Setting healthy boundaries as an INFJ
I once posted a quote about helping from Mr. Rogers on Facebook and Instagram. The gist is that he says the capacity to accept help is connected to the capacity to give help. The posts generated some interesting conversations. There were also differing opinions about the statement. What I want to share today is something INFJs often struggle with when it comes to helping. That's boundaries. An INFJ's incessant drive to help is often coupled with a lack of boundaries.
A quiz to see if you might have an issue with boundaries
Keep track of how many “yes” answers and “no” answers you have to the following questions.
Do you often have difficulty saying no?
Do you sacrifice your physical wellbeing to be there for someone else on a regular basis?
Do you ignore the pleas of others to take care of yourself?
Do you believe that helping others IS the way you take care of yourself?
Have you experienced a burnout, shut down, or melt down in recent weeks or months?
Do you frequently find yourself between the two extremes of nonstop caregiving and complete isolation?
Is it difficult to remember the last time you did something for yourself?
Are you rationalizing your answers to this quiz? ;-)
How many questions did you answer "yes" to? The more yes answers you gave, the greater the need to look at boundaries in your life. A greater number of "no" responses indicates a greater ability to create and maintain boundaries in your life.
Now. If you're in the former category, this is NOT about guilt. You're already hard on yourself. As with everything I share with you, this is not about creating guilt, disappointment, or frustration. I want to help you become increasingly self-aware of potential blindspots in your life. This awareness, and the action it can initiate, will serve you on your journey to helping others and being the best version of yourself.
Why might INFJs struggle with boundaries?
As INFJs, our auxiliary Extraverted Feeling function is outwardly-focused. We prefer to make our decisions based on how it'll impact others and a strong value system. This value system includes how and where we'll spend our time. Extraverted Feeling plays an important role in maintaining balance for INFJs. It's also the perfect partner for our Introverted Intuition. A healthy INFJ will care deeply about others. But as we look down the continuum, we can be swallowed up by the unhealthy side of that continuum before we know it. We often don't realize the subtle rise in temperature of the pot of water we're swimming in—until it's too late.
An unhealthy expression of the Extraverted Feeling function
It's unhealthy to be conflict-avoidant to maintain harmony at all costs. It's also unhealthy to ignore yourself and your desires and wants in making decisions and seeking harmony.
I frequently see two issues related to boundaries when I coach INFJ women. One issue is feeling guilty for taking time for themselves—and an underlying belief that they don't deserve it. The second is that they have a deep, soul-fulfilling calling to help and serve others. This propels them forward despite fatigue. Do you find yourself struggling with either of these when you think about setting boundaries?
How will setting boundaries help you?
You probably already know that setting boundaries is a good thing. If you aren't convinced, here are a few ways setting and maintaining boundaries helps you:
Setting aside time for yourself, and protecting that time, reinforces your sense of self-worth.
Maintaining boundaries prevents others from overstepping (purposefully or accidentally) and/or taking advantage of you.
Boundaries give you more time to reflect and develop your intuition.
Creating time and space for yourself through boundaries gives you more energy and stamina. You can use this to devote to the things that are most important to you.
Ok. Let's say you realize you have an issue with boundaries, and you're motivated to make some changes. How can you start setting and maintaining boundaries in your life?
There are many books devoted to the topic of boundaries, but the first thing to address is how you think about setting boundaries. The truth is that you will be able to create boundaries if 1. You believe they will serve you, and 2. You believe you deserve them.
Use this plan to start setting boundaries in your life:
1. Rate yourself from 1-10 in the following areas according to how much you need boundaries in that area.
1 = No (additional) boundaries are needed, and the lack of boundaries is not negatively impacting me
10 = I have zero boundaries, and it's really impacting me in a negative way (mentally, socially, emotionally, physically, spiritually, etc)
2. Choose the area that is having the greatest negative impact on your life (the highest rating from above).
3. Answer these questions about that area:
When you think about setting boundaries in this area of your life, what thoughts come to mind?
What feelings rise to the surface?
What actions do you take, or not take, as a result of these thoughts and feelings?
4. Answer these questions about that area:
What feelings would you rather have when it comes to this area of your life?
What thoughts would you need to have to create these feelings? Write them out, even if you don't believe them right now.
5. Develop a plan to implement these new thoughts about this area of your life.
How will you practice these thoughts?
How will you reinforce these thoughts throughout the day? Be specific! Will you create a new morning or evening habit? Will you set alarms? Use an app? Journal about them?
Identify one boundary you can set in this area. What's one small step you can take toward creating this boundary?
6. Start implementing your plan. Take your action step.
Be patient and kind with yourself. Creating and implementing new thoughts is a process. If you feel as if your plan is not working out, hold it up to the light and notice the weak spots in the tapestry. Where is the plan breaking down? Don't beat yourself up for struggling. You will gain knowledge and awareness with each attempt.
Once you've made progress in this first area, go back to number one, re-rate these areas (or add your own!), and work this process for the next area. You may want to journal about your progress and track your new feelings as you implement these boundaries, too.
What do you think? Are you willing to give it a try? Other than the issues I listed above, why do you struggle when it comes to setting boundaries? Comment below to share your ideas.
You're worth setting boundaries!