I’m an INFJ, one of the 16 Myers-Briggs personality types, and I know that I have a monster in my room. I don’t like talking about it with others, of course, but more than that, I don’t like talking about it with myself. In fact, I make up stories to hide this monster every time it comes up in everyday situations.
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I’m a perfectionist, which means that unless conditions are absolutely perfect, I do not make a single move in the direction of the things I want.
For example, I live in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Almost everyone I know whizzes around on tiny motorbikes, free as a bird. I tried learning how to ride a motorbike as well, the first time I landed in Chiang Mai three years ago.
But guess what happened? Yep, the perfectionism monster.
I Lied to Myself
The first time I went out on my bike, I didn’t do it perfectly. I made a couple of glaring mistakes. Not life-threatening mistakes, but mistakes nevertheless. Well, no way should an INFJ like me make a mistake in anything. Of course, I know that’s impossible — no one’s perfect. But making mistakes still feels absolutely horrifying to me.
I decided then and there that I actually didn’t really need to ride a motorbike to get around Chiang Mai. I could just use taxis or Grab (the Thai version of Uber), and we would be all fine and dandy.
Of course, I still see people whizzing about on motorbikes, foreign women just like me, and I lie to myself, saying things like, “Oh, I’m sure it’s not as fun as it looks,” or “Oh, I’m better off taking taxis everywhere, it’s less hassle, and it’s safer,” or other things like that.
The thing about us INFJs is that we can be good at convincing ourselves that our path is the right one and the only one. That can be a great trait in certain situations, like when we’re trying to make our mark on the planet. But when we’re convincing ourselves of something that is absolutely false, it becomes a hindrance to our personal growth.
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Anger Might Be a Sign of Something You Should Do, But Aren’t
To be clear, INFJs aren’t the only personality type that can struggle with perfectionism. But it’s definitely an ongoing problem for me and a lot of the INFJs I have the privilege of interacting with through my YouTube channel.
As I said, I felt angry at myself whenever I saw foreign women whizzing about on motorbikes. That’s almost three years of personal growth and development that I swept under the rug, all because it was more convenient for me to lie to myself about it. I was running away from the emotion of knowing that I was better than this, that I was more capable than I was giving myself credit for. I was playing small and I knew it, but instead of realizing this truth, I just felt angry.
I’ve learned that when I feel anger (or jealousy, its counterpart), it’s because I’m feeling the disconnect between something in my life that I want but I am too afraid to work on. Anger is an “easy” emotion to feel — we can distance ourselves from it quite easily. Anger can even mask other deeper emotions that are harder to feel.
If I could have locked the perfectionism monster in a cage, practiced imperfectly for days or weeks, I would have been that almost-perfect motorbike rider that I was imagining in my head when I first rented it.
Perfectionism is impossible. It’s an ideal, but it is definitely not ideal. The perfectionism monster makes us do foolish things — like quitting things before we even start them, or quitting them a day or hour in, because we’re not perfect right away. As introverts who detest the spotlight and unnecessary attention, it can be really embarrassing for us to look foolish in front of others.
I have made this mistake more times than I can count.
It makes me angry at myself, of course, when I think about it. And then I make changes.
How to Defeat the Perfectionism Monster
Recently, I have rented a motorbike again, after lying to myself for three years, and I am going out every single day for 30 minutes, on small roads, learning slowly. I’ve promised myself that this time, even if it takes me two months or more to learn how to ride a motorbike, I will do it. I’m doing it not to be perfect, but to grow.
Even when the perfectionism monster rears its head and tells me that I’m not good enough, I either ignore it, or I slam the door shut in its face, and keep working on my important tasks.
INFJs care a lot about growth and their personal development. But we tend to self-sabotage by doing foolish things like lying to ourselves and hiding from our imperfect selves.
If you’re an INFJ, who, like me, struggles with perfectionism, I recommend you say these words to yourself daily, especially when you’re starting something new:
“I’m imperfect, and I am going to be imperfect at this, and that’s okay, because everyone starts like this.”
I say these words to myself every single time I pick up my motorbike keys and helmet (do not ride without one!). I am imperfect at riding a motorbike, of course. I just started. No one picks up a set of golf clubs and starts playing like Tiger Woods. No one picks up a tennis racket and starts playing like Serena Williams.
Yes, even though INFJs are smart and intuitive, we still have to go through that learning phase just like everyone else. And that learning phase will be slow, unsteady, and will kick you in the butt several times. There’s just no way around it.
I get up every morning, excited to go out on my motorbike. Some days, I whizz around flawlessly. Other days, I feel like I have two left thumbs, and balance is definitely not my middle name (far from it).
Either way, I still get up the next day and try again. Every single day, I get up and beat the perfectionism monster anew.
It’s a battle that has to be fought every single day.
And then the next day. And the next.
Practice Leads to Perfection, Or Close to It
The beautiful thing about practice is that it gets you close to that state of perfection that you’re looking for. The more you practice, the better you become. Now, you’re never going to be absolutely perfect, because no one is absolutely perfect, and you are not going to be the first perfect human on this planet. Even if you are the smartest, most dedicated INFJ.
But you can definitely move closer towards becoming a better writer, or a better singer, or a better motorbike rider.
When I first started doing YouTube videos, I stumbled, stuttered, and fumbled my way through them. They were terrible. Those first ones are still up on my channel, because I really love seeing my progress. I am not perfect yet, and I will never be. But I am a hundred times better than that mumbling, bumbling fool that I was in the beginning.
If I had seen my terrible videos and decided in typical INFJ fashion that I should quit because I wasn’t perfect from the get-go, then that would have been such a pity. Hundreds of videos later, I can say that I’ve improved a lot, even though I still have a long way to go.
That’s what the fun part is, isn’t it? Wouldn’t it be boring if we were good at everything right out of the gate? The amount of fun I’ve had over the past two years doing these videos has been astounding. And I wouldn’t want to give it up for anything.
The same thing applies to my motorbike riding sessions. I’m having so much fun right now learning, growing, and moving towards becoming a better rider. But it’s only happening because I’m putting aside my perfectionist nature every single day and going out on the bike, like an absolute noob, who has no idea what she’s really doing.
I recommend the same for you, with any new skills that you’re trying to master. You are not going to be perfect at it — good, let’s start from there! Let’s start by telling the perfectionism monster to get lost, let’s start from our imperfect self, and go about improving that.
You might like:
- How to Get the Most Out of Therapy When You’re an INFJ or INFP
- How to Fight Guilt as an INFJ
- 8 Strange and Peculiar Traits of the INFJ Personality
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