Day 10 of Fab-ruary (prompts here)….
Fear overcome (and how)? Corr…I didn’t make these prompts easy, did I???!!
I’m an INFJ (essentially a weird, rare personality type – basically introverted, complicated, shy yet not, fearful of company yet not, full of contradictions, which can be paralysing – you get the idea….not the easiest way to be, nor the easiest way to move through life…). I only found this out a few months ago and when I did, I was like, “Aha! That explains a lot!”…and it has, and does, explain a lot about my behaviour.
Being an INFJ makes life difficult. You want to socialise but you need to be in exactly the right mood to do so (which makes committing to future social events kind of a nightmare). You want to talk to people but you really need to have deep conversations with people, even people you don’t really know that well, which makes people uneasy (even people you do know well!). Deep down, you want to be the life and soul of the party, but you’re kind of shy and, most times, just want to curl up with a book or a film. You read people’s thoughts and ‘unspoken’ words with ease and oftentimes don’t say what you mean so as not to hurt someone’s feelings, leading to frustration for yourself….it’s not easy being an INFJ, by any means. It makes life hard when all you want is for life to be easier. For everyone.
So, there I was, 18 (oblivious to this whole ‘INFJ’ business…)….Small town girl off to the Big Smoke. I knew I had to do it. I knew that’s where my future lay. I knew in my mind that it made sense and that I wanted to do it. But, during my first few days there, after Mum and Dad had left me there, with all my belongings, I felt myself gripped with an irrational fear….I didn’t know anyone, I wanted to go home, I wanted to see my friends…..irrational, totally irrational, because I’d committed to spending three years there, to get my degree…
After about a week of wallowing in self-pity, I decided pretty quickly that a) I needed to enjoy my course as much as possible, because it was the path I’d chosen and worked so hard for and because I loved the subject and could be very good at it if only my silly way of being didn’t get in the way; b) I needed to enjoy everything London had to offer, whilst I could, and that I wouldn’t be able to do that trapped in my room; and c) I wouldn’t enjoy anything as much as I possibly could if I was alone, so I’d have to make an effort to make friends.
I equipped myself with these three decisions (using them as armour, if you like, to move through my ‘personality-induced social paralysis’ that had struck me dumb) and set out to conquer London Town. I was still scared stiff, every single day, still terrified of meeting new people, of going to places I’d never been, of going to places alone, but those three decisions framed my approach to those first few weeks and months. They put the fact that I could be paralysed by my personality in to perspective, meaning that I couldn’t self-sabotage because there was too much at stake.
Once I’d got better at dealing with things that non-INFJs do so easily (going for a coffee with a group of people, accepting an invite to a party a week away, for example), I realised I could manage these things and that gave me enormous satisfaction and confidence. I then began to challenge myself to do stuff: the cinema on my own, join a club I’d been meaning to join, walk down to the National Gallery for the afternoon, go and talk to the Professor I wanted to talk to….
The challenges made me more confident because every time I did something I thought I couldn’t do (thanks to the wisdom I found from reading Eleanor Roosevelt!), I got stronger, much less fearful. Then I’d do things I’d never even imagined I’d be able to do: Flying to New York on my own for a month-long trip! Cycling around Egypt, alone for most of it! Cycling home from Uni (300+ miles)! Climbing!
By which stage, I was so amazed at my own capacity to astonish myself that I’d forgotten all about my old fears. I just didn’t think about being shy or anything else like that because I’d found a mechanism that allowed me to overcome these personality traits that had the capacity to be a massive hindrance in my life.
Now I say ‘I’m an INFJ, it explains a lot‘ with a sort of knowing smile because I’m at a stage in my life where I’m having to rebuild my life (at 40! Alone with two small children! Scary stuff!) and I’m having – daily – to retrace the steps I traced when I was 18 and had just left home, for University. I find myself with the same fears, the same debilitating weights pulling me down (shyness, paralysing irrational fears that keep me from doing silly things that most people find normal – making a phone call! Meeting someone new!). I find I’m giving myself the same pep talks I did when I was 18, to try to find that hungry, fearless young Helen somewhere deep inside.
Life’s not a box of chocolates, Forrest, it’s kind of more like a roller coaster: it has it’s ups, downs, rounds and rounds, brings tears, sickness, great joys, laughter, fear…it’s all there, all there for the taking.
As the saying goes, fortune favours the brave. The brave experience disproportionately more ups than downs and, when they experience a ‘down’, they chalk it up to experience and immediately start looking for the next ‘up’.
It’s hard work trying to be brave when you’re scared to death inside, but it’s so worth the coaxing, so worth the effort.
Baby steps, completing little challenges, fulfilling goals and dreams: breadcrumbs, all of them, through the forest and to the other side – Where You Want To Be.
Don’t let your fears stifle your potential.
Find your way through.
[Thanks for all the good wishes, in comments and emails, everyone! I’m feeling slightly better: resting – resting lots! Thanks so much everyone – so touched to receive all your good wishes xxx]