I recently took the Myers-Briggs personality test and found out that I am an INFP.
What the fuck does that mean?
Yeah. That’s what I said too.
So I Googled the basic traits of INFPs, and I won’t bore you with the details of my personality, but everything I read seemed pretty accurate. So I kept reading until I came to a part in the article that basically said: INFPs comprise only 4% of the population, so no one will ever really understand you, and you’ll probably die alone.
I’ll admit, one half of me was like: Fuck yeah! I’m basically the Loch Ness Monster! While the other half of me was like: Oh. That’s depressing.
The chart was color coded, so personality types that were my ideal match showed up blue, and personalities that were a definite No showed up red, while all the in between-ers were green.
You can probably guess what happened.
Half my chart flared up red like: Fuck everyone! Apparently, my personality doesn’t get along with a whole lot of other personalities. When I compared my chart to everyone else’s, I found that theirs was dominated by lax shades of green, while mine was half red, and kind of green, with only two, very isolated, blue boxes.
I thought: God. Why am I such a difficult person to love?
I mean, I’ll admit, I’ve always preferred people on an individual basis. I’d rather have a few close friends, over a large social circle of acquaintances because I don’t trust group mentalities. Like, there’s just no fucking way that many education majors actually like wearing Uggs, and there’s definitely no way that many bro-dudes truly enjoy maintaining their Hitler Youth haircuts.
Or maybe they do. In which case, I’m sorry.
But my point is this: Jonestown. Scientology. Charles Manson. People who believe Kurt Cobain was a genius…
Like, seriously, fuck groups.
However, the complicated flipside of my deep aversion to groups is that I have always struggled with loneliness. I have always wanted, desperately, to belong somewhere, because I have this constant nagging feeling that I’m both too normal and too weird to actually fit in anywhere.
Now top this feeling off with a reckless need to be universally liked and you’ve located my problem: I want to be popular. I want to be the kind of girl who is un-hate-ably special.
It’s stupid. I want you to know that I know it’s stupid.
But I saw a picture of Taylor Swift in a swan floaty with her current boyfriend (Calvin who?) on Instagram and it had 2,059,243 likes. I remember wondering: What’s it like being that liked?
Of course I know there’s probably a shit ton of crazies who hate Taylor Swift so much that they want to chain her to a pipe in their basement, and god only knows what else. But, at the same time, I highly doubt the few thousand trolls who take a minute to dislike her videos on VEVO are keeping her up at night. Especially after she’s tucked in all four of her multi-platinum albums.
Like, I hate celebrities, and even I love Taylor Swift. So, seriously: What’s it like being that liked?
I think this is a question our generation is always subconsciously asking itself. With the rise of social media, and the phenomenon that is the selfie, there’s more pressure than ever to be liked. It’s no longer just the people we actually know that we’ve got to impress, but also a vast array of people who don’t really know us at all; our followers. (HOW CREEPY IS THAT SHIT WHEN YOU ACTUALLY THINK ABOUT IT?!?!)
This bizarre, narcissistic, cultural shift can be summarized nicely with a quote from John Green’s YA novel An Abundance of Katherines: “Famous is the new popular.”
When I read that line I remember thinking in response: You fucking bet it is.
Because the Internet and reality TV have made fame within everyone’s reach. All you really have to do is convince enough random-ass people to like you—something I’ve been vainly (stupidly) jumping through hoops trying to do for what feels like my entire life up until this point.
I swear to god.
Do you want know how much I have literally invested in being liked?
I mean—I wish I woke up beautiful and likable with smoky mystery girl eyes and an even complexion, but unfortunately, no. My acne has remained steadfast well into young adulthood, and I don’t have eyebrows. So it costs me anywhere from 40 to 60 dollars in cosmetics per month just to compensate for not being Beyoncé.
Then, on top of that, it costs me anywhere from 20 to 100 dollars a month (depending on my income) to run around clad in funky tights and ironic T-shirts because everybody likes an edgy girl with a wardrobe that keeps them on their toes.
Now let me note that 25 dollars is automatically sucked from my bank account every month to pay for a gym where I run on a treadmill like a lab rat testing the Kate Moss theory which says: Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels. (If you’ve ever run 6 mph, for an hour, on a treadmill, then you know that Kate Moss is a fucking liar.) But according to our media, bony chicks are likeable chicks. And who am I to challenge supermodel authority? So I pay monthly to painfully trudge my way to a low BMI.
And, as if this weren’t enough already, add a 99-cent Afterlight app to the bill because likable bitches need 40+ Instagram filters. You think my features are really vivid enough to appear that smooth and glow-y beneath a standard flash? Think again.
Now hit me with at least ten shots of vodka at 5 dollars a glass so I can forget how much I fucking hate myself.
It took me years to realize that overcoming self-hatred doesn’t mean learning how to love yourself.
Really. As much as your Tumblr dashboard wants you to believe it does, it doesn’t.
Because, paradoxically, a lot of self-loathing people are actually pretty pleased with themselves. Seeing other people like little red boxes in a Myers-Briggs compatibility chart, it’s other people that self-loathing people can’t stand. Other people are the ones who won’t give them the recognition or the affection that, for whatever reason, they have the tenacity to believe they deserve.
Overcoming self-hatred does not mean learning how to love yourself.
It means becoming aware of how your self-loathing affects the people around you; the people who give you their time and attention; the people who truly know and love you. Because they’re the ones you shit all over every time you hurt yourself. They’re the ones who wind up feeling like their love isn’t what it should be: Enough.
For the longest time, I didn’t get that.
I was just another monster crying, “More, more, more!” and wondering why everyone had turned into red boxes.
My initial lesson in overcoming self-hatred didn’t happen until I was nineteen.
One year and six months out of high school, I found myself talking to a guy at a party who had graduated two years before me. It was a pretty standard I’m-so-glad-high-school-is-over conversation. We talked about hating it, and everyone. But when I said: “Yeah. I don’t know, I just never felt like anyone really noticed me, or cared about me, so I just kind of embraced it.” He suddenly got real with me. He looked at me and said it dead straight: “Cat. Everybody saw you.”
I was pretty taken aback. I got defensive and retaliated with: “Yeah, but nobody wanted to know me.”
And the moment I said it I realized I was talking to a guy who had a drug dealer for a father and an institutionalized schizophrenic for a mother.
I was such a self-obsessed bitch.
I was a fucking cliché. The wayward woman who couldn’t see anything beyond her own self-induced depression—not one thing beyond the aftermath of the hurricane that was her own self-destruction.
Who the fuck was I to complain about anything?
Everyone was lonely in high school. Nobody really fit in.
How could I have ever possibly believed that this was a real problem?
The wayward woman is everywhere in fiction. Which is probably why (as an English major) I know her well. Honestly, I kind of love her. I mean. Everyone loves her. She’s a smart ass bad bitch of few words. She wears stockings and mini skirts. She stomps out cigarettes with her combat boots, and can’t make up her mind about anything. Then something bad happens to her as a result of her own indecision. And on top of all that, she’s lonely. She’s so goddam lonely…*eye roll*
In Leslie Jameson’s essay, “Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain”, she points out that we love to watch the wayward woman—the beautiful deviant woman—crash and burn at her own accord.
And it’s true.
I can think of at least three iconic wayward women off the top of my head: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Daisy Buchannan, Skins: Generation II’s Effy Stonem, and John Green’s Alaska Young.
What do these three fictional women have in common?
Everybody loved them, but they absolutely hated themselves.
Alaska Young probably killed herself, Effy Stonem tried, and Daisy Buchanan chose to run away with her belligerent asshole of husband—which is a kind of suicide. None of them were ever gentle with themselves, and it made them all very difficult, miserable, people to be around. Because, no matter what, what they had was never enough. And it showed.
I don’t mean to be harsh, but maybe these three women’s problems had nothing to do with being misunderstood or lonely. Maybe the real problem was that none of them knew how to take a minute to get the fuck over themselves and appreciate what they had.
Or maybe I’m just projecting—I’m probably just projecting—because I’ve recently realized that my greatest struggle has, and probably always will be, getting the fuck over myself. Because getting over myself means finally shutting the hell up about my petty problems and taking a minute to say thank you to… Life? The universe? The way things are? Whatever. It just means doing something that shows gratitude.
Because shit’s really not that bad for me: I have a button nose, straight teeth, a critical mind, a sense of humor, passion; a burning itch in my brain that drags me out of bed every morning and makes me do what I love despite the fact that in the end, I might be the only person who ever really gives a shit about it.
Regardless, I’m lucky. It took me forever to realize it, but I’m so lucky to live in a reality where that passionate feeling is possible, because so many don’t. So many live in a reality where survival is their lifelong struggle.
Not just hoping to be liked. Not just scribbling words down on a piece of paper and hoping somebody will like it. But hoping that they won’t starve, or someone won’t abuse them, or that they’ll wake up in a body opposite of the one they were born in, or that they won’t be the subject of a hate crime…
See, hope’s a real bitch to a lot of people. There are so many hopeless realities that I will never even have to struggle with—hardships that I’ll never even be able to comprehend. The least I can do is not be one more ungrateful bitch.
So I admit it: I’m lucky. And now, when I say my biggest struggle out loud, like: I wish more people liked me. I wish I was special. I might as well be saying: I once drove for forty-minutes with a Big Gulp between my legs because I overestimated the size of my cup holder, and the insides of my thighs went numb. #MyStruggle
Like, that’s just not a real problem. So what if half my compatibility chart lights up red like a Christmas tree, so what if I don’t have good people skills, or this weird made-up thing called likability. I’ve still got a whole lot.
And the fact that I can admit this, and the fact that I know my struggle is getting over myself, doesn’t mean that I’m no longer selfish, and it definitely doesn’t mean that I’m never ungrateful. But it does mean that I’m open.
Admitting my faults, and that I haven’t experienced everything—and I probably never will—has made me open to other people and their stories; their realities. I learned how to listen and understand; I became receptive to the struggles of others…
So here’s my major point: We get so caught up in our own problems that we forget how to listen when other people try opening up about theirs. Instead of making a true attempt at understanding, and making a hurting person feel heard, we turn it into a pissing contest of who’s been hurt worse; who’s got the harder life; who’s really earned that chip on their shoulder.
I don’t want to do that anymore; I don’t want any of us to do that anymore.
The Oxford English Dictionary defined “struggle” as: “A strong effort to continue to breathe.”
And I thought: Isn’t that just another way of defining the human condition?
Then, like a bag lady on a street corner, I answered my own question: Yeah. It is.
We’re all making a strong effort to “continue to breathe” everyday.
Of course some days are easier or harder than others…but it’s there. We all struggle. We all overcome things. We all fail to overcome things too. It’s just a matter of time. Nobody’s life is easy. It’s not really whether you fail or succeed that counts, it’s how you handle it. So.
What are you going to do about it?
Tell me and I’ll listen.
This post was written for my friend’s lifestyle brand Struggle & Co. Check out his site and share your struggle @ http://www.struggleandco.com/ or by using the hashtag #MYSTRUGGLE ☻