On the Need to Be Myself

I’m going to take a break from my Shadow Function series and take a moment to reflect (Like what I was already writing wasn’t reflection).

I frequently watch YouTuber Nerdwriter1, who creates video essays that critique and praise different ideas and styles of culture. I recently found a video he made back in 2012: a critique on a recent (recent to him) essay from the New York Times concerning hipsters and ironic living. While the points both the New York Times writer and Evan (Nerdwriter1) make are valid (The argument of “ironic living isn’t meaningful living” vs. Evan’s argument of “it isn’t right to judge anyone based how they seem to live”), I want to explore the idea of ironic living a little more (do go check out both links for yourself as well).

Personally, I cannot live ironically. As an INFP with Introverted Feeling at the helm of my personality, I emphasize my core values, ideals, morals, and beliefs over other aspects of my personality. That’s not to say I haven’t ever participated in a cultural style or behavior to please others. We all want to be liked by other people; I don’t know anyone who disagrees with that ideal or seeks to evade it.

I will reinstate that I am not judging anybody, “hipster” or not. I can’t characterize anyone by external stereotypes when everyone probably has their own sincere motivations for the ways they go about their lives. It’s unfair to look at everyone who lives by a single style and critique them as a group. I want to emphasize that I am only critiquing the unrealistic idea that some people purely live ironically without internal motivation, for instance, it could just be a hobby, which would be an example of a justifiable internal motivation. As I’ve said before, no INFP is 100% Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, or Perceiving. We’d be mentally insane if our personalities were purely archetypes of thinking.

Not to set myself or my ways of living higher than others, but I do have a need to be myself. I don’t like living in ways that seek to please others or be seen by others, ironic or not. Like many INFPs, most of my life has been a means of self-discovery. I care deeply about my inner morals and values. In an ironic way (one unrelated to ironic living), my personality has led me to needing to know my personality. I like the things I like, because I like them. I don’t watch the movies I watch to say that I’ve seen all of the Lord of the Rings movies; I don’t listen to music I listen to just to impress my friends with the lyrics I can quote.

Of course, in order to fully understand one’s taste, one must engage in activities or media that other people like. Part of me is typed by the tastes of society, and the other part of me is typed by personal tastes.

I genuinely like shows and movies like Doctor Who and Sherlock, books like the Mysterious Benedict Society and the Giver, and American foods like pizza, burgers, root beer, and apple pie. I like all of these things because those things are actually good and worthy of being liked. There are many people with those same tastes, and I often praise the things I like to friends and family who haven’t seen or read those things in order that they may enjoy the good content I enjoy.

However, part of me is typed by the need to be unique. While I think that my need to be unique is only me immaturely trying to find “myself” and my tastes, it could be ironic living. While other people live ironically for the people around them, I want to be unique for personal reasons, such that, I don’t want to conform to the ideals and styles of the world. In my need to be unique, apart from society, I am relieved to find that some things I do enjoy to engage in are unique and deviant. Still, I want to live in my own meaningful manner. Maybe I am living ironically when I am trying to live meaningfully, and if so, I hope that I will mature in my style of living as I grow older.

While part of me seeks to find good content and “type” myself through means other people also type themselves, and while another part of me wants to be deviant from society, part of me is still typed by personal tastes and values that don’t fit in with the need to engage in good content or the need to be unique. Sometimes I am just unique, and I don’t really prize myself or my personality in it. I am excited to discover more aspects of my personality and tastes.

The photo associated with this post is of one of the posters for the movie “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”, a movie I have praised a few times on this blog. I have said many times that I feel that the main character, Walter Mitty, who is played by Ben Stiller, is definitely INFP. His quiet nature, awkward but human mannerisms, and even his obnoxious daydreams are all similar characteristics of an INFP. The movie isn’t one of my all-time favorites because it’s about a character who thinks and acts like I do and literally sees the world in a warped or trippy way I see it everyday. It’s my all-time favorite movie because it’s about a man with a mundane life who breaks the bondage of his boring but highly imaginative life and enters a reality eerily similar to his previous dreams. Thus, Walter Mitty begins to live a life of adventure and self-discovery. “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” speaks especially to INFPs in two ways: Our dreams are possible if we are willing to actually break out of our comfort zones, and we can’t discover ourselves if we don’t go and live life. Walter Mitty not only lives the life he could only dream about, he also discovered more about himself and his profound abilities during his adventure.

I still seek to be unique and discover myself, and I still fail miserably at trying not to live ironically. Sometimes I try to be unique to impress others, which is shallow of me. However, I do not want to live in way solely for other people. I engage in the activities I engage in because I like them. Part of me is happy to already be unique because of my tastes, but part of me is depressed that not everyone enjoys the things I enjoy, and no matter how hard I convince friends they will enjoy a certain book or movie, I’m often left alone in my tastes. Of course, that should speak to the individuality of everyone, not just me, but because I am a unique individual, that means I’m a lonely individual. Perhaps that’s the price of nonconformity. I want to make my own individual choices, choices that allow me to indulge in things I actually like. However, sometimes I am alone in those decisions. I’m not the only person who wants to live a more meaningful life, one that isn’t guided by the whims and trends of popular culture, but such people like me are scarce, or at least, unpopular. I’m happy to live with family and friends who are not guided by the whims of society, but it’s depressing that the rest of society often appears so shallow to us introverts and INFPs.

I don’t know if any of you INFPs or introverts struggle with trying to be unique and trying to live meaningfully. However, still, as an INFP, I need to be myself. I’m guided by my own morals, values, and ideals. Like Walter Mitty, I am still on a journey of self-discovery. I don’t want to live a mundane, shallow life. I doubt I will ever truly find myself until the end of the long journey of life, but that doesn’t mean I can’t live meaningfully right now.


One Comment Add yours

  1. I always look forward to your posts and this one like the others never fails to impress me. I loved the thoughts you had and as I always say- I agree. I feel the exact same way. I tried talking to my ISFJ parents earlier about my perfect society or commune as they said but they just kept trying to give me logic on why it wouldn’t work. So frustrating to have your inner dream world come out and be shot down. Anyways I digress. Thanks for the post.


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