April 4, 2011

I've Said It Before...

... and I'll say it again: I am a text-book INFJ. I am always, always amazed at how accurately the INFJ personality descriptions articulate things about myself that I can't put into words.  I'm pasting this excerpt here as easy-access for myself (and a solid reminder of why I blog) and in the event that you may want to more about me than I know about myself.


“INFJ” is one of sixteen Myers-Briggs personality types.  According to the Myers-Briggs framework, INFJs prefer introversion (I), intuition (N), feeling (F), and judging (J).  It is difficult to classify INFJs as either “right-brained” or “left-brained,” as they can often utilize both sides with great adeptness. This is exemplified by the fact that INFJs are both creative and responsible, artistic and logical, spiritual and scientific, holistic and analytic.

Similar to INTJs, but to an attenuated degree, INFJs can appear cold, dour, and impenetrable.  Those unfamiliar with personality typing might even smirk at the notion that INFJs are considered “feeling” types, as INFJs are adept, even if unwittingly, at concealing their emotions from the casual observer.  Though to a lesser degree than ISFJs, INFJs are generally reserved, quiet, and slow to initiate conversation, especially in the presence of strangers.  Consequently, INFJs may be perceived as shy, aloof, or disinterested, although their demeanor will vary to some extent across different circumstances.

The reality is that INFJs are deeply attuned to their internal world of thoughts, emotions, and fantasies.  Those with a relatively stable emotional architecture may function rather similarly to INTJs, spending a good deal of time engrossed in thought and analysis.  This variety of INFJ is commonly found in the scientific community where they may be largely indistinguishable from their thinking counterparts.  This is particularly true of INFJs with a strong judging function, which typically correlates with a pronounced bent toward left-brained analysis.

INFJs with a lesser degree of emotional stability may devote more of their time to regulating, evaluating, or indulging their emotions.  These types feel very deeply and intensely, which naturally prompts them to discover ways of expressing themselves.  Though at times they may express themselves by confiding with a trusted friend or partner, INFJs often feel the need to channel their emotions through writing, poetry, the arts, or religious engagement.  This desire for artistic or religious expression derives from a felt need to communicate their feelings through a universally understood, symbolic medium. While sensing types may opt to express themselves through conversation or practical action, intuitives prefer to communicate in more abstract terms, using their personal experiences to develop far-reaching principles, theories, or symbols.

Unfortunately, many INFJs struggle to find a consistent forum for self-expression.  This can lead to a bottling of their emotions, which only serves to foment negative emotions, self-absorption and self-loathing.  In other words, if INFJs fail to find a meaningful outlet for their feelings, they may fall into an unhealthy, self-perpetuating emotional morass.  During these periods, INFJs may appear similar to their perceiving counterparts, wandering from activity to activity without any sustained sense of commitment or purpose.  They may also get entangled in an incessant quest for self-analysis and identity-seeking, believing that if they could only sort out their emotions and understand themselves that everything else would naturally fall into place.  They feel it necessary discover who they are before they can possibly discern what to do with their lives.

Like INTJs, INFJs are generally quite verbally articulate and well-spoken. Depending on their degree of emotional stability, they may or may not evince high-levels of self-confidence, assertiveness, and leadership abilities. INFJs are often perfectionistic, self-motivated, and goal-oriented, with a marked tendency toward workaholism.  Though capable of working well with a team, INFJs can be reluctant to delegate duties, as this requires them to relinquish some amount of control over the outcome.
INFJs work well in structured environments, particularly organizations whose mission accords with their values.  Their feeling preference often contributes to a people-orientation, making them excellent candidates for work in human resources, counseling, and ministry.  More than other intuitive introverts, INFJs enjoy teaching, especially in post-secondary settings.  Teaching not only affords them the opportunity to impart their knowledge and insights, but the chance to inspire and catalyze the potential in their pupils.  In some cases, INFJ teachers may be more interested in deeply impacting the lives of others than they are in the subject itself.

Along with INTJs, INFJs are among the most common types pursuing higher education.  Not only do they enjoy learning and the challenges of the academy, but they also see it as an important component of personal development that allows them to reach their goals.  INFJs rarely balk at the extensive legwork involved with graduate school, viewing education as a reasonable prerequisite for securing work in their field of interest.

Given sufficient ability, INFJs can thrive in a number of different career paths.   While commonly drawn to careers in ministry, counseling, and medicine, INFJs may also be scientists, scholars, engineers, psychologists, consultants, physicians, or architects.  Those with an artistic bent often pursue careers in writing, music, or the fine arts.  Of all types, INFJs tend to be the most gifted of poets and novelists, employing their creativity, emotional intensity, and sensitivity to nuance toward the crafting of a literary masterpiece. 

In general, INFJs are somewhat more confident and steadfast in their career decisions than their INFP counterparts.  They also tend to experience more satisfaction in their work, without the need to constantly entertain alternatives.  However, INFJs with a strong preference for intuition or those who demonstrate high levels of emotional volatility may appear very similar to INFPs with regard to career vacillation and indecisiveness.  For these types, learning to effectively manage and channel their emotions is critical.  This involves identifying an effective means of regularly expressing themselves, be it in the context of relationships, art, religion, or otherwise.  INFJs also need to be wary of becoming overly absorbed in their moods and emotions, tempering their romantic ideals and fantasies with committed action in the outside world.  Though self-concern and self-analysis have their place, if comprising the sole focus, INFJs can start to feel isolated, lonely, and disconnected from the sources of meaning and vitality outside themselves.

Another aspect of personal growth for INFJs is mollifying their perfectionism.  In combination with emotional volatility, perfectionism can be especially debilitating, fomenting feelings of guilt, failure, anger, and self-reproach.  Consequently, INFJs will benefit from instituting more flexibility into their standards and expectations for both themselves and others.  Learning to let go of past hurts and perceived failures is especially critical, as these can foster an encumbering sense of guilt and emotional distress.

Finally, like other intuitive introverts, INFJs need to take care to engage in regular physical activity.  Aerobic exercise, in particular, can be effective for helping INFJs regulate their mood.  Some studies have actually shown regular exercise to be as effective as psychotherapy for mitigating depression.  Mind-body activities, such as yoga, can be effective for learning to let go of bodily tensions, while simultaneously quieting the mind and calming emotions.  A relaxed and well-functioning body goes hand-in-hand with a healthy psychology, a fact that can be all too easily forgotten by “otherworldly” intuitive introverts.  If INFJs can regularly remember their bodies, it can take them a long way in their quest for a deeply satisfying and meaningful life.

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