Reentry and the INFP that I Am

An hour from now, I am going to a social event, my first one in about a year and a half of the pandemic isolation. There will be people with whom I cut ties at our last zoom meeting, when I had a meltdown of sorts (in what I recognize now as a typical INFP incident), people I like to see from a respectable distance, and people who have not seen me as a trans woman before. Also, I no longer drink, and I will opt for the sparkling water instead of a glass of wine. I will most likely escape after an hour, which will be easier because this is not at someone’s house where I would feel pressured to be polite and graceful in making an excuse for leaving.

I’ve been told many people have issues similar to that with “reentry,” resuming a daily life of being exposed to interactions with people. It’s not that I’m afraid to catch one of the COVID variants that could come back with some of those who already fly around and stir the big virus pool. It’s really that I’m back in a world that needs to be managed.

Recently, after having a few interactions that were disturbing, I returned to reading passages in the book, Please Understand Me II. In it is a guiding questionnaire to figure where you may fit in the four-axis personality and character scale known as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. The first time I took the Myers-Briggs, administered by a therapist, I was definitely IN, but as the therapist pointed out, I was only hinting at TJ. INTJ would be your typical Computer Science major, like I was. I figured out lots of things with this therapist, but not everything (it’s taking me decades), and I didn’t have a chance to revisit the questionnaire (especially because I was ESL in the language of feelings and emotions at the time), until about 15 years later, when I still remained 100% Introvert, but the last two letters had shifted to NP. Reading the description of Plato’s Idealist and other subclassifications in the book somehow didn’t satisfy me, because that was challenging my career choices and also the marriage that was coming into a big crash ending. Decades later, now, after discovering so many things about myself, reading about it is making a lot of sense.

Last night, I went back to another very useful book, The Introvert Advantage, which I had found so useful that I had made a presentation about it to a group at a retreat. In it was not only information about who are introverts, but also strategies on how to live better lives without feeling bad about not being the life of the party. Last night I saw that they had made studies on how we (introverts) think and interact, how the pathway in the brain is different, which I had sort of skimmed through before. But I just had had the experience of a couple of meetings with a person who was “making my head spin” and I needed to figure out how that was happening.

I have always been easy prey for con people, salespeople, and Catholics (because I was raised in a very Catholic environment, and there were fanatic Catholics who took me as their project when things were falling apart – I have recovered from that). The thing I figured out last night was that I respond emotionally to certain words and situations, and I don’t have time to process, so my response is usually to end the interaction with buying whatever it is they’re trying to sell me. In the past, I have had to cancel memberships and payments pledged the day before. When there’s a more personal involvement, it provokes a storm in me, I become obsessed with how to reconcile the need to break the relationship and that of creating harmony around me. It takes a lot of time, and the anxiety can be very high (I start fearing that the person will find ways to be back). I’m not surprised that some of us can develop mental illness from being exposed too much. In my case, I think I figured it’s better to hide, yes, but to tell the intruder that I’m stressed out at the moment.

So… I continue writing this 24 hours later. I went to the event and I was happy at the end. I wore a dress I made, no leggings because of the warm weather (I made sure there were no apparent hairs!), a pair of sandals I rarely wear, a hat (that I made as well) I always wear because I have a seriously bald spot. Most of the people I talked to had fared well in the sheltering-at-home, as I had. Most of the people had not seen me in a dress before (I used to wear mostly sweaters and tight pants), and many expressed being happy to see me be out. Only one person acted like I didn’t exist, but then I realized that this had been our situation ever since we had met. I resisted dwelling on that person as it would break my happiness with the event. That is an INFP characteristic to want harmony around us, but relearning about that allowed me to ignore the thought that there remained at least one person who was not happy with me. I turned the feeling around: they have never connected with me. In fact, there was a time when they should have, as the leader of the group, checked on my well-being, and they never did. I left the group without explanation and they never asked why.

So it’s all good. The key was to stop thinking about how I could have made this relationship better, when it is in fact meaningless. There is no purpose in trying to be a nice person to everyone, and constantly wondering if I disappoint them. That just makes me vulnerable to salespeople and con men!

And most importantly, I came out as transgender to so many people by just being there, that I have gained self-esteem overnight. That was a major event!

p.s. I just found out that the book Please Understand Me II by Kersey is an improvement of the Myers-Briggs test, which has been criticized for leading to inaccurate assessment of people in work environments. So go to to find out!

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!