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BRENDA: thank you SO much! Your advice is exactly what I need to do. I am amazed how much you “get” me after only exchanging a few messages!… Again, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You’ve helped me more than a year of therapy sessions! – Megan on space2live

“I was struggling with my daughter (16 at the time) and our constant fighting. You said something to me that changed my life! You were speaking about your own situation and you said to me “my child could not handle my emotions”. This was a HUGE “lightbulb moment” for me and it forever changed the way I dealt with my emotions when I was around my daughter!

I am happy to say that things have never been better between my soon to be 18 year old daughter and myself! I honestly never thought we would…

Mom M
You’re so honest in your writing. It’s bold. It’s frank. It’s wonderful. I could definitely see the work you are doing here as a useful book. It could save/make a lot of relationships! — Jimmi Langemo
Jimmi Langemo
Thank you for all the words. You’ve created the magic drug I’ve been looking for all my life. Your blog has transformed my life, and I feel like I am on the brink of a most satisfying fulfilling journey…You’ve made me see everything in a new light. I now feel calmer, able to care better for my toddler, less hateful of people around, and hopeful for my future. I am not so afraid for our marriage anymore. — Shilpa CB
Shilpa CB
Brenda has truly opened up a space for introverted types on the ‘net, and her self-revelations are always inspiring. Her voice is one I always look forward to. She is one of the writers that actually played a part in my return to writing.  — S.E. of Sunflower Solace Farms
S.E. of Sunflower Solace Farms
Your words are my lifeline.  I sit down to your posts and as I read I can feel my acceptance of myself and my needs grow.  Your words validate my feelings about my life, motherhood, relationships and it is something I hold onto.  And during the times when I feel like I am not able to be a mother or a wife or a sister or a friend or whatever someone needs me to be, I go back to your words and find some peace…I send your posts to my husband when I need him to understand that I love him but I need …
For the first time in my life I could truly explain, through your words the way in which I experience life and myself. Brenda… It all fell into place. I had found myself and had such a moment of clarity. It felt like such a big weight was lifted off of my shoulders. Finally I felt like it was ok to be me. I was not the only one. I had found people and a little space where I fit in. … I was at work and crying on the inside. Emotions ran wild inside me. I was ecstatic, sad, confused, motivated, i…
I have been dating an introverted man who I am very in love with for almost 2 years.  Reading your posts have helped me to be more supportive and understanding to him especially during the times when he needs space.  I just wanted to thank you for your weekly posts and let you know how helpful they are for someone who is in a relationship with an introvert. C.M. on space2live
THANK YOU….. you just summed up my swirling thoughts into something i can read with out everything else in my head meshing with it. I finally feel like i can explain what happens within without getting distracted. I’m an Introvert with ADD and it makes it so hard to explain quite what im feeling sometimes. — M.G. on space2live
your depth of understanding, and talent at sharing it amaze me. Speechless… and for your sharing of it.. Thank you… deeply. *sigh, its like coming back into my body through acceptance….. Sherrie on space2live

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Masquerading As Everyone Else’s Expectations: Finding Your True Identity As An Introverted Idealist


Seven years ago, I found myself sitting in the waiting area of the music school my son attended for guitar lessons. The school’s owner had come out and greeted me with a kind gentle voice and then left. Within the quiet following his departure, I listened to musical notes drifting in from nearby classrooms. I smelled candles burning, their fragrance mixing with my slow easy breath. I noticed my frenetic spirit, rested. Personal ideas and dreams began to seep into my consciousness. I realized it had been a long time since I felt that at home and in tune with myself.

I now realize that was the start of my self’s unmasking. Over the next few years, the school provided a sacred place for my true spirit to reveal itself. My courage grew within the safe discussions that took place during my guitar lessons. I began to explore other pursuits such as Guardian ad litem volunteer work, writing classes and the creation of a blog (space2live,yay:). As I delved in meaningful work and relationships, my identity and way of being crystallized.

For years prior to that, I had worn a mask. I was what others expected me to be. I valued what my closest relationships valued. I tried desperately to keep up with the ‘successful’ people in my life. I extroverted, coveted money, denied spirituality and suppressed soft and sensitive thoughts. I masqueraded as the perfect wife and mother but in reality I didn’t know who I was.

Intuition + Feeling = Idealist

Individuals with preferences for Intuition (N) as their trusted way of taking inPlease_understand_me_cover information and Feeling (F) as their go-to resource for making decisions in the Myers Briggs Personality Type Indicator, are called Idealists by David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates in their book, Please Understand MeAccording to Keirsey and Bates, Idealists are relationship-oriented people who strive to be authentic, to become self-actualized and to have good rapport with others. They are enthusiastic, empathic people interested in helping others grow.

Surviving threatening environments

survival gamesWe all play survival games. In Survival Games Personalities Play by Eve Delunas, Ph.D, author, Eric Berne, M.D., of Games People Play defines games as, a series of repeated transaction (or maneuvers) that we unconsciously engage in with others in order to obtain an ulterior (hidden) payoff. According to Berne, game payoffs may be: 1. the maintenance of internal psychic stability; 2. the avoidance of anxiety-arousing situations or intimacies; 3. the procurement of strokes; and/or 4. the maintenance of the established equilibrium in a relationship. Most often people resort to survival games when their fundamental needs and values are not being met in several or all of their key environments.

The survival game that the intuitive feeling Idealist plays is Masquerade. It is a deceptive game aimed at distracting others from seeing their inadequacies or inauthentic behavior. An idealist plays this game when they feel their needs for integrity, identity and rapport with others are not being met.masquerade mask

What do you think, am I OK?

There are six variations of the Masquerade game. I am only going to cover the Martyr variant in this post. According to Delunas, Martyr players try to cover up deep-seated feelings of inadequacy by being as good as they can be. NFs are prone to seek validation from others. Relationships are the center of their lives and the source of their deepest feelings about themselves.

Often Martyr players sacrifice their own identities — their needs and wants — so that they may keep peace in relationships and make certain that others are happy and content. After doing this for a long time, it is not unusual for Martyr players to discover that they have completely lost sight of themselves. — Eve Delunas, Survival Games Personalities Play

How to stop playing games

Often, the first thing an Idealist will complain about when seeking help is a lack of happiness. They may have no idea why they are not happy but there is a feeling of apathy. Apathy is very painful for an Idealist because they have core needs of compassion for others and enthusiasm for life.

In order to stop playing the Masquerade game an Idealist needs to:

1. Set specific goals. NFs tend to be broad and universal with their thinking. They can start by addressing specific relationships and creating action steps to move toward a tangible result. How exactly would you and your life look if you were happier?

2. Find ways to be true to themselves. Usually Idealists playing Masquerade find it difficult to be true to themselves and true to others at the same time. They behave in accordance with the expectations of others and violate their own values. A safe, non-judgmental environment and/or relationship provide the entrance back to authenticity.

3. Find a sense of meaning and purpose. Idealists are at their best when they are making a valuable contribution to humanity. Opportunities to inspire others help an Idealist meet her core needs.

Behind the mask

For a long time in my marriage and family life I played the Masquerade game. Subconsciously and consciously, I felt inadequate as a wife and mother. I didn’t love my husband enough. I didn’t sacrifice for my kids enough. I wasn’t a doer naturally. I wasn’t quick on my feet with answers, decisions and action steps. I didn’t have an advanced degree. I didn’t have a job making money.

To make up for all of those inadequacies I tried to be my family and community’s version of perfect. I went against my introverted and sensitive nature. I emulated neighbors, friends and members of our community in order to receive validation.

I lost myself. I eventually hit the apathetic wall.

Then I found myself sitting in a music school…

Have you ever lost yourself? How did you return to you?

If you enjoyed this post you may also like:

There’s Nothing Wrong with You. You’re an Introvert.

Sensitive and Introverted Does Not Mean Irrational and Weak: Valuing the Input of the Compassionate and Contemplative

Confessions of an Introverted Parent

Introverted Not Incompetent:Validating Softer Life Skills

First One Over the Wall:What It’s Really Like to End a Marriage and Start Over

 What I learned from a Guitar Guru

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  3. September 15, 2014 at 11:04 am - Reply

    Wonderful post! I’ve also read Delunas’ book and I can’t recommend it highly enough. As an INFJ, it really helped me lock down on the unhelpful patterns I manifest when I’m under stress or overwhelmed by fear. Both of these books are a must-read for an Idealist personality type.

  4. slj88 September 12, 2014 at 9:10 pm - Reply

    First I must say, I enjoy your blog, it really helps me to explore the deeper innermost things, that I often never make time for. Often times I never get the opportunity to just be. I work in a customer oriented job that drains me, fluttered because of the limitation in finding something close to what I went to school for. Exhausted by my role as a co- caretaker of an elderly parents that doesn’t allow me to feel a source of freedom. Although my situation at times seems dire, I try to hold on to bits and pieces of my self thought spritiualy and being creative. I have to find a balances, when to put on the mask and when to let it slip, especially being an INFJ.

    • Brenda Knowles September 14, 2014 at 8:52 am - Reply

      You’re so wise to include moments of self-care through spirituality and creativity. Those will sustain you. I understand the exhaustion of being a caretaker. So often, we don’t have options and that is stressful. When we don’t get to let our spirits be free we wither. May you find light in the work you do. I sometimes reframe my work with my kids and other family members as a privilege or as the ‘price of admission’ to love them and have them in my life. Peace and strength to you.

  5. sheketechad September 12, 2014 at 7:47 pm - Reply

    I’m actually trying not to lose myself currently and it is due to work, not a relationship! I know when I am happiest, and it isn’t working like this. My choices seem limited due to my personal situation (widowhood and all).

    I need another primitive camping trip…wahhhh 🙂

    We’ll get there, eventually. At least we now have a map…

    • Brenda Knowles September 14, 2014 at 8:47 am - Reply

      It sounds like you are sacrificing yourself for work relationships and financial stability. So hard to avoid those but at least you do know how to fill yourself up. I understand the widowhood lack of options. I feel the same about being a single parent. You do your best and revel in those times of pure you. May you get primitive very soon!

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