“To be nobody but yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.” (e.e. cummings)
While attending DePaul, I worked at the university’s Career Center as a marketing/communications intern. It was there that I became fascinated with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment. My career counselor happened to be an expert on the subject, and after all the time I spent promoting his MBTI workshop, I finally decided to participate myself. I learned that I’m an INFJ, and finally had some context to understand the quirks of my personality type.
When I first learned about MBTI and INFJ, it made me realize that I wasn’t alone and there are other people, few as they may be, with similar eccentricities and contradictions. When it comes to INFJs, there is a lot written about the positive traits of our personality. It’s also the most rare of the types (making up only 1–3% of the general population). But there is also a dark side to being an INFJ, and I thought that maybe in writing this I could, at the very least, help non-INFJs understand me a little better, but also provide that sense of “you’re not alone” to other introverts that I often sought.
INFJ life without self-awareness can be alienating. Working from home in my previous job for three years gave me an incredible sense of peace and comfort. But being back in an office setting now, having to spend time at blogger networking events, and needing to interact with photography clients sparked some anxiety over the last year. As an INFJ, I often felt isolated, even in the middle of a crowd of people.
I’m what some people refer to as an “extroverted introvert.” Perhaps it’s my background in theater arts that allows me to “fake it” — many people are surprised to learn that I’m naturally introverted. Don’t get me wrong. I love people. And actually, INFJs thrive when they are able to help and understand others, so I need to be social. I just can’t always handle being exposed to large groups of people without feeling drained.
This is why I stay behind my desk during happy hour at work, sneak out of events early, and flake out on prior social commitments at the last minute in favor of staying home to watch Netflix or play video games. Parties, clubs, bars, and crowds are my worst nightmares, and I need to be mentally prepared for them.
Even during my “party girl” days in college, I would go out with my extrovert bestie and guys would ask her, “what’s wrong with your friend?” (The #RestingBitchFace struggle is real)! With enough mental preparation and energy, I do usually enjoy myself… at least in the beginning, but will quickly become anxious, tired, and ready to go home. Although I know the intentions are always good, guilt trips and added pressure to commit to social engagements only heighten my uneasiness.
Sometimes I forget to take care of myself. Before I took my break from photography, I was often skipping meals to fit sessions in with my full-time schedule. My blog and personal life took a backseat to the work I was doing for other people. I want to be able to solve people’s problems and feel guilty when I don’t/can’t, but I am slowly learning that I have to take time off for myself in order to have the energy and emotional capacity to help others.
INFJs are often targets for sociopaths due to our empathy and desire to help, and I’ve personally experienced a long-term relationship with one. It took me years to recover, and I still struggle with residual effects of the trauma. One of the ways I’ve learned to cope with toxic relationships is the INFJ Door Slam.
Basically– an INFJ Door Slam means that it’s no longer healthy for me to interact with you, and so I cut you out of my life completely. Unfortunately, I’ve had to do this a few times in my adult life. It seems cruel, but it’s actually about self-preservation. Some other personality types are able to live with or ignore unhealthy emotional situations, but INFJs crave resolution. If it’s not possible to work through the issues and I become burned out by the unresolved emotions, my way of resolving the conflict is by withdrawing myself entirely.
“Don’t mistake my kindness for weakness.” Even though I have low tolerance for people that don’t share my values or can’t connect beyond a superficial level, I am fiercely loyal to my true friends. My INFJ empathy renders the pain of my loved ones palpable and difficult to tolerate, so I will fight for them with everything I have.
Career-wise, I must be able to find meaning in what I do, and live in accordance with my value system. I’m in a constant state of cognitive dissonance understanding the necessity of money to pay bills and maintain the lifestyle I’m accustomed to, but also wanting to make the world a better place and help as many people as I can.
My idea of a perfect weekend is being able to recharge in solitude; reading or writing to feed my hunger for creativity, and a conservative amount of interaction with my closest friends and family.
For my non-INFJ friends, I hope this gives you a clarifying glimpse into the confusing, paradoxical jumble that is being introverted, intuitive, feeling, and judging. To my fellow INFJs, next time you are the awkward one at a party, know that you’re not alone– and if I’m at that same party, feel free to come hide with me in the bathroom!