At times, life can be a lonely journey. And when you’re an introvert and an INFJ (one of the 16 Myers-Briggs personality types), life can be even more isolating on a deeper level. INFJs face a never-ending struggle, namely, having a strong desire to connect profoundly with others and yet being easily worn out and discouraged by social interactions. It is not enough and too much at the same time, an inevitable paradox for this rare personality type.
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The Challenge of the Creative Soul
To be clear, everyone gets lonely sometimes, and INFJs aren’t the only introverts who want to connect deeply with others but can struggle to socialize.
Yet, as an INFJ, I feel this loneliness intensely at times, and I believe it’s a common experience for my fellow introverted-intuitive-feeling-judgers. I am a creative soul who thinks and feels things deeply. My main forms of self-expression are music and the written word. I sing, create my own music, and I also love to read and write. My creations are something very personal and deep to me. I do not create to be noticed and admired. Rather, I create because my soul has something to say, and it needs to find a way to flow out naturally.
That being said, the most important purpose (and magic) of any art form is the ability to connect with other souls. To revel in the discovery of a new band alone or to feel so powerfully inspired by a song or a sentence in a book yet with no one else to discuss and share with can be a very lonely experience.
I am aware that it is challenging to find like-minded people, especially due to the nature of my personality and my own creative preferences. But I still long to meet people with similar interests and mindsets to exchange ideas and collaborate with. Therefore, I have always struggled to find the right balance.
What Happened When I Pushed Myself
I generally avoid any networking or social events that sound too overwhelming. I truly loathe them. However, recently, driven by my determination to develop my creative side more, I decided to push myself a little to change my usual pattern and see what that brought me.
As a result, after declining two invitations from a book club organized by a friend’s friend, I finally decided to give it a try. Also, I accepted it because, despite my own discomfort at the idea of talking about a chosen book with a group of strangers, I did not want to disappoint the organizer again — a very INFJ thing of me to do.
So I read the chosen book from beginning to end and carefully made notes about my thoughts before the gathering, waiting to contribute to the discussion.
But, similar to other times, the pressure of adjusting to a particular social occasion overrode the real purpose of the event for me. I was uncomfortably reminded again why I would never be a “club” person.
Before I knocked on the door, I felt fully prepared. I had been re-organizing all my insights in my mind. But from the moment I stepped into the social setting, my reflections took a back seat and socializing became the paramount thing to achieve. As people I had never met before started arriving one by one, I had to greet each of them; I had to introduce myself and explain my presence over and over. They were of course very nice people, but as most of them had already met and participated before, I felt like the alien.
What made it even more difficult for me to fit in was the fact that the format of the event was far more casual than I expected. I was among the only three people in the group of more than 10 to actually finish the book. This made it even harder for me to speak out in front of the group of people I had just met, as most of the insights I got from the book could only be explained by giving the ending away.
Given the situation, everyone decided to take turns reading out certain parts of the book so that people could read and respond on the spot together. It was a nice idea but a rather nerve-wracking thing for a shy introvert who had already finished the whole book and did not expect this to take place at all. Eventually, people casually brought the discussion of the book to an end and started to eat and chat, which is when I left.
It’s Okay to Say No to Things That Won’t Work for You
On my way home, I wondered why I needed to drag myself to the book club when my own connection with the book itself was already fruitful. And this is not to say that the people and the event were bad — it was just not my kind of thing.
After this experience, I realized an important lesson, something empowering that I will carry with me for a long time:
Don’t force yourself to do something social when you already know deep down it won’t work for you.
Of course, there are exceptions to this idea. Sometimes huge benefits come when we push ourselves out of our comfort zone. Sometimes things delight us by being better than what we expected. But in general, it’s okay to say no to things that won’t work for you. We INFJs are usually pretty good at knowing ahead of time whether something will work for us or not.
Some people thrive on interacting with others. Voicing their thoughts energizes them and helps them clarify their ideas. But as an introvert, I function and feel inspired in a different way — and there’s nothing wrong with that.
I realized that I did not need to feel ashamed about not engaging in a lively conversation with anyone at the event. In my mind, I acquired a lot. I finished the entire book, did extra research online, contemplated the aspects of the book that resonated with me, and then took note of my own thoughts, which is itself an achievement to be proud of.
INFJ, You Are Not Missing Out
Without a doubt, this inner paradox will continue to create challenges in life for INFJs like you and me. I am certainly not saying to close all new doors for future opportunities. But when you give yourself permission to say no to things that don’t work for you, it’s immensely empowering.
Socializing can be complicated and exhausting. So if there is any element of a particular setting making you too uncomfortable to actually gain something beneficial from it, don’t feel guilty or blame yourself if you withdraw. INFJ, you are not missing out on anything.
After all, INFJs are a truly contemplative, thoughtful breed. And no one knows us better than ourselves. So it’s perfectly fine to disentangle yourself from unnecessary social pressure when it’s too energy draining. Focus on cultivating your creativity in your own quiet way. There are rich and meaningful connections to be made in your own inner world.
And someday, you will stumble upon another soul with a rich inner world, and when that happens, that bond will be made even more beautiful and meaningful.
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