ISFJ

Have you ever heard of the Myers-Briggs test? According to my best friend all throughout high school and college, Wikipedia, it is an "introspective self-report questionnaire claiming to indicate psychological preferences in how people perceive the world around them and make decisions."

I have taken this test at least five times, both the free, abridged version you can find online as well as the full questionnaire from the actual foundation, and I am consistently an ISFJ. Here are a few traits that are very true to me:

  1. "often meticulous to the point of perfectionism, and though they procrastinate, they can always be relied on to get the job done on time"
  2. "very imaginative, and use this quality as an accessory to empathy, observing others’ emotional states and seeing things from their perspective"
  3. "private and very sensitive, internalizing their feelings a great deal...lack of healthy emotional expression can lead to a lot of stress and frustration"
  4. "reluctant to change... they value traditions and history highly in their decisions. A situation sometimes needs to reach a breaking point before ISFJs are persuaded by circumstance, or the strong personality of a loved one, to alter course"
  5. "people with the ISFJ personality type are shy and a little protective of themselves, but they also need to be able to connect on a deeper emotional level...friends are made not by random encounters on a wild night out, but through comfortable and consistent contact, as in class or in the workplace where they have the time to get to know each other little by little"

Are you like me? There's a lot I can say about this but one thing that's on my mind right now is that I don't like change. I like it when things are familiar and I hate surprises. I'm truly a creature of habit. Have you ever heard of the Comfort Zone? Yeah, I've lived there my whole life and I'll probably end up retiring there. But it's not only that I don't like change, I'm also afraid of change. I get the same Iced Coffee with Soy Milk at Starbucks because I'm afraid if I try something new, I won't like it (example: the purple drink. gross. literally the taste of regret. is it a pretty color? sure). I watch The Office again and again because I'm afraid if I watch a new show and there's a sad episode, I won't know to skip it. These are silly little things that show my dislike for new things and change but often times, change isn't something you can control. 

"Change" is a broad term so let me give you a definition: a modification to a person's environment, situation, or physical/mental condition that results in circumstances that challenge their existing paradigms.

Here's a personal example..
In 2015-2016: I went from living with my mom and sister to living with my mom, sister, other sister, brother-in-law, and baby nephew. I moved houses. I graduated. I started working full time at a job different than I originally planned before graduation. My church moved to a different building in a different city. The set up changed. The community changed. My roles in ministry changed. My relationships with close friends changed.

There wasn't anything necessarily bad happening but it's just the fact that everything was so different. In a short span of time, things were so different to the point that I (of course) had an emotional breakdown. But after some counseling with some wise mentors, I learned, difficultly and reluctantly, to not be afraid of change.

You don't have to be an "ISFJ" like me to understand what it means to be afraid of change. Everyone can relate to the fear of change but I think what I wanted to get out there is that change isn't our enemy. Change is what can drive us to adapt, be better, discover things about yourself that you never knew or discover potential within yourself; it ultimately helps us grow. 

If you're like me and you have a difficult time adapting to change, that's ok. Some people are better at it than others and it's fine if you don't adapt to change as fast or gracefully as someone else. What I'm saying is to not be afraid of it. Change, whether it be good or bad, is an opportunity for growth. Circumstances around you can change drastically at any given time and you can't control it. But what you can control is your response. When unexpected change comes your way (when, not if), embrace it and welcome it like an old friend.

dr. murray

I had a professor in college named Dr. Murray Decker; the class was Introduction to Intercultural Studies. On the first day of class, he had us move all the desks to the back of the room and outside so that the entire class had enough space to sit in a big circle on the floor. And it didn't stop there. Instead of "professor" or "Dr. Decker," he wanted us to call him Murray, as if we were friends who used to hang out at the local diner over burgers and milkshakes. He also explained that the structure of the class would be based on discussions, not lectures. I could literally bring nothing to class and it would be fine. 

Some people would embrace this laid back style - I did not. My first thought was "I need to check when's the last day to withdraw from this class." But as uncomfortable as I was, I decided to stay in the class. 

I never knew how narrow-minded I was until I took this class. The class covered a variety of topics but one of the biggest takeaways was recognizing that the things I might consider a norm are actually traits specific to my culture and that the principles I uphold aren't always right. It seems like something we all should know but I just never bothered to think deeply about it.

Growing up, I was taught that it was rude to treat adults like they are your friend. There needs to be a level of respect and I was taught to always agree with the adult, present yourself in the most wholesome way, and wait until they talk to you and respond with brief answers (your opinion isn't important). So being how I am, I did not want to call Dr. Decker "Murray" but he did not want me to call him "Dr. Decker." I didn't call him by his name at all, which he then said, "By the end of this semester, I'm going to get you to call me 'Murray.'"

I really learned so much in that class...I was always taught something as "the right way" but never questioned it. I never thought "maybe it's not the right way, maybe it's just a different way." We talked about tolerance and what it means to be tolerant of other people's viewpoints, beliefs, ways of living, and even small things like habits. We live in such a time where we need to politically correct, yet we argue over what is political correctness. I learned that maybe a respectable distance isn't always a good thing. With the people I love and respect, like my mentors and pastors, I intentionally draw boundaries for the reason I call "respect." But to be honest, I think it's a fear of disappointment, rejection, and hurt. And where does that leave me? It leaves me distant from them, unable to be close and vulnerable with them, and thus depriving myself of a real relationship. 

I once visited Dr. Decker's (or Murray's) office to talk about my group project; I don't know how the conversation came to be, but he asked me about my family. I told him about how my dad had passed away unexpectedly and how I wasn't sure how to cope with it. He looked at me and sincerely said, "I am so sorry." I got uncomfortable and immediately replied with an "It's fine!" followed by an awkward laugh and some kind of flailing hand motion. But he stopped me and said, "No, it's not fine." After that, I let my guard down and I was able to share with him some of the things I was struggling with. We talked about grief and how it's okay not to be okay. That I don't always have to put up a front and be ashamed of not being okay. 

I'm not sure why his reply of "No, it's not fine" stuck with me. Maybe it was because it reassured me that it was okay not to be okay. I'm still learning; I still have a hard time having close relationships because of the pressure I put on myself to be put together. But if you're like me and keep people at an arm's length for whatever reason it may be, "respect" or a fear of intimacy, don't let it rob you of the opportunity to have a real relationship with someone: to love and be loved. 

And as for Dr. Decker, we decided to meet in the middle of "Dr. Decker" and "Murray." By the end of the semester, he was "Dr. Murray."

mountain top

My counselor once asked me to use a picture, a word, or just something to describe how I feel about my life. I said, "I feel like I'm climbing a mountain."

I know, it's not very original. Even Miley Cyrus beat me to it when she released "The Climb" in 2009. But that's just how I feel.

I often feel like I'm climbing a mountain. I also often get a little tired and feel hopeless because the climb seems endless. But even if I am climbing this mountain alone, there's always someone who comes by...a more "experienced climber" who has already done the climb and tells me about the beautiful view that's up ahead if I just keep going. So I keep going. And when I get to a place of rest, I take a moment to take a deep breath and marvel at all that I have climbed. But then I realize, I'm not at the top of the mountain yet; this was just one viewpoint. 

About three years ago, I lost my dad and I wanted to drop everything, but I climbed. I climbed through pain, denial, anger, frustration, confusion, loneliness, and fear. I wanted to give up so many times but thankfully I was never alone. There was always someone either cheering me on to keep going, helping me hang on, or holding me up while I let go. And there came a point about a few months ago when I reached my viewpoint: a place of peace beyond human understanding and clarity, a place to look back and say "I got through that."

A little encouragement: there's always something to "climb" and overcome. And when it gets hard, don't lose hope because you will reach that viewpoint. Just don't give up, accept the fact you can't do it alone and need to accept help from other people, and don't rush the process.