4 Struggles of Being the Only INFJ in Your Family

four butterflies representing a family of four, of which an INFJ personality is a part of

I’m an INFJ personality type in a family of four. When I first took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and learned my personality, my whole world changed — and predominantly for the better. I finally understood myself. I no longer felt like there was something wrong with me. I rejoiced, knowing there were other INFJs in the world.

Of course, once I took the test I wanted everyone else in my life to take it, too. My dad tested as an INFP, my mum an ISFJ, and my younger brother an ISTP. I was thrilled with the results because they made so much sense. I started truly seeing my family and understanding their thought processes and actions; I could see why they were doing this or that, and where they were coming from. And my INFJ brain loved all this digging!

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But inevitably, it wasn’t all smiles and happy thoughts. Once I knew their types and understood not only theirs but mine, I began to understand — to my very core — the struggles I’d always felt in my family life. All families have their problems, sure, but when you’re the only INFJ in yours, these problems can be amplified for you to the extreme.

The Struggles of Being the Only INFJ In Your Family

1. “I need to please everyone.”

Sensitive and peace-loving, INFJs hate conflict. We just want things to run smoothly, and we tend to put the majority of this responsibility on ourselves. We hate it when we cause someone to be upset, or when we forget to gather in the laundry or wash the dishes, and it results in an angry parent. We’re always desperate to please and make people happy, and when we mess up, we can be extremely hard on ourselves.

There have been times when I’ve forgotten to do something my mom or dad asked me to do. Their disappointment, and sometimes anger, has been excruciating, and I carried it with me for the entire day. For the INFJ who’s trying so hard to avoid conflict, we hate ourselves when we’re the ones who caused it. It may bring us to tears. It can ruin our whole day. We can’t stop apologizing, and there’s nothing we want more than for the anger and disappointment and mess of the situation to just go away. We can’t bear the feeling of a family member being angry at us, and we may do whatever it takes to fix it. We just want a clean slate.

Of course, there are exceptions to the INFJ’s need to please. If we feel wronged or are faced with something unfair, we INFJs can become fierce. And if one family member is picking on or mistreating another? Beware — that’s when our inner fire-breathing dragon comes out!


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2. “I feel every bit of tension in this household.”

Similar to #1, when someone in the family is upset with someone else — even if it’s not with us — we feel it to our core. Because INFJs absorb other people’s emotions, read people well, and take on other people’s burdens without realizing they’re doing it, a tense and unhappy household can become quite painful for us. We may feel as if we can’t breathe. We may feel helpless, agonizingly so, when we can’t fix it.

For example, when my mom is mad at my brother or when my parents are arguing, I just want to burst into tears. Every sniping word or slammed door or heated exchange is a stab to my chest. I can’t take it. It feels as if the world’s crashing down on my shoulders, and the load is way, way too heavy.

Sometimes I think people don’t realize just how sensitive and perceptive the INFJ is. If two people are furious at each other, we INFJs may feel the fury as if we’re caught up in the situation ourselves.

3. “I know you better than you know yourself.”

INFJs are good at reading people. Not only do we pick up on body language and well-concealed emotions, but we notice patterns in behavior — past and present. For example, I’m constantly analyzing my family’s actions, reading into their interactions, and picking apart their past to interpret their present. I’ve gleaned as much as I can about my parents’ pasts because it has proven so useful when I look at where and who they are now.

For an INFJ, it can also be frustrating to see our families be seemingly blind to their own drives and motivations. To us, it seems clear as day and provides valuable explanations. To them, it’s nothing significant.

(A caveat: Of course, our psychological interpretations aren’t always right. Yes, we have an excellent sixth sense, but we can’t read minds, and we can only interpret based on the limited information we have. What makes INFJs unique is that we’re always thinking, always analyzing, always trying to determine the why behind what we see.)

Sadly, when I’ve tried to broach this subject with my family and explain how I see their subconscious guiding their actions, they brush me off and refuse to face it. They think it’s ridiculous. They don’t see the pattern I’m seeing, or maybe, they’re just refusing to see it.

4. “I want to fix everyone’s problems.”

Take the fact that INFJs can be people-pleasers, hate conflict, and are constantly analyzing emotions, and you get what could be called our “martyr complex.” Truth is, we’re extremely empathic, and we want nothing more than to help others and keep the peace. We want people to achieve their potential. We want to see relationships flourish. Sadly, sometimes we can also be too willing to sacrifice our own wellbeing to make this happen.

There’s also the fact that we take on others’ burdens as our own. We may do it automatically, without even thinking about it.

In my family, I want to see everyone get along and succeed at what they’re doing. I feel their “failures” intensely. I see their hurdles, and I want to break those obstacles apart. I feel their frustrations with each other, the friction in their relationships, and I want to dive in, lay out all the patterns I’m seeing, explain their actions to them, point out the reasons they’re having trouble…

…but I can’t.

Let’s face it, no one likes being told they’re in the wrong or having problems. No one likes to be picked apart psychologically and laid bare. An INFJ knows this — we know that our “advice” isn’t usually well-received. As an INFJ child, it can be doubly hard to talk to our parents about this issue because, well, we’re younger. We’re the children. It probably won’t be seen as wisdom, it’ll be seen as meddling, as arrogance, as audacity.

Relationships are always going to be intense for the INFJ, and in a family environment, it can be overwhelming to deal with everyone’s dynamics and emotions. When you’re the only INFJ, it can feel isolating and depressing.

In my situation, I’m still learning to find coping mechanisms. Sometimes, I talk myself out of analyzing a situation or remark with a harsh verbal monologue: “No, Amy, that is not what he meant. Stop looking for the hidden meaning! STOP. IT.” Writing out your feelings and insights, or opening up to a good friend or therapist, can also be helpful.

I know it’s easier said than done, believe me I know, but we INFJs have to find ways to cope. Even if it means forcing ourselves to shut off that analyst’s brain and raise that mental barrier, just for a few minutes.

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Amy blogs at A Magical World Of Words where she reviews books and movies, and posts about writing and mental health. She’s a feminist introvert with a passion for encouraging other introverts to embrace their introversion. She’s also an unashamed coffee addict and binger of TV shows.