The paradox of being an INFJ

The paradox of being an INFJ

INFJs are unusual. Not only are they the rarest personality type (making up 1-2% of the world’s population) but the elements of their personality are contradictory. I’m an INFJ and sometimes I feel like I’m two different people. Here’s why:

I’m an extroverted introvert

Here’s the dialogue of my life: “I love everyone! I want to be best friends with everyone and be around them 24/7.” A few minutes later, “Okay, everyone needs to leave me alone…for three days…so I can recharge and read books…no, we can’t read books together. That’s it, I’m going to become a recluse and never talk to anyone again.”

Hot and cold behaviour is not uncommon for INFJs. As introverts, we crave solitude. At the same time, we have a desperate need to be around people and want to have meaningful conversations with others. This paradox is often seen in the way INFJs tend to be private, reserved and enigmatic, but also warm and welcoming towards others. Since INFJs are introverted, they need to be alone to recharge. However, their feeling element contradictorily draws them towards people. I love people. I am fascinated by people and psychology – how we work, how we became who we are and the intricate layers of one’s being. However, when I’m with someone for too long my energy levels plummet. I yearn to be around people but need to be by myself to process everything and recharge.

I’m calmly emotional

Emotions. Oh man. Where to begin? INFJs feel emotions strongly and differently from other personality types. In fact, INFJs are often regarded as the most empathetic of personality types and have been credited as the only type that can absorb other people’s emotions. As an INFJ, I am super emotional. Super-duper emotional. INFJs are paradoxical in the way they appear calm on the outside, even though their facial expressions are either animated or zen-like. INFJs keep most of their emotions inside in a rather unhealthy way. They feel deeply but not outwardly. However, there are times when I get so angry, sad, happy or overwhelmed that I literally shake from the intensity of my emotions. To some people, I seem over-sensitive, and to others I seem calm and sometimes cold. The emotions of an INFJ are like an iceberg – most of it is hidden underneath.

I’m logically creative/or creatively logical

INFJs can use the right and left side of their brain equally. Since INFJs are obsessed with the human experience they often love writing, making art and expressing themselves creatively. However, INFJs also have a scientific and strategic twin within their personality. INFJs are logical, highly analytical and like to experiment with new ideas. Although INFJs thrive in “thinking” careers such as medicine and sciences, our orientation towards human nature makes creative expression a necessity to one’s happiness. The ability to access both our thinking and creative side means that INFJs are great employees and well-rounded decision-makers.

I’m a pessimistic optimist

Like many INFJs, I have a contradictory view on humanity. As gifted people readers, INFJs are aware of people’s intentions, can detect lies easily and can often see the motive behind an action. Sometimes, I question my sanity because I feel like I see and understand people in a way that others don’t. Unfortunately, sometimes people do bad things to one another and this makes me cynical, angry and sometimes, depressed. However, I also choose to see the best in others, and my negativity is often overshadowed by hope and compassion. To quote Carl Rogers, “when I look at the world I am pessimistic but when I look at people I am an optimist.” As an INFJ, this is how I view humanity.

I’m an inconsistent communicator

I’m a great and terrible public speaker. INFJs are so scatter-minded that they’re often incoherent and illogical in conversations. A lot of memes on the Internet compare an INFJ’s mind to that of a computer that cannot work properly because it has a 100 tabs open – this is how I feel when talking to people I don’t know well – I don’t function very well.

The only time I sound coherent is when I can prepare in advance. If I have a moment to collect my thoughts I can be a passionate and confident speaker. I have won almost every speaking/debating competition I’ve ever been in and took acting classes for many years. Although I’m quiet, I’m definitely not shy, even though a lot of people think I am.

However, writing is my preferred method of communication. Almost every INFJ I know is a writer of some sorts, and nearly all of them find refuge in organising their thoughts through the written word.

I fight for others but not for myself

According to 16 Personalities, INFJs are the type most likely to right a wrong, or to create social movement or cultural change. Altruism is in the DNA of INFJs. Every day, in some small way, INFJs are fighting for others, or for a cause. Someone I knew wrote me a letter once that said, “The bravest person I know is the tiniest person I know. She’s scared of many things but if someone needs her, she suddenly thinks she’s a twelve foot giant that can take on the world.” If I feel I can help someone or if I feel they’re being unfairly treated, I turn into a gladiatrix almost instantly (in a good and bad way). INFJs are known as “advocates” and “protectors” for a reason.

However, if I was the treated the same way, I often find that I cannot fight for myself. This is a sad reality for many INFJs. They’re often the doormats and champions of others.

I see the big picture, miss the small steps but am still a perfectionist

I often have the answer without knowing how I got the answer. My intuition generates great and scarily accurate insights. However it doesn’t provide me with the steps on how I reached that conclusion. I often get asked “How did I know XYZ would happen” and I can never provide a logical explanation. In all honesty, my intuition told me. It’s as if some magical fairy came to me with the answer in an envelope. I just trust my intuition.

INFJs are big picture thinkers. They’ve been nicknamed as psychics due to their intuitive ability to predict how things will unfold. However, INFJs don’t know how they know, and have a tendency to gloss over details and small things. For example, I often forget to eat breakfast or to reply to someone’s text because I’m so focused on the bigger parts of my day.

Paradoxically, INFJs are perfectionists. I often find myself living by the “all or nothing” approach, even though it’s not healthy. Whenever I’m working on something I care about, I try to make everything perfect, even though I know perfection is unattainable.

I’m a dreaming doer

INFJs are dreamers. I’ve always been that person whose “head is in the clouds,” or is “off with the fairies.” Despite all the air-headed names INFJs get called, they have a great success record because of their ability to turn their dreams into actions. INFJs respect deeds over words, and apply the same expectation onto themselves. If we have an inkling of how to accomplish something, we’ll make it happen. The judging element of our personality gives us great organisational skills and allows us to create step-by-step means to reach our goals.

Some of the greatest dreamers and change-makers of the world were INFJs – Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi.

INFJs are the dreaming doers of the world.

Although many INFJs feel misunderstood because of their paradoxes, I’m grateful for mine. They’re a big part of my personality and create balance in my life. I get to see, understand, live and breathe the best of both worlds. This makes me even more capable of understanding and loving others, and for that I am thankful.

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