10 Steps to an Amazing INFJ Life: #7 Seek Approval From Within

This is Called
Image by AJ Brustein via Flickr

I spent some time reading an INFJ online bulletin board and was surprised and embarrassed at how many of the posts just shrieked “poor me!”  It showed up over and over again –  “nobody appreciates me!”  “I’m so sensitive!”  “he did this to me, she did that…!”

I was surprised both by the quantity of the complaints and by the fact that the people posting them seemed to feel so victimized.

However I was embarrassed because they sounded startlingly similar to the whining that often is going on in my own head.

Which made me realize that all that complaining is pretty unappealing. Even though it’s true that INFJs are sometimes overlooked and underappreciated, it doesn’t benefit us to focus on it.  In order to reach our full potential in life we need to stop seeking external validation.  We need to accept the fact that our power is subtle, our passion is quiet, and our strength is internal.

We need to stop relying on the approval of others to feel good about ourselves.

It’s not as hard as you might think:

Create an internal measure of validation – Identify your own values, what’s important to you, and determine the worth of your actions based on those. If you’re passionate about helping others then your work tutoring illiterate adults is priceless, no matter what anyone says or doesn’t say. And if you get some praise for it, that’s nice, but stay connected with the fact that helping someone is what’s important, getting external recognition is a perk.

Celebrate your accomplishments – Don’t wait for someone else to acknowledge your triumphs, do it yourself.  Just finished the first draft of your book?  Treat yourself to a day off where you can do whatever you want.  Had the courage to take on a tough assignment at work?  Buy yourself a new leather portfolio to help you feel a touch more professional at the meetings you’ll be attending. By acknowledging your own successes you’re not only recognizing the value of your work, you’re also reducing your reliance on others’ approval.

Understand that you can still be right even if no one else agrees with you – There are times when I just know I’m right about something and no one around me will acknowledge it.  When that happens it can feel like my knowledge doesn’t mean anything because no one else sees it. I suspect that most INFJs encounter this – our insights are often so subtle that they can appear to have been pulled out of thin air to our less intuitive companions.

You’ll always be frustrated until you accept the simple fact that sometimes you’ll know more than the people around you.  Again, it’s about understanding that your wisdom is solid, deep, and enough.  You don’t need the recognition of others to confirm that you know what you know.

My coach once called me a “silent warrior” and that resonated with me.  I think that is a great way to look at the internal power, insight and strength that INFJs carry with them.

Exercise: Identify Your Values

One of the best ways to determine the value of your actions is to make sure you have a clear understanding of your values.

  1. Make a list of the things that are most important in your life (aside from your basic needs such as food, clothing, etc). My list, for example, would include the following:  loyal friends that I can laugh with, time with my daughter, finding the best way for me to help others people, my home, reading, doing work that matters, creating something meaningful, and learning.
  2. Review your list with an eye towards looking for your values – they should be easy to spot.  The values that come out of my list are: friendship, laughter, family, helping others, nesting, reading & learning, creativity and contribution.
  3. Keep a list of your values and make it a living document – mature it by adding other areas as you notice them.  Use it when making decisions and compare how you spend your time with what’s on your list.

This is the seventh installment in a series of 10 weekly articles about making the most of being an INFJ.  For previous articles visit 10 Steps to an Amazing INFJ Life.

 

 

Who Knows What’s Good and What’s Bad?

The Chinese character depicting Tao, the centr...
Image via Wikipedia

This week I’m going to share a traditional Taoist story that’s a favorite of mine:

When an old farmer’s stallion wins a prize at a country show his neighbor calls to congratulate him.  The old farmer replies, “Who knows what is good and what is bad?”  The next day some thieves steal his valuable animal.  His neighbor calls to commiserate with him but the old man replies, “Who knows what is good and what is bad?”  A few days later the stallion escapes from the thieves and joins a herd of wild mares, leading them back to the farm.  The neighbor calls to share the farmer’s joy, but the farmer replies, “Who knows what is good and what is bad?”  The following day, while trying to break in one of the wild mares, the farmer’s son breaks his leg.  The neighbor calls to share the farmer’s sorrow, but the old man replies, “Who knows what is good and what is bad?”  The following week the army passes by, forcibly conscripting soldiers into their army but they don’t take the farmer’s son because he cannot walk.

The neighbor thinks to himself “Who knows what is good and what is bad?”

Don’t Be a Victim

“It’s not fair!”  Don’t you hate those whiny victims – always complaining about the problems in their lives?  Why don’t they just get it together and do something about it!  Right?

Don’t look now, but chances are that on occasion you are that whiny victim, too.  The good (and bad) news is that, at times, we all are.

A toddler girl crying
Image via Wikipedia

People feel victimized when circumstances feel out of their control, when the unfairness of life impacts getting what they want, or being treated the way they feel they should be treated. And, feeling helpless, they retreat emotionally to when they were truly helpless, back into childhood, when they really didn’t have much control over their lives.  Ever notice the childish tone a person in victim mode can take?  They’re awash in the feelings they had years ago when Mommy took the candy away.

When it’s our life, when it’s happening to us, our frustration kicks in, and once that emotion takes over it’s easy to fall back into the childhood feeling of “It’s not fair!”   We become blind to the fact that we’ve fallen into helplessness.  We lose touch with the fact that we have adult powers that can help us deal with whatever is going on.  And, much of the time, we don’t even realize that we’ve made ourselves a victim.

How can we avoid becoming a victim?  We can’t.  Its human nature to feel sorry for ourselves occasionally.  The trick is recognizing when we’ve slid into helplessness and pulling ourselves out of it.

How can we tell when we’re falling into victim mode?  It’s easy – we’ve stepped into a victim role when we hear ourselves complaining without including possible resolutions.  For example, “He’s so unfair! Why is he treating me like this?” is victim language, while “He’s so unfair, and I’m talking to him about it as soon as I cool down.” is not.

How can we pull ourselves out of victim mode?  In the two statements above, feel the hopelessness of the first statement.  And the power in the second.  When we simply complain, we imply that there’s nothing we can do about the problem.  However, by identifying an action to be taken we step out of victimhood and into our personal power.

What if there’s nothing we can do about the problem?  Sometimes there are no solutions, something difficult to deal with has happened and there are no actions we can take.  In situations like these even though we can’t change the outcomes we can change how we deal with them.  By focusing on the future, on what we can impact, we can avoid hopelessness and stay connected to what’s still possible.

People who don’t make an effort to identify and correct when they’ve fallen into victim mode often end up in a destructive vicious cycle of helplessness and bitterness. We’ve all met people who are locked into the past, whose potential is derailed by events they never got over.

By making it a habit to notice when we’ve gotten stuck on our grievances and moving ourselves into action, we can stay on the track to success and growth.  We become better able to cope with the current reality and more prepared for the next “unsolvable” problem that is sure to come.