Friday, April 4, 2014

Selfish Altruism

                Personalities are strange complicated things. I don’t understand why we have them. Is it genetic? I’m sure that has something to do with it. But I’m sure there is also a significant amount of social factors in it as well. Having taken many personality tests I have decided that the MBTI is the best description I can find for at least my personality as well as my close friends. Also the MBTI is the only test I've actually taken where I sat down and paid money for it (it was for a class so I had to take it). Well that was when I was a sophomore or junior in college a long time ago, and I was significantly younger (17 or 18, who knows and who really cares). While taking the test I had not yet really developed fully as a person, and also I had no knowledge of the test prior to it. So when I answered the questions I answered them without much bias and without reading into the questions so much. I got my results back and tested INFJ. I was happy because the results described me perfectly! I was also very upset because my list of suggested careers included: social worker, religious clergy, teacher, dentist, counselor, etc… As a young physics major none of these appealed to me, and I was so sad to be “stuck” with a personality belonging to the social sciences. I guess it’s no secret that most in the physical sciences look down upon the social sciences questioning if they can even really be called “science”. Even within the hard sciences you have a pride competition on who is the most useful or the purest of all the subjects. So for me as a cocky youngster, I could never dream of “lowering myself” to one of these petty careers. Little did I know that a few years later I would half regret my decision. I love the field I’m in, but often times wish I would have gone into psychology and counseling.

If you know anything about the MBTI then you would know the INTJ is known as the scientist. I was borderline INFJ/INTJ and I thought that maybe I was some kind of hybrid. I've looked deeper into the personalities and the details behind the letters, and I am definitely an INFJ. If you are also on the edge of deciding which you are, or if you think you are a “hybrid” I would suggesting reading this page. If you are an INFJ and decided to study or pursue a career in the sciences then you are not alone! There are advantages and disadvantages to our personality in the field, but that is a discussion for another day. Today I want to discuss the one part of an INFJ that one probably recognizes the easiest: extraverted feeling. INFJs are introverts, we love to think to ourselves and have time for ourselves. We love to have freedom to do as we please, and hate social commitments. We don’t like to be in the spotlight, don’t like to be publicized, and don’t like to be in large groups of people where it prevents us from one on one interactions. (Aside: At this point I will stop using the term “we” and use the term “I” or “me” because I can’t speak for everyone, just for myself.) Despite my introverted nature I have this innate extraverted feeling. It’s something I often wish I could turn off, but I can’t. What it means is that I feel what other people are feeling. I can sense people’s motives, and I can read people without realizing it. I have often come to quick judgments about some people throughout my life and been criticized for it. Then months later I end up being right about my analysis of the person. So this sounds awesome, one might ask why I would ever want to turn it off?

Well first off I do recognize it as who I am. I am happy with who I am, and if given the choice would probably not want to change. But there are issues I deal with every day that most people have no clue about. So let me describe a little of this extraverted feeling that happens in my life. When I watch a TV show I am the character. If someone is being tortured I “feel” the pain they are feeling. Watching breaking bad was one of the most depressing parts of my life because I was always trying to connect to the characters. I could never sympathize with any of them, but yet I was always rooting for the main characters. I hated myself because I was disgusted by how selfish and stupid all of the characters were. But yet I would end the show always feeling so depressed because the story in of itself is so depressing. I love war movies and TV shows, but so many times I watch them and remember that I would hate being a soldier. The fact that it is not any individual soldier’s fault they are in a war is what is so sad. Every soldier is afraid to die, but every soldier is ordered to kill. War truly is hell, and I feel so sorry for anyone who has ever had to participate in any way. If you are sick, I won’t be satisfied until I have done everything for you that I would have wished you did for me. It’s a favor to let me go buy you medicine, get you a drink, or make you food because I can’t sleep until I know there’s nothing more I can do to help. Even then I probably can’t sleep because I can’t stop thinking about the pain you are in. Sometimes this can make me come off annoying or way too involved so I apologize it’s just my instincts.

Many people might describe me as kind hearted, altruistic, or just a super nice guy. What they don’t know is that I’m really not all that nice. Everything I do that is nice is actually to make ME feel better. I do things because I’m always thinking in other people’s shoes. I always think “I wonder how he/she would/does feel about this” and act according to what would make them the happiest. Through this I gain happiness because when others are happy I am happy. So sure I might be altruistic. I do some things that normal people wouldn't do. I have very much a martyr personality where I will gladly put myself into a bad situation to get someone else out. Sometimes I take the blame for things that weren't my fault because I know the person at fault already has enough to deal with. So yes all these actions and thoughts are altruistic, but are they really? Why do I do anything that I do? It’s because I feel better doing it or have some sense of relief by doing it. I do some things because I would feel too guilty not doing it. If someone is cleaning, I feel the need to help them clean. Not because I want to help them clean, but because I feel guilty because the lazy POS who’s not cleaning. So really I don’t have such a selfless nature after all.

So you’re probably wondering why I’m writing this as it sounds like a horrible attack on me and my personality. It’s not meant to be like that; it’s more just a way to express how I feel all the time. Sometimes you see a really nice person and you might say “gee I wish I was like them.” That’s very well-intentioned, but often times we are so quick to look at others and compare them to ourselves. I do this all the time. But that’s not really fair; I’m very different from them. The funny thing is I look at people who are bossy and always get what they want. Then I think to myself “gee I wish I was like them.” Often times I put others above myself when I really shouldn't. But as I've grown older and learned to put myself first it feels like I’m losing a part of my soul. It’s a living hell where I feel awful not helping everyone, but by doing so I don’t get the help I need. There is a balance which we all need to reach, and each of us needs to determine the balance that’s best for ourselves. I just want to express that just because you’re not a naturally sensitive person doesn't make you a bad person. Some people might find you unpleasant to be around, but trust me as a sensitive person there are plenty of people that find me just as unpleasant. That’s just a social thing you’ll have to learn in time, which is ok.

So really I just want to say that everyone is different. We all have different personalities and struggles. When each person is compared to another there will always be strengths and weaknesses. The important thing is to stop comparing ourselves to others, and looking at what we are and what we can be. If we compare ourselves to others it hurts us in two ways. First: we may look at someone who is better than us at something. If that’s the case we hurt ourselves by “trying to be like them” rather than trying to improve that part of ourselves. Second: if we see something that were better at than others often times we become relaxed and stop trying. That can be dangerous because if it’s something we really do wish to improve upon we are crippling our growth. So in closing I guess the main point I want to get across is that it’s fine to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. In fact it’s probably fair to say that most of us don’t do this nearly enough. But when we do we should remember that we live in our own shoes, and that’s ok. Some struggle with problems unseen, and to judge another person without knowledge of these struggles is extremely ignorant. We just need to remember our own struggles too, because to ignore our own hidden struggles would be just a ignorant. We all deserve to accept who we are.

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