Is there really something wrong with you?

Bodhi prefers to watch the world from underneath the coffee table.
Bodhi prefers to watch the world from underneath the coffee table.

I have been a huge fan of the teachings of Carl Jung since I was in my 30’s. He once said that unless something significant happened in his inner world, he had no memory for place. I was relieved beyond belief to read this since it had always been my experience (and I secretly felt there was something wrong with me). I can remember which countries I’ve visited (since international travel is a big deal for me) but ask me if I’ve been to a particular city, town, or state, and I may draw a blank.

Years ago I took the Myers/Briggs personality test was shocked to find myself and “introvert”. I was also insulted and upset. I (like many people) felt that being an introvert meant I was somehow defective; couldn’t relate to people and should try harder to get out there and mingle for God’s sake!

Our society tends to applaud extroverts, not realizing that the way we process our worlds, and how each of us finds meaning in life, is different. As most of you know, I don’t like labels. I think that they can confine, rather than help, but in this case, it might be different. Could it be possible that you’ve been trying so hard to act like other people, that you havent appreciated the uniqueness of your own being?

During this season of holiday gatherings and parties, if you wish that you could hide under a coffee table with Bodhi, maybe, just maybe, that would be the perfect place for you!

In my case Pilgrim’s Progress consisted in my having to climb down a thousand ladders until I could reach out my hand to the little clod of earth that I am.” Carl Jung

Noah trying to get him to come out and play!
Noah trying to get Bodhi to come out and play!


I’ve included a page from the MyersBriggs website below….and a little “test” for the weekend if you’d like to take it.

Extraversion or Introversion

The first pair of psychological preferences is Extraversion and Introversion. Where do you put your attention and get your energy? Do you like to spend time in the outer world of people and things (Extraversion), or in your inner world of ideas and images (Introversion)? Extraversion and Introversion as terms used by C. G. Jung to explain different attitudes people use to direct their energy. These words have a meaning in psychology that is different from the way they are used in everyday language. Everyone spends some time extraverting and some time introverting. Don’t confuse Introversion with shyness or reclusiveness. They are not related.

Take a minute to ask yourself which of the following descriptions seems more natural, effortless, and comfortable for you?

Extraversion (E)
I like getting my energy from active involvement in events and having a lot of different activities. I’m excited when I’m around people and I like to energize other people. I like moving into action and making things happen. I generally feel at home in the world. I often understand a problem better when I can talk out loud about it and hear what others have to say.

The following statements generally apply to me:

• I am seen as “outgoing” or as a “people person.”

• I feel comfortable in groups and like working in them.

• I have a wide range of friends and know lots of people.

• I sometimes jump too quickly into an activity and don’t allow enough time to think it over.

• Before I start a project, I sometimes forget to stop and get clear on what I want to do and why.

Introversion (I)
I like getting my energy from dealing with the ideas, pictures, memories, and reactions that are inside my head, in my inner world. I often prefer doing things alone or with one or two people I feel comfortable with. I take time to reflect so that I have a clear idea of what I’ll be doing when I decide to act. Ideas are almost solid things for me. Sometimes I like the idea of something better than the real thing.

The following statements generally apply to me:

• I am seen as “reflective” or “reserved.”

• I feel comfortable being alone and like things I can do on my own.

• I prefer to know just a few people well.

• I sometimes spend too much time reflecting and don’t move into action quickly enough.

• I sometimes forget to check with the outside world to see if my ideas really fit the experience.

Adapted from Looking at Type: The Fundamentals
by Charles R. Martin (CAPT 1997)

32 thoughts on “Is there really something wrong with you?”

  1. Mary,
    I so relate to this article, from memories of places I have been to all you say about being an introvert. It was a relief to me when I took the Myers Briggs several years ago to finally understand why I didn’t enjoy large, noisy gatherings. I enjoy small intimate get togethers. I always need to have time by myself to regroup. Thank you for the “reflection” on this topic.

  2. I’ve seen many ways of seeing the extrovert/introvert divide, and the one I most related to is a question. Whose judgement or opinion matters most to you: that of others, or your own?

    Reconciled, nay, card-carrying introvert.

  3. I’m reading Quiet by Susan Cain, very affirming of introverts. I have always felt like a social dud because I don’t enjoy large gatherings, especially the greet and mingle kinds, but I love intimate, meaningful, over coffee get togethers and feel energized and affirmed when with close friends. Finally am accepting that there’s nothing inately wrong with me, can so relate with Bodhi!

  4. I am also reading the book Quiet and highly recommend it to all of us so called introverts out there that have grown up thinking that there is something wrong with us for choosing a quiet moment wtih friends over a large party any day. Very insightful book.

  5. Dear Mary:

    Used Myers-Briggs with groups of managers and executives. It is especially effective prior to goal setting or strategic planning sessions, as everyone gets to see how each processes. Oddly, I test out as an ENTP. Truthfully, I am a closet introvert. I appear to be extroverted, but prefer the opposite many times. While not the whole picture, it is a wonderful tool and a fun learning experience.

  6. I once took a “test” at a local college to see what kind of job I’d best suited for and I was terribly discouraged by the results – hair dresser, or special education teacher. Neither of which held any interest for me at all.
    I was at a vulnerable point in my life and am so glad I did not allow their analysis to dictate the life choices that I’ve made.

  7. Mary
    I recommend reading the book by Susan Cain – Quiet, the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking.
    I am also an introvert and have always tried to overcome it. This wonderful book promotes the many positive qualities of intros.

  8. Having worked with Myers-Briggs for what seems a lifetime during my career, I really recognize its value in helping us understand ours and others personalities and how we interact with and relate to others. I agree with Rose that it can be a wonderful tool and is a fun learning experience, especially when working as a team. And as with most ‘measures’, there is a range in each of the Myers-Briggs categories…one could be at the ‘extreme’ end of introversion or extroversion, or somewhere along the continuum…and in some cases ‘borderline’…so it seems we can and do exhibit characteristics of each…either way, if we are aware of our most natural way of being, it sometimes can prompt us to look at things and people from the other perspective too…always a good thing. There is a short book called “The Five Love Languages” (by Gary Chapman), not related to Myers-Briggs at all, but looks at how different people express love in different ways…how we express love and how we ‘feel’ love in return. It is a simple easy read but boy does it pack a punch and it’s very easy to identify how ‘you’ express your love and how you receive or don’t receive others expressons of love…and why others might not be feeling your love as well. Interesting stuff! Happy Weekend WFF!

  9. Hi Mary
    Once again you “nailed it”….we are too often concerned with what others think ….at our the expense of our own uniqueness. I took the MB test many years back…..ISTP.
    Smiling, Mary….enjoy your day.

  10. I’m an introvert detailed into an extrovert job and it is a big challenge. One thing I’ve noticed about the introvert-extrovert dichotomy is that no one ever tells an extrovert to get out of his or her comfort zone and to go spend a few hours in a library, but we introverts are frequently told that we need to ‘get out of our comfort zone.’ While some of that can be healthy, it can also be damaging, and knowing our limits is critical. Sally, I totally echo your post!

  11. Dear Mary. Thank you for a fun weekend project of self-reflection and acceptance. Sometimes I think we all feel like Bodhi….wanting to hide under the table. Self-awareness means knowing ourselves….and for me…knowing myself means loving myself even if I don’t fit into a category and even on those days when that space under the table looks mighty inviting.

  12. I loved this posting – very comforting for me to know that there’s nothing wrong in wanting to hide under the coffee table!

  13. A kindred spirit! I too had this exact experience while working on my masters degree – scoring as a highly introverted person (almost off the scale!) In higher ed we tended to use the NLCP more than the MBTI as it was a bit easier for students to understand and interpret for themselves. I was quite shocked when I tested as so introverted, until I stepped back and really interpreted the feedback (hello – introvert!)

    Being in an occupation that made me a very public person for so many years, I’d come to rely upon creating a “persona” when I needed to be “on.” After a while, having to be “on” was the majority of my day/week, working with college students 12+ hours a day, presenting research, chairing university-wide meetings, travel and more travel etc. etc. As soon as I saw the “introvert” result, I had complete understanding of why I was so completely wiped out and the end of the day, every day!

    All of my energy was going into maintaining the working persona – an important aspect of being successful but one that is not a “given” for me, it’s work.

    After leaving higher ed, I’ve slowly let go of that role and the grind it takes. Doing more behind the scenes work keeps it manageable, most of the time, and allows me more time to be my natural, introverted self. Working with animals has huge payoff for me, lots of opportunity for quiet communication, the sole purpose of which is comfort and fun.

    Perhaps this explains why Bodhi and I connected – both observing and thinking from a protected space before we jump into the party! And just like Bodhi, we have lots of fun when we choose to come out from under the table!

    1. Deb, thanks for posting your story – I can relate. I also have a “persona” that I put on every morning (I’m a director in a high tech startup) and I know it’s not the real me. I used to bristle when friends called me an introvert (it seemed somehow negative), but one day I looked up the definition and realized it’s not a bad thing – it’s simply a trait that I have. I’m in the process of exploring alternate careers that will suit my introvert-ness. Wish me luck! Thanks again!

  14. Also if most people will notice when we are young we are extrovert ,when we get older we get introvert,why? I think it because of all the “experiences”we go thru in our lifetime.The good and bad but if a person goes thru alot of bad then they become introverts more.Some people are naturally born shy some are born more active.I also feel that chemicals in our brains have alot to do with the outlook on life we take.With a right balance we take life by the horns but throw in a few loose wires and we are someone else.Does it stop us from being who we need to be,yes it does.Even with medicines sometimes it don’t help because of all the chemicals we consume from foods,so a balance is needed to combat the problem.We need to look at our environment first and work from there.Just a thought.

    1. Exactly the opposite for me. I was so introverted (and painfully shy) as a child that my family insisted my best friend, Lupe, was “imaginary.” Hmmmpph! She was very real to me. Well, until I didn’t need her anymore, and announced “She was run over by a truck” when my mother asked where she was. I became somewhat more extroverted as I aged, mostly because my career demanded it. And I’m pretty sure at least most of my friends now are not “imaginary.”

      1. Jill, do I ever have a book for you – I am only half way into it, but it is so moving – by Matthew Dicks, “Memoirs of an Imginary Friend” – I wonder what your reaction would be reading it, having had one yourself. A most precious little boy – the preface describes the friendship as heartwarming, but the book races to a heartbreaking conclusion. The imagination is not some wacky bit of our brain, but a true and real gift. Never let it go! 🙂

      2. Thanks for the suggestion, Susan. I’ll check it out. I’m moving toward the concept that what we call “real life” is just the waking dream, and our “imagined” experiences are every bit as “real” and important as the others.

  15. Mary, this is such an important post – it validates the gift of looking inward, which is ‘intro-version’. If one doesn’t develop a rich interior life, apart from the hustle and bustle and scramble of the world, it is like house on stilts without a solid foundation. One of the most wonderful books I’ve read this year was the one Sally mentioned above, “Quet, The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking”. The author herself echoed Deb F’s remarks on having to work in a job that required her to muster an extroverted persona during her working hours, that left her exhausted by day’s end. Here is the link:

    Delft, I loved your “card carrying introvert” statement! Wouldn’t that have been funny during the elections we just went through, if when asked for party affiliation, we’d reply, “Card Carrying Introvert”, and proud of it. . . Happy Weekend All!

  16. I’m right there with Bodhi, too! and it made me remember how much I loved making cozy ‘forts’ with the furniture when I was a kid. . .
    on another note, am sending this beautiful short video about gratitude . . and I am grateful– to have found your blog, your voice, your special giving light in the world. . .you may have seen it already but it’s a sweet reminder and so can be watched again and again. . ..Veronica

  17. Move over, Bodhi, you’ve got a LOT of company (which is just what you DON’T want!). I am so far introverted, I turned myself inside out.

    I took the Myers-Briggs a long time ago and had the same results then. Over my lifetime, I’ve had to adopt, in many situations, the extroverted role, but it was just a mask. I still crave the ‘quiet,’ the world of ideas, a few close friends.

    Guess I’ve grown up some….I no longer apologize for it.

    Great post, Mary…very validating no matter what your results. It’s the perfect example of “I’m OK, You’re OK.” (Does that date me too much?) 🙂

  18. Interesting….I’m both, knowing when to honor the different sides of me is the challenge! I’m also a Pisces, that dual fish!

  19. Not everyone can be on the stage, there also has to be an audience. For the most part, I am usually the audience. I’m there with Bodhi under the table, but I do come out from under there from time to time.

  20. Mary, I suspect most on the board are a bit of both, maybe more introverted because we’ve found you here and relate to and enjoy your blog because we’re thinking people. I’m guilty of too much thinking at times but I’m trying to get over this aspect of my int/ext personality. Running a B&B allows me to get my stimulation in a social way but I don’t have to get involved in my guest’s lives nor they in mine. Anytime I put on a pair of panty hose when I was dating I got filled up with gas. I never liked getting dressed up. Like others here, I enjoy smaller gatherings where I can talk to people. Large gatherings are for crowd cruisers. You’d be talking to someone and their eyes would wander around the crowd to see who was there. It’s see and be seen. I don’t own a pair of panty hose any more and I haven’t been dressed up other than to go out to speak to quilt guilds for years. Suits me just fine. And when we finally decide to like ourselves, it’s such a great relief.
    SandyP in Canada

  21. I’m a true card carrying introvert. I wonder if I could fit under there with sweet Bodhi also? I’m happy with my life and with myself. I get so irritated when others(even though their loved ones) tell me what I should be doing with my life. I hear,”You should get….you need to…maybe you should….” and I feel my blood start to boil. What’s nice is I have learned it’s ok to set limits with these naysayers. And I do. Stops them in their tracks! Have a nice w/e Mary and flock. 🙂

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