We all have those moments when we hate ourselves for messing up. But for the INFJ, the rarest of the 16 Myers-Briggs personality types, we can literally be our own worst enemies. Maybe you’ve been there. You put yourself down. You hold yourself to standards that you’d never expect anyone else to endure. You overthink, self-criticize, and bash your own needs and preferences. No matter the success, you don’t believe it’s remotely adequate.
Trust me, as an INFJ myself, I’ve been there. The things we INFJs say to ourselves… well, it can be just plain abusive sometimes.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Here are four ways INFJs can be their own worst enemies, plus what helped me stop self-sabotaging.
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How INFJs Can Be Their Own Worst Enemies
1. Very high expectations
INFJs feel the pressure, but ironically, it’s usually the pressure we put on ourselves. Perfectionistic, ambitious, and often high-achieving, INFJs hate to fail. Add in our high expectations, and this is a sure-fire recipe for self-sabotage.
“I should have done better” might as well be the INFJ’s life motto. I don’t know about you, but as an INFJ, I’m constantly comparing my success with everyone else’s, and sometimes beating myself up for apparently falling short. We INFJs are rarely satisfied with our achievements, and that’s one of the reasons we may not take compliments well — we don’t believe other people’s praise, because our inner critic is emotionally abusing us for all the things we didn’t do.
I’ll be completely honest; there have been times when I’ve lain in bed, doubled over from sobbing, agony ripping through my chest, and berating myself for being a failure because I didn’t do this or that. “There’s always something more,” my INFJ nature thinks, as I look at what I’ve achieved. At times, my success has meant very little in comparison to everything else, and I’ve gotten angry when others pointed out my accomplishments. “It doesn’t matter!” I wanted to scream. “It means nothing! I could have done better! Don’t you see that?”
It took me a long time to realize that contentment comes with acceptance. Eventually I learned to appreciate the journey — as well as my mistakes — and ultimately keep moving forward.
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It helps to pause and congratulate yourself on a job well done, no matter how small or “imperfect” it may seem. Sometimes, you actually need to say it to believe it! When you’re an INFJ and your inner critic is talking you down, you need to shout back. It’s necessary. Remind yourself that even little victories add up, and you’re making progress toward something bigger. The best part is, when you celebrate small wins, you build the confidence and momentum to set bigger — and bolder — goals.
2. Walls that keep people out
I’ve always been terrified of appearing vulnerable. I’m terrified of getting hurt. And in a twisted way, this makes sense, because I’ve been hurt in the past (as all of us have). It’s also worth considering that INFJs are highly emotional and sensitive; when we hurt, we really hurt. And we carry those scars with us, whether the incident happened yesterday or five years ago. Everything is a big deal. It all hits hard.
As a result, we INFJs may take automatic measures to protect ourselves — and this can be both a blessing and a curse. When we create healthy boundaries, when we choose to walk away from toxic relationships, when we protect our energy, it’s a blessing. But when we put up walls designed to keep people out, it’s a curse.
You see, when we become so afraid of getting hurt, we build walls around ourselves. We may show people what we think they want to see, shaping ourselves to our environment in an effort to be accepted. Basically, we go on the defense when we feel vulnerable to rejection. Then we miss out on friendships, relationships, and new experiences, because we don’t want to take a risk.
For example, I’ve skipped social events so many times because I knew there was a chance I’d end up standing awkwardly by myself, hands fidgeting with nothing to do, and feeling completely alone in a crowd of noisy people my age. It’s embarrassing, and at the risk of being melodramatic, there comes a time when my heart just can’t take it anymore.
The answer, I think, is balance. We INFJs need to know when to lower those walls. We need to pick our risks. Going to every social event we’re invited to probably isn’t the answer, because we are introverts, after all. But what about a few? What about the ones with the least amount of risk? The one where our friends or family are there, so at least we’ll know someone? Or the one where we get to sit at a table and listen to a lecture or watch a performance, instead of being forced to mingle?
INFJs, pick your battles. Don’t forget to live. Sometimes we need to break down those walls for our own good.
3. A desire for control
An INFJ in control is a happy INFJ. Because change and spontaneity can stress us out (due to our “judging” nature), we INFJs like to know what’s going to happen ahead of time. We tend to keep schedules and planners, and we obsess over to-do lists. We like to know the exact time, location, and guest count before going to any social event — sometimes I even search the location on Google Maps to get a look at the building!
Thus, when an INFJ doesn’t have any control over a situation, we get stressed. We may become aimless. We flounder. We panic, because we’re not prepared, and we cannot function when we’re not prepared.
Unfortunately, as you know, life is not predictable. There will always be unknowns. We can’t plan everything, however much we may try. The trick is to cope amidst that unpredictability. To truly deal, we INFJs need to learn how to let go, and yes, it’s easier said than done. It’s the kind of thing that happens with practice, but over time, we can learn to let go and breathe.
We learn to accept what’s out of our control by experiencing the unknowns thrown at us. Sometimes I have to talk myself into coping: “Let go of this situation. You can’t know the future — you can’t control this. But you will cope with it because you are strong and capable.”
Trust me, you will survive. INFJs are nothing if not determined.
For an INFJ, there’s no such thing as “turning it off.” We’re always thinking, always dreaming. Most of us wish that our brains would just shut up for a second!
In any situation, you can be sure that an INFJ is reading it. We’re analyzing the people and emotions around us, behaving accordingly, and feeling the unspoken tension most other people are unaware of.
But the overthinking can grow to crippling extremes. The instant we’re in a public place, we start comparing ourselves to other people. For me, it usually revolves around my appearance: “Should I have worn this jacket? Am I standing straight? Is my face sweaty? She looks chic — I should have worn a different dress,” and so on.
Then when I get home: “I shouldn’t have said that. Did I smile enough? Why didn’t I go up and speak to her? I shouldn’t have laughed at that moment. Couldn’t I have asked better questions?”
It never ends! At least not for an INFJ. We can’t turn off our analyzing, and it can be utterly overwhelming.
The solution? There’s a simple trick that helps me. When you feel yourself spiraling into negative thoughts, force yourself to breathe slowly, and then make yourself identify three things about the situation: one you can smell, one you can hear, and one you can touch. Let yourself “zoom in.” Focusing on concrete details in any setting can help you relax and yank yourself back from the edge of a meltdown. It forces you to think hard about something else. It takes your mind off your negative thoughts.
To truly thrive and reach our INFJ potential, we need to respect our biggest ally: ourselves. We need to work with, not against, ourselves. We need to practice self-love, banish negative thoughts, and overcompensate with positive ones. Often, our minds are too quick to fling insults, criticisms, and emotional abuse. Would we say the things we say to ourselves to our best friend? No! And that’s my point.
Dear INFJ, you deserve better. Now stop arguing against the positivity I’m throwing at you and cut yourself some slack!
You might like:
- My INFJ Struggle With Depression — and Road to Healing
- The INFJ’s Paradoxical Struggle With Loneliness
- Here’s What Makes Each Introverted Myers-Briggs Personality Type Angry
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