Although I don’t write on this blog anymore, I know that a lot of people who tend to find this blog may be interested in the topic of anxiety. I have recently started a new blog about my journey battling social anxiety. If this topic is pertinent or interesting to you, please check it out! Thanks!
Hi everyone! I apologize that I have not written an INFJ post in a very long time. I recently started a new blog where I am writing about other aspects of my life beyond Myers Briggs. Although, I may come back and write another INFJ post at some point, I am currently doing most of my writing over there.
This past Fall I’ve been learning to embrace my limits. As an INFJ, my natural tendency is to push my limits. I work too many hours, say yes to too many things, and forget to take care of my personal needs. This is my second year as a 3rd grade teacher, a career that I find to be so meaningful, yet so draining. I’ve come to a realization that if I will not be able to continue in this field if I don’t learn to be more aware of my own needs and take better care of myself. Therefore, my main goal upon entering the new year is to continue to gratefully accept my limits and live within the natural boundaries of how I’m wired. This may mean saying no to good opportunities, disappointing people, and not feeling as productive or successful. However, I know that in the long run, this shift in my life is necessary. These are some steps that I’m taking to embrace my limits:
1. Getting enough sleep: In college, I managed to survive with only 5-6 hours of sleep each night. However, I’m finding that especially as a teacher, I need at least 8 hours. As a result, I’ve simply started going to bed earlier. I’ve found that it helps to create a bedtime routine that I look forward to. For example, I usually drink a cup of herbal tea and read for about 20 minutes before I go to bed.
2. Doing things that bring me joy: For me, this means reading a book start to finish in one sitting, going on a long hike by myself, getting coffee with a trusted friend, or watching my favorite movie for the umpteenth time. As an INFJ, I find that all of these activities stimulate my introverted intuition. Therefore, these activities help me feel more like myself again.
3. Taking a full day of rest each week: This is a practice that I’ve started to implement, but want to implement more fully in the new year. My goal is to practice a weekly “Sabbath” every Sunday. For me, this means going to church and then spending the afternoon at a coffee shop journaling, reading, and just being. It might also mean spending time in nature or going out to dinner with a dear friend. This is not a day to buy groceries, do errands, or clean my apartment. Rather, it’s a day to fully rest and refocus on what really matters in my life.
4. Embracing a lifestyle of minimalism: This past Fall, I’ve become very interested in minimalism. I don’t think that this lifestyle is necessarily for everyone, but as an INFJ who regularly feels overwhelmed, I love how minimalism decreases the number of decisions I need to make and the amount of chaos in my life. Over the past few months, I’ve slowly been getting rid of things. At this point, I only have possessions that I actually use and value. I can’t tell you how freeing this has been for me!
5. Slowing down the pace of my life: I’ve noticed that my natural pace of life is too hurried. I drive in the fast lane, power walk through the grocery store, and eat my meals in just a few minutes. Therefore, I’ve been making a conscious effort to slow down my pace in life and try to live more in the moment. This means sometimes driving in the slowest lane, choosing the longest checkout line at the grocery store, and refusing to multitask while I’m eating. This does not come naturally to me, but I know that with time a slower pace of life can become my natural habit.
6. Limiting my technology use: If I’m being honest, most technology exhausts me. Sometimes I feel overwhelemed keeping up with everybody’s lives on Facebook, watching each new episode on Netflix, and even keeping up with my favorite blogs. This Fall, I took a break from several different forms of technology and those experiences were life changing. For example, I did a 6 week fast from TV/Netflix and it was one of the best things I’ve ever done. I felt so much more at peace during those 6 weeks than I usually feel. I’m realizing that instead of relaxing me, too much screen time just leaves me feeling restless and overwhelmed. That is why I am making a concentrated effort to limit its power in my life.
7. Admitting my weaknesses to people: I’ve read that INFJs tend to present themselves as an ideal. That so resonates with me. I try to appear better than I really am to people and am so afraid to admit my weaknesses. I hate asking for help and usually just try to figure out how to do things on my own. However, I’m learning that my weaknesses can actually be a good thing. For example, I’ve recently started sharing with more people about my struggle with anxiety. I’ve been amazed at how many people can relate and what great conversations have resulted. I’m learning that I can connect with people at a deeper level the more that I’m willing to be honest about my limitations and struggles in life.
I would love to hear from other INFJs out there. What limits do you deal with in your life? How are you leaning to embrace those limits?
Recently I’ve been reflecting on my second function which is extraverted feeling. This is a function that centers on connecting with others, helping people, and understanding social dynamics. As an INFJ, I have a love-hate relationship with my extraverted feeling. I desire deep and meaningful connections with others and appreciate the way that my extraverted feeling enables me to understand people and connect with them. However, this function also causes a lot of pain in my life. I’m regularly overwhelmed by the emotions of others and often find myself taking on other people’s emotions as if they were my own. When this happens, I start to lose touch with my own personal feelings and desires. Additionally, since my extraverted feeling wants to make sure everybody is happy and has their needs met, I regularly sacrifice my own needs and happiness in order to keep the peace. Also, as an INFJ, I find that I am regularly disappointed by how little the emotional support I offer to others is usually reciprocated. This leaves me feeling used, misunderstood, and disappointed.
When my extraverted feeling feels like too much work, I regularly retreat to my tertiary function of introverted thinking. In the moment, introverted thinking feels like a safe haven. After all, introverted thinking centers on cold, hard data and facts, removed from any social or emotional setting. Inititally it feels like such a relief because it is essentially the opposite of extraverted feeling. However, I’ve learned that too much time spent in this function turns me into someone I don’t want to be. Since this function isn’t fully developed, it often causes me to become cold and distant towards the very people that want to help me. It also leads to immense perfectionism and self criticism. Even more importantly, my introverted thinking prevents me from releasing the negative emotions that are bottled up inside of me. When this happens, I find myself spiraling into a cycle of negativity, becoming obsessive about all that seems wrong in my life.
Therefore, I’m learning that hiding from my extraverted feeling and escaping to my introverted thinking isn’t the answer. Rather, I need to further develop my extraverted feeling so that I can use it in a healthier way. These are some ways that I’m trying to do that:
- Setting Boundaries: My extraverted feeling is very aware of other people’s boundaries. I try my best to respect those boundaries in order to keep the peace. However, it takes only a slight perspective shift to realize that I have the same right to set boundaries for myself. This is by no means easy, but it is something I’ve been practicing. For example, I’m learning to set boundaries in my relationships that feel one-sided. I put tangible limits around the amount of time I spend with those friends which frees me up for healthier, more mutual friendships. I’m also learning to set boundaries at work. When a coworker comes to me with an urgent request, I’m learning that I don’t have to solve their problem right away. I can still help them, but I can do it at a time that works better for my personal schedule. I’ve also tried being proactive in dividing up tasks or responsibilities at the beginning of a project so that the work doesn’t all fall on me in the end. Although setting boundaries feels hard in the moment, it frees up my time to pursue the relationships and projects that I find truly meaningful.
- Taking Care of Myself: My extroverted feeling desires to take care of the people around me. However, I’m learning that I can’t take care others if I’m not taking care of myself. As a 3rd grade teacher of 27 kiddos, I find that I have more to offer my students when I’m getting my personal needs met. This include simple things like remembering to eat breakfast in the morning or getting enough sleep at night. This also means taking time for myself to do the things that bring me joy like reading a good book, spending time in nature, or getting coffee with a friend.
- Self Expression: In order to be healthy, extraverted feeling requires avenues of self expression. I’ve learned that I can’t keep my feelings bottled up inside. I must have outlets for my emotions. Journaling, seeing a counselor, writing music, and confiding in a trusted friend or family member are all ways that I release the toxic emotions that I tend to absorb from others. Additionally, these forms of self expression help me to identify what I’m personally feeling, separate from the emotions or needs of the people around me.
- Making Connections with Others: Although I’m an introvert, I get so much fulfillment from making positive connections with others. My extraverted feeling enables me to understand where people are coming from and how my life can connect to theirs. A simple exercise I’ve been practicing is encouraging the people I come in contact with during the day, whether it’s the grocer at the checkout, another teacher making copies in the copy room, or the person taking my order at a coffee shop. I’ve been amazed at what great conversations can come from a simple compliment or word of encouragement.
I would love to hear from other INFJs out there. How do you experience extraverted feeling? How have you worked to develop this function in your life?
I love to journal. I’ve been a journaler for as long as I can remember. Starting in high school, I decided to keep my journals so that I could have a tangible record of my personal journey. At this point I have two boxes of journals stowed away in my closet that I pull out and read every few years. As an INFJ, I am so future-oriented and tend to forget details from the past. Therefore, reading my old journals helps me reconnect with my younger self and to remember the different seasons of my life that have shaped who I am. Just a few days ago, I had a free day to myself and decided to re-read my journals in chronological order. This process took most of the day and was surprisingly very emotional for me. However, it also gave me a lot of insight into my personality and the ways that I’ve grown and developed as an INFJ over the past 8 years.
These are some of the themes and patterns in my life that I noticed:
A repeated frustration with one-sided relationships. I’ve always struggled with a sense of one-sided intimacy in my relationships with people. As an INFJ, I put a lot of effort into listening to and undertanding people, but I often feel that my effort isn’t fully reciprocated. As I read my journals from high school specifically, I remembered how few of my high school friendships were mutual and how unfulfilling that was for me. However, I noticed that as I started letting go of friendships that were unhealthy and one-sided, I had more energy to seek out the quality friendships desired. Additionally, as I’ve worked on sharing more vulnerably with people, I’ve learned that most people actually do want to know me. They just don’t always know what questions to ask. As I’ve gained the courage to speak up and share more of myself with people, I’ve felt significantly more satisfied in my relationships.
Social anxiety. This past year I’ve realized that I probably have at least a mild form of social anxiety. At first I though that this was just a recent struggle in my life. However, as I perused my old journals, I realized that social anxiety has always been a setback for me. As I read journals from my teenage years, I remembered how much anxiety I felt when I was put on the spot in large group situations. I remembered how I used to worry about upcoming big events. Most, of all, I remembered how much shame I associated with my anxiety. In high school especially, I felt such pressure to have a large group of friends and was ashamed that I felt so uncomfortable in social situations. However, at that point I couldn’t articulate that this horribly uncomfortable feeling was actually anxiety and that it wasn’t something to be ashamed of. Through reading my old journals, I obtained a greater perspective on what kinds of things tend to trigger my anxiety. I also gained motivation to continue pursue healing in this area of my life.
A consistent feeling of being misunderstood. I was shocked at how many times the word misunderstood popped up in my journal. Of all the negative feelings I wrote about, feeling misunderstood was the most prevelant emotion. I first discovered that I was an INFJ about 3 years ago and I wish I’d known it sooner. Learning about the INFJ personality has helped me to understand myself and see strength and beauty in my personality. It has also given me concrete vocabulary to articulate my unique personality to others and to help them understand me. However, in my teenage years, I just felt that my personality was a mess of contradictions that no one understood. I’m so thankful that during my Junior year of college I finally discovered my type and that feeling of being misunderstood no longer had such power over me.
Immense perfectionism. I’ve always been my worst critic. I’m immensely hard on myself and rarely feel like I’m living up to my full potential. However, in my earlier journals, my perfectionism was especially apparent. I felt sad to realize how harsh I was with myself about so many trivial things (my grades, how people perceived me, my weaknesses). Looking back, I wish that could have given my younger self grace to not have it all figured out yet. Additionally this motivates me to extend that same grace to myself currently when I feel tempted to slip back into the spiral of perfectionism.
A tendency to burn out. A final pattern that I discovered in my journals was a tendency to get overwhelmed and burnt out because of neglecting self care. I noticed that I tend to start every endeavor (a school year, a job, a friendship, a personal goal, etc.) with such zeal and enthusiasm. I always give 100% and often work myself much harder than necessary. However, that intensity is something I can’t keep up forever. I noticed that at some point every year, I reached at least one point of major burnout where I felt depressed, overwhelmed, and physically exhausted, simply because I forgot to take care of myself and let others help me. This was such a good reminder for me to be proactive about setting healthy boundaries and respecting my limits in order to avoid those major episodes of burnout.
Can you relate to any of these patterns in your life? Are there any other INFJs out there who gain perspective through journaling? I would love to hear your thoughts. 🙂
Lately, I’ve been reflecting on the similarities and differences between INFJs and their “sister types”. By this, I mean the personality types that are only one letter different from INFJ. In my experience, I connect easily with people of those 4 types (ENFJ, ISFJ, INTJ, and INFP) based on the similarities of our personalities. However, I also am fascinated by just how much of a difference in our personalities one letter can make.
INFJs and ENFJs: Until this past year, I had only known ENFJs as acquaintances. However, this year I started rooming with a good friend of mine who I found out is an ENFJ. I’ve gotten to know her very well this year and I feel that she’s given me a lot of insight into this personality.
Similarities: INFJs and ENFJs share the same 4 functions, but in a slightly different order. As a result, I find that we view the world in a very similar way. Introverted intuition is my primary function and the ENFJ’s second function. As a result, we both enjoy abstract or hypothetical conversations. We are both focused on the big picture and sometimes get overwhelmed with details. Additionally, both my roommate and I have a tendency to get distracted by new ideas or possibilities. For example, it’s not uncommon for both of us to go to the grocery store to get a specific item and then realize once we’re home that we got everything we needed except for that item! We also are both true romantics. She’s my go to friend when I want to watch an emotional or romantic movie. This is probably because we both share extroverted feeling as a function. It’s my secondary function and the ENFJ’s primary function. As a result, we are very in tune to the emotions of others. We enjoy talking about people dynamics and love talking about Myers Briggs. Whenever we attend a social event together, we always analyze everyone’s MBTI types once we’re home. We also have very similar interests. We both love music, traveling, and spending time in nature. Additionally, she’s one of the few people I know who can also get lost in a bookstore for hours. We also have similar struggles. We are both prone to anxiety and often struggle to live in the present. We both put a lot of pressure on ourselves and are very driven by perfectionism.
Differences: The obvious difference between us is that ENFJs are extroverts while INFJs are introverts. As a result, my ENFJ roommate gets energy from spending time with groups of people, while I find it draining. Therefore, she is more likely to go to parties or big events than I am. Additionally, she feels a bit stir crazy after too much alone time, while I feel energized and refreshed. I also think that ENFJs are more emotionally expressive than INFJs. My roommate is usually fairly open about her feelings and willing to share them with lots of people while I only share my feelings with a select few. She also accepts people into her friendship circle more readily, while I am a bit more selective. Additionally, I think that ENFJs are more decisive than INFJs since they lead with a decision function while INFJs lead with a perceiving function. Lastly, I find that we have a different relationship with extroverted sensing. Extroverted sensing is her tertiary function and my inferior function. My ENFJ roommate therefore tends to enjoy extroverted sensing activities like shopping, eating out, or watching movies. Since it’s my inferior function, I have more of a “love-hate” relationship with extroverted sensing. I enjoy it for a while, especially during times of stress, but I also get easily overwhelmed by too much external stimulus.
INFJs and ISFJs: I feel that I know this type very well. Two of my closest and most lifelong friends are ISFJs and I have known many others. Although I find that sometimes I struggle to connect with sensors, ISFJs are definitely an exception and I’m always surprised by how effortlessly we connect.
Similarities: INFJs and ISFJs have two functions in common. First of all, we both share extraverted feeling as our second function. As a result, I find that we are very sensitive to each other’s needs and emotions. It is natural for us to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes and as a result, I feel very understood by this type. A lot of ISFJs I’ve talked to also relate to taking on other people’s emotions. I find that we have very similar insights and reads on people after being in the same social situations. I also think that ISFJs and INFJs are the most extroverted of the introverted types. My ISFJ friends understand that frustrating tension between genuinely wanting connection with others, but also needing time alone to recharge. Additionally, since we both share introverted thinking as our tertiary function, we both can sometimes appear surprisingly logical and methodical. I think that both of our types can be mistaken as cold, when in fact we deeply and genuinely care about people. Additionally, I’ve noticed that our introverted thinking causes both of us to be very hard on ourselves and extremely perfectionistic. We also both tend to value minimalism and simplicity in our physical environments. Lastly, I’ve noticed that both of our types tend to have a thirst for adventure. I’m not sure why this is, but almost every INFJ and ISFJ I’ve known has a bit of a daring side that comes out once you get to know them.
Differences: The most obvious difference between our types is that ISFJs are sensors and INFJs are intuitives. I therefore find that my ISFJ friends are a bit more grounded in the real world than I am. They’re more aware of their physical needs like remembering to eat and sleep. Additionally, my ISFJ friends tend to be more scheduled and routined than I am. I enjoy making schedules and plans, but I am very comfortable adjusting them if I find something more interesting to do. ISFJs on the other hand, stick to their plans faithfully and are more disciplined when it comes to finishing things. I’ve also noticed that ISFJs are sometimes a bit bewildered by my nerdiness or quirky obsessions. Although they are very willing to listen to my ideas and theories, they tend to have more practical hobbies and interests. Probably our biggest difference comes from our different primary functions. ISFJs lead with introverted sensing, a function that centers on memories and traditions from the past. In contrast, my introverted intuition is a future-oriented function. Therefore, I’ve noticed that things like holidays, special occasions, and big milestones are much more significant for ISFJs than they are for me. It’s hard for me to really appreciate milestones because I’m so focused on where I’m going next. Lastly, ISFJs are incredibly detail oriented, while I tend to focus on the big picture. I’m always amazed at how my ISFJ friends will ask such specific questions about something I shared with them a year ago. The clarity and accuracy of their memories never ceases to amaze me.
INFJs and INTJs: My sister is a borderline INTJ (she shows little preference for judging or perceiving) and two of my good friends are also this type. Additionally, I’ve had a good number of INTJs as acquaintances, which is surprising since this type is fairly uncommon.
Similarities: INFJs and INTJs both share introverted intuition as our primary function. As a result, we perceive the world in a very similar way. We both easily make connections and see patterns in the world around us. My INTJ friends also enjoy philosophical and abstract discussions. INTJs are also usually quite nerdy and that is how we most readily connect. Every INTJ I know loves literature and film. We can spend hours discussing the latest book we’ve read or movie we’ve watched. Interestingly, I find that our conversations usually center on the symbolism or deeper meaning of a story instead of the actual events. Additionally, I’ve noticed that both INFJs and INTJs tend to be quite driven and share a desire to make a tangible difference in the world. We are both very goal-oriented and have genuine respect for each other’s passions. We also both value our independence and struggle to let others in or to help us. Additionally, we both share extroverted sensing as our inferior function. Therefore, we both can get overwhelmed by too much sensory stimulation including loud noises, bright lights, or crowded situations. At the same time, I’ve noticed that in moderation, both of our types have great appreciation for sensory experiences like art, music, nature, and food.
Differences: Although INFJs and INTJs share introverted intuition as our primary function, our secondary functions are drastically different. INFJs use extraverted feeling to make decisions while INTJs use extraverted thinking. As I result, I tend to focus on people’s feelings, needs, and preferences when making decisons. I care a lot about what people think and I want to make sure that my decisons help get everybody’s needs met. In contrast, INTJs tend to make decisons based on what is most efficient and effective. Additionally, since INTJs have introverted feeling as their tertiary function, they care a lot more about staying true to themselves regardless of what other people think. Therefore, I’ve noticed that they are more willing to make unpopular decisons if they think that their choices will be the most effective in the long run. I’ve also noticed that although both of our types enjoy creating systems, INFJs are more gifted in creating and supporting systems of people, whereas INTJs have greater talent in creating scientific or mechanical systems. Lastly, I’ve noticed that INTJs tend to be a bit more introverted than INFJs. My INTJ friends are even more content being alone than I am and are usually quite satisfied with just a couple close friends.
INFJs and INFPs: Of these four sister types, INFPs are the type with which I have the least experience. I recently reconnected with an old friend who I found out is an INFP. However, other than him, I’ve known maybe one other. So take these descriptions with a grain of salt!
Similarities: Although we actually don’t share any functions, I’ve noticed a lot of similarities between our types. INFJs and INFPs are both very idealistic and are often frustrated by how disappointing and disillusioning the real world can be compared to what we imagine or dream about in our minds. Additionally, we are both deep feelers and often experience a wide range emotions, both positive and negative. Moreover, both of our types have a strong creative streak and therefore enjoy forms of expression like writing, music, and art. We also put a lot of value in our close friendships and strongly value deep and meaningful conversations. My INFP friend also enjoys discussing hypothetical possibilities and abstract theories or concepts. Additionally, I’ve noticed that like INFJs, INFPs can become quite nerdy about the things that they’re interested in.
Differences: An obvious difference between these types is that INFJs are judgers and INFPs are perceivers. As a result, I’m a bit more organized, structured, and easily stressed than my INFP friend. Additionally, I think I feel more pressure to be active and doing something, while INFPs are very comfortable being low key and relaxed. I’ve also noticed that while we’re both feelers, my extroverted feeling causes me to be more focused on what others think of me and making sure that everyone is doing ok. In contrast, INFPs use introverted feeling. This function focuses on personal feelings and making sure that all of your decisions are true to your authentic self. As a result, my INFP friend seems a lot more comfortable with himself than I am and less driven by what people think about him. Lastly, I think that while INFPs care about connection with people, they are a bit more introverted than INFJs and comfortable spending larger amounts of time alone.
I would love to hear about any of your experiences with these types. Which ones are the easiest for you to connect with and why? What similarities and differences have you noticed between INFJs and these types? I would love to hear your thoughts. 🙂
This is a vulnerable post for me to write. However, I hope that it might encourage other INFJs who may have similar experiences to know that they are not alone. I have recently been considering if I might have a mild social anxiety disorder. This would probably be shocking to most people I know since I can put on a good front in social situations. I know how to appear friendly, warm, and even outgoing at times. However, I don’t think anyone has a clue how exhausing and stressful social situations are for me.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t consider myself a lonely, isolated person. I have many dear friends and close, intimate relationships. And unlike many introverts, I’m actually energized by time spent with dear friends, my family, or a small group of people who I know understand me. However, when it comes to strangers or large groups of people, it’s a completely different story. Most of my life I’ve assumed that my discomfort in big groups of people is simply a result of being an introvert. However, I know many introverts who are far less troubled by social situations. As I’ve researched more about social anxiety and taken several online tests, I’ve begun to wonder if my avoidance of social situations is more than just a personality trait, but something that’s actually holding me back in my life. Let me explain what my anxiety is like. Maybe some of you can resonate.
1. Immense worry and anxiety anticipating social situations. It is not uncommon for me to worry about events that are more than a month away. Who will be there? What will be expected of me? How will people perceive me? What will the people dynamics be like?
2. Avoidance of the situation if at all possible. I often find myself avoiding attending a party or event if I don’t know most of the people who will be there. I’m an expert excuse maker. If I do attend, I feel so much better if a close friend or family member is there with me.
3. Sickness. Sometimes on the day of a big event I find myself physically unwell- my stomach hurts, my head aches, and my hands feel sweaty.
4. Feelings of panic when I’m put on the spot. “Let’s all go around the circle and share”… That’s pretty much my worst nightmare. It takes me a while to gather my thoughts and therefore I feel very stressed when asked a question that I don’t feel prepared for. Additionally, I feel very uncomfortable when asked to divulge personal information to people I’ve just met.
5. Replaying social situations in my mind. After a social event, I tend to replay every conversation and interaction in my head. I obsess over stupid things I may have done or said and worry about how people perceived me.
As I’ve been reflecting on this topic, I’ve started to wonder what I’m missing out on because of my anxiety. I’m very satisfied by my one-on-one relationships, but I wonder if I could experience more of a sense of community and support in my life if I were able to overcome this. Have any of you had similar experiences? Are there any strategies that have helped you overcome anxiety in social situations?