Monday, December 28, 2015

Advice for the New Year, Vol I

Advice for the New Year, Vol. 1: 

Dig a path to yourself.

By this I mean, take an inventory of your life and get clear on who you are and what you want and where you want to go and who you want with you when you get there (and who you don't). 
Humans are so dumb sometimes. We do the opposite of what will make us feel good because we think that it's what we are *supposed* to do. We stay in jobs or relationships or situations that don't serve us because we don't know what else to do. Or because we don't want the people around us to judge us. Or because it appears everyone else has their shit together and we don't want to admit that we basically don't. 
The truth is: very few people actually have their shit together or have any idea what they're doing. At least very few people that I know. 
Okay, rephrase: I do know that there *are* people in the world who are simply content, satisfied, and moving in a predictable, traditional trajectory of life between birth and death. These people are actually probably way happier than most of my people, but...
I don't find those people very interesting and I'm rarely writing/speaking to them when I advise. Because my people are the messy ones who make everything harder than it has to be. My people are the ones who take 17 detours on the path from point A to point B instead of just forging forward. My people are the ones who are restless and searching and aspiring and who need to be reminded DON'T WORRY, YOU ARE DOING OKAY. 
So, to my people (and as you're reading this you can determine if you're one of my tribe or not by whether it resonates or sounds ridiculous): 
I advise you to get clear this year on your deepest desires. Tune in to the frequencies you have historically ignored. Connect with the people you love in a more profound and intimate way. Say all the words that you mean, out loud (if you don't know how, take my communications class!) <---- shameless marketing) Look for ways to be actively happy each day. Identify and adjust the places where you're showing up inauthentically. Get to know your realest self. Introduce that self to the people you love. If you don't have enough of "your people" in your life, go out and find them. Be real, be happy, do you. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Personality Type 101

So...a lot of people ask me about this personality type stuff, so I'm going to break down a couple of things about it real quick.

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Friday, December 18, 2015

How to emotionally protect yourself: Advice for ENFJ

Oh, hello my dear ENFJs! I really appreciate and love you; you're some of my very favorite clients/friends/loves of all time. I hope my slowness didn't hurt your feelings. 

ENFJ functional stack: Fe Ni Se Ti

So, the usual caveats are relevant here: some of these will resonate with you, some of them won't. No one is exactly the same, and we all have different needs/desires. But, I'll start with the biggest thing, which if you are truly an ENFJ will for sure ring a bell: 

1) ENFJ, my friend (and I say this so very lovingly, because I know what a good place it is borne of) you've got a serious case of Major Boundary Issues. If there is one specific hallmark ENFJ has that clues me in that that's the type I'm dealing with, it's a general lack of or difficulty with boundaries. This may pop up in any number of ways, but most commonly manifesting as a lack of boundary between your emotions and the emotions of others. So let's say item #1 on our agenda is just to get clear on the fact that you're not naturally well-suited for establishing clear boundaries. It's your Achilles heel. It's the place you falter the most in your quest for genuine soul happiness, deep and sustainable satisfaction at work, balanced love and friend relationships. 

2) And next let's also clarify that these issues occur specifically because you care so much about other people and you so much want everyone to be safe and happy and cared for. I emphasize this part because I need you to know that there's nothing wrong with how you are. The world needs people like you, because you help us all out so much and you provide so much love and support. You are the givers and teachers and most generous lovers of humankind. You are inspirational! And I know that you really get a lot of genuine satisfaction out of providing all the love and support you can, and sometimes it feels like you have endless capacity to provide. It's just that...well, this lack of boundaries very often ends up making you feel shitty in the long run, (for a variety of reasons) and we don't want that. 

3) I need you to understand - deeply. in your bones. - that identifying and correcting your difficulty in establishing and maintaining boundaries is not an act of selfishness. It is not harmful to others. It is an act of self-care, self-love, and self-respect. You are setting an example for the many people who look up to you, because truly it is only through loving and caring for yourself that you can effectively sustain the love and care you want to provide for the people in your life. People look to you for guidance for any number of problems, issues, concerns, etc. You can practice and model solid boundaries with a little bit of mindful adjustment. Remember that the world does not need you to martyr yourself. There's a reason the flight attendants say to put your oxygen mask on first. 

4) So, let's start with a plan for emotional boundaries, or the fulcrum at which the feelings of other people can overpower or even become your feelings. It's basically like having emotional hypochondriasis: if you are too enmeshed in others, you can literally begin to manifest the emotional state of the people around you. You may be super happy one day, like everything is going great and there's not a cloud in your emotional sky...and then you may meet for coffee with a super negative friend who complains the whole time. And then you may spend the rest of the day in a funk you have no identifiable reason to be in. Meanwhile, your friend  feels so much better after spending time with you. You know why? Because that Negative Nancy has vampirically sucked the very joy from your veins, and you let him/her do it. You veritably offered your neck for the joy-sucking. This can happen to you so easily if you are not mindful of and actively protecting yourself against this risk. This is especially dangerous for your emotional state if you partner with someone who is very dark or very emotionally needy. You can fairly easily find yourself in an effectively parasitic relationship in which you are the sole source of happiness or positive emotion for another person or even a whole system (family/work/friend group). You may not even realize you're being drained because the siphoning makes you feel so useful and important. 

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Thursday, December 10, 2015

ENFP: How to be the very best- and truest- version of yourself

Hey there ENFP friends! You're my favorite, you know. You're everybody's favorite! (I know you know). You're delightful to be around and I really appreciate you. I just wanted to get that out of the way so that you know I'm coming at you from a really warm place. 

Here are some tips to make your life a little easier, and also for you to make the lives of those around you a little less frustrating. Some of this is going to apply to you, some won't, but I have had a lot of ENFP clients and friends over the years, so there do seem to be some themes to your behavior, so hopefully you find some of it useful.

ENFP functional stack: Ne Fi Te Si 

1) The singular mission of your life is to figure out who the fuck you actually are, and then just be that as best you can. Some of you probably feel like you're pretty authentic most of the time, and that's great. You may be one of the well-developed ENFPs who has solved the ENFP existential crisis early. Good for you! BUT. For those of you who are still working on that or haven't even named it as the fundamental crisis of your identity, wellllll....sorry, love. Here we are. Here you are. Here is the story of your life. 

2) See, the thing is: you're brilliant at socializing. Truly incredible dexterity in this department. Unparalleled, maybe. Genius, certainly. But (isn't there always a "but"?) because you tend to be so good at fitting in anywhere and being a social chameleon and doing whatever is needed from you at any given moment, you may take that too far. You may get so engrossed and tuned in to what everybody else wants/needs from you that at some point (often in midlife) you may look around and just literally can't find your true self. This is a really scary moment for ENFPs and it may look a lot like a midlife crisis. Whenever it happens, if it happens, it's like the real you got left by the wayside and is out trying to hitchhike its way back home. And sometimes it (you) doesn't get picked up right away because you don't know where to look or you don't know that you need to be looking. Which means the real you is out wandering the lonely highways of your internal landscape, lost and alone, and you are in the world just bullshitting through everything. Learning how to stop bullshitting is the key to your best life. You have to go out in your dusty old car and drive around as long as it takes for you to find the hitchhiker that is your true self and bring him/her home. And then you have to teach your true self how to stop getting lost. You have to integrate even the parts that aren't so good. Your true self has to feel loved and accepted and validated and welcome in order to be willing to stick around. 

3) Let me bring that out of metaphor and give you a little more practical advice: if you at any point find yourself feeling fractured or inauthentic or vaguely unhappy, go to therapy. It could just be that you're living the life intended for some other type and you need help finding your way out of that life and into the life you are suited for. You are meant for warmth. You are meant to connect with people and support them and help them be their best selves. But it could be that you went into banking or some cold corporate job when you should have gone into teaching or counseling. Or maybe you married a steady, practical, duty-fulfilling ISTJ when you'd be much happier and feel more connected with a warm and affirming ENFJ. Maybe you were in the military and you've had to learn to set aside all your feelings and emotional needs. Maybe you grew up in a family that didn't encourage your growth into the ENFP you were supposed to be and now you feel like you are just generally out of sorts. Maybe you're simply feeling unseen and unvalidated. Or maybe you just don't feel good but you don't know why. Go to therapy. Find a therapist who is an NF and who can see you for who you are, and who won't be fooled by your spectacular skill at bullshitting, and who will challenge you to figure out how to live more authentically. It is worth this effort. You will feel better. Being seen is where it's at. 


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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

How to be an INFJ in a world that isn't made for you.

Oh, my dear little INFJs. How complex you are! How difficult to explain. Luckily, this advice is for you, which is way easier than trying to define you to someone else. It definitely helps that I am one of you! And to disclaim, not all of this stuff applies to me, as not all of it will apply to you. We are all individual snowflakes, of course. But there are some themes I've noticed in my personal & professional relationships with other INFJs, so here are some tips to navigate life as an INFJ: 

1) You have to make yourself known. I know it's easy to get all "woe is me, nobody understands me" (which is a legit thing btw) but there's something to be said for doing the work to consciously allow yourself to be seen by the people closest to you. You are an onion, and as such it can take years for a person to peel back all the layers of you. And you do want this, right? You want to be seen and understood, right? It is true that you are deep and complicated and can be kind of messy to distill down, and I don't know that it's really a thing to be all the way known, but ultimately you can at least be as known as possible if you allow it and actively invite people in to your world. 

2) Speed up the onion-peeling process by offering up access to what you instinctively would prefer people would just know to dig for. Accept that they don't know, because a) most people are not as intuitive as you are and b) you are a treasure island and they have most likely never visited one of those before. Instead of punishing them for not knowing where to find the gold, give them a map. Help them dig. Sift through what they help you unearth; it's likely some of it you didn't even know was buried there. You can discover it together. 

3) Be mindful of the vibe you're giving off. I know you are at your core a warm and loving person, but let's face it: you can be kind of prickly sometimes. So remember that nobody wants to snuggle with a porcupine. I know that the prickliness is hiding a gooey center, but I only know this because I have VIP insider access. Most people don't know this. If what they see is a bunch of sharp edges and pointiness, they are not probably going to stick around to find a way around that into the beautiful garden paradise your prickliness protects. They are simply going to assume you do not want them in your space, which sometimes is true but often is not. 

4) You have to intentionally make yourself appear open and warm and inviting to the people you actually do want in your space, so that they know it's safe to approach you. Most people are not going to take liberties with you, because they will intuitively sense that you are not someone to take those liberties with. (Although the ones that do are often the ones you love best, because they are brave and undaunted by your forcefield. They bust right in like "you're going to love me, deal with it" which you secretly like. These are gonna be your ENFP types, most often.)

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INFJ functional stack: Ni Fe Ti Se

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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

How to be a happier INFP

So, first of all, it should go without saying that not all of this is going to be applicable to every INFP's situation, right? So, if a few aren't relevant, it doesn't discount your whole life or mean anything about your identity. These suggestions are based on a pretty broad swath of INFPs I have known, both personally and professionally, and the struggles that seem to be most common. 

1) Stop being so hard on yourself, INFP! You are never going to be perfect. Perfection isn't even a thing. You're going to make mistakes (plenty of them) and accidentally hurt people's feelings and do the wrong thing and generally make a mess sometimes, and it's okay. You don't need to hide in the corner and self-flagellate when you do. You don't need to spiral into a pit of despair. It is entirely possible - and much healthier - to address whatever happened, apologize or clean it up, and move on. You're never going to be perfect, but you're good enough. I promise. 

2) Repeating: who you are is completely, totally okay. You may feel like you have no defenses in this cruel, cold world, but don't hide who you are. You may feel almost like there's something fundamentally wrong with you; you're so sensitive and have so many feelings. It can be overwhelming and you may want to hide it, but I would argue that we really need people like you, so let us see you. The world needs people who are soft and tender-hearted and gentle and who accept others in all their quirky ways. Hold that kind of space for people; that's your gift. I know you aren't going to be able to let everyone in indiscriminately, but trust that there is value in exposing your truest self to the ones who matter. 

3) Practice using words when you need to withdraw. Tell the people around you "I'm feeling overwhelmed and I'm going to need some time to myself" rather than just disappear on them and cause worry. Use words to say "I feel depressed" or "I am sad" or "This hurts me" instead of pretending like you're fine but suffering on the inside or worse, shutting down and being unreachable. When you do it this way, the people who love you worry about you. They worry they did something wrong, or that you don't love them, or that there is something terrible ailing you. But sometimes it's nothing, right? You just need to be alone for a while. Say that. Let people know you. Teach people how to treat you, and what you need, and how you are. 

4) Work on not taking everything so personally. Sometimes criticism, while hard to hear, is helpful; it's how we grow. It rarely means anything about who you are as a person. It is rarely an indictment of your character. When you feel criticized or hurt, think through what the person meant by it, what their intentions were, whether it's something to be upset about. Think about whether they might actually have a point, and then use the feedback to make some changes. But skip the part where you absorb the criticism and feel unnecessarily bad about yourself for having stuff you need to work on. We all do.  

5) On the other hand, related to the previous suggestion, you can also practice using words to say when something feels bad to you instead of pulling inward to lick your wounds. Just say "That hurt my feelings". This one is particularly hard for male INFPs, because of course we socialize men to be tough and whatnot. INFP dudes, here's the thing: you ain't that tough, and that's perfect. That is exactly right. You don't have to be tough in the traditional hyper-masculine ways the world expects. You march to the beat of your own drum anyway, so you can be revolutionary when you set an example for other men in your life that it is safe to be emotional, to be sensitive, to say "that hurt my feelings" instead of resorting to the anger or stonewalling we have come to expect from men. 

6) You are very slow to make decisions, presumably because you want to make sure you have all the information you need, but the byproduct of this is that you almost always wait too long to do something you know needs done. You are likely to languish in bad relationships far longer than you should or stay at that job you hate because you are afraid to do the wrong thing, or of being hurtful, or you aren't positive you did every single possible thing that you could to make the situation work. I get it. The problem is though that you sometimes drag your feet even when you really do know what to do. It doesn't serve you. It just wastes your time, and other people's time. 

7) Sometimes you take too long with decision-making because of fear of failure. To this I say: fuck it. You're going to fail sometimes. That's fine. You can handle whatever comes next. See #1. 

8) .....

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INFP functional stack: Fi Ne Si Te

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