You’ve heard of “resting bitch face.” Well, I have something different. I have “resting sad face.” As an INFJ personality type, I spend a lot of time in my head. If I’m not talking to someone, I’m probably lost in my own thoughts—and this makes me appear sad. (Not sure of your personality type? We recommend this free personality test.)
People always ask me, “What’s wrong?” At work, with my friends, with my family. If I’m not up, it’s assumed I’m down. Which makes me feel like it’s not okay to be anything other than what others feel I should be.
INFJ: The Extroverted Introvert
The INFJ is known as the Extroverted Introvert. We tend to be so desperate to people-please that we strive to make others feel comfortable in our presence, resulting in us coming across as chatty and bubbly. But we’re usually not naturally like that—it takes energy and effort. Afterward, we need to recover from that energy-spending by being alone.
When I’m not in a situation in which I need to talk to someone, I turn inward. I’m often told that I’m in my own world (which often results in me walking into things or other people, but that’s a whole other can of INFJ worms). When someone asks what’s wrong, I understand that it’s out of concern, but it’s also frustrating.
It’s even more frustrating when I’m told to smile. Thinking isn’t really conducive to smiling, and in my opinion, it would be much stranger if I was pondering to myself with a huge grin on my face rather than my normal, concentrated look. Is it wrong for me to be just thinking? Why should I owe anyone a smile?
INFJs are walking controversies, because we are perceived as happy-go-lucky, outgoing people because of our desire to make others happy. But internally, we can be brooding, worrying, or simply contemplating without the outside world knowing. This confuses people. When they ask us what’s wrong, they inadvertently put pressure on us. Suddenly, we feel expected to make others happy all the time by putting on a façade. And that’s not fair. No one should be expected to be happy all the time, no matter how smiley they seem to be.
Feeling Like a Fake
The expectation to live up to being outgoing and happy all the time often makes me feel “wrong” for being in my natural state. I tend to like sad music. I cry a lot, over lots of things: movies, books, even TV sitcoms if they get to be too sentimental (I’m also a highly sensitive person, which doesn’t help). I struggle with mental health, especially anxiety, so I’m nearly constantly worrying. I enjoy spending time by myself, especially reading, running, or doing yoga. I prefer to be in small groups of people that I know well rather than in a large group of strangers.
When people assume something is wrong with me when I’m in introvert-mode, I feel guilty. Why am I not socializing? Why am I not happier? Why aren’t I making others happy? And then I feel like I’m not good enough.
I have no problem being overly friendly when I’m socializing. I like to make others feel at ease, feel listened to, feel cared about, and important. I’m terrified of conflict and confrontation, and I try to never push anyone’s buttons. I want people to enjoy the time they spend with me.
But I’m learning that INFJs shouldn’t feel the need to devote themselves to others 100 percent of the time. It leaves us feeling burned out, stressed, and irritated. We can’t make anyone happy if we aren’t happy ourselves. We need to have our quiet thinking time in order to be there for others.
The INFJ Chameleon
Like a chameleon changing its color to blend in with its surroundings, INFJs naturally adapt our personalities to whoever we are with. So, say I’m with a really bubbly and outgoing friend. I will begin to almost mimic that friend by becoming bubbly and outgoing myself. If I’m with a quiet person, I become quiet. I feel that each of my relationships is different, because each person in each relationship is different; therefore I take on different characteristics around each person.
I’m not being fake. I still maintain the basic elements of who I am. I don’t go against my deeply held values. Rather, I like to make each person comfortable and happy by matching their energy. It’s least draining to be around someone who is similar to my natural self, but that doesn’t mean I can’t have deep relationships with those different from me. It allows me to explore different areas of my personality and find out what I’m capable of.
But a problem happens when an extroverted friend sees me in my natural INFJ state: reflective, mellow, even moody at times. This isn’t how an extroverted friend usually sees me, because, as an INFJ, I’m trying to adapt to that person’s personality. Therefore, said outgoing friend will feel that something is wrong with me, when really I’m okay. I end up feeling a constant battle between being my true, introverted self and the desire to please others by molding to someone else’s personality.
So, if you see me with a frown on my face, please don’t tell me to smile. My thoughts don’t always result in a smile. If I’m told to smile, it makes me feel that my contemplation isn’t respected. Don’t be offended if I’m not outwardly happy. Most of the time when I’m not smiling, I’m just catering to reflective or anxious thoughts. You’re welcome to talk to me to break me out of my head, but please don’t place your expectations on me. I can’t be who you want me to be 100 percent of the time. In the times I’m not, let me have my resting sad face.
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Read this: 21 Undeniable Signs That You’re an INFJ
Learn more: The Highly Sensitive Person, by Elaine N. Aron
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