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Growing up, I was a young introvert and had low self-esteem. I tried to shut people out to protect myself.

I knew very early on in life that I am very empathetic and sensitive in nature.

But I was afraid that other people might abuse my kind nature, so I kept to myself most of the time.

This was especially true when I was in the primary and secondary level. I studied in all-boys schools, and most students were more active and playful than I would like them to be.

You can’t shut yourself out from the extroverted world.

However, ever since I came out to work, I realized that shutting myself out from the extroverted world isn’t the most effective way to lead my life. How I wish I could daydream all day, and not care about what’s happening in the physical world, but that’s not very practical. No matter what I do, I still need to communicate with others.

I know it feels super comfortable for an introvert to be alone and do our own work. But the biggest growth that an introvert would ever experience in life is when we learn how to interact with the extroverted world. So as part of my 2016 Self-Love Project (January’s theme: Know Yourself), I’ll be sharing what I had about learned about being an introvert in an extroverted world.

You Don’t Have to Pretend to Be an Extrovert

First and foremost, I want to say that learning how to interact with the extroverted world doesn’t mean you have to be an extrovert. If you don’t like to be the center of the attraction, don’t be. If you don’t enjoy making small talks, don’t do it. If you need time to recharge, take it. Don’t try to be an extrovert when you are not.

Being an introvert or an extrovert is neither good nor bad. In fact, everyone has both introverted and extroverted sides. Introversion is just experiencing the world inwardly, while extraversion is just experiencing the world outwardly.

Contrary to what most believe, introverts do have an extroverted side too.

Introverts are just more in touch with their inner world than the outer world as compared to the extroverts. That’s why we are called introverts. It’s doesn’t mean we don’t need to talk to others. It just means we need less of it compared to extroverts. Introverts spend more time in their inner world, and the inner world tends to be more concealed and less known to other people. So others find it more difficult to understand introverts.

But how do we relate to the extroverted world without sacrificing our introverted nature?

What is Your Extraverted Gift?

After studying Myers Briggs Types (MBTI) in-depth, I realized that different introverts navigate the extroverted world differently. There are four ways in which introverts interact with the outer world and each introvert has strength in one of these four ways. I called it our “Extraverted Gift”.

Without being too technical here, there are eight Jungian cognitive functions. Each Myers-Briggs Type (MBTI) has all these eight functions but in a different order. The first two functions, known as Dominant and Auxiliary, are our strongest functions. Often times, they are our biggest strengths. Since we are introverts, our dominant function is always an introverted function. Our auxiliary function, which is our second strongest strength, will always be an extroverted function to compensate for our needs to interact with the outer world.

Below are the four extraverted gifts that introverts have as their auxiliary function:

  • Extraverted Feeling (INFJ and ISFJ)
  • Extraverted Thinking (INTJ and ISTJ)
  • Extraverted Intuition (INFP and INTP)
  • Extraverted Sensing (ISFP and ISTP)

As introverts, we tend to neglect our auxiliary function because extroversion isn’t something that we are comfortable with. But that is also our biggest area of growth. Once we master our auxiliary function, it opens us up to the outer world and we would be able to get the best of both worlds.

This week, I’ll be discussing extraverted feeling first because I am an INFJ and I could relate to extraverted feeling the most.

Extraverted Feeling (Fe)

As an INFJ, my extraverted gift is an extraverted feeling which is my empathetic nature. From young, I could easily feel what other people were feeling. People always share their problems with me, not because I give them the best solution. It’s because I listen to them patiently. I give them the freedom to talk about their feelings without feeling judged.

Extraverted feelers enjoy helping other people. I had an animation friend from the US. He is an ISFJ. His auxiliary function is also an extraverted feeling. He is very helpful and reliable. Whenever my colleagues and I have technical issues in animation, we will ask him for help and he will always be there to help and share his knowledge. Similar to him, when I was an accountant, I also enjoyed helping and sharing my knowledge with other colleagues, more so than doing accounts.

Harmony is important to us.

My friends and I are both soft-spoken and accommodating. We are always willing to follow the group’s decision. Not because we don’t have our own values or preferences. It’s because we love to take care of other people’s needs and feelings. Harmony is important to us. Sometimes, we would rather sacrifice our own needs than to have a dispute with others.

But that’s also the biggest problem for extraverted feelers. We tend to forget our own needs. If we keep serving other people’s needs and neglect our own, we will start to feel resentful and overwhelmed. And especially our extraverted gift is not as strong as our introverted, dominant function, we really need time alone to recharge and do what we love.

We adjust ourselves according to the social setting like a chameleon.

Because we are so good at understanding other people’s feelings, sometimes people misunderstood that we are just like them or we agree with their point of view. As an extroverted feeler, I do understand what the other party is feeling at the moment and I can see their point of view, but that doesn’t mean that I think what they do is right and would do the same. Some people just don’t realize that.

How to Master Extraverted Feeling (Fe)?

Last September, I went to Bali for an entrepreneur incubator program and one mentor gave each of us something to work with. Mine is about opening up and sharing my vulnerabilities. She was absolutely right about that – that’s something I needed to work on.

Don’t let your need for harmony prevents you from sharing what you care about.

In the past, I tend not to open up because I wanted to protect myself and prevent myself from getting hurt. However, doing so also prevented me from using my extraverted gift.

Even though preserving social harmony is important for us extraverted feelers, we need to express our feelings and opinions more. Because it’s our strength. Sharing different opinions doesn’t mean we have to start an argument with others. We just need to learn how to express our opinions in a loving and caring manner that is true to our empathetic nature.

By far, the biggest thing that extraverted feelers need to learn is to set healthy boundaries with others. Having higher standards for ourselves and learning how to say “no” to others is very beneficial for us. We need to know that when we are in a group setting, our needs are just as important as everyone else’s needs. It is part of building our self-worth.

Know when to say “no” to others.

Also, setting healthy boundaries means surrounding ourselves with loving and caring people and distance ourselves from people who are constantly angry and complaining. Since we pick up other people’s emotions easily and that affects how we feel inside, we have to be careful who we surround ourselves with.

Extraverted feelers naturally enjoy talking to people, so communicating with others isn’t that much of a problem. For us, it’s more about choosing the right people to connect with and knowing what and how much we can accommodate. Once we are able to master the art of setting healthy boundaries with others, we will be able to navigate the extroverted world with greater ease.

I’m still working on this. I’ll probably dedicate a month to this as part of my 2016 Self-Love Project.

Next week, I’ll be sharing my insights on the other three extraverted gifts.

Featured Photo Credit: We Felt Infinite / Shanon Wise