It’s nearly impossible to study Myers-Briggs types on the Internet without coming across several articles about the incredibly rare and nearly magical INFJ type. They’re described as the world’s prophets and shamans with deep spiritual insights. They’re called natural empaths with unfailingly accurate telepathy. They appear so deep you’ll never plumb the depths of their souls. They’re seen as the ideal type — the one everyone mis-types as because they wish they were this special.
If you’re vomiting a little in your mouth after reading that description (or laughing out loud at the crazy claims in the image up there), you’re not alone. The tendency to portray INFJs as something akin to a demigod or goddess doesn’t sit well with most healthy INFJs. Aspects of it even scare me. And yet it’s still around.
On the one hand, you have certain INFJs (and wanna-be INFJs) embracing the label and using it to look down on other types. That’s not the purpose of personality types and it’s damaging to us as well as to others. And on the other hand, you have people buying-in to the otherworldly INFJ stereotype and reacting in ways that aren’t good for the INFJs. Some even “hunt” INFJs for a relationship, which is pretty creepy.
How Did This Happen?
The simple fact that INFJs are the rarest personality type is going to make us feel and appear different than other people. That’s where this whole thing started — with acknowledging and explaining why INFJs aren’t like the other 98-99% of the population. So far so good. But soon, it started turning into a “different=better” idea. Read more →
One of the most disturbing trends I’ve noticed in the community of Myers-Briggs enthusiasts is a bias against Sensing types. You’ll see it in comments from Intuitives about how they don’t want any Sensing friends because they couldn’t possibly understand us. It’s someone saying a fictional character is too dumb and shallow to be an INFJ so they have to be ISFJ (or insisting another character has to be INFJ because they’re relatable and imaginative). It’s assuming all SP types are dumb jocks who’d run off a cliff just for a thrill and all SJ types are conservative traditionalists who’d rather die than see the status quo change.
There was a similar issue when introverts finally started realizing they weren’t broken extroverts. In some cases, the introvert hype turned into an idea that introverts are better than extroverts, which is simply not true. It resulted in stereotypes being used to tear-down extroverts and build-up introverts. We’re still undoing that damage, but I think we’ve finally started to balance out and realize that introverts and extroverts are equally valuable.
Unfortunately, I’m not seeing a similar shift toward balance in how Intuitives view Sensing types, at least no everywhere. There are some wonderful groups out there (like Personality Hacker’s “Intuitive Awakening”) that insist on no Sensor-bashing while exploring what it means to be an Intuitive. But outside those groups it still happens. And even if we’re not staying Intuitives are better than Sensors, I wonder if the fact that there’s so much more material out there for Intuitives than for Sensors is still sending the message “you don’t matter as much as us.”
70% of the population are Sensing types, but when you Google individual personality types only 19% of the search results relate to Sensors (that’s if my math’s right — numbers aren’t one of my strengths). I searched each type and compared the number of results that came back. Here’s the full list:
INFJ – 16,100,000
INFP – 15,300,000
INTJ – 13,700,000
INTP – 8,090,000
ENFP – 5,680,000
ENTP – 3,510,000
ISTP – 3,100,000
ENFJ – 2,270,000
ISFJ – 2,230,000
ISTJ – 2,080,000
ESTP – 2,040,000
ENTJ – 2,020,000
ISFP – 1,900,000
ESTJ – 1,890,000
ESFP – 1,280,000
ESFJ – 1,210,000
No wonder so many people mistype themselves as an INxx — we’re the types flooding the internet with articles about what we’re like and inviting people to identify with us. That’s great for people with those types, but it’s actually one of the things contributing to the anti-sensor bias.
One of the reasons that so many people online identify as INFJs is because there is just so much more, and so much better, and more in-depth content on INFJs. If every second article you read is about INFJs, it’s only natural to come to identify more with INFJs, simply because we relate more to things that we understand more.” — Erik Thor, “Have You Ever Thought That You’re Actually Just A Smart Sensor?“
If you Google “INFJ” you get back about 16,100,000 results. Search “ISTJ” and you get about 2,080,000 results. That’s almost 8 times as many results for the world’s rarest type as for the one that’s most common. We can argue that it’s because INFJs need more support online since they don’t get as much validation in-person from meeting people like them. But don’t Sensing types deserve the resources to learn about how their minds work as well? and the connection of seeing their types positively portrayed and defended by people writing about personality types? Read more →
As an INFJ, you’re good at picking up on other people’s emotions. And when you pick up on what other people feel you also start to get a good feel for their expectations. For some of us, that seems like a good thing. We know what’s expected of us in different social settings and from different friend groups. We understand who we need to be so we can fit in.
But is that really a good thing for us? Does being able to fit in help an INFJ?
We call it the chameleon effect when an INFJ leverages their unique combination of mental processes to blend in with different groups of people. Chameleon INFJs might even appear as if they’re a different personality type in different situations because they’re automatically shifting toward being extroverted around the extroverts, logical around the thinkers, and interested in the real world around the sensors.
Blending in feels like an advantage at times. That’s why we do it. Fitting in feels safe. It seems like a way to protect ourselves from negative attention. But in reality, using our gifts in this way doesn’t just protect us from bad things. It also blocks us from really being seen and appreciated as ourselves.
The Challenge Of Being Real
Living authentically as an INFJ (or any other type for that matter) means having the courage to be yourself instead of trying to figure out who you “should” be in each situation. But it’s hard for INFJs to move past the pressure of becoming what others expect from them. As FJ types, our decision-making process is focused on maintaining Harmony in all our personal relationships. Any hint of confrontation and we’re worried the relationship is going to crash in around us.
We also worry what might happen if we take off our masks and the person we are underneath is different than what the people we value expect. What if the real “me” scares away the people I care about? What if they want me to go back to wearing my mask?
If that were to happen we know it would hurt. A lot. And we’ve been rejected far too many times not to know that it’s a very real possibility. So we settle for being what’s expected of us because the dull ache of not being seen and understood seems less dangerous than the vicious hurt of being rejected for who we truly are inside. Read more →
I love ice skating. The graceful sweep of a skater’s arms and legs as they glide along the ice. The crunching swish as ice flies up when they come to a stop. The romance of sweeping over a frozen lake with glittering stars overhead.
But I only liked skating from a distance. Figure skating is the only winter sport I ever follow or watch, even during the Olympics. I’ve even been to see the Smucker’s Stars On Ice Tour (just once — my grandmother had tickets. I loved it). I’ll watch YouTube videos of figure skating much the same way I watch Dancing With The Stars routines. And I didn’t try it myself.
This past Saturday evening, though, I actually strapped on skates went out on the ice. I spent the weekend visiting my boyfriend and when he learned I’d never actually been ice skating he pulled out his phone and found out when the rinks were open. Which is something I never really thought about trying. I haven’t even looked for local ice skating rinks or thought about signing up for lessons or tried to find out if friends with frozen ponds had skates I could borrow.
Many INFJs struggle with translating what’s in our heads into the outer world. We have a hard time turning our dreams into reality. And that’s only if we get to the point where we think about making them real at all. Often, we don’t get past the daydreaming phase before getting distracted by yet another idea that’s probably going to stay in our heads as well.
Another thing many (though not all) INFJs deal with is a lack of affinity for sports. Many of us don’t watch them and we certainly don’t play them. It requires far too much coordination and balance and teamwork.
But even though I don’t think of myself as balanced or coordinated, I’m on a dance team at church and I’ve even started teaching dance. I love it. And I’m pretty good at it. So there’s no reason those skills shouldn’t translate into similar activities like ice skating.
I wonder if perhaps we INFJs might be missing out on things we’d actually enjoy because we assume we won’t be good at it. Just because Extroverted Sensing is our weak spot doesn’t mean we can’t work on befriending that function and give ourselves a chance to enjoy physical activities.
Even though many INFJs struggle with outer-world activities, it’s good for us to actually try the things we’ve been daydreaming about. When I tried ice skating, I was sure I’d fall over before I even made it to the ice. But I didn’t. In fact, I didn’t fall at all. It turns out I like skating even though I was nervous and cautious and wobbly. It was so much fun. There were even moments (brief ones) where I felt like I was starting to figure out what I was doing and could just skate instead of thinking about how to stay upright. And I’m planing to try it again, hopefully fairly soon.
We’ve moved into another calendar year. As per a long-standing tradition, I spent New Year’s Eve with my sister and our cousin eating lots of yummy food and drinking sparkling grape beverages (Moscato d’Asti this year). And per a tradition established just last year, today I’m sharing post highlights from my blogging year.
I started doing this type of post last year with Top 5 lists. I’d wanted to do top 10 then, but there hadn’t been quite enough traffic to make the posts that didn’t make the top 5 lists stand out from each other. As you can see in the graph, there was quite a bit more traffic this year. And I’m really close to 1,500 followers now, so that’s exciting!
Posts With The Most Traffic
The INFJ User Guide remains firmly at the top of this year’s list. In fact, all but two of my most popular posts are directly relate to INFJ types. It’s so cool to see “Religion And The INFJ” on the list for this year. It’s become the most commented-on posts on my blog and I’ve been thrilled to have so many INFJs with different religious (and a-religious) backgrounds sharing their stories.
I’m so excited to see that several of my posts where I interviewed Christians with different Myers-Briggs types about their faith were so popular last year. And while most of the high-traffic posts on the list above were from 2015 and 2016, the newer ones did pretty good this year as well. Only the last one on this list was under 1,000 views. The top one had over 12,000.
2017 has been a year for narrowing the gap between the two sides of my blog (Christian and Myers-Briggs). Saturday’s Bible study posts still aren’t eclipsing the Monday posts in terms of traffic, but some of the most popular ones have over 500 views this year. Here’s the top 10 list:
The top 4 stayed the same, as I’d expected. And like last year, I have quite a few readers from south-east Asia. It’s interesting to see more people from India, Germany, and South Africa joining us. I’ve also heard directly from several readers in South America, which is pretty cool.
I have issues with trust. I knew this to a certain extent, but being in a relationship has brought it to the forefront of my attention. My boyfriend wants to build the kind of trust that I’ve always wanted in a relationship, which is fantastic. But it’s harder to get there than I was expecting and that’s frustrating for both of us. I probably feel safer with him than anyone else who I haven’t known a minimum of 10 years and yet I still feel nervous opening up to him and being “me” around him.
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I love Brené Brown’s TED talks. Since writing that post, I’ve read her book The Gifts of Imperfection and I’m halfway through Daring Greatly. Since I’ve been confronting some deep-seated fear issues as well as this trust thing, they’ve been really good books for me. They’re tough, though. For example, she has a list of 10 things that “Wholehearted” people who believe in their worthiness do. I’ve only got one down pretty good and maybe half of two others. And that’s even though all 10 points on the list are things that, in theory, I agree are good and which I’ve considered worth pursuing for quite some time.
The Anatomy Of Trust
Earlier this year, Brené Brown gave a talk called “The Anatomy of Trust.” In this talk, she tells a story that she also relates in Daring Greatly about her daughter experiencing a betrayal of trust at school. You can click here to read the full story (or just watch the video below), but in short summary the situation got so bad that the teacher took marbles out of the Marble Jar (marbles go in when the kids are making good choices and come out if they’re breaking rules, acting out, etc.).
Brené then used the analogy of the marble jar to teach her daughter about trust. When we’re in a relationship with someone and they do things that build trust, we put marbles into the jar. When they do things that destroy trust, we take marbles out. Only the friends with full marble jars have earned a close enough connection to be trusted with things like your biggest secrets, your strongest fears, and your deepest hurts.
Trust is something we talk about quite a bit without always having a clear definition. The one Brené uses in this video goes like this, “Trust is choosing to make something important to you vulnerable to the actions of someone else.” She expands on the sort of people we can have this sort of trust with using the acronym BRAVING:
Boundaries – we trust people who are clear about their boundaries and respect our boundaries
Reliability – we trust people who consistently do what they say they’ll do
Accountability – we trust people who own their mistakes, apologize, and make amends and who let us do the same
Vault – we trust people when we know they hold things shared with them in confidence
Integrity – we trust people who choose “courage over comfort … what’s right over what’s fun, fast, or easy” and practice their values
Non-Judgemental – we trust people if we can fall apart with them and ask for help without being judged, and who we can do that for in return
Generosity – we trust people who make generous assumptions about what we do and say, then check-in with us to clarify what’s going on from our perspective
She says this acronym also works with self-trust, which is an essential part of trusting others. In her words, “If your own marble jar is not full, if you can’t count on yourself, you can’t ask other people to give you what you don’t have … We can’t ask people to give to us what we do not believe we’re worthy of receiving.” It’s closely connected with the idea that we can’t really love others if we don’t know how to love ourselves.
Looking At Your Marble Jar
Here’s where it gets hard. Because if there’s a lack of trust in a relationship and you go through the BRAVING list and can’t pin-point where the two of you have an issue, that means the next option is you don’t trust yourself enough to really trust the other person. Which puts the burden for fixing trust firmly on your shoulders.
One of the biggest things that sticks out in my mind from Brené Brown’s research is what she learned about the difference between people who feel they belong and are loved and the people who don’t. The only difference is the people who have a sense of love and belonging believe they are worthy of love and belonging. That’s it. How you view your worthiness determines whether or not you get a feeling of love and belonging from the people around you.
For some of us, that’s a drastic shift in how we think. Since I blog so much about personality types I’ll use this example. INFJ types look for relationships with people who will see past our masks and understand and accept the “real me.” But we’ve built up so many years of expecting people not to accept us that when someone does, it’s often hard to let them be the person we’ve been looking for for so long. We don’t trust that they really do see us and like us the way we truly are. And there’s a good chance that’s becasue we haven’t really worked through our feeling that we aren’t actually worthy of the belonging and love we crave.
The thing is, I am worthy of love and belonging. And so are you. We deserve to have relationships built on trust. Which means we owe it to ourselves to do the hard work of getting to the point where we really believe in our worthiness and trustworthiness. Reading Brené Brown books is a great place to start. And then possibly re-reading them (which is what I intend to do) and taking action on it, like working through The Gifts of Imperfection and focusing on one of the 10 Wholehearted traits each week.
Is trust and/or believing you’re worthy of love and belonging something you’ve struggled with? And do you have any strategies to share for getting to the point where you really trust and value yourself?