You’ve heard of “resting bitch face.” Well, I have something different. I have “resting sad face.” As an INFJ, one of the 16 Myers-Briggs personality types, I spend a lot of time in my head. If I’m not talking to someone, I’m often lost in my own thoughts, in true introvert form — and apparently this makes me appear sad.
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People frequently 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 people feel I should be.
Here’s why I believe INFJs like me are prone to “resting sad face,” plus how I’ve dealt with it.
INFJ: The Extroverted Introvert
INFJs are called the “extroverted introverts.” We enjoy connecting deeply, read others well, and strive to make people feel comfortable in our presence — which often results in us forcing ourselves to be more chatty and outgoing than we really feel. But this kind of “extroverted” behavior takes a lot of energy and effort on our part. Afterward, we need to recover from all that energy-spending by being alone, unwinding and recharging. Of course, this is part of what it means to be an introvert.
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 results in me walking into things or other people, but that’s a whole other INFJ can of worms!). When someone asks me what’s wrong, I understand that it’s out of concern, but it can also be really frustrating.
It’s even more frustrating when complete strangers tell me to “lighten up and smile!” Concentrated thinking isn’t 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, focused look. Is it wrong for me to be just thinking? Why should I owe anyone a smile?
If you, too, are an INFJ, you know what it’s like to be a walking contradiction. You’re perceived as a happy-go-lucky, outgoing person because of your desire to make others comfortable and happy. But internally, you can be brooding, worrying, or contemplating life and the universe without the outside world having any hint of your inner state at all.
And, understandably, this confuses some people. But when they ask us what’s wrong, they inadvertently put pressure on us. Suddenly, we feel expected to make others happy ALL. THE. TIME. To cope with this, we INFJs may put up a falsely cheery 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 be outgoing and happy all the time makes me feel “wrong” for being in my natural state. I generally like sad music, and yes, I’ve been known to cry over a variety of things: movies, books, even TV sitcoms if they get too sentimental (I’m also a highly sensitive person, which means I process and feel things deeply). Like many others, I sometimes struggle to maintain my mental health, and at times, my anxious mind runs away with me. I enjoy spending time by myself, especially reading, running, or doing yoga. I prefer small groups of people that I know well rather than a large group of acquaintances.
When I’m in “introvert mode” and people assume that something is wrong with me, even if I was enjoying my time to myself, I start feeling guilty. And that’s when the negative thoughts start. Why am I not socializing? Why am I not happier? Why aren’t I making others happy?
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 get overstimulated easily when it comes to conflict and confrontation, and I try very hard not to push people’s buttons. I want my friends and family to enjoy the time they spend with me.
But I’m learning that there must be balance. INFJs (or any other personality type!) shouldn’t feel the need to devote themselves to others 100 percent of the time. It leaves us burned out, stressed, and not our best selves. We can’t make anyone happy if we aren’t happy ourselves. We need our quiet thinking time — and restorative solitude — 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’re 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 them.
Although this might sound alarming to some, I don’t believe I’m 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 people who are different from me. It allows me to explore different areas of my personality and find out what I’m truly capable of.
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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 worry that something is wrong with me, when really I’m perfectly fine. To me, this is what it means to be an INFJ: a constant battle between being my true introverted self and the desire to please others by molding to better fit them.
So, if you see me with a sad look on my face, 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 — which honestly feels like the truest part of me — isn’t respected.
And don’t be offended if I’m not outwardly happy all the time. Most of the time when I’m not smiling, I’m just turned inward, romping in my inner playground. 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 that I’m not, let me have my resting sad face.
More INFJ Resources
- The One Word You Must Learn as an INFJ
- 8 Honest Truths From a Contradictory INFJ
- This Is the Kind of Work That Excites an INFJ Personality
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