Perhaps you’ve always felt very different to other people, like you don’t fit in or live on the fringe…like you are full of contradictions and are more than a little weird or even “from a different planet”…but are you so alone in this?
An article flagged up today about the super-rare INFJ personality type (accounting for less than 1 to 2% of the population) as assessed by the Myers Briggs’ method and it rang as true as a bell to me; so I ran one of the readily available online tests. And yes, true to form, I am an emphatic INFJ type. I recommended the test to someone else I know who struggles to mix or identify with their age-peers and who tends towards introversion and over-empathic responses to whatever troublesome thing is going on in the world to the point of anxiety or even feeling unwell. They too scored as an INFJ, which didn’t surprise me in the least. So does the INFJ type equate all-too readily with the chronic illness profile; those who tend towards caving in under modern life’s hugely over-stimulating effect, adding to this a set of extraordinarily high expectations of their purpose in life and a spadeload of perfectionism? To quote the 16personalities* website which offers one of the more comprehensive tests and follow-up profiles, this personality type needs to “remember to take care of themselves. The passion of their convictions is perfectly capable of carrying them past their breaking point and if their zeal gets out of hand, they can find themselves exhausted, unhealthy and stressed” (don’t I know it). The INFJ is the classic candidate for burn-out!
This following is the mix of qualities represented by the INFJ initials (source Wikipedia):
I – Introversion preferred to extraversion: INFJs tend to be quiet and reserved. They generally prefer interacting with a few close friends rather than a wide circle of acquaintances, and they expend energy in social situations (whereas extroverts gain energy).
N – iNtuition preferred to sensing: INFJs tend to be more abstract than concrete. They focus on the big picture rather than the details, and on future possibilities rather than immediate realities.
F – Feeling preferred to thinking: INFJs tend to value personal considerations above objective criteria. When making decisions, they often give more weight to social implications than to logic.
J – Judgment preferred to perception: INFJs tend to plan their activities and make decisions early. They derive a sense of control through predictability.
Rare though it may be, I suspect there are quite a number of INFJ types, these-days, gravitating towards particular social-media forums, hooking up in spiritual or health-related spaces and feeling…currently…like they have the whole weight of the world on their shoulders though no one else around them seems to care quite as much about what is going on. They take up self-appointed roles of trying to explain highly complex matters to which they feel they can make a positive contribution, based on their insightful nature, and yet (though they speak “in human terms, not technical”, having “a fluid, inspirational writing style that appeals to the inner idealist in their audience” *) they flounder when it comes to finding all that many people who seem to understand what they are trying so urgently to share. People around them don’t even realise how alone or burdened they are feeling since they give the impression of being far more gregarious, up-beat and trivially focussed than they really are. Rather, people love being around them and feel relaxed in their company as they have a knack of putting people at ease and uplifting their mood. The fact that they tend to process their deep-and-innermosts outwardly, even publicly, seems to contradict their deep introversion (my blog-writing is point in case) and it sends people off track when they think they are getting to know someone far more extroverted than they really are. This can leave the INFJ feeling even more isolated because even their friends don’t truly “get them” and there is always that nagging feeling that they would be dropped like a hot brick if the extent of their introversion ever “came out”, like people would think they were a fraud (they’re not…they’re just a paradox). To quote the Human Metrics website:
“INFJs are deeply concerned about their relations with individuals as well as the state of humanity at large. They are, in fact, sometimes mistaken for extroverts because they appear so outgoing and are so genuinely interested in people — a product of the Feeling function they most readily show to the world. On the contrary, INFJs are true introverts, who can only be emotionally intimate and fulfilled with a chosen few from among their long-term friends, family, or obvious “soul mates.” While instinctively courting the personal and organizational demands continually made upon them by others, at intervals INFJs will suddenly withdraw into themselves, sometimes shutting out even their intimates. This apparent paradox is a necessary escape valve for them, providing both time to rebuild their depleted resources and a filter to prevent the emotional overload to which they are so susceptible as inherent “givers.” As a pattern of behavior, it is perhaps the most confusing aspect of the enigmatic INFJ character to outsiders, and hence the most often misunderstood — particularly by those who have little experience with this rare type.” (Human Metrics – see their full INFJ description here).
If that’s you, why not take the test and read on. What’s the point, you may ask? Well, it can be encouraging, sometimes, to know you’re not completely alone when you feel as though you are…and finding ways to identify yourself and others like you can add cohesion and purpose to what might otherwise feel like torturous and burdensome personality traits that only ever made your life seem more difficult than other people’s. Reading articles about this personality trait can be like a love-song to yourself, a motivational exercise in singing all the plus points of what you have to offer and why you are the way you are. “You are not broken” has been my self-mantra for many a year and hearing all the ways I am made in such a positive (if not typical) way has been a pleasant boost to my confidence…perhaps yours too. Recognising and owning your personality type can come as an awakening of sorts; as it was when I first recognised (and owned!) I was an introvert a few years ago, which had HUGELY positive repercusions in my healing journey as well as my relationships and broader life choices (see my article Just wired that way – unapologetically). And then, a little bit of self-love never goes amiss and sometimes you just long to feel you are part of something, even if it’s a “gang” of the world’s rarest, least understood, people. I found a treasure trove of aricles on this topic and exploring it in such a positive light feels like a Saturday afternoon kind of thing to do…time out from “saving the world” 😉
Here’s a few interesting articles
(Many of these articles are from the Introvert, Dear website which has many more on the INFJ type)
Take the assessment – find out your type
16personalities.com for a really detailed report