October 31, 2014

INFJ: A Potentially Brilliant Diamond

The Mysterious INFJ has been one of the most visited posts on this website (I know this because a writer can access this information on Google Analytics).  I have received many emails from readers who share this personality type or believe that they may share the INFJ preferences (Introverted Intuition/Extraverted Feeling) but have not verified it yet.  Usually an MBTI assessment and a dialogue with a certified practitioner will settle the matter.   I asked a client of  mine   to share a few reflections on what it’s like to be an INFJ and he graciously offered these reflections (although in true INFJ style, he felt he could have done a better job!):

My Life As An INFJ  (NOTE: The client is a highly accomplished individual in many areas of life) :

I have always been very imaginative and creative . I want to see what I imagine turned into reality, if possible.The adage 1% Inspiration 99% perspiration rings true for me. I like to think I am good at the 1% inspiration but can also follow through with the necessary perspiration to make it. I want to please people and usually finish tasks well ahead of time.

I prefer one on one conversations and even when there are three people, I find myself trying to instigate a conversation between the other two so I can wait on the side lines. I have always got on best with extrovert types. Although I have learned to participate in group conversations, this does not come naturally to me  Also,I know exactly what people think of me. I come across as naïve and at times I probably am but I can see what is going on probably more than people realise.   I am to a fault very concerned at what others think of me. I wish I wasn’t but that’s how I am. Also,I can see people and tell what they will be like, even without speaking to them. I do like to support people I think are being unfairly treated or picked on. I hate hurting or upsetting people. It’s probably THE single thing I hate most. If I think I have hurt someone then I am mortified. I hate bullying.

Somehow I just know some things even when I have no evidence to support these hunches. Time and again my initial hunches are borne out. I constantly worry I have offended people so I find myself constantly apologizing. Usually this is met with bemused looks as they wander what I am apologizing for. My brain is constantly on the go buzzing around. I have always been a poor sleeper as I just can’t turn off when I go to bed. I have learnt that strenuous exercise helps me relax and sleep better.

Some of the greatest public servants have been purported to share the INFJ personality type including Eleanor Roosevelt, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King, Jr.   There is no way of knowing for sure although many who are familiar with type theory agree that this is probably the case.   What is clear though is that because of the depth and complexity of this personality type, it has the potential to shine brightly like the most dazzling diamond but if unsupported, the INFJ can leave this brilliance untapped.   No INFJ probably escapes without some degree of self-doubt but many can learn to push through that feeling.   The INFJ brings rare gifts to the world  but like cutting a diamond, it’s necessary to know how to draw out those qualities without disrupting the integrity of the gem itself. Patience and an appreciation for the finer but potentially hidden qualities of this type is required to bring out it’s most desirable features.

Comments

  1. I thought this was going to be another long boring blog post, but I was pleasantly suprised. I will be posting a backlink on my blog, as I am quite sure my readers will find this more than interesting.

  2. Hello, Ann. Thank you so much for your wonderful insights into INFJ. I felt at home here and more self-accepting seeing that I am not alone in my maddening complexity.

    I’m wondering if you would be able to shed some light on the difficulties INFJs may have with their careers. What I mean is that I, at least, often experience disillusionment and a sense of mis-placement at work. My husband keeps say indignantly that the companies for which I’ve worked have simply not known what to do with me and my superior (he thinks!) skills. I think that my frustration is my responsibility, since I’m the one who keeps working in different roles, capacities and companies but cannot find real satisfaction. What can I, as an INFJ, do or learn to better accept the reality of the average (corporate) workplace and my place in it?

    Thank you!

  3. Hi Pamela-
    Please email me and tell me more about yourself. How old are you? What careers have you done in the past and what has been satisfying or disappointing about these choices? I am always happy to answer an initial email question free of charge and the more information I have about you, the better my answer can be. I have 3 very close relationships with INFJ’s (my daughter, my brother, and my best friend) and through our interactions, I have come to really understand and deeply appreciate their exceptional qualities. Often INFJ’s puzzle even themselves but with increased self-awareness, they can not only feel more comfortable with their mental processes, they can harness their potential and be spectacular! Please write me back at annholm@comcast.net

  4. INFJ & The falsehood of naivety
    I have been perceived before as being naive, but inside all I can think is how if they only knew the truth. I am confirmed that they have no idea just how intensely aware and mentally involved in understandings that I am, most likely more than they are. I think I found the reason for this in myself.
    I’ve noticed in social situations I will be “too nice” and it can be my weakness. I hold back my opinions at times because I dont want to bring offense or come off in a wrong way,(usually I am just imagining that this will happen, but in reality I dont think they would be offended.) When I fail to say something in those moments, (because im wanting to avoid discomfort on the other persons bahalf,) I have been called naive. My own holding back is what comes off as someone who is aloof, but it is the complete opposite.

  5. I hear comments just like this from others who share your MBTI preferences for INFJ. Inherent in your type is deep empathy for others so you are not likely to offend people unless you do so inadvertently. This can make you appear naive or aloof, as you say. However, sometimes this kindness can work to your disadvantage because your body language will give off a different message if you keep everything inside. Also, if you hold back too much, then explode, you can scare the living daylights out of people because it seems so out of character for this gentle soul to be so angry. Practice sharing what’s on your mind and try to get comfortable with it. Also,realize that many people will benefit from your insights and in holding back, your wisdom remains untapped.

  6. Being an INFJ is a juxtaposition. While people see me as an outgoing “E”, actually, I prefer to be alone and reflect. My “feeling” side is very evident, hence people tend to gravitate around me with their troubles, or they just seek my company. My life is a very social one (not by choice,) and as I get older, I seem to withdraw more internally, and enjoy observing others and their behaviour as well as trying to understand their motives, developing a certain level of aloofness, which can be misunderstood.

    Where people are concerned, I have always relied on my intuition, which has served me very well in the past – sussing out people. I help my husband with his career as well by advising him of the motives of others and what they may be scheming, and most times, events unfold just as predicted. It’s just uncanny sometimes, how accurate these intuitions can be.

    At work, I have gone through a spectrum of jobs. My chosen profession is in teaching and education, and I am passionate about this. However, I had also branched out into Human Resource and HR Change, where one of my main role was to scope the “feel” and “environment” of organisations and advise the CEO and Board of Directors of initiatives to drive employee engagement. When I got into this area, promotions came in quick successions and my services were sought after by multinational companies undergoing merger & acquisition. I left this field after feeling horribly let down – as I felt that I was being used as a mouthpiece and the promises made were not kept to employees. It had something to do with conscience and ability to sleep at night. Now I am back in education, lecturing and working towards obtaining my Ph.D.

    Relationship-wise, yes, I am not the easiest person to live with… I wish that my character is a simpler, sunnier one. However, I have been married to the same man for 17 years now (an ESTJ no less!) We do rub each other the wrong way sometimes, but we make the relationship work nonetheless :)

  7. Thank you for your insights, Ida. I think the INFJ personality type is so fascinating and wonderful even though at times, the people blessed with these gifts might feel frustrated or convoluted. People seldom get tired of knowing an INFJ but they are often perplexed!

  8. I was categorized by the Briggs-Meyer and Jung Personality tests as being an INFJ type. Whomever gave their personal description gave an uncanny description of how I perceive myself…it’s pleasantly odd.

  9. I have never had anyone decribe my inner thoughts and feelings as this person has. I am truely shocked. I took a personality test to determine what type of career would be best for me. I came up as an INFJ and then relised it’s rather rare. I am talented in several areas, but I cannot decide what to do for my college course of study. I was not engaged as a child to be interested in education, but I naturally, with out any help, influence, or training, was very good at art and creativity. Now that I am in college I find psychology fascinating and mixed emotions about the field as far as income and possibilities of becoming a nurse. I can adapt to many different situations, as I have over the years. I am now near 30 yrs of age and still find my self an introvert, and constantly worried about how other percieve me. I do not understand this about my self and I too constantly apoligize for all types of things. My mind is rather photo-like and i see what people describe to me as they talk. When I take tests i can visulize my notes in my head and read them. The world seems to kind-of stare at me, and I come off as being “different”. I think in ways that most people do not, and my opions and thoughts recieve a high amount of praise for oringinality and complexcity. That is just how I see the world around me though; in a different view than most.

  10. I’m an INFJ that was married to an ESTJ for 13 years, and I can write opposites do attract, but in my case, we each reverted back to “type” and the differences were too great to overcome. And after infidelity, I no longer wanted or had the energy to do so.

    My work situation echoes all the other INFJs – I can’t stand office politics, and so while I’ve done well in a multitude of jobs, now that I’m single I’m going to earn my PhD and help the world through communications.

    So, yay for me finally realizing it’s okay to be me, and enjoy my life as an INFJ? :)

  11. Great post, everything you said rings true to me especially about being percieved as Naive, when that really isn’t the case and also about not being able to sleep well. Took me too long to find about the MBTI personality test but when I did everything made so much sense and put to rest a lot of self doubt about why I’ve found it hard to fit in throughout my life. Learning that my quirks are common for my personality type has helped me to interact with people better, I no longer feel the need to try and change the way I act around people and am much more relaxed in social situations. In fact I might save this article on my smartphone and next time somebody clearly isn’t getting me I’ll tell them to read it:)

  12. Thank you for your comment! There have been some insightful comments on this blog. Knowing your personality type then claiming it’s gifts is very powerful. My daughter, who has the INFJ personality type has stated that once she understood how fantastic and unique she was, all kinds of doors opened up for her. Since it is a rare type, it may take time to realize that this unique and authentic self is a true asset and there is no need to try to be like anyone else! You will be valued for who you are if you honor it and own it!

  13. Wow, here I was researching the various “issues” I am having in my career and why I cannot seem to explain what it is I am going through to anyone and I stumbled on this post. I just took the Myers Briggs online (again) and again INFJ comes up. The post and subsequent replies really speak to me and it is good to see that I am not alone, thinking maybe my career woes along with my personality traits were exclusive to me, this has helped a great deal. I always wondered why I could read people without fail too, this one has caused me great difficulties when trying to warn or explain to others.
    Great post!

  14. for several days I was wondering that if I’m a INFJ or not. Everything make sense now, thanks for the post!

  15. I must say,everytime i read one of these posts,i always feel a little better to know i’m not such an odd-ball afterall.I am a “true” infj.totally textbook.I remember the first time i took the test (a little over a year ago) and then read the explaination of the type,i was literally bawling.I couldn’t believe how this test could explain soooo many things about myself that i myself never understood.And,as i read in someone elses post,it has definitly helped me in a lot of ways…this “knowing” of what i truly am.I’ve always wondered why people say i’m hard to approach,yet,the ones that do feel the need to tell me their life story in detail.I’ve always been able to “read” people,pretty much instantly,and have a very strong “intuition” sense,almost to the point i’ve actually wondered if i’m psychic.I feel others emotions so strongly,i can actuallly become ill if i’m around someone thats hurting,or if the person is just a “toxic-bad” person in general.As soon as i walk into a room/place i can “feel” the energy of that place.I find it so interesting that a lot of other INFJ’s say the same thing.I do believe our type is a blessing and curse at the same time.But,after you learn about,and accept our unique qualities,I truly believe our type has endless possibilities for greatness that no other type can even come close to!

  16. Thank you for writing, Lisa. I think it’s awesome to read what everyone has written about this complex and fantastic type!

  17. Your client hit the nail on the head. I agree with all he has shared, and resonate strongly with the ability to feel or know what others are feeling or thinking. There was one exception, however. I sleep really good (for the most part). Perhaps the ‘buzzing’ in his brain making sleep difficult translates for me into a ‘rich and busy dreamtime’. As an introvert and someone with a ‘weak’ social-life, I am never alone in my dreams. This always fascinates me. Though mundane in content, I have had prophetic dreams on occassion, rare occassions.

    I have taken the Jung personality test and the Myer-Briggs test at least six times over the past twelve years, each time resulting in INFJ. At times I have expected to see a change, yet deep-down knowing that this likely wouldn’t be the case. In the Jung personality test, the INFJ keyword is ‘Author’. I self-published my first novel, “Chasing Bees”, in 2008. It is an emotion-driven story of love and letting go, abundant with spiritual concepts, all upon the background of a 22-hive apiary. As an INFJ, I can tell you, its easy to write a book and extremely painful and difficult to market it, especially one that was written from the heart and from personal experience, not simply fantasy. (There will be more of that in the second novel.)

    I feel I should be involved in teaching but constantly question ‘how much I know’ and if I need to go back to school yet before attempting to teach the level of the knowledge (Feng Shui and Vedic Astrology) I have gained over the years. This, then, short-circuits my success. So, confidence remains an issue (most people who know me wouldn’t believe this is a problem), as is self-acceptance. So I very much appreciate the feedback above. Thank you everyone!

  18. I too am an INFJ. Sometimes I forget, and I get all tangled up in life and get upset. People don’t understand me, they mis-judge me, I start doubting myself, blaming myself, thinking I have all sorts of complexes and that I’m not ‘normal’, and I forget who I am. I doubt my relationships, I get wild ideas about complete changes in career and then I remember to google INFJ… and I remember who I am, and it allmakes sense again.Iamallowed to be who I am after all, I am not alone:-)

  19. I’m not alone!! Yay!! I really started thinking I was a freak until I came across all these comments from otehr INFJs!!
    I’m also a typical textbook INFJ – the descriptions on here are so accurate it’s spooky! My parents and friends often don’t get me, I keep changing jobs as I don’t know what to do….I like dealing with people and am very intuitive. People tell me I’m “crazy” or “naive” or “too emotional, don’t wear your heart on your sleeve!” I can’t help it, it’s just the way I am! I want to get into HR or Industrial Psychology….but industrial psych. includes a LOT of maths which I am really bad at.
    Anne, have you come across many INFJs who are bad at maths?Is this common? i want to study industrial psych. but the maths puts me off, I literally go blank when I see all the statistics etc. I want to be good at this!!! I want to combine this with my uncanny people skills and then I’m sorted!

  20. Math skills vary and there are many different ways people can solve math problems. As far as an INFJ’s typical math skills, my daughter who is an INFJ is ok with math but not great. My brother who is also an INFJ has a Masters Degree in Math. So math aptitude is not very easy to predict solely based on psychological type.

  21. I feel much of myself reflected in this post, although my upbringing has made me self-critical so I do not think I have a lot to offer as of yet. I am only beginning to declare a major, and I have until August to decide what to do with my life. I’m 20 and taking prerequisites for a nursing program because I truly desire to advocate for a high quality of care and life for all people. However, I’m also scared that I will not get the autonomy or creative leeway I need in a nursing career path, so I am considering majoring in English/Graphic Design or Env’t Science and going on to medical or law school. I have a lot of interests, and I spent a lot of time just pulling my hair out trying to decide what to do with my life because I feel so pressured. I see myself in a lot of the careers recommended for INFJs – but I would like to know how do people with this trait decide on a career? I wish my hunch would kick in right about now! Best wishes to all.

  22. Hi Nat. Picking a career path is always a challenge, especially in this day and age. There are so many choices and options that it can often create a sense of frustration rather than freedom. Drop me an email and I can give you an exercise that you can use to help you see this a little more clearly. It’s useful for any psychological personality type but especially helpful for the INFJ type who can so readily generate options.

  23. I just recently discovered I am an INFJ. My sister, who is really into psychology, suggested that I was this unique type and that I should do a test. She also said it was the rarest type and very desirable….what??? All my life I have been an outcast and felt like a freak. I took the test and sure enough, I came up as INFJ. I read all the comments on here and can totally relate. I have always felt oddly detached from reality. I remember in 4th grade thinking, “Who am I? Really?” I have always felt like I saw right into a person’s soul. (it sounds weird but I don’t like making eye contact with people because I feel such a bare emotional connection with strangers) I ‘feel’ energy in a room and it has a huge affect on me, for good or bad. I am so vulnerable and emotional. I don’t know why anyone would want to be like this? I know there are positives but in my life so far the bad seems to far outweigh the good. I know I am very empathetic, insightful, caring, and have a lot to offer…. but so far I haven’t found my place in the world or many people who ‘get’ me.
    It is funny though that the top job recommended for this type is a counselor or psychologist. I have always, ever since childhood, wanted to be a counselor. I love helping people. I love listening.
    I would really like to connect to other people who experience the same struggles! sierraroseschwartz@hotmail.com

  24. I have taken test after test and gotten INFJ every single time. I am honestly frustrated because no one seems to understand my thinking patterns, my ideas, interests, or complexity. In fact, many of my friends tell me constantly that I am crazy, and they can’t even put a finger on what makes me so unusual. I wish I had just one person in my life who could understand me. I am afraid of myself, and even I don’t understand myself.
    In short: I FEEL LIKE AN ALIEN!

  25. Arielle-It is true that you have a unique personality. It is estimated that 1-2 out of 100 people have preferences for INFJ. However these are special gifts that can be shared with the world not a reason to think of yourself as an alien. My advice to you would be to read about the positive role models who are also INFJ. There are many and their contributions to the world are great.

  26. I have come up as an INFJ again, 20 years after doing the MBTI in school. Somethings never change, it seems, however inconvenient they may be. Now that my kids are going on middle school, this SAHM is ready to head back out into the world of grownups. I’d like to go back to grad school and finish up my PhD so I can teach at university. My husband (very successful, andwellpaid, mechanical engineer) wants me to become a financial planner so I can work from home. Hmph. I can’t seem to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. Any suggestions? Feeling a bit like a jack of all trades, master of none.*sigh*

  27. Karen, you didn’t mention the subject of your Ph.D. Is it in an area that you feel passionate about? Any personality type can do whatever job that they want. The energy comes from tapping into strengths, or dominant/auxiliary functions, in a personality type to do that job. So what would financial planning tap into for you? The complexity of planning a financial future for someone? Meeting people needs by helping your clients feel safer with their financial future? Another personality type might like some other aspect of financial planning. For example, the ISTJ might like the calculations or accounting. So it’s important to ask how will this career energize me? How will it drain me? One of my colleagues who is an INFJ was formerly a financial analyst. She finally left that field because the attention to details became too stressful over time.
    By the way, kids spending less time at home is a separate challenge as far as career is concerned. It becomes a change in identity and sometimes it feels like you are starting at square one. Of course you aren’t at square one but there have definitely been some diversions.
    Hope that helped!

  28. I am a INFJ and for the past seven months I have been trying to “figure out” what my life’s calling is. Honestly though I have always been on the path to trying to figure out what I want to do but have been trying harder the past 7 months. I ended up quitting my last job because I strongly felt that it was not what I am meant to be doing and I felt that I was not making any contribution to society. I moved on to a temporary situation that I thought was my calling only to find out (thankfully before going back to school) that it is NOT what I want to do with the rest of my life. I sometimes feel like I will never be satisifed with anything. I honestly want to make a difference in the world and feel like I am not leaving it worse than it was before. Any advice on this matter would be greatly appreciated!!!

  29. Thank you for writing Hazel. I think that is a question that I will address in my next blog because I have seen it over and over again on this thread. Moreover, I just did an MBTI Step III assessment with an INFJ client and this came up as a central issue. So if you wouldn’t mind circling back in about a week, I should have the blog written.
    Thanks!
    Ann

  30. Not Important says:

    I am an INFJ male and am very grateful for this encouraging post. I have always felt like an outcast in life (even in church!). Sometimes I feel as if i do not belong on this planet, yet deep down inside i want to do good for mankind. It does not help that I am hispanic and feel more isolated from the current culture (even though i was born here in the USA). At times it’s as if my heritage makes me feel even more left out and out of place. In addition i seem to encounter this race barrier that i find here the USA. I feel disconnected and that i can’t relate to American society. I just can’t cross the race barrier when associating with other Americans. Anyways, enough of my griping, ..i want to encourage all you INFJ’s to strive to make this world a better place. Leave your legacy. Serve the people and don’t be afraid to voice your thoughts! ¡Viva el INFJ revolucion!

  31. I love this post! I know you just made many INFJs smile and feel energized! Thank you!

  32. Hospital Manager says:

    I have to agree with most of you, it’s a wonderfully revealing post that describes what it’s like to be an INFJ.
    Feeling like an alien at times has been mentioned & that’s so true;; I’m sure we are on a different wave length.
    For me, it’s like extra sensory perception and it doesn’t just apply to people; for a while I thought I was psychic.
    What I found is so important is Job Satisfaction, ( more than the Money ) ,, INFJ’s have to fit the job type more than others or life can become tedious & unrewarding. My background involves helping, saving people & preventing disasters, it’s not an ego thing,, it’s about having a justified purpose & achieving good outcomes.
    My way of looking at the world is unconventional & it’s often been said that there are many strings to my bow.
    I wish this INFJ personality was put to me a decade ago,,, it explains the situation so well,,, thank you.

  33. You are welcome! I am so glad the article was helpful to you. I think you are right that the INFJ work must be very meaningful, perhaps so more than many other types. It could be that individuality is often a big value so activities that reinforce that are key.
    Thanks for writing!

  34. Hello from another lifelong INFJ!

    For those seeking re career…wanted to offer thought that your career is not the only way that you interact with the world…you also have impact in your daily living, by small things in the way you live (helping a stranger, volunteering at school?) and your daily being as parent, child, friend, spouse, community member. I enjoy my work in graphic design, but when I worry that it is ‘trivial’, I try to remember the other things I can do outside of work that do make a positive difference.

    I am sought out by people who are sad, and unpopular with others, because I see into them, sympathize, and accept where they come from. Where others might dislike an annoying strange person, I understand what made them the way they are, the person ‘under’ their behavior. Some try to exploit me (I am quite often asked for favors), which has made me a bit weary and wary lately.

    I have had several prescient episodes ( i.e. when I first met my husband, I felt a flash of recognition and knew I would marry him.)

    I seek a life which is simple, loving, joyful, and where I can contribute my work/talents to the community.
    I am idealistic and wish people could stop hurting eachother all the time… Very INFJ of me, I guess!

    Thank you for the great post, and I enjoyed reading what everybody else wrote, too.

  35. Thank you and welcome to this thread. I really love reading what everyone else wrote also. My personality type is ENFP but 4 of the most significant people in my life are INFJ types- my brother, my daughter, my best friend, and my most trusted colleague. You are a rare and beautiful bunch!

  36. I’ve probably reread this post/comments three or four times. It’s very comforting to come back and remind myself that I am not alone. I feel like those words are my own. When I first realized my personality 6 months ago, I was so mad that I didn’t plan things out better. There’s the J! I was definitely in a GRIP moment. I am a mommy of 2 (3 and almost 5) and full time high school teacher. As a teacher, the lesson planning and execution is my favorite part. I feel that I can sequence the material well so that the students can actually learn the math instead of memorizing it. Changing the lesson midway and figuring out what will both challenge and not discourage students is so much fun. Grading and dealing with administration/colleagues is my least favorite and probalby most draining. I noticed that before becoming a mom, I was able to reenergize. AFter four and a half years of trying to work and be a mom, I found myself exhausted and lost. Six months ago, I felt that I needed a career change because the politics and feeling of helplessness just overcame me. Now that I understand myself better, I know what my limits are and try to remember not to beat myself up. Now that I have decided to stop working for a while, this has been a decision I still have to find peace with as an INFJ. It has been so difficult making the decision to put my career on hold. If there is anyone that has been there and understand what I am going through, I would love some advice!

    Also, sometimes I think about letting people read about INFJ so they can understand me better. But that’s it. I think and wish it, but I would not actually do it because I almost feel like it’s too forward. Just from experience, my straightforwardness makes most people uncomfortable.

  37. Thanks for your insights! My favorite part about this blog entry is all of the comments that INFJs have contributed.

  38. Interesting…

    I would have just avoided the comparison with diamonds since the process of extraction is – to say the least – at variance with the fact that INFJs are supposed to be great public servants.

    ps: I guess I am INFJ

    ;))

  39. Actually, the reference is to an old television commercial where a man is cutting a diamond in the back seat of a car. He has to hold it steady or else he can ruin the diamond by hitting the cut incorrectly (It was demonstrating how smooth the car ride was). The INFJ personality is so complex that in my experience, it can create brilliance or a convoluted mess if it is not nurtured carefully.

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