Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Joys of Living In Your Own Strengths

Have you ever watched children as they mimic their friends in an effort to be like someone else? Often, the result is not pretty.  They become irritable and often get into battles with the sibling or the peer they are trying to emulate.  Even when they do succeed in such an impersonation, they do so only to their great disappointment.  Why?

The answer lies in the truth of temperament. We cannot change who we really are.  We can "try on" another's personality, but it will not "fit" — like clothes that are too tight, shoes that are too short, a hat that is too big. The personality does not feel good or look good, and the result is a feeling of discomfort and feeling conspicuously different.
Recently I observed a little girl (an ISFJ) whose older sister is an ISFP.  The temperaments are strikingly in opposition to each other although three of the letters of their type are identical.  The J and the P create a stark contrast.

The ISFP, who is older in this case, is what her temperament strengths display as joyful, exciting, bold, daring, a risk taker, one who wants freedom and constant new experiences, and wants to make an impact on observers with her antics and appearance.

The younger ISFJ has strengths of responsibility (which opposes risk), a guardian of the rules of society and tradition, an organizer who likes a routine that means today is much like yesterday.

As is often the case, the younger child tries to copy what the older sibling does, so this little ISFJ tried her hand at attracting attention by following her sister into a risky maneuver.  Less agile than her sister, she was unsuccessful in her risky move, sustained an injury and embarrassed herself in front of those she was attempting to "impress."  The result was not only pain from an injury, but the pain of feeling a failure.  She did not feel any thrill from the risky move and no fulfillment from experiencing the joy of just daring to do it.  Her little heart was hurt, and she became irritable and upset.  Her need, at that moment, was to be assured that she was wonderful for who she really is, and that she need not try to be like her sister.    

Although her ISFP sister was also unsuccessful in her attempt at the maneuver, she was laughing and joyous just for having made the attempt, and she was quickly off to her next bold move, feeling that she had made an impact on the observers because she was rewarded by the shock and surprise on their faces at what she had attempted to do. 

To feel the fulfillment of our strengths, we must live within them and develop them, rather than try to climb into the role of someone else's strengths.  Our joy comes from appreciating who we are and being the best of who we are.

For my own experience, it has been a release to find that I am not as odd as I have always felt.  I am an ISTJ. (I know.  "That explains a lot!" you may think, facetiously, to your self. )  That "I" represents only 25 percent of the population, so we (the “Is”) are in the minority.  Society is made for the "Es" (the extroverts), so introverts feel out of place.  I never felt comfortable in a role that put me in the midst of strangers for long periods or required that I be in crowds.  Nor was I comfortable in the "limelight," so when I put myself in such a setting (particularly as an awkward teen), I was very uncomfortable and often irritable.  

It is not that introverts don't like to be around people.  SJs are a very social temperament. It is just that when our batteries are drained (and that happens relatively fast for introverts when they must interact with strangers or groups of people for too long -- and too long is relative), we seek solitude, or the companionship of only those with whom we are close, to recharge.  It was a joy to finally understand myself and relax in who I am. Whether others understand or not is then less intimidating and hurtful, because I understand why they may think I'm different. However, it's okay to be an introvert.  Introverts have some very admirable qualities.  Those who do not understand have yet to appreciate who they are themselves.

If you have not come to understand your own temperament, my hope for you this year is that you will.  Your joy will increase when you feel comfortable and fulfilled in "your own skin," when you know the "direction your life is intended to go."

Here's a tip:  Get the book, INNERKINETICS - Your Blueprint to Happiness and Success, by Ray W. Lincoln.  It will be a great tool to help you understand others and yourself. (Use the coupon code IKKey for a discount).