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What I'm Tripping Over Myself to Tell You, and What it Means

Tuesday April 14, 2020

I thought I’d take a moment to step into the “world’s dumbest guy” shoes today, because sometimes that’s healthy.

I’ve learned to see some value in trying not to be an INTJ or any other type. The idea is to give some of yourself up so you can have a bit more space for the best the world can offer. In one way, I’ll always be an INTJ. In other ways though, it’s best to hold that model lightly. I wrote about this a bit in the introduction to the COVID-19 Guide I just published.

So in order to not be INTJ, I find it helps to be able to call yourself dumb, or to take a dumb perspective, and periodically move out of the self-protection mode. If you can do this, you can finally learn some of the stuff you’d always hoped you could. It’s weird that way. Or at least that’s what I’ve discovered.

As a group, INTJs don’t like this. “We” don’t like me saying this. As I write this, a part of me is also saying that it doesn’t like me saying this. It’s a very quiet voice by now. But when I was younger, it was often the loudest, most prominent voice: “Are you crazy? Don’t give anybody anything but the best of yourself! Believe! Project that strength! Protect yourself!” (Tangentially, can you imagine with me what this kind of thinking could do to a vulnerable relationship?)

As a group, you see, we INTJs are often caught studying to become legendary. (Here I would note that some of us are nowhere near ready to call ourselves dumb, so we shoot for the opposite and that’s OK. This dumb-stuff is not an exercise for people who are struggling with questions of personal value—I’ll let you judge where you’re at.)

But being legendary doesn’t work out in the way our conscious cultural hive-mind wants us to think it does.

Quite the opposite: It turns out that we also need to embrace becoming, and appreciating, poop.

Legendary does not come to us by becoming something. You want to become legendary? Then every legendary part of you will have to die. If you’re not ready for that and you still want to become legendary, you might as well go make action movies because you’ll be living in one giant fiction anyway.

(And what is this “legendary” stuff anyway? Isn’t it funny how easy it is to pick up such a word, and run with it as if it’s unquestionably good? It’s questionably good, if anything!)

This led me to reflect on my experiences with people who project wealth, power, knowledge, wisdom, and experience. People who would love nothing more than to make you feel like you’re great, we’re all great, but simultaneously less than, them.

Hmm!

Believe it or not, some of these people seek out coaches, therapists, psychiatrists…(Why would they do that? It makes no logical sense given the typical social view of who these people are.)

We love calling these people “narcissists” these days. But sadly that’s just not good enough. Part of them is part of us. There’s so much displacement in this label. IMO we need to go a bit deeper.

So, for starters: Here’s what some of them have taught me. Each statement conceals Meaning:

I’m wealthy and powerful! I have it all.

Meaning: I’m fundamentally running from a sense of poverty. I’m deathly afraid of being stepped on, metaphorically speaking. This could all collapse in a moment. And the truth is, I am even more afraid that if such a thing happened I wouldn’t care at all. Because if I don’t care, then what was I working toward? It could mean I made a huge mistake, one that I can’t even fathom. That’s scary and embarrassing.

I did it all by myself. You have to look out for number one.

Meaning: I built everything I’ve ever done on the ideas, generosity, and charity of other people. I’m worried that I’m pretty much an empty shell of a person who has never had an original idea or creation.

I’m also afraid that I’m terrible at caring for other people. I’m a failure at relationships.

I’ve read all the latest and best books.

Meaning: I wish I had my own really cool ideas about things. Wouldn’t that be incredible? My vapid intellect is one of the great shames of my life, when it comes down to it. Why haven’t I lived up to my potential?

I know what you should do. I can tell you everything you need to do.

Meaning: I’m not really listening to you. And I wish I could better control myself and my habits. I’m afraid I won’t be able to leave my mark on the world.

I have more experience than you.

Meaning: Every day I fear that the knowledge of these past experiences will slip away. Also, I never really got the recognition I wanted. And I shouldn’t have to listen to what you’re saying, because that’s hard and I’d like to think I “solved” that part of my life. If I didn’t…well, I couldn’t handle that thought.

Conclusion

While brief, this was a good exercise for me. Why? Because sometimes I’m also that guy.

But also, sometimes I’m not. Sometimes it’s you, or that person over there. And the topic deserves attention, among INTJs. Otherwise we’ll keep taking ourselves way too seriously, and inflexibly, and this can only hurt us.

Do you ever celebrate your weakness?

…can you?

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