Embracing My Identity as an INFJ Chameleon

When I first moved to Dallas and hung out with people for the first time, a lot of them assumed I was an extrovert.  This absolutely astounded me, because my whole life previously had been defined by my shyness.  Upon introspection, however, I realized they had a point.  Over the last several years, I’ve learned how to smile, laugh, tell jokes and take attention.  Now when I’m with friends, I’m usually loud and gregarious.  I like to coerce other people into joining the fun, and the sillier the activity, the better.  I started labeling myself an “outgoing introvert.”

I recently got sucked into the INFJ Tumblr tag abyss, where myersandbriggs caught my attention by saying INFJs are:

Most likely to mistype as: ENFJ

Why the mistype happens: Extroverted feeling feeds off the emotions of others, which means that INFJs require a great deal of social time in order to remain emotionally stable. This type is highly likely to appear extroverted to those around them, as they are most animated and enthusiastic when they are in the company of others.* Most INFJs are assumed to be ENFJs by others upon first meeting them.

Although I love my alone time and I will fight you for it, I do genuinely love spending time with friends.  I crave it when I don’t have it.  I don’t know if I would go so far as to say I require a “great deal” of social time, but I’m definitely most animated and enthusiastic when around other people.

Tumblr took me one step further when enfpexplosions said INFJs are not what people think we are:

It’s true. They’re social chameleons, like Mystique from X-Men, they can observe and take on the shape and form (behaviors and mannerisms) of any other type. At work, INFJs may look like INTPs (laid back geniuses) and socially, they may resemble ENFPs (charismatic idealists) or ESFJs (social organizers). Actually, they can seem like any type, depending on which side of their multi-faceted, multi-layered personality they want to show you in whichever social context you happen to be in. You may even think an INFJ is your type, since they like to frequently use the social tool called ‘mirroring’, which is basically observing and copying your mannerisms in order to gain rapport with you. For this reason and a lot of others, INFJs are notoriously difficult to type. The only sure way to know is to have someone take the test and confirm that they are an INFJ.

Also true!  By this point I was feeling really good about myself, in that deep-seated way that comes from feeling understood.  My mom always assumes I am confident and in control during stressful situations (the above “laid back genius”) when internally I am shrieking and panicking.  When I gave a speech to the evaluators in Athens, they saw me as a “charismatic idealist” and wanted me to be a spokesperson for their organization, and the idea of repeating the experience made me want to crawl into a fetal position and cry.  And a “social organizer”?  I was recently asked to plan a party, and I immediately jumped into spreadsheet and phone tree mode.  INFJs are often called chameleons for their ability to mimic other people’s “colors,” and I am definitely a chameleon.

But…all of this feels a little disingenuous.  I started thinking about my angsty teenage poetry, and how I used to be fixated upon the idea that I was wearing masks all the time, that no one truly knew who I was.  That, in turn, reminded me of a conversation I had a couple years ago with a man I respect.  He asked why things hadn’t worked out between a guy I had briefly dated.  I sighed and admitted that he had been interested in the Outgoing and Witty me, and he had bailed when I showed my quieter, slower self.  The man asking said, quite logically, “Well, maybe you should just be yourself when you’re with someone.”

And he’s right.  The only problem is, I am being myself when I’m witty and outgoing.  I’m just also being myself when I hole up in my room with Netflix, coffee, and my cat.  Who I am, according to INFJ studies, is:  a person who can be anything.  Because empathy is at the core of my personality, I adapt myself to be like the people I’m around.  I want to connect with people, so I bring out my silliness, or my philosophy, or my sarcasm, depending on who I am with.  I’m not faking anything.  A chameleon who shifts from being blue to yellow never stops being a chameleon.  Instead, its identity is based upon its ability to do exactly that.

I love learning other people’s “colors.”  When I was a shy kid, it was empowering to learn how to imitate an extrovert’s “red.”  I love navigating social puzzles and feeling the satisfaction of knowing I can make anyone feel like they fit in.  It’s a valuable social skill.  Although some people see just one facet of me and are uninterested when I change colors, my closest friends and those I feel most comfortable around are the ones who love me all the time, no matter what background I’m blending into.

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