Category Archives: ENFP

How to Motivate an #ENFP at work (assuming the ENFP has an actual job, har-har)

Yes, my desk is messy but I know where everything is and don't you DARE "clean" it up! #ENFP

Yes, my desk is messy but I know where everything is and don’t you DARE “clean” it up! #ENFP

The greatest threat to an ENFP’s success is wasted potential. We ENFPs have so many ideas! projects-we-want-to-do! Ways to save the world!–and some of these are ideas are really very brilliant. However, we often lack the focus and stamina to develop those ideas and bring them to practical use.

Practical. That’s not a word we ENFPs are thrilled about. Party, however. Now, there’s a word we can DEFINE. We ARE the party, hello!

Point is, we ENFPs usually need a few “J’s” in our life (ISTJs, ESTJs and even the dreaded ENFJ) to help us. These “J’s” will probably drive us bonkers. But if we allow ourselves to stay annoyed with these people, we will only end up sabotaging ourselves–and the possibility of seeing our great ideas come to life.

Speaking from experience, it’s important for me to feel all my feelings, but then I have to move past my initial frustration and try to understand the “J’s” in my life. If I can regulate my feelings, I am able to see that “J’s” have great systems and methods that can actually help me.

However, the “J’s” must NOT over-react to us. A sensible “J” will allow the ENFP some “feelings-space” to go dither, play, recreate and blow off her frustration. The “J” should NOT try to micro-manage the ENFP or give her all the Rational Reasons about why her feelings are invalid. VERY IMPORTANT: The “J” should not issue marching orders or hard deadlines.

Just let the ENFP go have her feelings and maybe even offer her a cookie while she’s at it.

“J’s” are often tempted to view an ENFPs “outbursts” as signs of immaturity. But they are not. ENFPs are very sensitive creatures and capable of accessing deep emotion–this is a gift, not a weakness! When an ENFP chafes against rules, it’s because she despises meaninglessness. Red tape and bureaucracy are the quintessential ENEMY of an ENFP soul and an ENFP would rather abandon her own project altogether than let it succumb to a soul-crushing system.

ENFPs live for the passion and beauty of life–but they also NEED systems in order to see their beautiful potential come to full fruition. So, in order to get the job actually DONE, an ISTJ is best advised to make the system and method APPEALING.

Here’s how:

The key is simplicity and lots of built-in-rewards: preferably playtime breaks and public affirmation/acknowledgment when the ENFP produces valuable content or completes tasks on time.

An ENFP will work hard if there’s a party to look forward to! But an ENFP will despair if, upon finishing a project, there is no public thanks or acknowledgment.

While an introvert “J” does NOT want public acknowledgment–a private thanks from a superior is more valuable to, say, an ISTJ–the ENFP absolutely THRIVES on awards, prizes and accolades.

An ISTJ may not understand why these celebrations are important to an ENFP, but he doesn’t have to understand. He just needs to show up. A “J” who shows his appreciation for an ENFP will find her happy and motivated to get the job done.

And even ready to start on the next project!



How quitting Adderall helped me write a better book

My writing cornerFour months ago, I quit Adderall cold turkey. I do not recommend quitting this way–unless, of course, you enjoy feeling like you’re going insane. I felt like I was crawling out of my skin. I itched, I trembled, I had headaches. For two weeks, I was in withdrawal and it was–excuse my language–effing miserable.

But I was desperate. The promised benefits of Adderall had never materialized for me–at least, not in the long-term. Instead, I was experiencing increasingly severe side-effects.

I recently read a WSJ article about how ADHD drugs don’t boost kids’ grades and this paragraph stunned me–because it was exactly what I’d experienced:

Martha Farah, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Pennsylvania who sits on the American Academy of Neurology committee that is drafting new treatment guidelines, recalls a student saying that after she takes her medication, she heads to the library. If she keeps her head down and studies, she gets very absorbed in her work and accomplishes a tremendous amount. But if a friend stops by, she becomes equally engrossed in the chat. Many students report they find themselves absorbed in cleaning their rooms rather than studying.

In other words, when I take Adderall, yeah I can FOCUS. But I don’t get to choose what I focus on. A fly buzzing on my window? Hyper-focus ON THE FLY. Someone texts me? Texting, texting, texting. A problem in my day? OMG–I CAN STOP FOCUSING ON MY PROBLEMS! MY PROBLEMS!!

I began taking ADHD medication while writing my book. My ADD manifests as an inability to sit still for more than an hour. Sitting, in fact, has always been fairly uncomfortable for me. I prefer movement. I sometimes write my best stuff while running, pacing or washing dishes. I suck at finishing big projects. I’m great at blog posts–ha ha. But writing a whole book? Yeah, whole different ball game.

I believed I needed something to help me complete the long-term project of book writing. And at first, the medication felt like magic. I could FOCUS! For HOURS!

But even then I noticed I didn’t get to CHOOSE what I focused on.

I also noticed that while I could produce MORE, I wasn’t producing BETTER. In other words, I could pound out a full chapter in a few hours but it wasn’t better writing. It was just more writing.

Which is to say, I had over 500 pages of draft material and only about 100 of those pages were worth using in the book.

Something else started happening, too: I lost my guilt.

Adderall numbed my guilt. I felt more impulsive. I’m already an emotional person so you can imagine how Adderall combined with loss of guilt and increased impulsiveness wreaked havoc on my life.

I did and said things in the last year that are So Not Me. At least, not healthy me.

It took about two full weeks for the Adderall withdrawal to fade. The first thing that came back to me was guilty feelings. I know this may sound odd but I actually started crying with gratitude the first time I felt guilt again.

[IMPORTANT NOTE: Guilt is different from shame. Guilt is the feeling of remorse for wrong behavior. Guilt motivates us to make changes. Shame is all about judgment and condemnation. Shame paralyzes. I was feeling guilt and it was positively freeing!]

When I was on Adderall, I would yell at my kids and not feel guilty about it. It was this surreal experience where I could hear myself yelling and think: huh, this is weird, I totally just yelled at my kids and I really don’t care.

Of course, I can’t blame everything on the Adderall–I take full responsibility for my behavior and have been actively making amends–but let’s just say the ADHD medication made everything worse.

What also came back was the weight. I’ve gained five pounds. But you know what? I don’t mind. I feel happier and calmer. I don’t feel fraught, wigged out and constantly hyper-focused.

I also don’t miss the 4:30pm Adderall crashes. It has taken two months, but my brain doesn’t feel overheated anymore. I’m sleeping better. I’m journaling. I’m even sewing again. Best of all, I have patience again.

And my book? Well, I finished it without Adderall’s help, thankyouverymuch. I’ve discovered I don’t need help finishing long-term projects, I just need to break up the project into tiny, bite-sized pieces and slowly work at it each day.

Actually, I wrote the most important parts of my book AFTER quitting Adderall and the quality of my writing is SO MUCH BETTER. I’m proud of my book. It’s a solid piece of writing that I’ll be happy to place in your hands.

There might be a time when I go back on ADD meds because ADD does negatively impact my life (I am chronically disorganized, I suck at finishing things, I don’t see messes and I’m always behind on my emails and paperwork–please forgive me if I haven’t replied to your email, it’s not personal, I promise!) but for now, I’m happy with my flighty, creative brain.

Yes, I’m disorganized. But I’m also deeply sensitive and creative. I can connect with people on a deep level and make them feel truly seen and heard. This is not an excuse for being disorganized, but for now, I’m so very grateful that my brain doesn’t feel overheated and HYPER-FOCUSED every damn minute.

And yes, maybe I’ve missed my book deadline–TWICE–but I can promise you that the book I’m turning in now is WAY, WAY better.

Lastly, I went back to my psychiatrist for a full evaluation and we’ve ascertained that most of my underlying issues are rooted in anxiety. I started some new medication for anxiety–instead of ADD–and I’m feeling much, much better. For me, the lesson here is NOT that medication is BAD. The lesson is that the first or second try may not be a good fit. The key is to keep trying and tweaking and figuring it out. I’m committed to my mental health and well-being. I won’t give up.

I’ll keep working my recovery AND my working on my health because I’m worth it!

So, an #ENFP walks into a grocery store…

My husband (an ISTJ) does the grocery shopping for obvious reasons like: he doesn’t get distracted by colors and pretty wine labels. He’s an efficient shopping machine, plowing through the aisles, placing Only The Necessary Items in his cart with single-minded purpose.

I go to the grocery store for The Experience. Oh, yes. Didn’t you know? Experience Shopping is totes a thing. 

An ENFP wanders into a grocery store and she sort of flits through the aisles, picking up random items–oooh! what is cranberry chutney?!–and putting it in her cart for no other reason than It Looks Cute.

An ENFP stops to sniff All The Flowers on display, to remark on the varying colors! textures! arrangements! and is that grosgrain ribbon you’re using to tie up those peonies? BRILLIANT!

This is why, probably, my husband has taken over the grocery shopping. Because no matter how many times he’d send me to the store with a carefully organized SPREADSHEET of Things We Actually Need I’d come home bearing bushels of organic walnuts. Or a pony.

Last week, I tagged along with him to the grocery store. I was like one of the kids: he had to keep looking over his shoulder and telling me to catch up, come on now, put-down-that-bag-of-cheese-puffs-we-don’t-need-that!

And then I saw a neighbor who is expecting her second baby and so, of course, I had to stop and chat and remark upon her cute baby-bump and ask all the pertinent questions like: is it a boy or girl? You’re still wearing heels? YOU LOOK SO ADORABLE!

Because DUH! Talking with people is what ENFPs do. This is WHY we go to the grocery store. To chat. To make connections. To have an experience.

(BUT! Since I’m trying to become a Mature ENFP, I’m also learning to respect that for Some People it’s all SERIOUS BUSINESS at the grocery store. Apparently. Whatever.)

While I was chatting with my neighbor, my husband had plowed ahead and was manhandling baby carrots in the produce aisle. I skipped to catch up to him and he was chuckling.

“What’s so funny?” I asked.

“You,” he said. “You’re so much fun. You make me happy. Sometimes I forget life isn’t just about getting the job done.”

[INSERT BIG UPDATE ON OUR MARRIAGE: last year could easily be considered The Worst Year of Our Marriage by which I mean surviving cult + twins + bad economy finally caught up to us and=hard times. Definitely the FOR WORSE part of ye olde marriage vows. This is also to say that marital counseling works if BOTH people are committed to it (and if they are compatible in many ways and if they WANT it to work and also a lot of other reasons). But mainly, understanding AND appreciating our HIGHLY DIFFERENT personality types has helped tremendously. Which is to say, I no longer take it personally that he’s an ISTJ and he no longer takes it personally that I am an ENFP. Point: our marriage didn’t start working again because of some magical, religious formula. Our marriage started working again because we started appreciating each other’s unique personality strengths and taking responsibility for our own shit. Period. END UPDATE]. And all the people said amen.

P.S. This is what my husband looks like (hot, right?):

Aaaaaaaand back to the grocery store:

“Oooh! Look! Greek yogurt!” I said and pranced off to the dairy section. But not before sampling my way through the Quinoa tasting bar, snagging a box of cookies and retrieving some kid’s dropped candy off the floor. Because ENFP.

Sometimes I honestly don’t know how I managed to give birth to five kids, keep them all clothed and fed AND make sure they pull in awesome grades at school. Oh, wait. I know how! FUN! (Also, being married to an ISTJ).

I tell stories. Sing songs. Build forts. Teach writing–because writing is fun!

Even when I WAS doing all the family grocery shopping, I had fun with my kids. I mean, I am the woman who bursts into songs about TURKEY! STUFFIN’! PUNKIN PIIEEE! right in the middle of the paper goods aisle. Believe me, kids love that shit.

Which is to say, grocery shopping with an ENFP might take forever. But as long as you have an ISTJ to keep you on track, it will definitely be a Fun Experience.

(You should come with me to the post office sometime. I’ve been known to yodel there.)

It’s the 70th anniversary of Myers-Briggs. Check out the party and tell me YOUR personality type!

Love is a…choice?

A few months after we were married, church leadership “strongly encouraged” us to attend a marriage workshop. Frankly, attendance wasn’t optional. To maintain our good standing in church, we were more or less required to attend these workshops. And participate (which was code for: take lots of notes, be enthusiastic! and never, ever ask a question that challenged the speaker’s ideas).

I hated these workshops. They gave me panic attacks because the message we heard was always the same: Love isn’t a feeling, it’s a choice. Love isn’t about passion or attraction. It’s about sacrifice. Your feelings will lead you astray. Follow God’s will and feelings will follow! Control your feelings. If it feels good, it’s probably sinful! Whatever you do, don’t trust your feelings!

Time and again I’d sit through these lectures while the workshop leader hammered his point into us. Love isn’t a feeling! Love is a choice!

Looking back, I can see how harmful it was to divorce love from feeling. I understand the intention was good–many Christians have felt the need to offer a corrective against a feelings-only approach to love and marriage. But I believe that corrective has gone too far and resulted in unintended, tragic consequences.

The first negative consequence was a breakdown of communication. Since I wasn’t allowed to feel what I felt or even admit that I felt something outside the “Approved Range of Emotions,” I found myself totally silenced. I literally could not even find the words to describe what I was experiencing because I was scared. I knew that if I said I felt confused, worried, fearful or angry (feelings that were DEFINITELY outside the approval zone) it was the same as confessing my lack of self-control/sinful attitude/rebellious spirit. And even if I did work up the courage to express what I was feeling, I was told “you shouldn’t be feeling that way.”

In other words, there was no way to say what I felt–or even feel what I felt–without being punished for it.

The second negative consequence was that I truly began to believe my husband didn’t really love me and/or that I was inherently unlovable. I mean, I knew he loved me. But I didn’t feel it. There was a huge disconnect. As long as love stayed up in an ivory tower making highly-intellectual pronouncements about love being a DECISION of the MIND!, a fulfillment of DUTY! and a KEEPING OF THE VOWS!–I could not connect. I tried. Oh, how I tried. But something was missing.

And in related news, do you have any idea how difficult it is for a woman to achieve orgasm during sex if there is very little emotional connection? I mean, sure. I could achieve orgasm in a manually-operated, strictly-business, DOING MY DUTY kind of way. I could have sex “by the book.” But by squashing my emotions (love isn’t attraction, it’s sacrifice!), sex just seemed like a lot of mechanical work. We started having better, more intimate, emotionally-connected sex once I was all: MATT! I’M ATTRACTED TO YOU! I HAVE FEEEEEELINGS FOR YOU! And he was all: I’M ATTRACTED TO YOU! And then we were both like: OH! IT’S OK TO ENJOY THIS!

Even after we left the cult, it took me years of therapy to finally acknowledge the importance of my feelings, especially in the bedroom.

This constant disconnection led to the third and worst consequence of all: I became deeply, horribly depressed. I wanted to die. In fact, dying looked like a blessed relief. Dying meant an end to the constant pain of living without feelings of love. I really thought something was terribly wrong with me–spiritually, morally and physically. I mean, what was so wrong with me that I couldn’t just BELIEVE and make a DECISION OF THE WILL and CHOOSE to love? It seemed to work for everybody else! WHY couldn’t I just get with the program? Was there some sort of unconfessed sin in my life? Had God maybe predestined me for Hell?

It has taken me nearly ten years and countless hours of therapy to undo the damage of ignoring, suppressing, shaming and denying my human emotions. Quite honestly, our marriage was saved because we both started being honest and accepting of our emotions.

What I have learned is that when it comes to love, separating feelings of love from actions of love is a false dichotomy. We are human beings, we are not disembodied spirits. Our feelings and emotions are just as much a part of us as is our mind, will and intellect. And it is dangerous to compartmentalize, separate and shut-down ANY part of our humanness.

I’ve also learned that loving actions don’t just appear out of nowhere. They are sourced from loving feelings. Yes, it’s important to behave lovingly even if we don’t feel loving. However, to say that love isn’t a feeling AT ALL but ONLY an action is to unintentionally degrade the importance of loving feelings. It is the kind of teaching that falsely elevates the importance of the mind over the importance of our God-given human emotions.

Love is feeling AND action.

Love is passion AND sacrifice.

Love is attraction AND commitment.

Love is an adjective AND a verb.

Love is word AND deed.

Love isn’t JUST a choice.
Love is also a feeling. 

How an ENFP celebrates the holidays {aka, why you should invite an ENFP to your holiday party}

Oh, how I love a good party! I love flitting around, be-bopping in and out of conversations, laughing uproariously, yammering on about a million subjects. I always feel like I’m my very best self during a party. I sparkle. I shine. I make happiness. I connect! I leave a party feeling energized!

Alas, I suck at planning parties. I lose stuff. I despise spreadsheets. I scribble important things on sticky-notes and then stick the notes in unimportant places. Even when I get invited to parties, I forget to RSVP.

Instead, I tend to focus on things like: WHAT CUTE OUTFIT WILL I WEAR?! And also, should I add glitter to my makeup tonight? Clearly, these are the important things.

The good news is that ENFPs make the holidays merry and bright. Oh, my, we do. The lights and sparkle, the prospect of fun. This is our happy place. If you are planning a party, please invite an ENFP. It will be much more fun, I promise. We may even break into spontaneous song!

Watch out: ENFPs burst into spontaneous song!

The bad news is that ENFPs suck at organizing things.

We delay. We procrastinate. We are the ones whom, on Christmas Eve, realize we have not sent out the annual Christmas letter. And also, the stockings are mysteriously unstuffed. HOW DO THESE THINGS HAPPEN?

One Christmas Eve I realized I had not yet wrapped presents. I instantly despaired. This is what happens when ENFPS are faced with their faults: Instant Despair. Instant Despair is like instant coffee, except instead of just adding water, you simply add self-criticism.

This is why ENFPs are rather helpless during the holidays. We get all distracted by the lights and pretties and presents and possibilities! We start imagining sugar plum fairies and sparkly champagne parties and kissing under the mistletoe. Oh! Kissing under the mistletoe! We ENFPs could kiss under the mistletoe for hours.

However, we forget that parties and presents require planning, scheduling and Type A personalities.

Even kissing under the mistletoe requires a bit of forethought. You really can’t kiss for hours without needing ChapStick afterwards. But, of course, I can never find my ChapStick, let alone remember to bring it to a party.

These are HUGE problems, I tell you. Huge. Why? Because an ENFP can really bring so much joy and happiness to the holidays, but we require Logistical Help.

We require reminders. We require easy-to-follow instructions. We require affirmation. And mostly, we require that you hide your annoyance that we require all these things.

I know, I know. ENFPs are uh-nnoying.

But I promise: we are well worth the effort. For one thing, if we attend your party, it will rock. It will be memorable. People will send you gushing thank you notes for hosting such a fabulous soiree. In other words, an ENFP just has to show up and YOU get all the credit. Win-win, am I right?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go dress for a party!


EE’s Top Ten Posts of 2012

I’ve curated my best posts from 2012. Enjoy. Most of all, thank you for reading my words and loving me anyway and always. 

1. Why Hating Religion But Loving Jesus is Impossible

2. Sex, Lies & Mommy-Blogging

3. Fundamentalist Scare Tactics: Shunning, Shaming & Showboating

4. What should you do if your adult child joins a cult?

5. How do you spell draconian? BOB JONES UNIVERSITY.

6. Top Ten Signs of a Spiritually Abusive Church

7. Falling out of love with Catholicism

8. Why disappearing into motherhood is not a betrayal of feminism

9. Why I’ve stopped living like each day is my last

10. A real-life conversation between me (an ENFP) and my husband (an ISTJ)

I’m an extrovert! No, I’m an introvert! NO, I’M AN EXTROVERT! Wait. Why am I talking to myself?

Busting some awkward awesome dance moves

So, this is embarrassing. Remember I told you that maybe I was an introvert?

Well, now I feel like my old self again. Which is to say, a very definitive extrovert. I’ve had multiple people tell me I’m back to being Elizabeth Esther again. The real EE has please stood up. Wow, grammar check!

Still, I’m confused. Am I really extroverted?

The only clue I have right is that when I wrote my introvert post this past July, I was in the throes of major sadness because my marriage was hurting PLUS I was trying to write my book PLUS I was off my ADD meds.

I’m thinking everyone feels like an introvert when all they want to do is hide under the covers all day.

I mean, my sister came out here to visit me and I was so depressed about my marriage that I was wandering around in a fog, totally detached but trying to pretend like I was keeping it all together.

Now, here’s a nugget of troof: you can fool yourself but you can’t fool your sister.

About three days into her visit she sat me down and was like: “WHAT is wrong?? WHAT is going on, here?”

And I was all: “Nothing. I’m writing a book.”

And she laughed. “Yeah, I know. But something else is wrong. WTF is going on HERE?!”

And I was all: “Nothing. I’m internally processing.”

And she was all: “Shut up, you’ve never internally processed a day in your life. Now, tell me the truth.”

So, I told her. I processed verbally. I vomited out all my words and she listened. When I was done I felt like a huge weight was off my shoulders.

“OK, so what’s your plan?” she asked.

“Plan? Plaaaaaann? Palin?”

“Your plan. You need a plan. What are you going TO DO about this?”

“Dunno. Wait until it gets better?”

“How has that worked for you in the last 15 years?”

“Oh. Heh. I guess I need…a plan?”

Then my sister set about saving my life by putting together a 3-point plan complete with if-thens and what-fors and thou-shalts.

As the scatterbrained ENFP that I am, I was beyond thankful. I can’t create structures or plans or budgets. But if someone is kind enough to give me a track to run on…well, let’s just say I’m choo-chooing along, full speed ahead!

Last week my sister called me and she was like: “Wow, you sound so much better.”

“I feel so much better.”

Here’s proof: I’m all about the social stuff again. I’ve gone to parties on two consecutive weekends. I danced at a wedding. I’m traveling to Pennsylvania this week to speak at a conference. And I don’t feel exhausted from any of my past social engagements and I don’t feel worried about my future ones.

I’m living my true, extroverted self again and I feel so much better.

So maybe I’m only an introvert when I’m depressed?

5 Fitness Tips for ENFPs

  1. Make it fun! ENFP’s get all deflated and mopey if they don’t have something fun to do or something fun to look forward to. When it comes to fitness, ENFPs need group exercise because the social interaction provides the necessary element of fun. For example, if enough people are running a 5k, an ENFP will run just to be with her friends.
  2. Set short-term goals. Telling an ENFP that exercise will increase longevity is useless. ENFPs don’t think long-term. She needs something more immediately tangible; ie. exercise will help her fit into those pre-pregnancy jeans in one month!
  3. Provide positive feedback. ENFPs are motivated by affirmation and validation. They want you to notice how hard they’re working. Keeping track of an ENFPs progress and then commenting on it is a surefire way to inspire an ENFP to remain committed to exercise.
  4. Accountability. ENFPs resist conformity and don’t like being bossed around. However, they do appreciate honesty and being held accountable–in a way that respects their unique out-of-the-box thinking. Positive reinforcement works. Yelling doesn’t.
  5. Cute outfits! ENFPs like to experiment with clothing. ENFPs shouldn’t wait until they lose weight to purchase a cute exercise outfit. Purchase one immediately. Chances are, the prospect of wearing something fun and pretty will be its own source of motivation. Confession: I’ve hauled my ass out of bed for bootcamp JUST BECAUSE I wanted to wear the cute outfit. :)

In defense of the woo-woo, the feeler, the “overly emotional” personality

I am a feeler. I can emote on cue, off cue or pretty much on any cue. I can also feel you. If I sit with you for a few moments and you let me in, I can feel what you’re feeling. Sometimes I can help you make sense of what you’re feeling. I can give you words for your feelings. I can help you identify what’s really beneath all those words you’re saying. I am highly intuitive and sometimes I know exactly what you’re thinking before you say it. I use my feelings to connect with you on a deep level.

One of the scary parts about being a feeler is that we live in a society that values black-and-white, rage-and-blame, just-the-facts-only. People who feel their way through life are called “crybabies” or “too sensitive” or “overly emotional.” The only people who are openly permitted to be feelers are those who can make a living do it; ie. actors, TV personalities.

The rest of us who are “afflicted” with sensitive natures are required to apologize for being, you know, weak. We are not consulted in matters of great import because we might have an “emotional reaction” to the decision at hand. Many times people refuse to tell us the full truth of a situation because they think we “can’t handle it.”

Many times we feelers have heard the phrase: What you don’t know won’t hurt you.

May I just say? There are many ways of knowing things and not all of them require hard, empirical, facts. Even if you think you’re “protecting” us by not telling us the full situation, we feelers are able to detect what you’re not telling us. Actually, keeping us in the dark is MORE hurtful than “protecting” us.

Here’s a simple example of how feelers are compared to thinkers: if a thinker gets the facts wrong, they are faulted for being uniformed whereas if a feeler gets the facts wrong, they are faulted for being who they are; of course she got it wrong, she’s emotional!

I think it’s particularly difficult for American men to admit their feelings because the societal norm is for men not to talk about their feelings. And God forbid a man makes a decision based on his feelings!

Especially in Christian circles, people are frequently warned against listening to their feelings. Feelings are viewed suspiciously and must be controlled. Christians like to say things like: “Nobody makes you feel anything. You are in control of your feelings.”

It is so harmful when someone casually dismisses my way of processing the world. When my feelings are invalidated, I wonder if I’m going crazy. When I was in fundamentalism, I was often told that what I was feeling wasn’t real. That damaged me. That didn’t just hurt my feelings, it broke my feelings.

I think the reason many people are apprehensive about feelers is because they view feelers as impulsive and irresponsible. Sure, feelers can be impulsive and reckless. But not because they are feelers but because they haven’t learned how to feel their way past the initial reaction.

There is a difference between a fully developed feeler and a baby feeler. Baby feelers may act on initial reactions. More fully developed feelers allow themselves to feel the initial reaction AND require themselves to feel the consequences of acting on that reaction–BEFORE they act on it.

For example, a developed feeler will allow herself to enjoy chocolate chip cookies in moderation because she pauses long enough to remember what over-eating feels like afterwards.

But just because I am able to moderate myself doesn’t mean I’m not FEELING my way through it, it just means I’ve allowed myself to fail in the past (probably while the stakes were low). I remember what that felt like and I don’t feel like repeating it.

The true gift of a feeler is that they’ve given themselves permission to fully embrace the human experience. The feeler in your life is capable of providing you with a deeply intimate connection. Perhaps instead of trying to smash that feeler into a thinker box, try appreciating the color, vibrancy, sparkle and emotional support the feeler brings to your life.

Chances are, the feeler admires your qualities and is more than willing to learn from you–after all, you present a side of the human experience they aren’t naturally attuned to understanding. Appreciation and affirmation go a long way for a feeler.

Maybe we’ll never make a pile of money, but that’s OK because money isn’t that important to us. For a feeler, connection and relationship are everything.

All we ask is that you spend time being with us!

I’m not an extrovert?????

I guess you could call this whole thing an identity crisis. Or maybe just a misdiagnosis crisis. Anyway, things just aren’t adding up–which is to say, I have always self-identified as extroverted mainly because I have great social skills and am generally effusive and enthusiastic. But I was missing one major component: I never admitted to myself that social interaction exhausts me. True extroverts GAIN energy from social interaction. Me? I feel utterly sapped, sucked dry.

I like to come out of my safe underground burrow for brief public appearances and then scurry back inside to rest, recoup and reflect on everything that happened.

While I enjoy social interaction (and am never anxious about meeting new people), it totally depletes me. I feel ragged and undone. I have to hobble back to my nest of pillows and be very, very quiet for awhile.

I routinely avoid parties. I back out of playdates. I need lots of recovery time after church or group activities. I used to think I was just hyper-sensitive about religious group activities, but the reality is that ANY group activity exhausts me—even Bunco!

The thing is, I always self-identified as an extrovert because–in the words of my therapist–I enthuse. I am full of spirit. I thrive on human connection and relish relationships.

But the truth is that I’ve never been able to join anything: moms groups, play-groups, book clubs. I get all torn up and exhausted and prefer to live on the fringe–just observing, taking it all in and singling out one or two people upon whom I devote my attention and energy.

“Maybe you’re just an introvert with excellent social skills,” my therapist suggested.

I chewed on this.

“Writers are generally introverted,” she remarked. “You’re an observer. You reflect. You live inside your head and mull, ponder, turn things over.”

Which is true.

Furthermore, unlike the classic ENFP, I have rarely acted impulsively. Like, ever. Although I’ve always considered myself the impulsive ENFP the truth is that I have lived a very circumspect, disciplined life. Like an ENFP, I do feel everything but I use my words (instead of actions) to express myself.

The odd thing is that I don’t mind public speaking or going on national TV. Yes, I get a little nervous but I can handle it just fine. These things don’t exhaust me. Rather, I’m exhausted by things like family vacations, girls’ weekends (yes, I know, I suck as a girlfriend), dinner parties (if you’ve ever wondered why I rarely entertain? this is why), playdates, double-dates, family dinners, holidays, small groups, baby showers, bridal showers, women’s bible studies.

I don’t know why I’ve never seen this about myself before. Well, actually. I do know why. It’s far better to be extroverted in American society. At least, I think so. Extroverted people are well-liked because they are connectors. We rely on the extroverts to bring people together. The truth is that I love making connection–but then I get all exhausted and need to scurry away and think about it for a long time.

At the end of the Bolivia trip last summer, I left a day early. For one thing, I couldn’t bear being away from my children for one. The other thing was that I was so utterly spent, so utterly exhausted and TOTALLY depleted that I simply could NOT go on another day. I was such a wreck by the time I got on my final plane flight home, that I needed a Xanax. By the time I landed in Los Angeles, I was practically comatose.

Even after that, I kept thinking I was an extrovert.

Maybe I’m half-and-half? Maybe I’m a borderline introvert/extrovert? Maybe—like almost everything else in my life—I don’t fit neatly into one category.

One last story:

I have never flipped out so badly as I did the one time we went on a family camping trip in a pop-up trailer. When it started raining, there was nowhere for me to go. There was no private space where I could burrow down and hide. I literally had a massive panic attack and had to drive to a nearby hotel to spend the night.

So, all this to say: forgive me for misleading you. Apparently, I don’t know myself as well as I thought I did.

Ah, well. Onward.

Book suggestions for introverts? Hit me up, yo.