I have a problem. All of my friends leave me. Not always right away, but at some point, they all decide to leave. It’s like there’s an expiration date on all of my friendships.
Does this happen to you too or is it just me?
It’s hard enough for me to make friends because I’m different from most people. I’m quiet and shy when you first meet me and awkward too, usually. Plus I don’t really like people and I certainly don’t like small talk. There’s so much of that involved in new people too. I just tend to avoid it.
Then, when I do go through this whole process of meeting someone new, eventually the whole thing blows up anyway and they leave. So why bother? I’d rather deal with being lonely than go through the process only to be disappointed every time.
I never understood why this happened. I looked at it from every angle I could imagine, but couldn’t come up with an answer.
Then something else happened and the answer smacked me right in the face.
Let me tell you a story…
I was looking for an apartment last summer. Renting in Boston is unbelievably expensive. Decent apartments for reasonable prices are really hard to find. Somehow I found one that was oceanfront and gorgeous! I was willing to do anything to get it.
The landlord was a woman in her late 50s who I could tell was looking for a daughter. She said things like, “If you get sick I’ll bring you some soup!” and “We should go to dinner!” I knew she wanted more than a tenant, but I overlooked it and signed the lease anyway.
Almost right away she started coming into my apartment without telling me, moving my things around, opening my mail and so many other inappropriate things. Instead of me speaking up and saying, “it really makes me uncomfortable when you come into my apartment when I’m not there” I didn’t. I didn’t want to make her mad or do anything to rock the boat, so I just kept quiet.
But all too soon it got to the point where I couldn’t ignore it anymore and I decided to move. She turned on me very quickly, as I just knew she would. She threatened to call her lawyer and said I owed her the full amount of the rent for the remaining lease, close to $8,000.
I told her, “Cool. Call your lawyer. I’ll call mine and we’ll figure this thing out.” Then I went to work searching through the Massachusetts rental laws and found about 10 things she had done that had violated and voided the lease ling before I had decided to leave.
So I pointed them all out to her in a very cold and matter of fact way, which was completely different from the way I had spoken to her before.
Her response was something like this, “You are NOT the person I thought you were! Why are you treating me this way and being so nasty? What’s wrong with you?”
I took this as a personal attack on me and my personality, of course. My feelings were deeply hurt, even though I didn’t care at all about her feelings for me. She had done what so many other people, bosses & friends, have done to me in the past: tell me that there was something wrong with my personality. That I was not ok and that I needed to change.
I was so hurt I went and recalled the story to one of my good friends. She’s very straightforward in her communication, but sometimes it’s necessary in order for me to get the point. She said that she didn’t know why I was so surprised because this always happens to me, not just in this situation, but with all of my friends as well.
I agreed that it does happen a lot and said I have no idea why.
She had all the answers. She said, “The problem is you tell people what they want to hear. You act like everything is ok and never tell them there’s a problem. But then, when you’ve finally had enough, your real personality comes out and they are dased and confused because you are TRULY NOT the person they thought you were.”
I couldn’t believe my ears. The answer had been right in front of me the whole time and somehow I missed it.
Here’s the problem
Let’s break it down a little bit more, because this is a whole thing.
We just KNOW what people need
As INFJs we have this AMAZING ability to intuitively know what others want and need. It’s one of my favorite things about being INFJ, but if we aren’t careful it can get us into trouble quickly.
Let me give you an example. Let’s say you meet someone new and you really like them. You admire their work and you enjoy their personality. You really want to get to know them more. So you set to work trying to figure out ways you can connect with them. You figure out what they like and don’t like. You find any angle you can in order to get to know them.
And then you give them everything they want. They want to eat at a Thai restaurant? COOL! You’re game… even though you hate Thai food. They want to go to a trendy new coffee shop? AWESOME!! You’re all about it… even though you’d much rather have Starbucks. They want to see that new superhero movie that everyone just loves? YEAH! You stand in line with them for hours to get tickets… even though you hate those movies and people and being at the movies with people.
The list goes on and on. It’s one thing after another and before you know it you’ve created a whole new personality for this new friend. You don’t even recognize yourself when you’re around them.
You think about telling them the truth, but at this point, you know they wouldn’t understand. You’re SO FAR from who you actually are that they wouldn’t want to be friends with you. You know that you have nothing in common with them, but you want to have a friend and you begin to think this is the only way that you can actually have friends. All of your friends are like this, so that must be true.
Then… you start to take it personally. You start to think that no one will ever like your real personality because no one you know actually knows the real you and why would they want to? You don’t fit in with them and you know that you wouldn’t if they knew the real you. It’s like a cycle that justs keeps repeating itself.
The only solution you can come up with is that it’s your personality. It must be broken and messed up because you’re not like everyone else.
I felt this way for years. I kept up the cycle and kept blaming myself and it just got worse and worse.
So then we go back to my friend who says, “It’s YOU. YOU’RE THE PROBLEM. You’re doing this to yourself!”
At first, I was really hurt when she said that. Why was she being so mean?!? It’s not me! It’s my crappy personality and I can’t change that!
Then I started thinking about it some more. It’s not that my personality is crappy or wrong or broken. It’s not that at all. There is NOTHING wrong with my personality. The problem is me. It’s how I act around my friends. It’s the fact that I want to be friends with them SO BADLY that I unintentionally manipulate them. I lead them to believe that I’m someone that I’m not because I think that’s the only way they’ll like me. I’ve believed that there is something wrong with my personality for so long that I convinced myself that I had to be someone else in order for anyone to like me.
I bet you do the same thing.
Whether you take it to the same extreme as I did is another question. I hope not. But if you do, there is hope!! I found the answer, but I have to warn you – it’s gonna hurt and it’s not easy.
Are you ready?
Stop being fake
It stings…. Doesn’t it? As INFJs we pride ourselves on how real and authentic we are. We love being genuine and deep. We think of ourselves in a “real” light.
And we despise fake people. I know that’s a strong word, but it’s accurate for me. I hate to admit that I’m fake because I don’t like people who are that way.
And there’s another epiphany… Do you know how you can’t stand people who have the problems that you are trying to overcome? Well… maybe that’s why we don’t like fake people so much. We can relate to them too well.
How do we stop being fake?
This is the real question. It’s not really easy at all. It takes work. The first step is certainly having the awareness of what you are doing and actually admitting you do it. That’s hard. Don’t discount the effort you have to put into doing that. It’s a lot.
The next step is hard too. It’s changing your behavior. It’s recognizing what you are doing in real-time and making a different decision. Instead of saying, “Yeah, I’m cool with Thai food.” You have to say, “No, actually I don’t like Thai food at all. Can we go somewhere else?”
I’m not going to lie to you: not all of your friends are going to be ok with your newfound ability to ask for what you want and need. In fact, a lot of them might not be ok at all. They could have the same reaction as my former landlord. They might say things like, “You’re not the person I thought you were!” And it’s true. You’re not. And it’s also ok that you’re not. Those people will walk away from you and that’s hard, but it’s ok. They are not your people.
Your real and true friends will want you to speak up and will welcome your opinion. They will be perfectly fine with your new desire to tell them how you really feel.
If you find that a lot of people leave you, it’s ok. It’s hard, but it’s really ok. You are just making room in your life for new friends who will value your personality from the start.
You’re not broken
Always remember: you’re not broken. You’re not messed up or damaged or an extra. Your personality was not faulty from the start. You just got a little bit lost along the way in figuring out who you are. But it’s ok. You’re on the right track now and there’s plenty of time to work it out now.