Today’s member interview is with Anja Schüler-Renner (INFJ).
We also followed up with a podcast conversation: 🎧 episode #23: Anja Schüler-Renner
Hi Anja! So can we get started by finding out where in the world you currently reside? Is this also where you grew up?
I live in Dresden, a city in Eastern Germany and I was born nearby and grew up in a town close to Berlin.
Do you remember what you were like as a child?
As a child I was in my head most of the time. I had a lot of anxiety especially in relation to teachers and people of authority. I made up stories in my head just to cope with the pressure I felt in kindergarten and school. To be honest, at the time I thought this was normal. I always thought this is how everybody feels until I learned about introverts later in life.
What was school like for you? And how were your teenage years as a whole?
As a teenager I felt very misunderstood by my parents. They mocked me and my creativity. Now I know this was just their own insecurities because they didn’t understand me at the time as I liked to sit in my room all day writing songs and poems into my diaries. I was a bit rebellious, drinking and smoking a lot. I played in a band and did a lot of music.
I knew a lot of people, my friends even might have thought of me being extroverted as I was also singing in a band but I did not like being at the front as a singer.
Inside I felt sad and lonely most of the time. This did not change when I became a university student. I drank a lot and went to parties but actually I loved when I could be in my dorm room alone and surf the internet watching movies and stuff.
What words, or phrases, would you use to describe your current self?
Creative, emotional, lonely, thinker, searcher
When did you first realise that you were an introvert? How did this happen?
There was not a certain moment. I always liked being home the and sometimes just to have to go out to buy food stressed me out. Calling people on the phone until this day makes me nervous, I hate calling strangers. But I always fought this. I even worked at a call center once. I found Buddhism and hoped to battle those weird traits of mine with meditation and self-improvement. Becoming a mother I started to be a lot more self-aware. I started to understand and express my own desires and stopped trying to fit in with everyone. I stopped playing in a band cause I hated being in the centre of attention on stage. This just never felt good! I like playing music for my own now and with my kids. I stopped working in an office because all those people and social interactions gave me anxiety. I started to look for the things I really love doing and realized that all my life I had done stuff just because other people wanted me to do it. I started to ask myself: do I really feel like doing this? And often the answer is no.
What's your Myers-Briggs personality type? (if you know it)
I am an INFJ-T
When did you first do the Myers-Briggs test and realise you were an INFJ?
I did the test two years ago with the result INFJ but at the time I did not dig into it. I don’t know why but some weeks ago I remembered this test and thought I’d give it another go and I got the same result and somehow it clicked with me and I started doing some research on my type and then I found that INFJ have certain struggles with writing and those are exactly the struggles I have as a writer and I always felt like something is wrong with me, because I want to be a writer just couldn’t do it. I love stories but it’s always a battle just to get the work done when I’m not feeling inspired in this moment and I kind of felt like a failure. Finding Lauren Sapala who talks about intuitive writing and INFJ writer problems in particular was a revelation for me.
Has discovering you were an INFJ impacted you in any way? If so, how?
Yes, the impact was huge. I realised that I can stop battling myself. I have to start loving myself for who I am, accepting my strengths and weaknesses, work with what I got. Actually, being an INFJ and reading about my strengths and even weaknesses made me feel good and more aligned with myself. I suddenly understand that I don’t have to change in any way I don’t want to.
What qualities do you feel that you share with other INFs?
My eldest daughter is an INFP-A. We share the creativity, although she is much more confident about her creativity than I am. I am always doubting my work.
What were your favourite subjects at school? And what did you study at university/college?
I loved Literature, Music, Art but also History and Political Science always interested me. I studied Communication Science, History and American Studies and I liked it. I always liked subjects that dealt with people and how they behave. I was also interested in Psychology.
What are you spending your time on at the moment?
My main focus at the moment is self-development (trying not to be stressed out all the time), spirituality, my writing and enhancing my creativity (I will self-publish my first novel in 2020) and my three children.
Was there a moment in your life when you made a drastic change?
Yes, I stopped working in Public Relations - I hated that it was so superficial - and decided to work as a writer. My husband supported me, otherwise I might not have had the guts to make this step. And I still struggle as I haven’t earned a lot of money so far. I often feel like a failure because I cannot produce novels, articles consistently. I have put myself under a lot of pressure in recent years but realizing I am an INFJ helps me to understand my way of thinking and working a lot better. This gives me hope!
Do you have a preferred creative/artistic outlet? Can you tell us a bit about this?
I like Austin Kleon’s blog and newsletter. He shares about his creative journey and interesting articles he read, and wrote some fun books about creativity. I am always very serious about my writing and creativity, maybe a bit too hard on myself and just seeing how other creatives work and have fun with the process helps me a lot.
Would you describe yourself as a highly sensitive person (HSP), or an empath?
Yes, empathetic definitely. I mirror people and try to make them feel good and I feel what they feel. There was a time, I had no clue what I, myself, actually wanted because I was so used to just going along with other people’s wishes. I really had to take a step back and learn about my own desires and wants.
I consider myself highly sensitive and I’d say it has gotten worse as I grew older or maybe I am just more aware of my needs. I react deeply to music and emotions in film, literature and other people. I am stressed out when I am at people gatherings and I get really grumpy when I am hungry, get headaches quite often. I get stressed easily with all those little tasks you have to do each day - preparing meals, school stuff, household chores - I could definitely need some more alone time.
Do you have a personal definition of 'success'? What does being successful look like to you?
I am not sure anymore. In the past I was focused on what other people might consider success: money! Now, I still would like to have money in my life but success, I don’t know, just having written something beautiful is success for me and publishing my novel this year will be huge for me.
What about 'happiness' - do you have a personal recipe for that?
I am happy with my children. They are great people. I love being with them. I am happy when I achieved a personal goal like publishing an article. I am happy writing, just writing about what comes to mind makes me happy, playing a new song makes me happy, going for a walk helps so much, reading a great book, discovering new stuff, this rush of energy when I got a new idea, a new understanding of things makes me so happy. I like solving puzzles (rubix cubes are my new found passion - I just follow instructions to solve them but I like learning those algorithms) and giving advice to people has a positive effect on me. And going out for dinner makes me happy. There are a lot of little things making me happy. I should cherish them more.
Do you like to plan things, or are you more of a go-with-the-flow type of person?
When it comes to daily life I have my routines and hate it when something unexpected comes up. Even the weekends that kind of break the routines I have during the work week get me out of tune, because the kids are around all day and I have to concentrate on them instead my writing and I have no room for myself to hide in if I need time alone.
I love to plan my vacations beforehand and dream of what I will see, where I would go. I will make a trip to Edinburgh in spring all on my own and I am really looking forward to that.
With my work - being creative - I try to go with the flow as I start to learn that this will help me (with) being more creative in the first place. But I need routines just to get enough time during the day for this creativity to happen.
What does your 'perfect Sunday' look like?
It is raining, stormy winds outside… I have the whole day or maybe even the weekend for myself, the apartment is clean, the fridge full, nothing to do but writing, reading, surfing the internet, netflix and chill.
Is there anything you've read, watch or listened to recently, that you've loved?
Lauren Sapala's books on INFJ writing and marketing, Nnedi Okorafors BINTI was a great book I read recently and I am watching The Witcher on Netflix right now.
Speaking of which, do you have any favourite blogs or podcasts?
Favorite blogs: austinkleon.com and brainpickings.org. I love to listen to The Creative Penn- Podcast. I find new stuff/sites online nearly every day. I also like watching video essays on movies like from coldcrashpictures on Youtube.
How about favourite movies or TV shows? Anything you've seen recently that you'd recommend?
I am all over the place, love watching movies and TV shows: I like korean shows like Kingdom (zombies) and Arthdal Chronicles (Fantasy) because it is just a different, new, interesting way of storytelling. I like fantasy stuff in general and science fiction. I loved Haunting of Hill House, convinced my friends to watch it with me a second time.
If you could go back in time and meet 'yourself' back in 2010, is there any advice that you'd give this younger self?
Work on self-love, this is the most important thing that will keep you going through the hard times.
If you could one or two pieces of advice to your follow INFs, what would they be?
Start journaling if you aren’t already doing it. I learned a lot about myself doing this. Writing down my thoughts daily helps me understand myself and my motivations more deeply. And give yourself some quiet time, really quiet, just sitting, no internet, TV or music. You could journal to help with the thoughts that will be in your mind. Writing can be a form of meditation practise!
What does 'self-care' mean for you? How do you practise it?
I walk an hour every day and I try to get a quiet hour for myself, doing nothing but sitting (at a desk or on the couch) and writing down what thoughts come to mind.
Do you have a favourite quote?
"Be the change you want to see in the world", from Gandhi
Where can others find and connect with you online?
Thank you for taking part in this written interview and sharing your story, Anja, it's been a pleasure :)
🎧 Listen to our conversation: #episode 23: Anja Schüler-Renner (INFJ)
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