Following my 10 Contradictory Things About the Elusive INFJ Male article, I want to further explore some of the INFJ personality’s unique and somewhat peculiar traits and how they affect us in both life and work. Whether these things are true for allINFJs, I’m not sure, but they’re certainly true for me. I’m interested to know if you relate, INFJs, and if so, to hear your stories. Leave me a comment below.
Peculiar Traits of the INFJ Personality
1. All-or-nothing syndrome
This is an affliction that has plagued me for as long as I can remember, and will probably continue to do so until I shuffle off this mortal coil. Love fiercely, or not at all; exercise relentlessly and eat well, or pig out on the sofa and eat junk food; work 20 hours a day for days on end, or sit and procrastinate all weekend like it’s no one’s business. I cannot do middle of the road, at least not for any appreciable length of time. I’m not sure why.
Could it be that we INFJs are simply wired to do things “with passion or not at all,” as Rosa Nochette Carey writes? Perhaps middle of the road feels like a stagnant approach to living? It seems bland, uneventful, uninspiring. No room for development. No opportunity to go off the beaten path in search of your own. It rids us of the highs and lows that we need in order to experience the full spectrum of life.
However, if I’m being honest, I worry that this constant shifting from one extreme to the other could simply mean that I remain on the wrong path, aimlessly searching for the right one.
2. The inability to settle
This is related to point #1. INFJs are searching for “the one,” although not necessarily in a romantic sense (although that still applies), but in the sense of a life mission. INFJs seem to be on an eternal quest to find an endeavor or field of work that gives them the feeling of contributing to the greater good, of helping others, of creating a legacy. I often feel I’m “burdened with glorious purpose,” to quote Loki, but have no clue what that purpose is, nor how to find it.
So when settling into an occupation or project, if I’m not feeling it, I invariably move on. I’d rather escape and look for something else than pursue something that doesn’t stir up any emotion within me — or worse, restricts my capacity for personal and spiritual growth.
But that brings its own set of problems — a lack of regular income, for one thing! I’d like to think this is my entrepreneurial spirit in action, but I don’t know. The inability to see something through that I started is becoming tiring. I’d say that it seems like a Perceiver trait (as opposed to a Judging trait), but perhaps it’s P for perfectionism?
Speaking of perfectionism…
In my entrepreneurial endeavours, if something doesn’t go as planned, or if people let me down, the initial passion for the project wanes. People or companies just don’t live up to my (albeit, I admit, too high) expectations. Then disappointment inevitably sets in. And lo and behold, I move on to the next project or relationship.
As this happens more and more, I feel it reflects badly on me. Going from project to project, vision to vision, but seemingly unable to realize those visions and in turn struggle to make a living. Wrong people, wrong time. Or is it my fault in the way I’m doing business or approaching relationships? Granted, I can be too soft and naive (believing the best in people), which invariably sets me up for disappointment. But I’ve made a promise to myself to never get too negative in my outlook. Rather, I try to see the positive lesson I need to learn from those experiences.
4. Solitude vs. friendship
I can count the number of close friendships I have on the fingers of… well…one finger. I’m talking IRL friendships here btw, not online. Given the INFJ’s Extroverted Feeling nature, this seems somewhat of a contradiction. I have the need to develop intimate ties; I crave deep, meaningful relationships. Ones that inspire, motivate, and sustain the growth of both parties.
But in order to develop that degree of closeness, a lot of time and energy need to be expended. And therein lies the problem. If I have a friend or partner, I want to be able to give them my all, so anyone outside that small circle usually gets relegated to “acquaintance.” If I can’t give my best to any one person, I’d rather not give at all. That’s probably why I see many INFJs having small circles of friends.
5. Full of contradiction
Again, this relates to several of my former points. I can go from opposite ends of the spectrum on a gut feeling using my Introverted Intuition. Others can’t fathom it. To them, I appear contradictory, mysterious, enigmatic, and more often than not, incredibly frustrating (for both parties).
The INFJ’s Introverted Intuition and Extroverted Feeling functions are also great for mirroring and adapting to different environments and people. As a result, I often appear vastly different in different situations. I can be the life of the party among those who “get” me (very rare), but come across as painfully shy, solitary, and quiet to others (very common). I can fit in when I want, but more often than not, I rebel fiercely.
Interestingly, this rebellious nature has come about later in my life when I started to settle into my INFJ skin — when I decided to drop the mask and to live true to my beliefs, even when they conflict with society. The transition from being a people-pleaser (mirrorer) to not worrying as much about conflict was confusing for the people around me, especially those who’ve known me for a while.
Now that I have a firmer sense of self, I don’t feel the need to fit in with others, and I suspect it comes across as a bit jarring. I’m more careful these days in choosing how to expend my energy and love, and I’m less afraid to reject those who don’t fit that pattern (e.g., the people who don’t respect my boundaries or those who have a pessimistic outlook on life).
6. Writers not talkers
Although I’ve yet to meet an INFJ in real life (that I know of), I’ve heard this said many times: Being introverts, we INFJs have difficulty talking on the spot, on the phone, and in person, but when it comes to writing, we can knock out masterpieces. No wonder there are a disproportionate number of INFJ writers. We mumble, stutter, and stumble (well, that might just be me) or will just be plain mute. However, in writing, our ideas often flow effortlessly — although I have to reread several times and tweak before I’m happy with my writing.
What might be the reason for this? I think it boils down to time. We have the ability to see many different possibilities, eventualities, and gray areas in any given scenario. Our Introverted Intuition also means we live inside our heads. So we likely have several conversations going on at once, arguments even. And all this internal cacophony serves to create a bottleneck, which we have to verbalize. Sometimes it spews out in such random fashion that it makes no sense, even to us. Yet when writing, we have time to sit down, process the influx of ideas, and refine them until they come across eloquently and succinctly. Our writing brings order to our mind’s chaos and allows others to glimpse our inner world.
7. Seeing both the big picture and the details
This can be a good thing for INFJs if we keep it balanced. However, given our contradictory, all-or-nothing nature, it can be an ongoing challenge. As visionaries, we INFJs see the big picture and play out scenarios to their logical conclusions. But we also have the ability to delve into the minutiae of a project, which helps realize that vision. The problem arises when we stay at one extreme or the other, failing to drive the project forward.
8. Compassionate visionaries and doers
For all the difficult issues we INFJs deal with, I believe we have one really great thing going for us: We’re compassionate visionaries and doers. We may not finish every project or realize our “perfect” vision for it, but we almost always give it a go. When we’re passionate about an idea, and we know it will help and serve others, then we endeavor to accomplish it — even if it makes a difference for just one person. The INFJ is thought to be the rarest Myers-Briggs personality type, making up only 1.5 percent of the U.S. population. And that’s a shame, because the world needs more people like us.