Wednesday, December 9, 2015

How to be an INFJ in a world that isn't made for you.




Oh, my dear little INFJs. How complex you are! How difficult to explain. Luckily, this advice is for you, which is way easier than trying to define you to someone else. It definitely helps that I am one of you! And to disclaim, not all of this stuff applies to me, as not all of it will apply to you. We are all individual snowflakes, of course. But there are some themes I've noticed in my personal & professional relationships with other INFJs, so here are some tips to navigate life as an INFJ: 

1) You have to make yourself known. I know it's easy to get all "woe is me, nobody understands me" (which is a legit thing btw) but there's something to be said for doing the work to consciously allow yourself to be seen by the people closest to you. You are an onion, and as such it can take years for a person to peel back all the layers of you. And you do want this, right? You want to be seen and understood, right? It is true that you are deep and complicated and can be kind of messy to distill down, and I don't know that it's really a thing to be all the way known, but ultimately you can at least be as known as possible if you allow it and actively invite people in to your world. 

2) Speed up the onion-peeling process by offering up access to what you instinctively would prefer people would just know to dig for. Accept that they don't know, because a) most people are not as intuitive as you are and b) you are a treasure island and they have most likely never visited one of those before. Instead of punishing them for not knowing where to find the gold, give them a map. Help them dig. Sift through what they help you unearth; it's likely some of it you didn't even know was buried there. You can discover it together. 

3) Be mindful of the vibe you're giving off. I know you are at your core a warm and loving person, but let's face it: you can be kind of prickly sometimes. So remember that nobody wants to snuggle with a porcupine. I know that the prickliness is hiding a gooey center, but I only know this because I have VIP insider access. Most people don't know this. If what they see is a bunch of sharp edges and pointiness, they are not probably going to stick around to find a way around that into the beautiful garden paradise your prickliness protects. They are simply going to assume you do not want them in your space, which sometimes is true but often is not. 

4) You have to intentionally make yourself appear open and warm and inviting to the people you actually do want in your space, so that they know it's safe to approach you. Most people are not going to take liberties with you, because they will intuitively sense that you are not someone to take those liberties with. (Although the ones that do are often the ones you love best, because they are brave and undaunted by your forcefield. They bust right in like "you're going to love me, deal with it" which you secretly like. These are gonna be your ENFP types, most often.)

5) Your interior life can be likened to a beehive. Your brain is buzzing alllllll the time. You've got worker bees in like 20 different flower fields at once, working on all these beautifying projects, doing their own thing, and the queen bee (aka your actual conscious mind) can barely keep up with everybody's comings and goings. In other words, you don't even know what's going on in there much of the time, because it's impossible to be conscious of it all at once. You're constantly taking in and sorting information and moving it around and changing your mind accordingly without even being aware you're doing it. You can come off pretty inconsistent because of this (see: capricious, mercurial, moody). You know that's not really what's going on, but you have to tell people where you're at in real time lest you appear wishy-washy and confused/confusing. 

6) You cannot possibly expect most people to keep up with you and how your mind works and how all over the place it can be...while also making perfect sense to you. The degree to which you experience (suffer from?) ambivalence is much greater than most others, and most people will not understand it. Ambivalence is when you feel equally powerful but totally contradictory things at the same time. It's like, "I feel this way, and this opposite way at the exact same time" or "My instinct is to respond this way, but then when I really think about it, I think this way is probably better, but that other way sounds good too, and both are true." You really have to clarify how you feel before you try and include most people in your process or they'll be like "what the fuck are you even talking about". Because once you get the frustrated "WTF" response, your feelings might get hurt because you might feel like "nobody understands me". 

7) Keep people on your advisory board who are good listeners and keen at reflecting back to you what you're saying. You do not have an internal feelings function that works well, so you need to externally process your emotions before you can really know how you even feel. Don't mistake your brilliance at tuning into other people's feelings for any kind of competence at interpreting your own. You kind of suck at that. You need people to check you on your particular brand of crazy. You need people who know you well enough to bypass your defensiveness and hold up a mirror for you to see where you might be making a mess. 

8) On that same note, have at least one friend who can keep an eye on your relationships for red flags you might miss or ignore. Because again, you're unparalleled at seeing what's going on with other people's relationships and intuiting dynamics and hidden agendas, but you can be pretty terrible at doing this for yourself. You tend to want to believe the best of people, and can be pretty laughably naive in this way. When you get in your feels, you cannot be trusted to be rational. Keep people on your team who know this about you and can gently bring things to your attention. Give them a pass to be harsh if necessary. 

9) That said, please always trust your INFJ magic. Because it's real. It's legit. You are magic. You know things no one else knows, and you feel things no one else can feel, and you can predict what will come to pass with remarkable accuracy. You are hyper-intuitive in a way that almost literally seems like magic. You may think about people just  before they call or text you, or dream about something that comes to pass, or ask exactly the right question because you already know the answer without knowing how you know. Your incredible intuition is a thing to behold. It is your superpower. Trust it. Know that your gut is usually right. Don't be bullied into second-guessing yourself. You know what's going on well before anyone else does. 

10) Be careful with your superpowers. Your gift is making other people feel truly seen and held in safety. When you tune in to a person fully, they completely fall in love with how that makes them feel, which (you know) really has nothing to do with you, but everything to do with that feeling. However, it would behoove you to be careful with this, because people are much more likely to feel close to you than you feel close to them, and you can be inadvertently hurtful because they may think something very special is going on when really you're just being how you are

11) In other words, know that you are not like most people. It takes you a long time (or a very specific and wonderful dynamic that speeds the process) with a person to really feel like you are being seen, but that isn't the case for most others. So when you turn your warmth on a person, they will feel like the sun is shining on them and only them. And it is, but that's because it's just how you are. Your warmth and deep humanness and the comfortable space you provide people to be their authentic self is a thing that connects them to you almost effortlessly. You come off to others as wise and knowing and deep, and it will make them feel like you understand them more than anyone ever has. Which is probably true, but it comes so naturally to you that you may not realize it's making that person feel like they are incredibly special to you. They may be kind of special to you, but in a way that like 85 other people are *kind of* special to you. Be aware of this disparity, and don't unintentionally create a bunch of one-sided relationships where either a) there's a major disconnect in how you feel about each other or b) you end up feeling like they are just taking from you and not giving you anything back, when they don't even know that's happening at all. You may not feel like doing this is costing you energy, but in the end it's not a great dynamic for you or for them. 

12) Do NOT EVER respond in anger, to anything. Your superpower allows you way too much access to people's inner soft spots to be trusted with any kind of angry response. You can be mean as fuck when you're hurt or angry, and once you say the awful things you instinctively just know to say, you cannot ever take them back. Bite your tongue, love the person you're mad at enough to take a breather, and come back to talk when you are thinking more rationally. Learn how to manage your feelings and think about them objectively. Learn to shut it down once you get emotionally hijacked, because you are uniquely able to wound people to the core, and you don't really want to be responsible for that kind of damage. You are fundamentally a kind person, so when you feel angry, just STFU for a while. 

13) I know you feel like an alien a lot of the time. Like a square peg in a round hole. Like you don't belong here. Like you're trying to color in some bullshit lines that you don't even understand. Like maybe nobody will ever "get" you. Like maybe that's not even a thing. I feel you. It's rough out here for an INFJ. You are so tender, and so tough, and so soft, and so hard, and so clean, and so messy, and so extraverted, and so introverted, and so warm, and so cold, and so brave, and so scared...all at the same time...that it's just hard to be you sometimes! TRUTH. But know this: that complexity, that confusion, that awareness of your fragile humanity, that ability to see the fragile broken human inside others, that is your gift. You are the ones that make everybody else feel like they are okay. You are the ones that show people by example and word how to navigate this fucked up world. You are inspirational. You have wisdom to share that the world needs. You have a completely unique voice that the world is dying to hear. Use it. Lead. Speak. Teach. Don't let your fear of vulnerability (because once that onion gets fully peeled, then what? then you're naked! exposed!) override the desire to be known. Let the world know you. You're amazing. We need you. 

INFJ functional stack: Ni Fe Ti Se

Here is a post you could share with your partner to help them understand you better: 

http://millercounseling.blogspot.com/2015/02/care-feeding-of-infj.html

www.millercounseling.org

If you want to talk more about this: http://millercounseling.blogspot.com/2016/12/new-service-distance-coaching.html

55 comments:

  1. I love this! Thank you for your encouragement and timely reminders. From a fellow INFJ :)

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  2. I have read and read and reread this at least 10 times since I found it yesterday. I don't know if I've ever felt as validated as I do right now. Thank you for your post, and thank you for putting words to emotions/behaviors/stressors that I have never been able to understand, let alone communicate. Also from an INFJ.

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  3. I want to pin this but I keep getting an error - Help!

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    1. i don't know how to pin anything. LOL

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    2. Same with me I cant pin and want to pin this one and 'Care & feeding of the INFJ'. If you could just add a valid image to this page 'pinterest' will allow it to pin. (Damn Pinterest they need a image to be saved with the article which they call pin).

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    3. okay, i added an image. did that help? that care & feeding one is all over pinterest, how did they do it?

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    4. That was fast (No wonders we INFJ are caring, want to share/help as much as and as fast as we can, sometime slight delays to our standards makes us guilty). Now I was able to pin it :-D.

      Looks like some other caring INFJ added a image (a black big voice out bubble type image with title 'Care & Feeding of an INFJ') That's from where I got connected to your blog and now glued to it. Will try to find how that was done will share as another comment here.

      Knowing you are an INFJ, I would request you to add images in your articles... there's a lot more ppl reading pinterest and not feeling alone :)

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    5. Okey that was done by Jennifer Soldner (http://www.jennifersoldner.com/) another great INFJ life coach, helper. I did google and found following way:

      1. Take a screen shot of the page you want to pin
      2. Save the screen shot to your hard drive
      3. Copy the URL of the page you want to pin
      4. Upload the image as a pin (I rather than doing 1 and 2, uploaded one of my favourite image and pin it)
      5. Open the pin
      6. Click the pins edit button
      7. Paste the copied URL into the URL box

      This worked perfectly and when I saved the URL of your blog my final pin also says saved from your blogs (So correct credit goes to correct writer).

      Hope this helps and happy to serve :-)

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  4. #12. Oh the things I have said that I would love to be able to take back!!

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  5. This is exactly how I feel. Thank you so much for this article. I have bookmarked it.

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  6. this, beautifully explained.. thank you, you're very generous

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  7. awww. thanks, everybody! so glad it's resonating. :)

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  8. I'm an INFP and a lot of this rings really true, especially the bit about being more deliberately open and inviting, cheers!

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    1. Your artical 'personality type 101' (http://millercounseling.blogspot.in/2015/12/personality-type-101.html) is bang on in understanding and it was so good/great of you to add INFJ/INFP confusion as an example there ;-)

      Thanks a lot for the wonderful writing and help :)

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  9. Where have you been all my life? Just kidding... But seriously. I feel like this article and the one about caring for your INFJ are two of the most comprehensive, factual and legitimate guides written about our types. You have masterfully written out key elements that are so difficult to comprehend let alone vocalize and, at the same time, brought a sense of relief and validation to your INFJ readers. Thank you for the work you put into writing this.

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    1. aww. thank you very much! what a great compliment! :)

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  10. Also, Holy crap.
    Fitter. happier. More productive?
    My favourite band for the last 18 years. That was just the cherry on top for me. Thanks for the additional smile.

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  11. Haha! This is great, but #6!! I pictured my husband's face during one of my "moments" of trying to explain my thoughts. WTF are you talking about? Would accurately sum up his facial expressions!!

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    1. Hilarious (#6, Carmen)--spot on. I get that a lot too. God love you, Amy Miller. I needed this (I found it once a year ago, but needed it NOW, too)

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  12. Thank you for writing this and capturing parts of our inner workings! I shared it on my page so my friends can get a glimpse into our complex world.

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    1. aww. i'm so glad you enjoyed it and found it resonant. i wrote this in part just so that my fellow INFJ will feel like they aren't alone and somebody understands. :)

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  13. Thank you so much, especially for that last paragraph! I'm going to make a graphic of that and put it on Pinterest, and look at it often, whenever I feel like everything I'm doing is for naught. So inspiring! :)

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  14. Haha how accurate all that is! I laughed so hard when I got to #4. I ended up marrying to an ENFP. =)

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  15. It is like meeting myself for the first time, because it is hard seeing yourself in the small glimpses we see of ourselves. Thank You. Explaining to people why you shutdown, when you don't have the answer is the hardest.

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  16. If only I've read #12 two weeks ago :'), thank you for posting this

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  17. Thank you for this. I especially needed the reminder to be quiet when I'm angry. I know I am capable of really doing some damage when I'm hurt. Anger is just a cover for hurt...

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  18. Thank you for this. I especially needed the reminder to be quiet when I'm angry. I know I am capable of really doing some damage when I'm hurt. Anger is just a cover for hurt...

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  19. I read this every time I feel sad or alone or misunderstood. It's so amazing because it feels like it's talking right to me, and it makes me feel like I am understood, which sometimes I really desperately need. So thank you :)

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  20. I needed to read this! Right on time. Thank you!!! INFJ here

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  21. Wow this is amazing you captured everything. Thank you so much for sharing. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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  22. Definitely resonating! Numbers 10 and 11 really hit home because in both platonic and romantic relationships I've been in, I realise that the other person fell in love with me for my ability to make them feel good, not for who I am as a whole and after awhile that leads to trouble. I didn't know to be looking out for this and just believed them when they expressed the love. Some painful experiences there.

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  23. I'm sure you get this a lot, but I wish you were closer so I could use your services!

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  24. Thank you for going to the effort to wrangle all of that into words! What a gift of validation and understanding for those of us described by them.

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  25. This article is super accurate i got goosebumps!!! It's really hard to be an infj but i embrace my personality whole-heartedly. It also helps that people around me understand my mood swings and unique character.

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  26. This is brilliant. BRILLIANT. I am an INFJ, and I've studied Jungian psychology and the theory of functions for years - decades - but this is far and away the best and most thorough description of this type I've ever come across. SCARILY ACCURATE. I learned things about myself I did not realize were true . . . that is, how I come across to others. Much to ponder. The part about "You are so tender, and so tough, and so soft, and so hard, and so clean, and so messy, and so extraverted, and so introverted, and so warm, and so cold, and so brave, and so scared...all at the same time..." hit home the most. People see ONE of those polarities and not the other, and so I end up feeling "unseen" or invisible. Also the thing about being a total dork about my own inner workings was an eye-opener. I see that so clearly in my INFJ friends but never realized it about myself! Definitely going to be working on making ALL of me more accessible and also asking certain trusted friends for honest feedback more.

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  27. OMG, I am stunned at the accuracy each and every one of these tips (words to live by). This is so real and so spot on. It has taken me 56 years to learn that my "particular kind of crazy" or my "Magic" is a great gift and a fantastic super power. Thank you for your wonderful eye opening gift Miss Amy. I've got some work to do.
    Amazing!!!!

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    1. awww. you're welcome. i love that you're figuring all this out!

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  28. Why does our anger hurt/scare others so much? I have had people be much more threatening to me, (and, it could still be classified as "normal human anger behavior"), than I feel I have been to anybody else. So, after my upset disapates, I see fear in their eyes, though I did not threaten them, and any cussing was minimal. Mostly, I cry. I do not get this, and I feel others are allowed to be angry, but, not me, and that feels unfair. I, also, feel I am in control of my behavior, more so than the average person.

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    1. I have asked myself this question so many times: Why do other people get to be angry, but people react so negatively to my anger? I think it has to do with the fact that we say what we mean. Other people seem to exaggerate when they're angry, and say things that they know are not necessarily true in an effort to "win." Maybe unfiltered truth and righteous indignation is more than they can handle?
      If you ever find the answer, please report back to the tribe. :)

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  29. Best article I have ever read about being an INFJ. Thank you so much!

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  30. Omg this. So much. Thank you, the most accurate depiction of an infj I've ever read. The advice in here about our less than admirable qualities is spot on. Thank you.

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    1. you're welcome! :) so glad it resonated.

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  31. I've been in therapy for 15 years to find out what is wrong with me. Then I went to college for psychology to understand it. Then I got my masters to help others. While doing so, I took the MBTI and learned I was an INFJ. The initial explanation felt like an epiphany so I did more research, excited. The more I did, the more depressed I became, knowing I would never change or fit in. I took the test repeatedly, over the course of the next few years in different situations hoping to get different outcomes. Not even close. This article made me sob. Perhaps there is somewhere for me after all.

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  32. I have a few points to make, not really for any reason than they popped into my head as I was reading, and now I have to write them down, because... well, because.

    Point 1: I readily tell people within my intimate circle my feelings at any given time, where I clam up is when they look at me like I have two heads, because they don't understand why I think/feel that way, and the clamming up is the protective stance. Because if they don't understand my feelings/thoughts, they're gonna get a whole lot more confused by the thought process that led me to that point. I guess it's self-preservation; I don't want them thinking I'm a freak any more than they already do! I also take for granted sometimes that it's a really OBVIOUS thing, and surely they just know it already? I'm here to tell you that no, they do not already know that thing. I know, mind blown.

    Point 3: People interpret quietness as rudeness, I have learned. Or rather, an indication that I don't like them. It's not that, I'm just busy figuring them out, and I can't juggle talking and doing that at the same time. Which leads me into point 5, which I realised that this even extends to my partner, who thinks that my quietness when I'm figuring stuff out means I'm in a mood, or unapproachable. So I slap a smile on and still he is unconvinced. People are hard.

    Point 7 makes me intolerable, I think. Cos it takes me a while to get to the actual root of what's going on. So I'll say my thing, and my dude will reflect that back to me, and I'm like, er, no, it's not that, it's actually *this*, and he'll reflect that back, and round and round we go, until I've whittled down all possibilities to get to the actual issue. And by the end of the discussion, he's white as a sheet and looks like I've just performed a lobotomy on him. Bless his long-suffering cotton socks, I must drive him to the brink.

    Point 12 is next to impossible when the person I'm engaged with does not extend the same courtesy. Usually, when I can see that the argument has spiralled out of the realms of productivity, I'll retreat and wait until the person is more receptive to healthy discussion. But if someone spits venom in response to THEM hurting ME, I go all kinds of crazy in a flash, and immediately after the argument I regret everything I said. But I still find it really, really upsetting that people think it's okay to respond in anger and meanness with confronted because they did something hurtful. In the the words of Louis CK: "When a person tells you that you hurt them, you don't get to decide that you didn't."

    Point 13 causes so many problems in my personal life. Because I can feel many things at any given time, or my constant evaluation of things makes it seem like I turn on a sixpence, it's often perceived as dishonesty. Like I was lying when I said I felt a certain way. I wasn't, I just either felt multiple ways, or I've modified my stance based on receiving new information (and sometimes that new information isn't anything anyone said or did, but rather, that I've reflected more deeply on it). Ya feel me?

    Thanks for the great unriddling of my brain gunk.

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