Disclaimer: Pandas do not have a monopoly on alienation. Every type, depending on the context, has probably felt a minor twinge of persecution in their life. Unfortunately, that is also the primary reason why many individuals tend to mistype themselves as Pandas—somewhere, a Panda is reading this thinking, “wait, someone wants to be me?” The same things that can riddle a Panda with doubt—their “underdog” status, humble romanticism, and pragmatic idealism—turn non-Pandas green with temperament envy.
Maybe I’ll share my life with somebody; maybe not… but the truth is, when I think back to my loneliest moments, there was usually somebody sitting there next to me.
– Ally McBeal (“Ally McBeal”)
It might seem offensive to start off the Panda’s description with a negative trait, but as with most temperaments, strengths derive from weaknesses, and vice versa, and to fully understand the Panda, you need to know this first: they feel alone. A Panda’s purpose in life, like all NFs, is to discover their inner self and help others do the same, and much like their NF sibling, the Dolphin, they prefer to accomplish this by working within a structured organization of people, such as the education system, the health care system, or the government. Unlike the Dolphin, however, Pandas usually do not have a deep reservoir of extroverted energy, and instead of appearing spirited, they are often perceived as deeply guarded, an oddity among NFs. Without the benefit of social popularity, the Panda’s genuine idealism frequently falls on deaf ears, or worse, faces extreme opposition; they’re the teacher who tries to change the grading system, the therapist who strays from DSM orthodoxy, or the politician who rails against corruption. It is this struggle against the establishment while still working within the establishment that can leave them feeling alone, trapped, and ultimately doubting their own convictions. On the bright side, if a Panda is ever able to overcome the social restraints and figure themselves out—with their natural intrapersonal intelligence, most do—watch out! Their combination of altruism and pragmatism makes them a perfect conduit for real change.
To me who dreamed so much as a child, who made a dream world in which I was the heroine of an unending story, the lives of people around me continued to have a certain storybook quality.
– Eleanor Roosevelt
Perhaps it’s the Panda’s analytical nature and reserved demeanor that causes people to mistake them for their NT cousins. Whatever the reason, most of this perception is due to the Panda’s insatiable reading habit. Fiction and non-fiction, literature and poetry, physics and history, all have a habit of appearing on their reading list. Consuming the written word is a Panda’s way of interacting with ideas without the pressure of the external world—a teacher won’t be popping out of the book to lecture them on how they’re doing everything the wrong way. A Panda’s mind is a sanctuary filled with ideas and emotions they’re unwilling to share for fear it might leave them vulnerable—a common Panda anxiety is the belief that by expressing their true self, they will most undoubtedly scare everyone away—so books act as virtual sparring partners, preparing the Panda for a fight they feel destined to have. When that fight does happen, it will usually happen on the page. Pandas make excellent writers, and it’s not only due to their heightened emotional sensitivity and gift for metaphorical language, as all NFs share those traits. When compared to other NFs, Pandas are more cautious than Dolphins, more emotionally stable than Baboons, and more focused than Humpback Whales, all traits that foster good writing. A good percentage of their literary capabilities can also be attributed to the aforementioned feelings they’ve been bottling up inside; for the Panda, writing is an exercise in catharsis, and the more they write, the better emotional shape they’ll be in.
When people who don’t know me well, black or white, discover my background (and it is usually a discovery, for I ceased to advertise my mother’s race [white] at the age of twelve or thirteen, when I began to suspect I was ingratiating myself to whites), I see the split-second adjustments they have to make, the searching of my eyes for some telltale sign. They no longer know who I am.
– Barack Obama
A positive repercussion of experiencing emotional turmoil is that a Panda is well-equipped to recognize and understand the pain in others. This is not just because they’ve suffered. It is because of all the types, the Panda is the most self aware, and thus, the most likely person to fully understand the source of their own suffering. This intrapersonal intelligence can be an incredibly powerful tool, as it allows them to connect with their patients, or students, or whomever it is that they’ve chosen to mentor, on a personal level by revealing relevant details from their own past. This sort of confessional therapy is often frowned upon by the establishment for fear that the practitioner, by making things personal, will be leaving themself emotionally vulnerable. Pandas don’t care. They only care about what method is best, and are willing to take the risk in order to help others. The rest of us should feel quite fortunate for their courage.
The Resolute Decision-maker
If the idea is to drive them out with firearms, let every Indian consider what precious little profit Europe has found in these.
– Mahatma Gandhi
Pandas have an incredible capacity to endure. Contrasted with the Bear, who can withstand immense physical pain, the Panda can sustain itself under enormous emotional pressure, an ability that is best attributed to their unparalleled strength of will. And unlike the Humpback Whale, whose idealism tends to venture more into self-sacrifice and voluntary exile, the Panda is not interested in leaving society. They know that being in the thick of things, even though it’s a situation they despise, gives them access to the people they want to help—sadly, it is these same people who are frequently exerting the emotional pressure on Pandas in the first place. In order to do this, Pandas must often choose the path of compromise or passivity, which can sometimes alienate their more idealistic—some would call them ideologues—NF siblings, specifically Baboons and Humpback Whales. This moderate position is incredibly stressful and yet, it’s a situation in which the Panda makes decisions every day of their life, decisions made even more excruciatingly difficult by the fact that, due to the Panda’s compromising nature, nobody is ever 100% satisfied. Thankfully, Pandas are pragmatic and disciplined, and, like a doctor treating a petulant child, they will seek to alleviate society of its ills whether society likes it or not.