Years ago I was in a terribly damaging relationship. In order to get things right I sought out a therapist, hoping to gain perspective, which ultimately I did and then some. The process wasn't easy but nothing worthwhile ever is. Most of all, I used the opportunity to focus on myself rather than the failing relationship which I could only partially control.
Throughout the process a few exercises really hit home. Silly as it may sound, first was the Myers Briggs personality test. After taking the test, I learned I was INFJ (Introversion, Intuition, Feeling, Judging), the rarest type, joining only 1% of the population. INFJ's are known for being highly intuitive, vision and meaning oriented and quietly intense. We are insightful, creative, sensitive, serious, persevering and inspiring. INFJ's seek harmony and love language and symbols.
Seeing my personality spelled out in such detail was pretty amazing. In years past, I thought I enjoyed conflict because I was always at it's center but the results explained how awful I am with conflict, unable to cope when it comes my way, spinning into a frenzy. Learning I need to avoid it at all costs was incredibly helpful.
My profile also described me as a bit of a loner and one who tends to feel misunderstood, which I've experienced so many times in relationships. It felt great to know my feelings were justified and not necessarily my fault. Another point spoke to being in a constant state of growth which explains my unrest for the mundane and daily search for opportunities to learn and challenge myself.
Describe Me in Five Words
During another session my therapist asked, "What do those closest think of you?" I honestly had no idea and it was terrifying to even consider but the question sparked my curiosity. I decided to solicit my closest friends and family by asking each of them to describe me in five words. They could use positives or negatives but must be truthful (and I would do my best not to be offended). Here's what they came up with:
Intelligent & Witty (2)
Free Spirited (2)
Well Traveled (2)
Hearing the way my friends and family spoke of me was truly eye-opening. I didn't know myself as many of those things until I saw them written on paper. The negatives helped me focus on areas where I needed work. I thought, who better to help you improve than those who know you best?
Friends Make the World Go Round
One of the most valuable lessons learned while in therapy was that of friendship. Everyone in your life serves a specific purpose and not one human can fulfill all your needs. In the past, there have been countless moments when my expectations weren't met. I'd typically respond with passive aggressive behavior, eventually leading to silent treatment that could go on for months. I would feel hurt and frustrated that friends didn't show up or behave a certain way.
Therapy helped me realize each friend has a specific duty. I was expecting my 'drunk party friend' to be my 'thoughtful shoulder-crying friend' and life just doesn't work that way. Once I realized not everyone can be everything to me, my friendships gained a much needed freedom (and I definitely lost a few losers along the way). In the end, you can't expect someone to change when they show you who they are every day.
Dig deep. Investigate who you are on the inside and really challenge yourself to be a better human. You'll go through horrible times and act in ways you wish you hadn't but the point isn't to punish yourself forever, it's to move forward and learn from your mistakes. Life is short, so keep that fire in your belly and be good to yourself (and others).