I used to wonder if I was born in the wrong century.
More than wonder, I wished I was born in another time!
I felt at home in 19th-century London drawing rooms with Dickensian personalities, in the Regency manor homes populated by Jane Austen’s heroines, and on the beautiful Prince Edward Island described by L.M. Montgomery.
While I still love immersing myself in other eras via story, maturity has taught me that God places us exactly where he wants us on Earth’s timeline; he makes no mistakes.
I was born in 1988, and I live in the 21st century.
But that doesn’t mean I have to agree with everything about my era. In fact, there’s a lot about the 21st century that just isn’t me…and might not be you, either.
As an INFJ personality type, I observe. I think it’s fascinating to watch cultural trends unfold. And while they’re interesting, a lot of them rub me the wrong way.
I do think part of my aversion to certain cultural trends is personality type. Maybe part of it is that I’m just contrary. It’s been that way in the past: I’m supposed to pick a minor in college? I’ll take the classes I choose and skip the minor. Strapless wedding dresses are the thing? I’ll have sleeves sewn on my dress, thankyouverymuch.
Regardless of my motivation for questioning norms, I think taking a step back from the mainstream noise is a healthy practice for any personality type. Doing so gives you clarity and a pulse check on why you do the things you do. It might remind you that you need a course correction.
Here are four 21st-century trends you might recognize, and a little reminder from INFJs like me that you don’t have to subscribe to any of them.
The 21st century values vulnerability and baring your soul. We’re encouraged to be “real,” raw, and transparent. Have you noticed that? In our culture the non-fiction bookshelves, blogs, and social media accounts are saturated with confessions, people offering up their deeply personal thoughts and stories for all to see and read.
These authors and speakers and ordinary folks are celebrated for being so “honest.” Raw emotion and painful personal details sell books and attract followers.
Conversely, we INFJs are generally more private people, and we resist the notion that authenticity must come at the cost of privacy. We only share our deepest secrets and dreams with a select few people, and even then we’ll often keep our innermost thoughts to ourselves.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be genuine in your interactions with people, but you’re not a shallow person if you choose not to bare the depths of your soul. Please remember that.
Finding, being, and doing the next big thing
Every decade and century probably pushes some form of achievement, but it seems like our era demands that everyone aspire to be a Steve Jobs. We can’t just do well in our vocation–we have to look around for the next up-and-coming niche to jump in to. We have to innovate, take exhilarating risks, and create like no one else. Big dreams are the currency of the day, and supposedly we’re copping out if we don’t shoot for the stars.
Sure, a lot of millennials push back against the pull to climb the career ladder. But what many of us can’t see yet is that we’re now pressured to build our own ladders–and then yes, then climb them, too!
INFJs are not ones to go with the flow, even when cultural trends masquerade as individuality. Our natural tendency to be suspicious puts us on the alert against following messages that don’t actually align with our core values. For myself, I’ve discovered the joy of choosing “less.”
Personal happiness and fulfillment
According to the 21st century, it’s imperative that we find our bliss. Apparently, we’re spurning life and robbing ourselves if we don’t make the pursuit of happiness our #1 goal. This preaching to society–especially women–that we deserve a much greater happiness than we’re currently getting in actuality breeds resentment and a dissatisfaction with our everyday, here-and-now life.
Empathetic and compassionate, INFJs will tell you that there is deep fulfillment to be found in caring for the needs of others. We’re a feisty bunch under the surface, but we never see serving others as a weakness when we know it can be one of our greatest strengths.
You can find happiness in a great many places, some of them damaging, but joy always has deeper roots and will see you through darker–or simply more mundane–days.
Creating a tribe
The 21st century urges us to gather other people around ourselves. We’re told that if we want to make a difference in this life, we must have an audience. We must build a platform and stand on it. We must lead. And leadership isn’t just valued, a certain kind of leadership is valued. The kind with big or obvious personality. Maybe a little flashy, entertaining (or at least transparent), and always a little bit louder than all the other voices.
But INFJs know that there are different kinds of leadership, and the quiet people offstage can lead without ever seeming to. The 21st century needs this kind of leadership, too. The leaders who know when to follow, when to listen, observe, and speak up when the time is right.
And please know this, I have no intentions of “building a tribe” with Richly Rooted. While I recognize that some bloggers do an admirable job at this, it’s neither my gifting nor my intention. This isn’t a movement and I’m not your leader. But if we can enjoy thought-provoking, interesting community and conversation together? I’d like that very much.