INFJ Male Bio: High School (Age 12-19)
When I was around the age of 12 our family suffered a tragic loss of two family members. This shocked both my parents’ families and our community as those members were deeply loved and central figures to us.
I had a special connection with them and the terrible news was hard to process for me at that age.
Death was such an abstract concept and its definite nature I could not grasp at the time. During the funeral I witnessed the extreme sadness of my whole family and friends including my own.
It was too much to handle. As I was already keeping my emotions to myself to not upset anyone before this tragedy, after the funeral I couldn’t grief properly. This led me to keeping the remaining grief and sadness pent-up deep inside to the point that it was normal.
This had a huge painful impact on my INFJ personality development.
Over the years I had become increasingly reserved, quiet and self-conscious. Around this age, puberty had set in. My body and life was undergoing rapid changes. Now high school came around and I hated the idea of going there. All those children in one building and all of them older than me.
The new subjects, the longer school days, the different time schedules, multiple teachers, all the unknown faces, the loss of familiar classmates.
All was very daunting to me. I had so many worries and sadness. Puberty intensified my whole experience, because of its new challenges and my growing self-consciousness. At the age of 14 I was still short, extremely skinny and aware of myself. Here I was.
This highly sensitive person and introverted child in this urban jungle gym of menacing savage teenage kids.
Photo by K Mitch Hodge on Unsplash
Bullies identified me as an easy target and I was bullied in class. I didn’t stand up for myself as I did not know how. I just let it happen and did not talk to anyone about it. Not even my parents. To cope I just became very nice to everyone or just freeze and do nothing. Everything was kept pent-up inside.
In my culture it is expected for boys and men to be tough, confident and to handle conflict in an aggressive way. However, as an INFJ male in the making, this would be one of the hardest things.
There I was, this highly sensitive boy. To some family members this didn’t go unnoticed and I was scolded for my kind, soft-hearted nature and sensitivity as this was seen as weak. Now it seemed my whole world was against me (high school and some family).
As a teenage boy I felt so ashamed. Shame that I could not stand up for myself. Shame for my highly sensitivity nature. Shame for who I was. Shame for how I looked. Shame for how my voice sounded. I felt so fragile, vulnerable and alone.
All these painful feelings of sadness, grief and shame now started to fester within me. I gradually hid my inner self more and more from the world to not be seen and judged. I became upsettingly good at hiding my feelings.
People Pleasing: The Mask
At around the age of 15 I was doing bad at high school and was held back in the third year. Normally this would have been negative, but for me it was a relief. Almost all the bullies were in my class so being held back was an escape from them, even though I did intend to pass.
My new class was so different. The kids were kind and funny. I made great friends soon and felt more at ease. My problems were still there unfortunately. I was still too nice and avoided conflict.
One kid from a different class started to pick on me again sometimes during breaks, however due to me making friends he didn’t succeed to gang up on me with others as they respected me and bonds were already formed. My fear of conflict and the shame I felt made me still very vulnerable.
When there was harmony between me and others all was well, but soon as someone ill willed started testing me I was defenceless. It was kind of like a closed door that wasn’t locked. From the outside it seemed secure, but if someone would try to open it, that person could walk right through the door.
Throughout the years my kindness became more frequent and it started to dominate almost all of my interactions with others. Even though it was unconscious behaviour, I probably believed that if I was always nice to others I would not get bullied and be evaluated in a positive manner.
Photo by Viktor Talashuk on Unsplash
I adapted to anyone I interacted with. A social chameleon. The mask made me interact with others with a false sense of safety, but it worked for me at the time. I say false, because I was still always on edge, anxious, extremely self-conscious, ashamed and carried the heavy burden of sadness and grief from the past.
Increasingly, I felt more empty and like an impostor. Although at that time I wasn’t really conscious of that. I just felt hollow, worthless and thought that there was something wrong with me.
Pleasing became an obsession and I felt intense guilt and anxiety when I did not please others. My intrusive thoughts from the past came back as well. To combat them I had similar rituals like counting till twenty when drinking water, turning the lights on and off in my room when going to bed or keep dressing and undressing until I felt I had put my clothes on the ‘right’ way every morning.
Only when those things felt right to me, I could go to sleep or go to school. This could be after twenty times or more attempts of turning the lights on and off or trying to get dressed. You can imagine this was absurdly time consuming and stressful as I couldn’t stop and witnessed how weird I was behaving.
My belief that I should not upset my mother and my shame became so ingrained that when my voice got deeper because of puberty, I would only use my deep voice with peers and talk to my mother with my child’s pitched voice.
I was completely lost. My mother noticed this luckily and immediately told me to just talk normally as I would with my peers and I did so from then on.
Love For Music
I grew up with lots of music and have an intense love for it. Listening to music helped me regulate during this time as it made me feel joyful and alive.
From school till deep into the late night hours in my room I was listening to music and searching for new albums on the internet. Until this day music plays a very special role in my life.
In retrospect my high school years were insanely painful. In a weird way this wasn’t that obvious at the time. Yes, I suffered, but I was already feeling those agonising feelings for so long that it somehow became normal.
I did had friends, and played sports, went to parties and had some fun, but there was always this subtle sadness in the background. Being a social chameleon is a trait probably most INFJ’s could relate to.
In extreme cases it can turn into a mask that you always wear for whatever reason. Wear it for too long and one day it might not even come off.
I would like to end this post with a poem I stumbled upon when reading Marshall B. Rosenberg’s (2003) book: Nonviolent Communication:
Always a mask
Held in the slim hand whitely
Always she had a mask before her face—
Truly the wrist
Holding it lightly
Fitted the task:
Was there a shiver
Ever so slightly—
Holding the mask?
For years and years and years I wondered
But dared not ask
Looked behind the mask,
She had no face.
She had become
Merely a hand
Holding a mask
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Continue to Part 4 of INFJ Male Bio.
Rosenberg, M.B. (2003). Nonviolent Communication: A language of life. United States of America: PuddleDancer Press. Book
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