If you want to learn more about your INFJ personality type, sign up to receive weekly emails with tips, action items, and stories of life as an INFJ woman. Click the button below to receive The INFJ Life, a weekly email for INFJ women.
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How often do you find yourself saying you should do something?
I should clean the kitchen.
I should get out more.
I should have said that differently.
I recently heard someone say that "Should is could with shame attached." I don't know who first said this, but I believe it's true.
The word could indicates possibility. Options. Choice. It's more about your own decision and judgment, and not someone else's.
Let's take a look at how those phrases sound with could instead of should:
I could clean the kitchen, but it's not my priority today. OR...
I could clean the kitchen after I cook dinner.
I could get out more, but I like staying home. OR...
I could get out more since I'd like to meet some new people, so I'm going to make that a goal.
I could have said that differently, but I like the words I chose. OR...
I could have said that differently, so I'm going to follow up with them to clarify what I meant.
See how those are different? There's a sense of power and control with could. When you say you should do something, you attach feelings of unworthiness. Saying could in each of these cases turns it around so that it's based on your own values and choices. You get to decide.
Guilt vs. Shame
Guilt and shame are sometimes used in place of each other. You feel guilty when you don't live up to your own set of values. In a previous blog post, I challenged you to start filtering everything through your own set of values. Knowing your own values is one of the first steps to help you figure out if you're feeling guilt or shame.
Here's what Brené Brown, a shame researcher, says about the difference in shame and guilt:
I believe that guilt is adaptive and helpful – it’s holding something we’ve done or failed to do up against our values and feeling psychological discomfort.
I define shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection. (Source)
Do you see the difference there? Guilt is attached to your own values, and shame is attached to unworthiness.
How is perfectionism related to shame?
You may think it's really perfectionism that you battle, and not shame. Here's Brené Brown's definition of perfectionism:
Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: “If I look perfect, live perfectly, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame. (Source)
Did you catch that? SHAME. There it is again! I wrote about what your perfectionism is really about here. Much of it is about acceptance. In other words, it's about what you should do.
Empower yourself to stop the SHOULD.
To help you break the pattern of "should", I have a challenge for you this week.
For the next five days, keep a record of every time you say or think you should do something, or should've done something. Write it down. Keep a tally. Make a voice note. Make yourself aware of how often you default to "shoulding" all over yourself. Then, when you catch yourself, think about how you can rephrase that so it's connected to YOUR values. Here are some ideas on alternate phrasing you can use:
I want to...
I don't want to...
I choose to...
Connect your new phrases to your values by considering the why behind each statement. Sometimes we can drop the idea all together when we figure out it's not attached to our values at all!
Take your power back by getting rid of should!
If you try this challenge, comment below and let me know how it goes for you. What revelations did you have? Was it difficult or easy to remove "should" from your vocabulary?
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I'm back with 8 things INFJs say. Here we go!
- If that makes any sense. - We’re aware that what we say is not always translated well by others, so we may find ourselves adding this to the end of our sentences, or asking, “Do you get what I’m saying?” Knowing that we’re frequently misunderstood, we also desperately want others to understand us.
- Nothing, at the time, but 5 minutes after the conversation on a topic stops, you have a really insightful thought to add to the conversation. You were still thinking about the conversation long after it stopped, but others will probably see your insight as out of the blue.
- I don’t know how I know, I just know. - Your intuition works without you even having to try by connecting patterns, events, and ideas in the background while you go about your day. Then an idea pops into your mind, seemingly out of nowhere. Trying to explain how you know is nearly impossible.
- This just doesn’t feel right. - This goes along with the I don’ know how I know, I just know. Your gut tells you something and it just doesn’t feel right.
- I’m sorry…repeatedly, even if it’s not our fault!
- I get what you’re saying, but… - We’re always looking at a different perspective and trying to see all sides.
- I read this article the other day… - This can also be “One time, I ___” and proceed to tell an not-too-private story about ourselves to relate to the situation. Articles we’ve read, podcasts we’ve listened to, or personal experiences are frequently shared in an effort to help the other person feel related to and comfortable.
- Is there anything I can do to help?…we’ll say this even if we don’t really mean it, but more often than not, we genuinely want to help.
And that's what INFJs say! What other things do we say? Comment below and tell me the things YOU find yourself saying frequently.
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Depending on the situation, INFJs can have a lot of contradictions as part of their personality. Here's a list of seven! Comment below and let me know which contradictions you've seen in YOUR life.
- We can simultaneously love people, but then not really be able to stand people at times, or want to be around them.
- We hate small talk but love talking in depth about topics of real substance and meaning or things we’re passionate about.
- We’re super private and don’t like answering questions about ourselves, but then we’ll offer up information about ourselves on our own initiative.
- We can be loving, open, and kind, but we can also be extremely cold and shut off.
- We can completely understand the emotions of others, but then not understand our own.
- We can know we love music or books, but then walk into a music or bookstore and suddenly not have any idea of what kind of music we like or what kind of book we want to read.
- We easily see the big picture, but we can also manage the details needed to get something done.
Ok, so there you have it—7 contradictions of our unique personality. What else would you include? Comment below! I’d love to hear your thoughts on contradictions you’ve experienced in your life.
If you’re an INFJ woman and you're interested in living your best INFJ life, sign up to receive The INFJ Life, a weekly email for INFJ women with tips, action items, and stories about life as an INFJ woman. Click below to sign up and you'll receive a free introductory video with "How to Tame Your Inner Critic", a guided journaling challenge for INFJ women.
Can I ask you a question? How overwhelmed are you feeling right now? Go ahead and give yourself a rating on a scale of 1-10 of your "overwhelmedness." On this scale:
→ 10 equals, "I'm so overwhelmed that I'm near my breaking point."
→ 1 equals, "I'm not overwhelmed at all. Everything is peaceful and under control."
What's your score?
If you're currently in the 1-5 range, that's fantastic! Way to go! (Oh, and what's your secret? Haha...just kidding!) You might want to hold on to this email if you ever find yourself pushed over the 5 mark.
If you're living in the 6-10 range, I first want you to know I've been there, on more occasions than I'd like to admit. I understand that you may be dealing with a set of absurd circumstances. Before you get too discouraged, read on, my friend, read on. Help is on the way!
Why do INFJs get overwhelmed?
1. You feel the weight of wanting to make a difference.
As an INFJ, you're driven by the desire to help others. You want to right wrongs. You're interested in figuring out why things are the way they are and then working on a solution. You'd prefer to fix the heart of the issue rather than throwing a band-aid on the issue. This can feel overwhelming and paralyzing. You also focus on what might happen, so you plan and prepare for these scenarios. This is a lot of responsibility we put on ourselves, isn't it?
2. Your have high expectations. And that's an understatement.
I've written to you before about your high expectations, but it's worth pointing out here again. It's easy to get overwhelmed by your own expectations. Add to that the overwhelm you feel when others drop the ball and don't meet your expectations. High expectations, along with perfectionism, can make you feel overwhelmed, sad, and disappointed.
3. Both of the above (and more) can cause anxiety.
Feeling like your purpose is to make a difference, and wanting to do it really well, is enough to generate anxiety in your life. That bar you're reaching for keeps moving, doesn't it? Also, anxiety makes it difficult to focus on anything...except the anxiety!
How can you kick your overwhelm to the curb?
1. Focus on what you can control.
You can't control that your mom is an alcoholic. You can't control that your dad has cancer. You can't control that your brother is a pathological liar. What can you control in these situations? You can only control your response. Can you choose to put up boundaries? Absolutely. You can also choose to take care of yourself despite your circumstances. If you don't take time to care for yourself, you won't have enough energy for anyone else. What things can you mentally let go of because they're out of your control?
2. Only do what only you can do.
You tend to work alone, don't you? Or at least, you prefer it, right? I thought so. Think about what's overwhelming you right now. Is there anything someone else can do? Think about that. I know you may be reluctant to give up some responsibility for fear that no one else will do a good job. By trying to do everything, some things are suffering, aren't they? Spend your energy on the things that only you can do.
3. Get clear about your values and start filtering everything through them.
Do you know what your top 5 values are? These are the things that are most important in your life. Start using them as a filter for everything. Run all decisions, choices, projects, and to-dos through this list. What things can you let go of right now because they don't actually fit your list of values?
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Have you ever said any of these things? Or thought them?
No one understands me.
Why doesn't anyone understand what I'm saying?
Why does everyone else seem to have friends except for me?
I'm so alone.
I know I've thought these at various times. As I'm sure you've heard, there's an oft-touted statistic that INFJs make up less than 1-2% of the population. Learning that statistic probably brought a sense of understanding about your life. You might've even felt a little smug knowing you were so...rare. A special snowflake. A unicorn. Everyone likes to feel special and unique. Unless it means you're completely alone. The reality of experiencing the world in a way that very few people understand is not all that glamorous when you're struggling, is it?
If you've ever felt so alone and like no one understood you, I don't want to downplay your reality. Today, though, I do want to challenge your beliefs for a bit. Are you ready for it? If not, feel free to get back to whatever it was you were doing before you started reading this blog post.
Still with me? Ok, great! Here we go...
I've had the opportunity to talk with other INFJs who feel very alone. While trying to encourage them, I've expressed that they aren't alone. You're probably not surprised that sometimes my words don't have the intended impact.
When you're told you're not alone, it's easy to justify exactly WHY you are, in fact, alone.
In one case, they told me I don't understand their situation or daily struggles. They said it's easy for me to say they aren't "alone." I didn't mean they're not physically alone and experiencing deep loneliness. My desire was that they knew there are others who may understand. If you consider some of the more painful experiences humans can have, I've probably been through them. I won't go into details here (maybe another time), and I don't say this to gain sympathy or pity. I express this to say that maybe, just maybe, someone can relate.
I can't fault these INFJs for their initial response. I've been there. 100%. In the past, I didn't accept the idea that someone might understand me or what I was going through. I claimed and held tight to the "less than 2%" stat as my mantra. I viewed my struggles as unique.
Of course you're unique in that no one else has had your exact combinations of experiences or daily struggles. That's part of what makes you, you! You and I share a personality type, which means we interact with the world and others in very similar ways. But of course we're not the same person. That's something to celebrate!
The problem is when we get stuck in the "I'm so unique no one could possibly get me or know what I'm going through" thought pattern. If you're struggling with this, let me ask you a question:
Are you open to the possibility that you could be understood?
Are you open to the idea that you may be lonely (even to the extreme), but that you're not actually "alone"? There are other INFJs out there who crave connection with someone who might understand them. If you can't think of anyone else...I'm here! I see you. I'd love to hear from you, especially if you're struggling with loneliness.
A reader of The INFJ Life recently commented,
And for the first time in YEARS, I find myself not feeling totally alone anymore. Strange thing is: since I embraced those peculiar parts of me, fellow INFJs and also INFPs seem to no longer be invisible to me. I attract them now, and that's huge! (Daisy De Boevere, Virtual Professional, DigiDees)
It's so true. You can attract others in ways you've never experienced before. You have to believe it's possible, and you have to believe you're worth it, peculiar parts and all.
Challenge your beliefs today, ok? What have you told yourself for so long that it's ingrained in your mind? Take some time today to challenge that belief.
Is it that you're alone?
Is it that you can't do something?
Is it that whatever your current situation is, it'll never change?
If you've recently challenged a belief and emerged successful on the other side, comment below and let me know! I want to celebrate with you.
Remember—no matter what you experience today, you're worthy of love and understanding.
I have a confession to make. Over the past 10 years, I've lived in very outdoor-activity friendly places with mountains. And yet, I'm not a hiker. Despite pretending to be one for a few years when I lived in Montana, I finally realized one day that I don't really like it all that much. I wanted to be a person who hikes. But, I'm just not. It's kind of a joke between my husband and I now. See, he LOVES to hike. It's one place he feels relaxed and happy.
At one point toward the end of what I'll refer to as my "hiking years," I noticed I ended each hike in a bad mood. Sometimes, the bad mood set in before even reaching the trailhead. I realized that didn't enjoy hiking because I like to know how far we're going to hike, how strenuous the trail will be, and how long we'll hike. Knowing these things helps me mentally prepare for what's ahead. Much of this has to do with the "J" in my INFJ. Eddie is more of a "P". He likes to walk, and walk, and walk and just SEE. Just see what's around the next corner. See what's over the next rise. See how far he can go. Much of the time, that doesn't work for my J-nature. My J-nature likes to know what's up. It doesn't love the unexpected. It wants to know the final destination. It likes to plan.
You like to plan, too, don't you? But what if you started leaving room for the uncertainty?
Embracing the Uncertainty
The unexpected will happen. My mood is always better when I leave room for the unexpected on a hike. If I can approach it with an open mindset, it might actually be enjoyable.
Can you both plan and leave space for the uncertainty? Yes! You can expect the unexpected. See? You can still plan. Prepare your mind for uncertainty by acknowledging and accepting the possibility. If you open your mind to the possibility of uncertainty, it's less likely to throw you off track.
And then, there's this bonus...
Once you gain experience with this you'll also start to gain confidence in your ability to handle the unexpected. You'll learn to trust yourself a little more each time. As unnatural as it is for you, you'll start learning how to roll with the changes just a little bit more.
HOW can I embrace uncertainty??
It's simple really: accept that unexpected things will happen, and move forward anyway. It's not your nature, so it's going to take some work.
Being uncertain makes you feel completely out of control. I get it. But here's some truth for you: like perfection, certainty is an illusion.
The best way to develop your ability to embrace uncertainty is to try something new! You can try something small at first if it's too scary. Can you try a new food? Actually talk to a stranger next to you at the coffee shop? When you're ready, try something bigger. Start learning a new language. Learn a new instrument. Travel somewhere. Anything that will take you out of your comfort zone will help you embrace uncertainty.
How are you at embracing uncertainty right now? Comment below and let me know. I'd love to hear about it!
This morning I was sitting in my usual coffee shop (drinking tea, of course) and trying to write. I usually enjoy the low murmur of activity around me while working. This morning was a different. I couldn't block out every distracting detail of my environment:
→ There was the guy two tables over who was angry typing. You know the kind. TAPTAP TAPTAPTAP TAP TAP.
→ A girl sat to my immediate left with too-loud music coming from her earbuds.
→ The tag in my shirt felt like it was rubbing my skin raw.
→ A startling noise at the other end of the coffee shop made me jump.
Does any of this sound familiar to you? If so, you might be a highly sensitive person.
What does it mean to be a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)?
I only learned about HSPs in the last few years. When I first saw the phrase, I thought, sensitive? Check. Highly sensitive? Hmmm...I know some would say so...but...(reading checklist)...oh yep, yep, uh-uh...ok. So, it looks like I'm highly sensitive. The term "highly sensitive person" comes from Dr. Elaine Aron who began studying high sensitivity in the 1990s. There are many indicators, but here are a few:
You hate those bright, overhead lights, especially fluorescents.
You can't stand loud noises.
You'll rip off itchy clothing faster than you can say "nuh-uh!".
Repetitive noises like feet or pen tapping make you feel like you're losing your mind.
Strong smells bother you and can lead to physical responses (headaches, sneezing, etc).
You're more sensitive to pain than the average person.
Caffeine has a stronger effect on you than most.
You get hungry and you must eat NOW. The word "hangry" is a fitting description.
You're jumpy. (Funny side note: I literally just jumped out of my chair again because an open window in my apartment caused a door to slam. Ok...heart rate returning to normal any day now)
Simply put, being an HSP means you're more sensitive to your environment than other people. Being an HSP is not a disorder, and about 20% of the population are HSPs. Scientists have also discovered that many animals can also be highly sensitive. A common misconception is that introverts are the only ones who can be highly sensitive. But according to Dr. Aron, 30% of HSPs are extroverts.
Are INFJs more likely to be highly sensitive?
Several INFJ characteristics fall in line with the characteristics of a highly sensitive person. From what I've seen, there's a larger percentage of highly sensitive INFJs and INFPs than other personality types. If you know you're an HSP, you can manage the aspects within your control. For example,
Use earbuds, noise-canceling headphones, or ear plugs when you'll be in noisy environments.
Pay attention to your caffeine intake (including dark chocolate!). Feeling jittery is only going to exacerbate the issue.
Give yourself plenty of quiet downtime to recover after experiencing highly stimulating environments. Be proactive about planning this time in your schedule. You can take a walk in a park or create an area in your home that is calm and promotes relaxation.
My solution for the coffee shop this morning? I decided to walk back home and settle in on the couch with my laptop instead. Oh, and I changed my shirt!
Are you an HSP? If so, comment below with what works for you.
When I was in photography school, the critique, or "crit" as students liked to call it, was a source of much stress and anxiety. I'd display the work I'd spent hours printing to perfection, then wait to hear all the ways it was not, in fact, perfect. I'm not being entirely fair to the process by boiling it down to that one statement. The truth is, though, it felt that way in the moment. Another fun fact is that even as a non-traditional student (read: older), I lacked confidence.
Do you struggle with your confidence? Receiving criticism, then, is like pulling one more Jenga block out of your already shaky confidence tower. When your confidence wanes, your sensitivity to criticism increases. This vicious cycle of lacking confidence and fearing criticism keeps you stuck! I'm going to be straight with you here—you need to get over your sensitivity to criticism. Why?
Your Fear of Criticism is Holding You Back.
It's holding you back in your life, your relationships, and your business/work. If you want to run a business, criticism is inevitable. If you create anything in your life and share it with the world, somebody is going to criticize.
If criticism feels like an open wound that takes forever to heal, you're likely to avoid it at all costs. This means not asking for feedback when you really need to identify your blindspots.
View Criticism in a Positive Light (WHAT?!?)
Is it possible for you to change your perspective of criticism? Can you think about what you can learn from it? Before you react, what if you took a second to separate the critical words from your worth as a person?
What would you do differently if you prepared yourself for criticism, but didn't let it stop you? Would you start writing that book? Would you try a new recipe and invite a friend over for dinner? Would you put your artwork online? Would you...gasp...dance in public? Ok, maybe not.
I doubt you'll ever love criticism, but you can view it as useful. I'm not talking about mean-spirited trolling criticism. That kind of criticism isn't worth your emotional energy. I'm talking about the kind of criticism that can help you improve.
As much as I dreaded them at the time, I credit those art school critiques with helping me handle criticism. By expecting criticism, I was better prepared for it. I also learned to hold the "final" version of my work with loose attachment. There's almost always an Image1_final_finalv2_finalfinal_FINAL.jpg version.
Is a fear of criticism impacting some area of your life? If so, how can you reframe it so you can move forward?
Someone recently asked, "How can I stop being INFJ?"
I felt sad.
Have you ever wished you could stop being an INFJ?
There's so much sadness wrapped up in that question, and it breaks my heart. It shows a deep unhappiness with who they are.
Yes, having an INFJ personality can be difficult. And lonely. And frustrating. I know you're aware of this. But, BUT, there's so much goodness about you because of the way you see and interact with the world! You must remind yourself of this. What's something you love about your personality?
Here's a confession:
I've broken down in tears on more than one occasion when asked what I love about myself. I've lived in the darkest depths of self-loathing. I hope you're not living there. If so, please reach out for help. Call someone. Make that appointment with a therapist. Admit you need help pulling yourself up.
I cannot assume to know this person's state of mind. However, the question itself suggests they don't like who they are. I think about all the gifts they're not able to give to their family and friends because of their lack of self-love. They ask, "How can I stop being who I am?" They declare, "I don't like this person." I grieve for the untrue things they believe. I'm saddened that the world is missing out on the gift of a healthy INFJ.
When Knowing Your Personality Profile is a Bad Thing
Asking how you can stop being an INFJ suggests you're defined by the your personality type. That's just not true! When you're down on yourself, it can be easy to believe that lie.
Don't ever put yourself in an INFJ-sized box! Calling yourself an INFJ doesn't mean your every move, thought, or action is predictable based on the bullet points within your personality profile.
It does mean that you have tendencies toward certain behaviors and thoughts.
It doesn't mean you're trapped.
It doesn't mean you're a robot with only one possible output.
It doesn't mean you can't work on the parts of your personality that bother you.
If you believe you can't change because of those four little letters, then knowing your personality profile is actually a bad thing.
Knowing your personality type doesn't define you.
Don’t let knowing that you have an INFJ personality limit you. It doesn't determine what you can do or accomplish. It's a tool to help you understand your strengths and potential weaknesses. It shows you why you relate, or do not relate, to others. It helps you know and understand yourself. It uncovers your motivation. It can even help you love yourself more.
Now, remember that thing you thought about earlier? The thing you love about your personality? Use it to start a list of things you love about yourself. Keep it close by and look at it often, especially when you find yourself in a downward spiral.
Take time for some self-care this week!
You are enough!
(This is part 3 of a 5-part series on being a healthy INFJ for the month of May (Mental Health Awareness Month). Start with part 1 here.
I don't care what you think and I don't trust what you say.
Wow. That was pretty direct, huh? Although I would never utter those words out loud, the way I respond to compliments or praise often demonstrates that inner belief. "I love your hair!" someone might say. My response is, "Oh, well, it's kind of wild today...and it's been like six months since I've had a haircut, so I kind of need one...but, oh, thank you."
Hmm. Do you ever find yourself responding that way?
Can't take a compliment?
"Oh my goodness, (insert your name), you were amazing!"
Do you respond with everything you did wrong, where you missed the mark, and what you should've done better? This person giving the compliment must be overlooking the massive amount of mistakes you made because how else could they think you were amazing?!?
Sound familiar? Uh-huh. Thought so.
We think they're not seeing the whole truth, so our response is, "I don't care what you think and I don't trust what you say."
Ouch. We're INFJs! We don't say that! Although we'd never say that out loud, our rejection of praise reveals this belief. We know the truth and we're willing to be honest about where we need to improve. We have no time for suggestions that we've reached the finish line. We're never finished improving.
Well, today, I want to talk to you about your extremely high expectations of yourself.
Do you want to find more joy in your day to day?
First, you need to come to terms with the fact that you're expecting too much from yourself.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you frequently engage in negative self-talk?
- Are you often disappointed with yourself?
- Do you have difficulty accepting praise or celebrating accomplishments?
- Do you judge your new beginnings by someone else’s middle or ending?
- Do you continually try to please others?
If you said yes to many or most of these questions, I guarantee you're expecting too much from yourself. Now, I’m not suggesting that you stop expecting anything from yourself. I know that’s not even possible for people like you and me. But guess what?
More joy comes from managing your expectations.
Ok, great. But how the heck do you do that? I’m glad you asked. You know I have a few ideas!
- Remind yourself daily that you’re enough, no matter what you accomplish that day. You don’t need to add anything or do anything to be more worthy than you are right now. It's true!
- Remember and celebrate your accomplishments*. Try a daily journal, or an end-of-the-week review. “Celebrating” can be as simple as smiling at all you’ve actually accomplished, rather than focusing on what you haven’t accomplished. Or, celebrate big! It’s up to you.
- Give yourself the freedom to have an “off” day. Whether it’s illness, hormones, or a fight with a friend, we all have days when we feel like poo. Recognize it, and give yourself permission to take it easy. Or, do something totally out of character—like sit on the couch all day and watch This is Us. Here’s a little secret. You don’t even need a reason to take a day to do nothing! What?!? Radical idea.
- Celebrate, don't compare. When you start comparing yourself to others, stop focusing on yourself. Instead, celebrate the other person.
- Don't forget the backstory. When it comes to other people's accomplishments, there are always struggles and hard work that you can’t see.
- Look at mistakes as learning opportunities. Expect them, so they won’t take you by surprise. When they do happen, go into discovery mode. What went right? What happened with things that didn't go right? What can you learn? How can you put it behind you and move on?
- Practice saying thank you to praise and compliments. And mean it. Value the other person's opinion and perspective.
- Evaluate your expectations. Take a look at the expectations you have for yourself right now. Are they based on your own desires, interests, and values? Or, are they based on what someone else wants and motivated by a desire to please someone? Release the expectations you’ve placed on yourself to please others.
Managing your high expectations will lead to more joy and contentment in your life. You'll see how much you have done and how wonderful you already are!
I know this is difficult, but it’s possible! We can do it.
Continue the series with part 4 »
This is part 4 of a 5-part series for the month of May, which is Mental Health Awareness Month, on being a healthy INFJ. Start with part one.
It was 7:28. I said 7. Where was he? This is so rude. Doesn’t he care that I’ve been waiting on him, putting everything on hold until he shows up?!? I have big plans for tonight and I can’t get to that until he SHOWS UP! It’s so disrespectful. Why are people so inconsiderate? When I say I’ll be there at 7, I’m there at 7! It’s not hard. If I can’t make it until 7:30…I admit I can’t make it until then.
Does your inner dialogue ever sound like this? Do your emotions start to run high when something doesn't go as planned?
In this case, I had just responded to a post on a local social network in which a neighbor requested something I could spare. The time we set came and went, and Mr. Neighbor Man was a no show. In retrospect, it seems silly to get so irritated, so angry, about something that doesn't matter. Maybe you can relate to strong, seemingly irrational emotional responses to things (smirk). After some examination, I understood the reason for my strong response.
Say What I Mean and Mean What I Say
To seem more flexible, what I actually said was that he could show up around “7ish”. To me, that meant 7:00. Maybe 6:55. Maybe 7:05. I later realized my ambiguity was a mistake. If it was important to me that he show up as close to 7:00 as possible, I should've made that clear. My big plans that night? Get into my “comfy” clothes and relax. I know, I know...but I was really looking forward to it. However, his lateness delayed my plans. The nerve.
Self-Righteousness + Compassion
I admit self-righteousness also played a role in my response. After all, I thought I was a good neighbor for offering him something for free. His not showing up, then, seemed extra disrespectful to me. After venting to my husband for a few minutes, I forced myself to consider other reasons he might be late. This required me to view the situation (and the guy) with more compassion. Maybe he had to stay late at work and couldn’t get away. Maybe he had an emergency and was unable to let me know he couldn’t come by. Could it be that he forgot? Or, maybe he interpreted “7ish” as anytime in the 7 o’clock hour. I would never do that, but not everyone is like me (smirk). I don't want to be self-righteous in my thoughts and actions. I want to be someone who gives without expectation of a return on my investment.
I Decided to Get Real—and it Worked!
Around 7:30, I messaged the guy and asked if he was still coming. He responded with “planning on it.” No explanation. No reason. This didn’t help my irritation. I didn't know this guy, and communicating through text didn't allow me to gather the nonverbal clues I rely on. I decided to be very clear about what I was offering. My final response said I would be available for a few minutes longer if he still wanted to come that night. Otherwise, I’d be happy to reschedule on another day. He immediately wrote back that he’d be over in 10 minutes.
Expectations Strike Again
In retrospect, I don’t think this guy is rude. It was most likely a case of misunderstanding. I realized if the time mattered that much to me, I needed to be very clear about what I was offering. My expectation for a smooth interaction, to occur at exactly 7:00, was a recipe for irritation and anger. A little self-reflection helped me identify my unvocalized (and strict) expectation.
Examine Your Emotional Responses for Unmet Expectations
No one can know what you want, need, or expect unless you verbalize it. When you have an emotional response, see if you have an unmet expectation. This discovery can help you know when to let others in on what you need or want. As INFJs, we have the tendency to keep what we want to ourselves, especially in relationships. If this is your mode of operation, you're setting yourself up for an explosive response at some point.
I'd love to hear your story!
Have a story to share about your INFJ personality quirks? Maybe you're feeling good about how you handled something recently. Hit reply and let me know!
Up next week: You'll get a ton of ideas to help you get your emotional responses under control.
It was a simple instruction—just make a few lines with a black pen in a small 1.5" square. This was day one of my first art class since high school. I was 32, surrounded by art majors, and petrified. I'm a little embarrassed to admit that my eyes started to well up with...oh, I don't know...maybe there was something in my eyes. That's right. Both of them.
Anyway, I could not put my pen to paper without knowing the end result. In other words, I wanted assurance that when my pen hit the paper, these lines were going to look good. No, not good. Perfect. As ridiculous as it seems now...this is a clear example of the grip perfectionism had on my life.
You, too, are more than likely a perfectionist, or a recovering perfectionist*. What’s that about? I could tell you it’s about your childhood, or upbringing, or society. Sure, those reasons might be why a lot of women struggle with perfectionism. However, your INFJness makes you hardwired to fall somewhere on the perfectionist scale.
Why do INFJs struggle with perfectionism?
The foundation of our personality type sets us up for perfectionist tendencies. Here are two reasons why.
1. We don’t settle.
We expect a lot. From ourselves, from others, and from the world. We don’t like the status quo because "good enough" is generally not in our vocabulary. We struggle being happy with ourselves. When we see an unwillingness to change in someone else, our compassion can reach a limit. This especially holds true if they have the resources and ability to change. We don’t settle for something inferior and often expect the same from others.
2. We’re idealists.
Being future-minded, we tend to think there’s a better option down the road. We're always working toward the ideal and always see room for improvement. This provides drive and motivation, but also a sense of never arriving.
Can any good come from being a perfectionist?
On the surface, it might look like it. Most INFJs do well in school, making very good grades. If an “A+” represents perfect, then that’s our aim. Having “perfect” as our goal can motivate us and make us very self-disciplined. Our J (judging) generally makes us more likely to follow laws than the P (perceiving) types. Not that Ps are law-breakers, but they tend to be more flexible. Additionally, our quest for self-improvement makes us determined and problem-solvers. A relentless pursuit of perfectionism, though, creates stress and locks us in a state of fear.
What’s perfectionism really about?
The goal of perfectionism is approval and a sense of self-worth. It helps us avoid criticism and rejection. If our work is perfect, our home is perfect, and WE are perfect, we have a greater chance for acceptance. Perfection guarantees we will not fail. So in reality, perfectionism exposes a deep desire for love and acceptance.
How can you become a little less perfect?
- Practice walking away from things. Don’t fix that thing someone else did that isn’t up to your standards.
- Be ok with the mess, at least for a time.
- You know that thing you keep putting off? Start before you’re ready (i.e. before everything is in order, before you have a plan, and before you have all the resources you’ll need).
- Practice making messy art. Do this: get a large piece of paper and a pen or marker. Now, close your eyes and start moving your pen or marker across and around the paper. Don’t lift the pen and don’t open your eyes. Keep going for at least two minutes. Set a timer if you need to. Keep going until you feel yourself give in to the flowing motion of your hand and pen across the paper. The point of this exercise is to make something that you don’t have control over. It’s messy and the process is more important than what you actually make.
What attitudes, perceptions, or actions do you take to overcome perfectionism? We're all in this together, so leave your comment below.
Continue with part 3 of this series here »
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(This is the first installment of a 5-part series for the month of May, which is Mental Health Awareness Month, about being a healthy INFJ.)
Do you have certain words that make you cringe? I have a whole list of words that make me go ew. You can probably guess some of them: moist, damp, plump, and most abbreviations of words like bujo, FOMO, and LOL. I realize I used OMG in the last newsletter. What can I say? I’m full of surprises.
Let me tell you about another word, or rather phrase, I don’t like: self-care. Self-care? Isn’t that synonymous with self-absorbed? Lazy? Wasteful? I mean, who has time for self-care when there’s so much to be done?!? So many people who actually need care? I recognize now that I need to be very purposeful about self-care (just as you do, dear <<First Name>>) because of the way I'm wired.
As INFJs, we tend to not think too highly of self-absorbed people. We’d never admit this, mind you, but it’s a real thing. But get this: if you continually push self-care aside because you feel guilty about doing something for yourself, you will crash and burn at some point. It's just a matter of when. Maybe you already HAVE crashed and burned, but you still kept going. I get it. I’ve been there. I beg you, from someone who has crashed and burned multiple times by neglecting self-care: please reconsider. Or, if you’re already working on self-care, take the next few minutes to consider how effective your current self-care is, and if there are new ways you can take care of yourself.
Nearly two years ago I found myself at the lovely crashing and burning stage. For me, this meant a physical manifestation in my body coupled with increased anxiety. I had massive shoulder/back/neck/head pain that put me out of top-working condition for days. I had heart palpitations, and—although they’re rare for me—a panic attack. It was a series of life events that converged and left me in a state of not coping very well. I once again sought therapy to help me process through the swirling events in my life.
Therapy is tremendously helpful for INFJs because it helps us process our nonstop thoughts. If you have health insurance that provides it, or the funds to pay for it, a good therapist can provide a safe place to work through issues. That’s a huge step in the self-care direction. I felt so indulgent at first, sitting there, talking about my feelings. But it helped so much! Even if therapy is not an option for you, though, you can begin incorporating self-care in your life before the crash and burn stage so you never actually crash. Or burn.
Here are two things I’ve learned that helped me get over my distaste for “self-care” and actually start…well…taking care of myself. I hope they help you, too.
1. Figuring out what I want and like helps me make decisions that protect me from burn out.
On the surface, this seems like a very obvious statement. As INFJs, though, we can be so focused on what others want that our own interests become blurred. Take a few minutes right now to list some things that you like. Take it a bit further and describe how you want to feel throughout the day and what makes you feel inner peace. What truly moves your heart? Think about everything—foods, activities, experiences, people, environments, colors, smells, weather conditions, etc.
I hope this is an easy task for you, but depending on where you are in your journey, it may be difficult to decide what you like. If your list is rather short, start keeping track of things that make you smile and make you feel how you want to feel.
Once you know what you really want, how you really want to feel, and what you really like, you can begin to make decisions based on those things. Use this list for ideas about how to take care of yourself! You may have to make some difficult decisions because it’ll mean saying no to people and things. It also means you'll have to put your own interests above others at times. However, this is the most basic first step to avoid overextending yourself and eventual burn out, which is all too common for INFJs who don’t actively guard against it.
In my life, one of the things I value most is freedom. My strong desire for freedom is also rooted in a strong set of values and integrity. I’ve learned to recognize what it feels like when something is encroaching on my freedom and if I don’t change my perspective, or simply say no, I’m going to end up feeling resentful and trapped. This doesn’t help anyone. Recently, this meant saying no to a contract job opportunity with a very long list of rules and to-dos. It was very difficult to say no to the income and opportunity, but after running it through my values, interests, and desires (and the fact that I actually could say no to the income at the moment), I made the very difficult decision to contact the client and tell them I couldn’t do it. It was hard because I didn’t want to be a disappointment. After I made the decision and followed through, though, I felt immediate relief. The guilt that I had before disappeared because the choice was based on what fuels me and ultimately makes me a better person. It allowed me to reserve my energy for things I truly care about.
2. Most people will not understand when you need to say no, or take time for yourself. And that’s ok.
Most INFJs are people-pleasers to the core. We crave harmony and we’ll do almost anything to achieve it, as long as it doesn’t conflict with our core values. The vast majority of people think about what they want or need, so it shouldn’t bother us so much when someone is upset with us for saying no. Your friend’s response when you say you need to stay home this weekend is not about you—it’s about her. It’s true. You can’t control someone else’s feelings and responses, so how can it be about you? It’s that their plans are not happening as they had hoped. I know this may sound incredibly selfish, and I even feel a little taken aback by writing this. Yes, I want the other person to be happy with me. Yes, I want to maintain my friendships. But this goes back to #1 above. Knowing what I truly like and want, knowing how I want to feel, and using those things as a filter for my decision-making actually makes me (and YOU) MORE available for things that matter most. Ultimately, my energy is reserved for making a difference in the things I really care about.
I want to hear from you—What are some things you’ve discovered that YOU like, and how have you incorporated more of them into your life? Comment below with your ideas.
Read part 2 of this series about being a healthy INFJ here »