Every INFJ has felt misunderstood at one time or another. It’s a natural consequence of being one of the rarest personality types.
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Sadly, people naturally assume that you’re like them, and some will tell you that there’s something wrong with you if you’re the least bit different.
Over the past couple years, I’ve come to embrace my INFJ personality, but for a long time, I wondered why I was so different. I regularly felt broken, frustrated, unappreciated, and out of place. I wish someone would have told me how and why I was different and that I’m okay.
If you’re an INFJ, wrestling with what makes you so different, here are six things I want you to know about yourself.
1. You prefer to think about the future.
70% of the people in this world are sensors. They focus on what they can see, touch, taste, feel, and hear and tend to, as a result, prefer the past and present to the future because they can use their senses to verify both. Sensors love newspapers and history books, and they want to know that Jade Dragon was shut down for dirty kitchen knives and moldy ice. Many trust longstanding businesses and established institutions and go to great lengths to ensure their security.
You, in contrast, are attuned to patterns, implications, and the future. While you also take in information from your environment via your senses, you don’t consciously process that information. Your subconscious does. Your mind analyzes the data and “connects the dots” so to speak. When it finishes, you get an “aha”, an impression, or an insight. This is introverted intuition at work, and it’s one of the best parts of being an INFJ. It’s also a rare gift and a different way of processing the world than most personality types are used to.
2. You can read other people like a book.
You, like all INFJs, combine preferences for intuition and feeling. These preferences yield amazingly accurate insights about people. Your mind picks up on minutiae in other people’s facial expressions and body language, pieces it together, and gives you lucid insights into what those people are actually thinking and feeling.
INFJs also have a knack for understanding what motivates people. They know what makes different types tick and use that information to talk to others and to help them. Sometimes, they even use it to manipulate.
For most of my life, I’ve been able to relate to almost anyone. I’m a chameleon of sorts, adapting my communication style to whomever I’m talking with. It’s a big part of why I was chosen for homecoming king in college, I think. I never tried to make it onto the homecoming court, but I did strive to relate to others in a way that was comfortable for them. I almost always leaned toward relational harmony and took a genuine interest in what others had to say.
3. You absorb other people’s moods.
As an INFJ, you naturally pick up on peoples’ moods and, in a sense, absorb them as your own. It’s not something you make a conscious effort to do but, rather, something that just happens.
Whenever my wife is feeling grumpy or distressed, I have a hard time focusing. I feel compelled to stop whatever I’m working on and help her process the issue partly because I want her to feel better and partly because I’m tired of dealing with the emotions that she’s exuding. We INFJs are emotional magnets.
4. You want to go deep.
INFJs enjoy psychology, theory, spirituality, science, and the like. They want to know the meaning of life and long to live lives of purpose. They’re ill content to wile away their hours in shallow conversation. They want to broaden their understanding of why things are the way they are and make a difference in the world.
My mother-in-law, a fellow INFJ, loves to discuss geology and biology. Get her started and you can easily have a one- or two-hour conversation about the biblical flood’s effect on the earth or the importance of stimulating a child’s mind in the first years of her life. My ESTJ sister-in-law has to tell her, “Mom, I’ve had enough.”
My mother-in-law and I both love to analyze and understand the personalities types in our family. We try to get to the core of what motivates each, help them better understand themselves, and show them how to get along with one another. A deep discussion is fun.
5. You’re your own worst critic.
You tend to hold yourself to a higher standard than most other types hold themselves to. While your preference for feeling and desire for group harmony may lead you to show compassion to others, you’re a ruthless critic of your own work. You put in more time than is required and exceed expectations on projects, striving for perfection.
This attention to detail and desire to do quality work will take you far, but it’s not always healthy. One of the best things I ever learned was that “sometimes good enough is good enough” and that I need to fit my tasks to my time. In other words, because I have limited time, I won’t be able to do every project perfectly without sacrificing relationships and health. As a result, I need to prioritize my work and be willing to “get ‘er done” when necessary.
6. You won’t be content with most jobs on the market.
Sadly, there aren’t many jobs out there for people like you, or, at least, the ones you’d want to do are harder to get into. INFJs make good musicians, authors, professors, counselors, and psychologists to name a few possible career directions you could pursue. The challenge with these jobs is that getting into them requires a lot of time and money up front. And then there’s still no guarantee that you’ll be able to land them in the end.
INFJs need to beware of pursuing their ideal careers with reckless abandon. They need safety and relative comfort to do their best work, so risking it all financially isn’t always the wisest move. INFJs make poor starving artists.
This is frustrating because INFJs aren’t content to punch a clock and pay the bills. Existence living isn’t living at all. As I mentioned before, they feel driven to live purposefully and make a difference in the world. Understandably, the career dilemma is one of the biggest frustrations INFJs face.