I Am Such An Introvert

The first time I took the Myers-Briggs test, I was young and English really was my second language in that I had to reread some of the questions… But my then Jungian (a distinction they made back then, which was kind of fun because I learned to write down my dreams) therapist said I was definitely an I, very much an N, but the other traits were not too clear. As a matter of fact, I had answered as I thought I should, a bit in the way I lived back then, which was living as others want me to… Several years later, with a larger English vocabulary and a better knowledge of myself, I took the test and came out definitely INFP, still with a 100% Introvert.

Today I’m not sure I would test any different, but my friend once remarked I had been outgoing and cheerful during a bike ride, and that would be a demonstration I’m not such an introvert as I claimed. But I didn’t feel it that way, I still wanted a quiet night after that bike ride. And I didn’t socialize much at the lunch stop, I remarked. I think my friend imagined an introvert is automatically antisocial and brooding. I do have social anxiety, especially with people I don’t know, but above all with people who act like the adults of my childhood (I only recently figured I’m now older than many people I see as “adults”). They seem to expect something from me that I never can deliver.

We introverts often share stories of difficult relationships with parents, of course. It makes sense that we came to this world feeling parents and adults didn’t invite our self-expression. For me as a potentially trans person (it took decades to figure that out), they expected something I couldn’t deliver, and they appreciated peace and quiet otherwise. Yet many of my siblings are introverts, even though they wouldn’t want to be recognized as such. There’s a societal expectation that being an introvert is a major flaw. For me, however, it is an integral part of my personality, and it somehow explains why it took me so long to recognize where on the gender spectrum I feel I can rest comfortably.

I have also learned not to sound like I complain about how adults interacted with me when I was a child. Perhaps that is making everything more difficult now, that coming out as transgender I feel that my friends and siblings want an explanation, but then they will challenge it, not intentionally but sometimes sending me into the spiral of lost self-esteem.

I am not unhappy about being introverted. I must say I found great help from a single book called The Introvert Advantage, and sharing it with introvert friends. I found other books sounded like they had been written to fix us, or make us join a union of introverts (so unlikely!), as opposed to just understand how we can be happy navigating within a world that favors extroversion. But I have questioned whether I became more introverted after the first few years of my life.

It would make sense to me now. If not outgoing, I wanted to dance, but that was frowned upon. I tried to touch the piano, but was told not to. I held my little brother with apparent care in a photo. But there was the period when life was just very difficult, and it seemed to define how I operated thereafter as a quiet child trying to bring only good results from school, never really bothering my parents for advice. Once I had found Computer Science as the greatest place to be quiet while being creative and productive (and I should be grateful that I felt protected by a small group of friends, and an advisor who just let me run with my ideas), life went on without gender nor sex… Things got complicated later when people wanted me to be “normal,” but that’s another story. Let’s just say that I was saved a few times by knowing how to deal quietly with chaos (but yes, there were really hard moments I’m not going to share).

It makes sense that not being able to express my gender early in life made me more of an introvert. But I like being an introvert, even though it feels like I would have fully transitioned many years ago had I been less so. Let’s just live as best as we can with what we have!

 

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Welcome Bobbin

I am of a time and culture that bothered more to count the number of children in a family than the care they received. My parents only had sex when necessary, and were guided by people like priests and family doctors who knew practically nothing of child psychology. We were born at hospitals run by nuns who were very suspicious of a mother delivering a baby while the husband was away. I recently determined there was not much love in our family, parents and grandparents were acting more out of duty than desire.

When my brother and his wife visited me with their very young baby boy, I was shocked that they still applied the “do not respond to a crying child” policy of our parents, probably learned from their own parents, which meant that we had to toughen up right from the crib. At the time, I took the baby to my shoulder, and the baby fell asleep in a matter of seconds.

Then of course when I took a Psychology class, I read about the experiment on baby monkeys and something like comparing a food dispensing machine which was soft flannel vs. one that was metallic, and figuring out that (of course, would you really need an experiment to figure this out) babies needed to cuddle.

In my process of figuring myself out, thinking about my early childhood, I knew that I had missed one of my first plush toys, a dog I had called Fido. Fido disappeared one day, and when I asked, I was told it had been thrown away because it was torn and dirty. There was no replacement. I think that is when I took the habit of hugging the pillow I sleep on, something that is very difficult when you’re camping, for example, or when the pillow isn’t soft.

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Bobbin

So the other day, on my way back from the grocery store, I stopped at the toy store and bought myself a cat. I was initially looking for a similar kind of dog as Fido, a collie, I think, but there were practically no dogs… There were two kinds of cats, and I let myself be charmed by one. The cat made the trip among raw vegetables, but once in my apartment I let it out to reach my face, and suddenly I was taken by this emotion I could only describe as feeling like a child, but feeling loved.

I know this is odd, especially when you have family members who rejected your feelings when you tried to talk about it. Especially from the masculine group, who already sees you as suspect because you are different. Nowadays I see trolls on the internet just the same way: grown men who were told to hold their feelings lash out at random on the internet, most likely because they never got cuddled and were probably given G.I. Joe and toy guns rather than teddy bears.

My cat is genderless and has a gender-neutral name, Bobbin. So far it is wonderful to go to sleep and wake up with Bobbin’s softness. Who knows, if one day I would accept the more complex live cat, and then later maybe, a person whose motives I do not doubt?