⭐️ This week’s member interview is with Susan Strasser, an INFJ from Frederick, Maryland (USA).
Susan hadn’t done the Myers-Briggs test before our written/podcast interviews, but she since has done and informed me that she was an INFJ.
🎙 After reading today’s interview you can also listen in on our follow-up podcast conversation. You’ll find the link at the bottom.
Hey Susan, it’s nice to meet you. Can we begin by finding out where in the world you currently reside? Is this also where you grew up?
Frederick, MD, USA, but I grew up a couple of counties away in Lanham, MD, USA.
Do you remember what you were like as a child?
VERY introverted at times, which I felt self-conscious about, which unfortunately combined with my low self-esteem... so there were definitely some rough spots.
But my introverted times also left me with terrific childhood memories of hours of imaginative play with my Matchbox cars in dirt and dust towns I’d create in our backyard, or the sing-songs I’d make up as children do.
I’m so glad that you have some good memories. I used to love playing with my toys, and dreaming up imaginary scenarios for myself and my younger brother.
What was school like for you? And how were your teenage years as a whole?
A real roller coaster ride!
I actually hated it at first and convinced my mother that I did not want to go to preschool, I cried so much when she took me, she finally let me stop going. I’ll never forget a neighbor kid teasing me, calling me a preschool drop out! I was 4 or 5. But in retrospect, it was pretty cool my Mom saw that preschool wasn’t a good fit for me.
I am headstrong, and she knew I was going to kindergarten next year anyway.
Similar issues resurfaced in 1st grade, where I refused to enter the school building.
My older sister got the teacher to come out and finally get me to enter.
When I look back at these times, I think they really speak to introversion and public schools (as they’re called in America) or that institutions do not serve introverted children well. We are surrounded by other people ALL day, and are supposed to accept that.
For some reason, I really enjoyed middle school. A lot of people say this is the most difficult age, but one of my teachers made me feel very welcome and we’re still friends to this day and she came to my wedding!
High school was rough at times, because every year I went to a different one. Long story short, I still have one good friend from that era in my life and we can laugh about it now. I found a lot of refuge in rock music, impressionable movies, my musician friends, and song lyrics inside cassette and CD covers. Poets like Bono and Peter Gabriel taught me about writing.
Thank you for being so open with regards to your time at school. You know, come to think of, I had a tough time adjusting to school, and my mum tells me that - the first time I went to nursery - I cried and cried and didn’t want my mum to disappear. I think new environments were not what I wanted at all thank you very much…
What words, or phrases, would you use to describe your current self?
Kind. Secretly affirming. Funny. Silly. Intelligent. Well-hydrated. Dancer. Writer. Bus Driver. Hugger. Tree Hugger. Napper (love a good 10-minute power nap!)
And when did you first realise that you were an introvert? How did this happen?
In individual therapy years ago with my beloved therapist. We were talking about shyness and introversion and she pointed out that they are not synonymous. I didn’t know that! Also, I think it's important to remember that introversion and extroversion are not mutually exclusive...for myself, I am an introvert, but definitely exhibit some extrovert tendencies sometimes. It's a grey area.
Are you an INFP or an INFJ?*
I am probably an INFP or ISFJ, based on some basic research I did on the Myers-Briggs website.
And when did you first do the Myers-Briggs test and realise you were an INFP/ISFJ?*
I have not done the test (gasp!) but I know from what I read, research and discuss with friends that the first two rows of the Personality Types for Introversion, specifically the ones with F (feeling), really suit me.
And I love the trait of “writing” in INFP (obviously) and “quietly warm” and “stable” in ISFJ. These are me to a T!
[Since our interview, Susan has taken the Myers-Briggs personality test and came out as an INFJ]
Oh, that’s interesting. Has discovering your type impacted you in any way? If so, how?
Tremendously. It validates my current career choices to blog, bus driver and parent. I used to work one full-time job and it drained me physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Teaching is better suited to extroverts in my opinion!
I think about one of my new favorite writers, Austin Kleon, and how he says he asks himself “Do I like how my days look?”As an INFJ, the gig economy works for me.
What qualities do you feel INFs share?
Well, introversion, intuition, and feelings for starters, obviously. The need to regenerate and refresh alone. Quality solitude.
And what were your favourite subjects at school?
Art, Writing, History
What are you spending your time on at the moment?
Completing this interview lol.
Getting myself known as a writer, via my blog and pursuing guest blogs. My blog’s theme is Grow*Heal*Change, and my time on the open road, or at home with my cats, my husband, and my kids (instead of grading papers several nights a week) continues to help me heal from massive life changes two years ago.
I love the sound of the theme. I hope it’s all proceeding nicely. So you mentioned a couple of big life changes… can you tell us a little more about these?
Yes, November 2017. My father died. I was a burnt-out teacher, and a few weeks later, I gave a month’s notice to leave at Christmas.
I pretty much turned my work and personal worlds upside down! But God bless myself and my husband, we’re all the better for it in 2020.
I’m still making a lot of changes all the time to my work and personal life.
Those big changes allowed me to be less scared to continue to keep changing.
Thanks so much for sharing these. I can relate to having a hard time making changes, especially of the significant kind.
So you’ve mentioned one already… but do you have a preferred creative/artistic outlet? Can you tell us a bit about this?
Writing! For sure, forever and always. I have been keeping journals and writing down my thoughts since I was a child. I have moved many times over the years, and sometimes I wish that I’d kept all those, but at different points, I threw them out and recycled most of them.
Jim Morrison once said that he found it very freeing to get rid of his old diaries and notebooks, and I agree.
I write daily Monday-Friday in my daily prayer and meditation.
Right now I write new blogs weekly.
Last year, I wrote my memoirs.
I’ve also written hundreds of poems in my life.
And technology! Speech-to-text has revolutionized recording the Muse when she shows herself. I can be at a red light, hit that microphone icon, and get that poem or thought down! Wonderful.
I love that you record yourself when ‘The Muse’ strikes :) That’s awesome. Would you describe yourself as a 'highly sensitive person', or an empath?
Yes. This makes life difficult sometimes, because society likes to tell you that you’re overreacting, but I have to stay true to myself. SO important, but it's scary.
Currently, I have to deal with some sexism and chauvinism at one of my jobs, and it's so stressful for me sometimes. But I have to do it. It's not okay for me not to do it!
But high sensitivity makes for great writing, too, sometimes, which I’m grateful for.
And do you have a personal definition of 'success'? What does being 'successful' look like to you?
Being successful means being able to be happy and look back at my day the next morning, and be happy about how it went. Perhaps I squeezed in a nice couple of things for myself the evening before, had some laughs putting my kids to bed, and grabbed a little time with my husband on the couch.
Also, I seek financial serenity.
‘Financial serenity’ - I love that phrase…
Thank you. I borrowed it from somewhere, but don’t remember where.
What about 'happiness' - do you have a personal recipe for that?
Work! I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but you have to be able to do the spiritual, mental, physical, and emotional work to be happy. Self-care is the foundation for caring for others. For me, this means some basics: always having a glass of water going, which I sip or gulp from off and on all day.
That prayer and meditation time I mentioned.
12-step meetings about twice a week.
Bottom line: doing my best.
Being the best Human Being I can be, Wife, Mother, Bus Driver, Blogger...for starters. Friend, Colleague, Writer, etc.too!
Also I’m working more on relaxing in 2020. Pun intended.
Letting myself do nothing for minutes at a time sometimes. This is huge for me. I’m a recovering workaholic and control freak, but sometimes I need to just “be.”
Something I’ve heard in meetings: Don’t just do something, sit there. Love it!
Oh, I can so relate to being a recovering workaholic and control freak. Giving myself time to just be is so important, and a work in progress!
Do you like to plan things, or are you more of a go-with-the-flow type of person? (Or, perhaps, a little bit of both?)
I like to plan out basic chunks of the day (1-3 hour increments) and then let the flow occur.
What does your 'perfect Sunday' (or Saturday) look like?
Sleeping in a little.
Coffee with a girlfriend in the morning.
Some time out in the yard with my husband and kids around. Chilling and enjoying
the fruits of our labor, probably by myself afterwards.
Date Night to culminate the day.
Ah, that sounds lovely :) Is there anything you've read, watch or listened to recently, that you've loved?
“The Next Right Thing” from Frozen II.
Old Sex and The City episodes.
The Education of an Idealist by Samantha Power.
Speaking of which, do you have any favourite blogs or podcasts?
Your INF one of course: http://Infclub.substack.com
Oh, yes, I know that Amanda is a fellow INF from Frederick, MD, too. I’ve talked to her a couple of times, and I’m hoping to interview her on INF Club, too :)
How about favourite movies or TV shows? Anything you've seen recently that you'd recommend?
My old favorites include (but are not limited to!)This is Us (those Pearsons are like so many of us, struggling with being their best selves. They work really hard at it),
Star Wars (especially Rogue One), and the Big Bang Theory.
If you could go back in time and meet "you" back in 2010, is there any advice that you'd give this younger self?
Buckle your seatbelt! Lol
And what about a piece or two of advice to fellow INFs?
Be patient with yourself and trust your intuition. Write your heart out. It helps you make sense of the world. Be gentle with yourself.
I love this, thank you Susan. Thank you.
What does 'self-care' mean for you? How do you practise it?
It has changed a lot over the decades. When I first entered 12 step recovery programs in my 20s, I adapted those tenets- attending meetings, getting a sponsor, working the 12 steps as a good start. Then I added eating better and exercise.
Then as I evolved from one 12 step program to another, how I ate really changed as I committed to eating healthier. Also in my 30s and 40s as I settled down and career, Wife-dom and Motherhood took over, I started appreciating simple things- 5 or 10 minute walks around the block, 2 minutes on the back porch or in my backyard, etc.
Also I squeeze in a couple of girlfriend dates a month, which my awesome husband understands is essential for my well being!
That all sounds lovely! Do you have a favourite quote?
“Injustice to people anywhere is an injustice to people everywhere.” - Martin Luther King, Jr.
As the millennium gains full speed in 2020, the practices of tolerance, acceptance, and respect for differences must continue to broaden.
I think about that with INFJs and INFPs, for example.
All personalities are not the best for all types of jobs, hobbies, and recreation.
Also, of course, MLK, Jr. is speaking to basic human rights issues and the awareness and protection of those. That is near and dear to my heart as well.
Beautifully said. I know that it was MLK, Jr. day recently, too.
Susan, this has been really nice. Is there some place where we can find and connect with you online?
And, lastly, is there anything else you'd like to say?
I am really grateful for the internet, technology, and social media. The opportunities that are afforded us in the 2000s such as smartphones alone revolutionize our lives.
Also I’m more actively practicing gratitude in 2020 with a Gratitude Journal. Yes, a little cliche, but some girlfriends and I were talking about it the other day and I’m doing a Simple Abundance Journal ala Sarah Ban Breathnach. Every night, five things. And thank you, Jas, for this opportunity! *Hugs*
Thank YOU, Susan, it’s been lovely interviewing you and I really appreciate your taking part in this.
PS. If you enjoyed that, you’ll probably enjoy our podcast conversation too ->
🎙#episode 10 - Susan Strasser.