Powered by INTJ Dreams and Lily Allen

Know this song? It’s by Lily Allen. It’s called The Fear and it’s pretty relevant to my life right now. Actually, a lot of Lily Allen’s songs are, but this one in particular. It’s about messed up expectations and wanting things for the wrong reasons. It’s about having your hopes in the wrong place. It’s about becoming a product or a machine of art instead of a person. It’s about losing perspective to fear, and all the irrationality that comes with that.

The other day, for the first time in my life, I thought “I should give up writing.” Literally, that is the first time in my LIFE I have thought that. Writing has always been a part of me. Its continuation has been an inevitable and dependable guarantee for my future. I thought my eyes would turn from brown to blue before I’d stop being a writer.

But then I asked myself why. Why is writing so important to me when it seems so much more vastly important to other people? All these people who write from the base of their guts, and who pour their blood into it. They use writing as a medium for their originality and brilliance. It’s a compulsion for me to tell stories, but mine have nothing new or important to say. My work can be exciting, I think, but it’s a strung together timeline of set pieces with no thematic glue or beautiful language or…anything, really. It all feels so empty when I compare it to the truly moving works of greatness. Greatness has to change the world, but what would I even change?

I could end up successful. I still believe I could get published, or even be famous. But it hit me, upon reading some really beautiful work that I don’t even have the capacity to emulate, that I will never achieve real greatness. On a scale from Michael Bay to Cecil B Demille, or from Stephanie Meyer to Vladimir Nabokov, I might eke out the Bays and Meyers. But I just don’t see myself becoming legendary, and letting go of that dream is tough. I don’t like settling, but I feel like I’m at this stage where I need to accept that publication has to be *enough* for me.

I’m an INTJ, you know. Also known as “the soulless visionaries”. We see beautiful things for no reason. It’s like there’s this wall there preventing my mind from being deep or creative. It’s like I can physically feel my own lack of intelligence. As a personality type, we’re too literal and emotionally shallow. We can’t effectively communicate our ideas. We’re so socially crippled that we can’t even get along with other “misfits.” I feel my personality like a weight on me daily.

Did you ever hear of “The Inklings”, which was a writers group with C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, among others? I always wanted my own Inklings, but it seemed like a pipe dream. I feel like all the gates are up and against me, that I’m not right enough for anyone. That there is just straight up something wrong with me because of the rarity and controversial nature of my personality type, which cannot be fixed or changed or even masked.

Which brings me to an interesting discovery I made while writing this post – C.S. Lewis was an INTJ. C.S. Lewis, who created Narnia in all its hope and beauty. So were Jane Austen and Emily Brontë, who wrote vivid and emotionally moving works of romance. So was Lewis Carroll, who created the extremely imaginative world of Alice in Wonderland. So was Isaac Asimov, one of the greatest science fiction writers ever born.

I wonder how they overcame it. Maybe they used it to their advantage. A lot of advice tells us that we should use what makes us unique. That being different is a way to stand out from the masses. I’ve always thought of my differences as more of a liability – there is such a thing as bad differences, after all. Every time I hear that we should accept ourselves for who we are, I think, but what if you really are terrible? What if you’re a real monster?

I’ve been desperate all my life to be like everyone else. But at the same time, I’ve never wanted a mundane or ordinary life. Finding a way to work with my differences will probably be a constant struggle for as long as I live. I go back to the reason I write – because I can’t not write – and I ponder why I was bestowed with this compulsion if I’m not meant to use it. Obviously I’m supposed to find a way to work with this. I don’t really believe in fate or divine paths, but I do believe in quantum attraction. I think we are naturally drawn to what we can do best, and what our “purpose” is. I’ve always wanted my own sense of purpose to have a larger purpose – to actually influence the world in some way – but maybe my own happiness is enough. Maybe you don’t have to be great to have a great life.

So no, friends, I’m not throwing in the towel. But I still wrestle with the fear every day, as Ra wrestled each day with the darkness. And while I wish I could fast forward to the part in my life when I don’t have to worry about stuff anymore, maybe learning to deal with myself is part of the path.

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7 thoughts on “Powered by INTJ Dreams and Lily Allen

  1. As a fellow INTJ I feel your angst, but I have a few years (ahem…dare I admit decades?) on you, so I can reassure you that with age comes more acceptance of how we are. But I wish I would have known about introverts and INTJs when I was younger. I always just thought I was weird. (And perhaps I am.) :)

    • I didn’t know you were an INTJ, Carrie! I’m not sure I would have guessed that, although you have talked about being an introvert before. And you’re highly logical/organized. I generally associate INTJ as the Disney villain class though, and you never struck me that way, haha.

      I suppose I’m at an advantage to label my weirdness at such a young age. I think having a part of yourself you can’t define can sometimes be more harmful, because you get this sense of not knowing yourself fully.

      I have heard that people in their 30s and 40s tend to give no mind to what others think of them, and they become much more happy with who they are. I can’t wait for that day, haha. I guess it’s because older people have had more time to establish themselves so they have a more solid foundation on which to be confident. I’ve been in the habit of comparing myself at 24 to professionals who are 40 as if that was at all a fair comparison. What would be more accurate is comparing myself to where THEY were at 24. Perhaps I’m actually doing better under that light :P

      • I am indeed an INTJ, very logical, very pragmatic. In terms of fiction, I will take action and plot over romance and emotion any day. But over the years I’ve learned to be less INTJ-ish around others. Guess that’s another advantage of getting older. But it never really gets easier to do that. I just get better at it.

  2. Reading this was like reading my own journal entry, especially the part about constant self-doubt and being painfully aware of all of your shortcomings. I agree with you that learning to deal with these worries is part of the path to eventual greatness. It’s like what we were talking about earlier with learning to be patient. A childhood filled with other people’s encouragement and expectations is a sure way to get burned out quickly. Add to that the constant comparison to other people who represent what we want to achieve for ourselves, and the anxiety builds.

    One thing that helped me was this Conan O’Brien commencement speech about how he achieved what he achieved because he failed to emulate David Letterman: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELC_e2QBQMk

    I love that he embraces trying new things and switching up the old formula where you have to be perfect to succeed. You’re allowed to stumble and you’re allowed to experiment. And most importantly, you’re allowed to experience failure and have shortcomings, because that’s where the best lessons are. That’s the kind of thinking I’m embracing as I write this new story. Most of what I’m putting out will probably get obliterated when I edit the draft, but that’s okay. The more I fail, the more I realize it’s all about what you take away from the experience.

    It’s funny how there’s a lot of INTJs on the Internet. Occasionally I get ENTJ, so I’m just laying off the tests now since they seem to change every time I take them. Regardless, you’re not alone in your thoughts/worries. You can do it, Michelle.

    • I wonder if the Internet has made this all the more worse. You could literally find someone 10x better than yourself every day if you looked. And on top of that, you sort of have to pretend more on social media that you aren’t dealing with this stuff. I tend to be pretty private, and I don’t air all my crap out for coworkers and acquaintances to see on Facebook, but I try to be pretty honest too. If nothing else, maybe it makes me more relatable. Like hey, there’s a person in here :P

      I love Conan! One of his quotes is a bit of a life motto for me – “Work hard, be nice to people, and amazing things will happen.” He’s such a unique personality. I’m so glad he found his niche, but it’s incredible to think that he had to “find” it in the first place.

      “The more I fail, the more I realize it’s all about what you take away from the experience.”

      Wise words. I try to keep that in perspective. And generally, I live very free of regret. Everything I’ve done had some important side effect that would be removed if I went back and changed things. Including my writing.

  3. Wow. Heavy, heady stuff. Michelle,

    I have a very different personality type:ENFP. That puts me in the company of Thomas Aquinas, Twain, Wilde, Huxley, Hunter S. Thompson, and my own dearly held, Kurt Vonnegut.

    And I, like you, often compare my writing to these greats. Quite the yardstick, yes?

    Same with my photography, I often compare myself to Lange, Lewis Hine, James Nachtwey.

    The whole comparison thing often made me want to chuck it all.”I will never be as great as these”, and trust me I have tried.

    The funny part is I gave a chapter of my current manuscript to an online friend of mine and her fantastic feedback helped me immensely. I took her suggestions and I’m applying them throughout my whole book. She’s just that good. I’m still working on it, and it may never be “The Sirens Of Titan” but with her help. I’m that much closer.

    • I definitely can see how you “fit in” with Twain, Vonnegut, and Wilde. Isn’t that odd? Like sure, they’re legendary, but I can still see that you and them operate on the same wavelength. If you remove the talent or experience or idea portions and just focus on whether or not you and those people would form great friendships over some beer, I feel it would be likely. And I think I would get along well with Jane Austen and C.S. Lewis.

      You know, Millie gave me an “alternate” personality test today and it basically labeled me the equivalent to INTJ. But instead of “the Mastermind” like it’s usually called, this test called it “The Critic.” It says, “They have an inherent understanding of the weak points in any argument, and they are particularly adept at identifying both empirical weaknesses and logical inconsistencies. As paradoxical as it might sound, the ILI has both the ability to foresee future trends and events, while at the same time refusing to make any assumptions that lack a thorough empirical backing. At his best, the ILI will act as a very useful advisor, pointing out weaknesses and flaws that he sees, while also making suggestions for improvements.”

      Which might explain why I love beta’ing so much, or watching movies to pick apart when they work/don’t work. I have an opinion on just about everything, but being the True Neutral alignment that I am, I think it tends to be pretty objective. ;)

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