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Why Don’t I Fit In?

squirrel

I don’t think this spotted squirrel would fit in with the gray squirrels in my area. Do you think they would get along? Would he fit in?

Did you ever feel like you didn’t belong in a group you were a forced member of? A recent conversation with family members reminded me how difficult it was growing up and being so different than the rest of my family. It may not have been obvious on the outside, but I don’t approach problems, happiness, or my life the same way as my parents, sister, and cousins, etc. One way to understand this is to look at the Myers-Briggs Temperament Indicator (MBTI) to see that I was the only “intuitive” among “sensings.”

exotic bird

I find this bird exotic and beautiful. But do the other birds laugh at the frills?

MBTI is a personality survey. A person takes a test where they provide their preferred way to deal with specific situations. Rather than hack this with my own interpretation, I’ll take some information from the Myers-Briggs website (The Myers & Briggs Foundation. (2014) http://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics/), which I encourage you to visit if this type of thing interests you. I like it because it gives me a framework to understand people who are different from me so that they feel less foreign. It analyzes four means of interacting. Does a person prefer to focus on the outer world or his inner world? The result would be indicated as extroversion (signified with an E) or introversion (I). Does he focus on the basic information they take in (sensing or S) or does he prefer to interpret and add meaning (intuition or N).  Does a person prefer to first look at logic and consistency (thinking or T) or do they first look at the people and special circumstances (feeling or F)? Do they prefer to get things decided (judging or J) or do they prefer to stay open to new information and options (perceiving or P)?

flamingos

Do you think that the pale grayish flamingo on the left feels different from the others? Do the pink ones treat him as a flock member?

I want to focus for a moment on the second area of preference in MBTI: the S vs. N, again drawing from the Myers-Briggs website (http://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics/sensing-or-intuition.htm). This pair focuses on whether a person pays more attention to information that comes in through his five senses (Sensing), or pays more attention to the patterns and possibilities that he sees in the information they receive (Intuition)? Sensings pay attention to physical reality: what they see, hear, touch, taste, and smell. They are concerned with what is actual, present, current, and real. They notice facts and remember details important to them. They like to see the practical use of things and learn best when they see how to use what they are learning. Experience speaks to louder than words to them. Intuitives, on the other hand, pay the most attention to impressions or the meaning and patterns of the information they get.  They would rather learn by thinking a problem through than by hands-on experience. They are interested in new things and what might be possible, thinking more about the future than the past. Intuitives like to work with symbols or abstract theories, even if they don’t know how they will use them. They remember events more as an impression of what it was like than as actual facts or details of what happened. I think this one preference is often the most important in how the different personalities present to the world.

flamingos

Yup, that gray flamingo really sticks out as different. I notice that he always seems to be alone in the flock. The other flamingos avoided him and he didn’t seem to flock with them either.

As a very strong N (no S tendencies at all), I am so interested in the possibilities of theories, patterns, and abstract things that I often lose interest in the presentation of mere facts. Unless, of course, those facts can be used to construct a theory or pattern. Intuitives are notorious for having difficulty focusing really intently on the details they way that the Sensories do. We are known for having the strategy, theory, and big picture –and how it all ties together. My type, the INTJ/P (I’m about right in the middle, with almost equal tendencies toward J and P – the J barely wins out) is known for being able to handle both the big picture all the way down to the details. The sensories curse us frequently for being distracted by the theory, strategy, and big picture so much so that we are not keeping track of the details that they recognize as important. In my experience, what an S considers to be the big picture is often what an N see as the mid-level. While the sensories see the big picture problem at the city or state level, Ns are probably looking at it on national, international, and galactic levels.

flying pelicans

Brown pelicans flock together.

I need to be clear, here. There is no right way to be. All tendencies are valuable in different ways. MBTI is the ultimate demonstration about how much the world needs mental diversity. Ns are not better than Ss or the other way around. This is just a tool to understand personality differences.

Why is this important to discuss today? Because as a child, I felt like no one understood me, and I was probably right. My learning style was never accommodated. I was forced to learn everything in a backward way, collecting facts and trying to extrapolate the theories; the higher level of concepts was rarely given. After all, teachers in elementary and secondary schools are usually S. When I finally got to college and found the higher level theories, it was such an incredible relief. A revelation. I probably gained 20 IQ points just because everything finally clicked into place. I learn better receiving the higher concepts first, then working down the supporting details.

giraffes

These giraffes seem very alike and compatible.

I really wanted to write today about belonging. But because I see everything in the context of a theory and the bigger picture, I felt the need to explain why I feel the way I do. It has taken me a long time to find a place where I feel that I belong. Being the only N in a family of Ss was confusing and challenging. Maybe it made me stronger, but it also made me less confident and aware that I didn’t fit in. I have one friend that is an “S,” and that friendship has its rough moments. All my other friends are “N.” We get each other’s sense of humor more easily and have more patience with the discussion of esoteric theories that have nothing to do with our interests. Growing up as the odd one in the family didn’t mean we couldn’t love each other, but it certainly made it more difficult. There were many miscommunications because we thought so differently; as a result, it was much harder for any of us to meet each other’s expectations.

sea lions

These sea lions sleep in a sweet “puppy pile.” They are all acting alike and comfortable together. I’ll bet they all think in similar ways, too. They look pretty extroverted.

My husband and I are both INTJ’s, the third-rarest MBTI type for people overall and the rarest for women (1%). INTJ’s are only about 2% of the general population. That’s probably a good thing, as too many of us in a room can be … interesting. According to the official website (http://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics/the-16-mbti-types.htm), INTJ’s have original minds and great drive for implementing their ideas and achieving their goals. They quickly see patterns in external events and develop long-range explanatory perspectives. When committed, they organize a job and carry it through. Skeptical and independent, INTJs have high standards of competence and performance – for themselves and others.

sea lions

These sea lions spent endless time pushing each other around, seeking domination and the best place on the rock. No companionable napping here. They seem quite a bit different than the puppy pile. They are all individualists!

My husband and I are in occupations where INTJs are needed and thrive, so we have finally found places where we belong – in our work and together in our home. It feels good. We are the only MBTI type that it’s that is found to be most compatible in a relationship with someone of the same MBTI type.

I see how I blossomed when I found someone that understood me. My husband did too, I think. Of my three children, there is one that always seems different. Yes, somehow, I have three adult children that are N and one that is S. It isn’t any easier for her than it was for me. When she told me as a child that she didn’t feel like she fit in, I told her I understood. She didn’t believe me, but I did.

sea lion

This sea lion catches the same rays from the setting sun, but prefers to do it alone on his own rock. He’s an introvert, staying some distance away from the puppy pile.

20 replies »

  1. I love this post and I appreciate your making it easier for me to figure out the Myers information as when I did the test a long time ago, I had a hard time with it. I think I am a ‘mutt’ of sorts because I am down the middle in some parts. INFP(J) ~ J is just a little less than the P. This is just so interesting!
    I do think differently than many friends and family and it still causes some issues so I understand how you feel. Sending huge hugs! ♥

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post Karel!
    I am an INTP. It said I am adaptable and I guess that’s right because I rarely feel like I don’t fit it…but not because I fit in everywhere but more to because I don’t take it to heart too much.

    The only time I feel that I don’t fit in was when they put me in West Sumatran Community because I have west Sumatran blood but I was born and raised in Jakarta so i know nothing about West Sumatra, that’s why I don’t feel like I fit in that group

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post. I am an INTJ and have always felt like I don’t belong: growing up, at school, at work. I struggle often with feelings of not being part of a group, being different, feeling like I am missing something. Then I went on a channeling retreat and met a group of people just like me. Oh, my goodness. It was like going to heaven. These people are so very important to me, they get me and we just click!

    I hadn’t thought to consider difference through the lens of the MB. Great insight, thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. I find it an indispensable tool for understanding people when we don’t click. It reminds me that there’s nothing wrong with them, just different processing of information. A reminder that they are valuable for certain types of work. Because it’s so easy for me to otherwise think I have no need for them. Belonging, though, is so underrated. It makes all the difference in the world to find those you’re in tune with. I’m so glad you found your peeps!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I was declared too introverted to be good for me and urged to work against being so introverted. That was good advice. It has made me focus more on other people than on myself, my thoughts, my feelings, and own goals. Rather than always looking inward, I had to learn to look outward and in doing so I learned so much more. The intuitive world inside me is very different from my learning mode. It was always difficult for me as an introvert to always be type cast as the “smartest person in school”. Wherever I went others were setting me up to be the leader. I didn’t want to be the leader; I wanted to be the observer. Being the leader has a way of separating you as well as including you. So I learned to be a covert leader. It was something I didn’t understand about myself until a group of professors that were my friends pointed out to me that they had been studying the group dynamics of the two bus loads of students on our field trips. It took them awhile to realize that everybody went to me first; then the group decided. They tagged me as the covert leader, the behind the scenes person who leads the overt leader who is the rah rah person who stands before the group to lead. It was a big surprise to me. I had no idea!
    Is it a major goal in life to understand ourselves as well as to understand others? Does each one require the other? That is a possibility because we all live in group dynamics, whether or not you are ‘in’ the group. You relate or you don’t so you are part of the dynamics. You are on a thoughtful path that is good. Congratulations. Many people don’t get there. I would suggest that another part of your discussion might include: are you content
    with your relationship to others or would you like to change/improve your position to be more satisfying to you?
    If you are satisfied, are you satisfied with the size and diversity of the group to which you relate or would you like to propose a goal to yourself of enlarging that group and thus increase your level of contentment?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve been working on opening my heart instead of just my mind. I’ve been working on being less introverted and more friendly. I’ve taken on more risk, an area difficult for me. Seeking emotional safety all the time was more like a prison than a life. So I think I’m charting plenty of growth areas. This blog has been a huge risk, given my profession and desire to not stick out, yet it has been a creative outlet that I’ve enjoyed. I’m coming out from under the cloak of invisibility that I thought kept me safe because it was suffocating me. I’m doing fine. These may not be the growth areas you value, but these are the one I value.

      Like

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