Selfish?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012 8 Comments A+ a-


Hey, people! :-)

Yesterday was a busy Monday, but I made sure to get my chores done so I could settle in and watch a couple of my favorite shows on TV. My kids are completely into Switched at Birth and have sucked me in as well. Since I'm adopted and know my birth parents, I feel like I can somewhat relate to the situations the families find themselves in. Later I ended up watching Castle with my youngest son. I love the dynamics between Castle and Beckett, Ryan and Esposito, Castle and his family. Even when the plots don't interest me, the characters do.

I enjoy taking time out for the things that make me smile, laugh or think. Sometimes a show will inspire an idea or plant a concept that spins in my brain for a long time, developing until it pops out later to assist me when I'm writing or sharing. In the same way, I enjoy my alone time in the mornings and my freedom on the weekends. These things are vital to me, and I fight to partake of them.

Arisa's latest doodle is an interesting visual of this concept:


I've had people in my life--mostly extraverts--tell me that I'm selfish. At the time, their words hurt. Looking back, I see that they didn't understand my introverted needs and were judging them from their own perspectives.

Am I selfish? Well, yeah, to a degree. I need alone time. I need creative sources and outlets. I need occasional connections with a small number of people. If I don't get these things, my energy and attitude start to bottom out. And you really don't want to be around me when I'm bottoming out.

There are times when I feel like I'm not very good for others, simply because I only require a small amount of interaction in order to be fulfilled. Living in a house filled with people drives me crazy on a continual basis. I give as much as I can without depleting myself, but my car practically squeals out of the driveway on Saturday morning as I careen in the direction of the nearest coffee shop. Am I truly selfish, or simply fighting for what I need in order to be the best person I can be?

The Christian INFJ has an even harder time dealing with this issue. Christ was a shining example of a selfless person. So we feel that we must be like him, always giving, always putting others' needs before our own. And yet...he often went into the wilderness. Granted, he was praying (as opposed to being engrossed in a murder-mystery drama on TV), but he still took time out for recharging.

Like Arisa put it, selfish is a fascinating concept. And I'm intrigued by her description: "a cruelty, not a kindness, to entangle yourself with others." I can relate to this. Sometimes being around people is a bad thing--for me and for them. My body can't help but pick up on what they're dealing with. I have to get away from their drama, their neediness and their subconscious tendency to suck the life right out of me.




I think selfishness is good for us in moderation. As INFJs, we should know our limits, be aware of our energy levels and only take on what we can handle. To do otherwise is to threaten our sanity, not to mention the safety of those around us, lol!

As the October sun streams through my window, I'm going to sign off and enjoy my quiet house for as long as possible. Drink some more coffee, work on my book, and enjoy the essence of solitude.

Hoping you get the alone time you need and deserve today,
M.

8 comments

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Colin Machan
AUTHOR
October 16, 2012 at 9:00 AM delete

I have the same dilemma as you. A constant battle between selfish and selfless. I blogged about this a few years ago, here:

http://dwellersintimeandspace.blogspot.co.uk/2009/09/selfish-or-selfless.html

There was more in an update, here:

http://dwellersintimeandspace.blogspot.co.uk/2010/09/selfish-or-selfless-update.html

Since then I have discovered that I am an INFJ. Perhaps it's time for a third post on the subject...

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Elizabeth
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October 17, 2012 at 12:54 PM delete

Good thoughts, Meridian. This actually came up at work today. I have a sort of non-stop job sometimes, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Today I happened to be working in a role that required me to constantly switch gears and meet other people's needs. It also took me out of the refreshing one-on-one conversations going on around me so I felt alienated.

Because of all of the introvert/INFJ research I have done recently, I actually consciously realized what was going on, and found a way to quickly refresh. I went up to two coworkers I am friends with, and asked them to just talk to me as a person really quickly. You know, "What are you doing after work?" type stuff. After just 30 seconds of that, I felt much better.

Before that mini break, I had started "bottoming out", feeling like I wasn't getting the break I needed, and I am now realizing what I do when that happens: I feel like no one cares about me because I feel the fact that my needs aren't getting met, and that no one seems to realize how much I'm struggling.

Understanding how rare our type is is really helping me to give grace to others and adjust my perspective when this happens. Better still, I am finding creative ways to take care of myself! It's like, after 30 years of life, I have FINALLY been given my own instruction manual! Yippee!

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Meridian
AUTHOR
October 17, 2012 at 1:02 PM delete

Thanks for the links - I read your blog posts, and the underlying theme seemed to point to motivation. What motivates us to be selfish or selfless? Are we helping others or helping ourselves (or both)? Is there a place where the law of diminishing returns kicks in? Can a huge swing in either direction be too much?

I think you hit the nail on the head here. Motivation is key. It's not about what we're doing so much as WHY we're doing it :-)

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Meridian
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October 18, 2012 at 10:19 PM delete

I'm so glad your self-awareness is increasing! You were able to identify your needs and do what was necessary to get recharged--and avoid falling into shadow behaviors. That is so awesome!

Your own instruction manual...what a cool way to describe it...you go, girl! :-)

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Jared
AUTHOR
October 23, 2012 at 2:05 PM delete

Hey Meridian,

I like this blog hehe :-D

I can empathize with this strongly. I have an extraverted friend who, for once in his life is finally connected to other men in a brotherhood-type-fashion. He texted me and told me to give him a call because he needed to vent about something. I said I couldn't because I have "bottomed out". I was talking to my uncle that day who has cancer and is very skeptical towards the prospect of living through this. I had to be strong that day and keep him encouraged, but I was a zombie for the rest of the day! Lethargic, jaded and weird I was! I internalized and picked up on all his hurt and all I could do was process it in my introverted way -- be alone and grieve. My friend/"bro" was all upset that I would not call him. I was ticked that he was mad at me for not meeting his needs. I'm down! I'm out! I need my time to just be! I would ask: why are you upset that I didn't meet your needs instead of praying for my hurting heart as I pray for yours? To make a long story short he apologized and all is well. This has happened before as I walk with people. They get upset, feel rejected and want to reject me "back" to numb the pain of feeling forgotten, rejected or ignored. I did not forget them, I simply set a boundary and took a raincheck on the matter. Their heart is not being ignored, they simply asked an INFJ to give of himself when he cannot. What extravert can understand this?

It's pretty hard to be a blessing when you are not blessed. Asking to give when there is nothing left is like expecting the homeless to pay your mortgage. It makes no sense to me.

I have a much different view of the term selfish than most people I believe. To live is to desire. With desire comes action and without actions -- we die. Meeting our desires is very important in this sense. I hunger, I eat. I thirst, I drink. When I long for something more I go to God and others. Is this selfish? Absolutely it is. I also spent $2500 to go on a missions trip to help the hurting, poor and most importantly to spend a day with my sponsored child. Is this selfish? Yes! Is God wanting to die on the cross to have us selfish? YES! To get what you want is selfish. So if I want to bless or love others I'm being selfish because that's what I want, and if I don't bless others then I'm being selfish because that's what I want. I don't believe selfish is the bad word here, I think self-centered is probably a better term.

What lives in our heart is a hierarchy of desires, the priority of those desires in our hierarchy and why they are a priority is truly what matters.

Take Care,

Jared

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Meridian
AUTHOR
October 24, 2012 at 7:48 AM delete

Great thoughts, Jared - deep and poignant, as always :-) Thanks for sharing!

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December 7, 2012 at 7:05 PM delete

I know many who say Christ was an INFJ. As a strong Christian as well, I have reflected on that concept quite a bit and I really see it. Jesus took quite a bit of time to recharge and often lashed out when He was drained and overwhelmed. It is humbling to share the same personality as our Saviour but I often use His example when I am feeling completely worn down by others. Time to ourselves is certainly not selfish, especially since we need it to be the best we can be for others.

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Meridian
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December 10, 2012 at 9:10 AM delete

Yep, I can totally see Christ as an INFJ. And you're right - it's humbling to think that we share His personality type. It also gives us a wonderful example to model. The INFJ is in the perfect position to reflect His grace, wisdom and compassion--and we also need to model his wilderness time so we can (as you put it) be our best for others! :-)

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