4 Toxic Traits INFJs Should Unlearn

An INFJ with insomnia

If left unchecked, our INFJ brains can become our biggest bullies.

It’s a well-known fact that the INFJ is the rarest of all 16 Myers-Briggs personality types. However, it’s a lesser-known fact that the INFJ type is also one of the most paradoxical. As an INFJ with my identity aligning predominately with turbulence, I’m a work in progress, to say the least. 

Opposite to an assertively aligned personality type, INFJs tend to be more self-doubting folk — and although having some humility is great, if left unchecked and unregulated, their brains can become their biggest bullies.

Through a lot of research and introspection, here are my top four toxic traits I’ve identified as an INFJ that I’m working to unlearn — maybe you identify with them, too.

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4 Toxic Traits to Unlearn as an INFJ

1. Your insomnia-fueled brain overthinking when you’re trying to sleep

Imagine this: You get ready for bed, crawl into your cozy covers, and watch some TV. After a couple of deep yawns, you turn off the screen, switch over to your side, and close your eyes.

But despite being tired, nothing happens. 

Instead, your brain recalls everything you did that day, from what you ate, to what you wore, to what you said. It thinks about what you need to do tomorrow and what you should’ve done yesterday. Before you know it, you’re questioning your entire existence and what your life purpose is

And the more you will yourself not to think about these things, the more your brain wills itself into overdrive. Before you know it, you hear the birds chirping and your alarm goes off without having slept much, if at all.

I can’t believe I told Felicia that her name was terrible. I meant to say the meme about her name was terrible… (This is me, ruminating over one of many real socially awkward missteps.)

Women are more likely to ruminate, which would explain why my INFJ husband usually has his shit together more than I do. But I’m trying to be more compassionate toward myself by learning to live more in the present. Research has found that practicing mindfulness has been shown to help a lot with overthinking, and it’s personally gotten me out of my head, and into my dreams, a lot more regularly.

2. Self-critiquing and comparing yourself to others

Perfectionism might be a common problem for a lot of introverts, but it rings especially true for INFJs. You see, INFJs are creative people, but when dealing with some mental turbulence, their creativity can be smothered by the stress of their own doing. 

What’s worse is when they do create something, if it isn’t perfect, it’s garbage. And in the rare cases that they do create something that meets their unrealistically high standards, they may still hesitate to put themselves out there out of fear of negative feedback. They’re so worried about what other people think of them.

I play piano and write poetry, but I can name a handful of people I’ve actually shown my writing and music to. It’s not that I’m not good — I’ve taken music lessons and played piano for years, and I have a degree focused on creative writing. It’s just that Beethoven and Emily Dickinson are better.

This is a dangerous mindset and a real-life example of social comparison theory, when you base your worth on how it compares to others. 

Here’s a more positive outlook: Just because someone’s better at something doesn’t mean you can’t do it, too. Don’t invalidate your own skills or talent by comparing yourself to others. Think about it. There are millions of people who natively speak a different language. Does that mean you shouldn’t bother to learn it? Who cares if you have a foreign accent? Think of how invaluable being bilingual is. Try looking at yourself through a non-judgmental lens and stop worrying so much about worrying so much.

3. Being so private about everything 

Like other introverts, I’m a deeply private person. With a few exceptions aside, I don’t like giving people my phone number, and I don’t like telling people where I live. I don’t even like giving away my email address

Yes, it seems pointless to safeguard my information in this kind of way, especially in a world where anyone can use Google to find out anything about you anyway. But it just so happens this is another common trait among INFJs

As an INFJ, it’s not just being private with personal details; we’re also emotionally confidential about hopes, dreams, fears, and traumas — generally anything that can make us feel defenseless, like a turtle, flipped upside down on its back. 

As a sensitive bunch, we prefer to keep a lot of things close to the chest. My personal logic is, the less people know about me, the less likely I am to be judged. And as most people can imagine, it makes it really hard to create relationships this way.

Despite this emotional blockage, INFJs are almost always everyone’s go-to confidant. Maybe it’s because being our own best secret-keepers encourages others to share their secrets with us. But unloading a lot on us can cause a lot of emotional and mental distress if we don’t put our own needs first. But more on that later…

As scary as it is to be vulnerable, I’m learning you don’t have to flip open the whole book at once. You can open up to other people, as well, by turning one page at a time. It’s okay if it takes you longer; being vulnerable gradually is a great way to build trust over time. Is it really a deal-breaker if they don’t like your favorite color? Ease into it. Save the shock value for later

4. People-pleasing and saying yes all the time

As introverts, INFJs have a limited energy supply, so we don’t always have the emotional spoons to give to other people all the time. But we want to, even at our own expense. And as people-pleasers, the word no is not a part of our natural vocabulary. 

For me, in situations that involve social plans, if I say yes to something that I genuinely don’t want to do, I’ll harbor resentment for myself for not being honest. If I give a half answer to let the person derive it for themselves, there’s no follow-through — which then gives me anxiety, and I know that’s not okay. If I ghost, I feel terrible, guilty, and like I failed that person. There’s no winning unless I’m really down for the plans.

I’ve actually lost some friendships because I’m “too” introverted. It’s not that I don’t care — it’s that I actually care too much. Like most INFJs, I’m vulnerable to all sorts of vibes and I soak up other people’s emotions like a sponge. If they’re happy, I’m ecstatic, and I’m their personal cheerleader. If they’re mad, I’m enraged, and ready to fight for their honor. You get the picture. 

In order to ring myself out and gain energy, I need time and space, and sometimes that can take days, weeks, or even months. So it’s no surprise that INFJs may be the MBTI personality type most prone to depression.

Although going against your nature can feel a lot like trying to drive a car with the parking brake on, I’m starting to understand that it’s actually okay to say no. And wow, it’s such a relief. Try it. You might like it so much, it might become your new favorite word like it has become mine.

For INFJs, Self-Awareness Is Half the Battle 

Being an INFJ is a continuous journey of contradictions and self-discovery — and there’s rarely a dull moment. As self-cautionary people, we’re the ones that prepare for the “what-ifs” and “just-in-cases,” which make us special to the world. But as a turbulent identity, this can be extra exhausting and distressing. 

Despite these issues, it’s our imperfections that both motivate and drive us to do better. Unlearning traits that are toxic to ourselves — and to other people — can take time, but it’s worth the journey. As they say, self-awareness is half the battle.

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