
Brushing off one’s doubts may seem like an easy way to empower oneself, but truly having the confidence to face one’s weaker moments with brutal self-awareness and penetrating honesty is even better. This is certainly more challenging, but it’s infinitely more rewarding for our spirit and our surroundings to be delicate and thoughtful with our strength.
It’s really this type of quiet confidence that we’re striving for. And whether we like it or not, this type of confidence cannot always be developed or measured by things like buying houses, getting college degrees, or being popular with others.
Okay, I’m not going to copy the whole thing even though I want to. I tweeted that this should be taught in schools and it should.
Please click on the link and read all of his thoughtful, kind advice. I’m going to write more about it on Sunday. The topic: please don’t tell me how to feel but help me see more clearly. Like Andrew W.K. has.
I love people. I love well-meaning people. I love when well-meaning people see what they think is a problem, they try to offer a solution. They care.
But, nothing makes me stop listening or reading or makes me want to punch someone in the face more than a well-meaning person who tells me how to feel. Or how not to feel.
Most of what I’ve written on this blog is a long-winded way of saying “Please don’t tell me how to feel”. Or “I’m gonna feel any way I want.”
When I’m bitter or resentful or jealous or wallowing in self-pity or feeling any of those emotional no-nos, I’m OK. No one is being hurt.
These well-meaning people think they’re saving you from your pain or discomfort. Maybe what’s happening is your feelings are causing them pain. Making them uncomfortable.
Nothing is happening when I’m feeling schadenfreude. I don’t need to be reminded that “empathy is better”. You know I’m able to feel schadenfreude and empathy? One feeling doesn’t negate the possibility of the other. The emotional world is big enough, sturdy enough, for both. Plus, schadenfreude is such a great word. If we eliminated experiencing sour grapes we wouldn’t have the word “schadenfreude”.
Please don’t tell me not to be judgmental. I don’t even know what people mean when they suggest I “don’t be judgmental”. I know it’s English, but it might as well be Mandarin. Judging is behavior that is coded in my DNA. Asking me to stop judging is like asking me to stop breathing.
Do you know there are gifts to being judgmental? Sadie Stein tweeted “I love being wrong about people. It’s the best thing about being judgmental.” I constantly judge and I’m occasionally wrong and there is so much pleasure in being wrong and surprised by people. There needs to be word for that: überraschtvergnügenfalsch. Maybe that will catch on.
Once emotions are voiced, once emotions become actions, there needs to be rules and boundaries about how we speak about what we feel and how we act those feelings out.
But, when the feelings are inside of me they’re mine. There’s power there. There’s magic there. The truth is there. Instead of suggesting someone “doesn’t feel”, what about some gentle curiosity? What about asking if it’s true? To me there is no place for morality in emotions, no superior or better feelings, just truer ones.
Because the world sometimes sucks, I started to feel hopeless the other day. I felt awful: knots in my stomach, a desire to inhale food, imagining a huge lever that when pulled would suck me out of the world into the void. But, I didn’t do anything about my despair. I didn’t eat. I reminded myself that despair is OK but it’s also arrogant and I’m not arrogant. It’s not true. I just felt it until another feeling came along. Feelings come. They go. No need for prescriptions or prohibition.
Whenever some well-meaning person suggests feeling/not feeling something, I think of what Toni Morrison said and she’s perfect so I’ll believe and do what she believes and does:
I want to feel what I feel. What’s mine. Even if it’s not happiness, whatever that means. Because you’re all you’ve got.
So stay out of it, well-meaning people. But thank you for caring.