“Leslie’s going around asking everybody if they’re better off than they were a year ago. All I care about is that I’m the same. If I’m the same as I was a year ago I’m happy.” –Ron Swanson (Parks and Recreation)
Ron Swanson might not be an ISFJ (or even a real person), but this quote can be used as a motto of the ISFJ personality type. If you haven’t binge-watched Parks and Recreation, let me explain: Ron is an exceedingly private person. He believes in traditional values like self-reliance, and as such, he’s reluctant to make changes.
(What’s your personality type? We recommend this free personality test.)
ISFJs have a strong sense of tradition and believe in a “right way to do things,” making them appear trustworthy and loyal. But this also manifests as a fear of change, which we avoid at all costs.
So, if an ISFJ starts making radical changes, something must have gone terribly wrong.
Reasons ISFJs Seek Change
ISFJs usually don’t wake up one morning and change well-established routines without external motivation. Let’s look at a few situations which will (and being an ISFJ, I know it for a fact) make even the most introverted ISFJ say, “Enough is enough!”
As an ISFJ, you care deeply about your partner. You’re their rock, always there with a shoulder to cry on, and an ear for their problems. You give great advice and often put their needs ahead of your own. Sure, you’re not perfect. You may avoid conflict and make sarcastic, passive-aggressive remarks instead. Confronting others directly is out of your comfort zone.
However, if an understanding person comes along, they will accept your imperfections (like you do theirs) and realize that you will be their most loyal confidant. Unfortunately, instead of understanding individuals, you often attract manipulators.
Your partner complains a lot, but never follows your advice, so you feel as if they don’t care about your opinion. They constantly bring you down by criticizing you, so you feel unappreciated. They don’t want to take you out, introduce you to their friends, or go anywhere out of their territory, so you feel like they’re ashamed of you.
If you muster up the courage to say something about it, they make you feel guilty for your concern (“Why am I not enough for you?”). You put up with it as long as you can, but your “giver” persona gets taxed and, at one point, the balance shifts too far.
Unhealthy Job Situations
You are probably the perfect colleague – the one everyone can count on in their time of need. Not only do you help everyone with their job tasks, but also with their private problems. You notice when someone is going through a rough time, but you don’t pry. Everyone can come to you if they need someone to rant to, because you listen and remain unbiased. More important, you probably don’t go around spreading gossip.
However, nobody notices when you’re feeling down because you hide it so well. You might start thinking that those same colleagues don’t really care about your life. In some ways, you are like the wallflower of your office.
You work harder than many others, without receiving much credit. You “pitch” ideas to a manager one-on-one (because you don’t like speaking in front of everybody) and they get stolen. You follow the rules. When your boss assigns you difficult tasks without proper instructions, you tend to do extra work to cover every possible thing he could have meant. And you still get passed over for a promotion.
You don’t feel valued, so the stress starts building up.
The Beginning of Emotional Turmoil
Sadly, ISFJs will often stay in unhealthy, bad relationships and work situations to avoid rocking the boat. We don’t want to hurt our partner’s feelings, even when they’re hurting ours. We don’t want to let employers and coworkers down. We care what others think about us. We bottle things up until stress starts to take over our lives.
At first, we seek solitude and hope that our alone time will recharge our batteries. When that stops helping, we may look for other ways to fight stress. Some of us (me) first try unhealthier methods, like binge-watching sitcoms or binge eating ice cream. We also try breathing exercises, meditation, coloring, or exercising.
But, sometimes, when we don’t change our situations, we change. Unwillingly, we close up even more and start living in our little universe.
The Shadow Takes Over
Under extreme stress, our shadow personality emerges. According to personality theory, we morph into a negative form of the ENTP personality type, which changes our behavior drastically. This shadow is less tolerant and patient. Optimism has never been our strong suit, but in the shadow self, optimism doesn’t even stand a chance. We become more argumentative, blame others for everything, and criticize.
And, most important, we make big decisions: we quit our jobs or break-up with our partners. It turns out that the shadow self serves a purpose. Although ISFJs often don’t have the fortitude to be the voice that says “I’ve had it,” our shadow does that for us.
If you’re anything like me, at first, you’ll feel both angry and scared. Then there will be a huge emptiness in your chest, and you may feel like you’re unable to breathe. You’ll maybe even think that you’re having a heart attack. Soon, you’ll start feeling numb, then comfortably numb.
Then, finally, relief comes – something that had been making you unhappy is no longer in your life. When you accept the changes, you’ll be surprised at how calm and content an unemployed and single person can feel.
Here are a few ways to handle change without compromising the aspects that make you, you.
ISFJ Strategies for Dealing with Change
Change is hard and uncomfortable. Give yourself time to process it. Think about all the things that made the change necessary. Allow yourself to be angry – it will stop you from considering giving another chance to your manipulating partner or employer.
Talk to your best friend. Sharing your concerns and negative emotions makes them seem smaller. They are no longer just within you, rather, they disperse. When your anger wears off, focus on the positive impacts that changes bring.
We are at our best when we take control of situations, so take action. Look for another job and meet new people (they don’t necessarily have to be a potential partner). If you feel overwhelmed, carve out the time and space your introverted side needs to feel nurtured. By removing unhealthy relationships and situations, you’ll have fewer distractions and more freedom.
You don’t have to throw away your belief in traditions and “the right way.” You can establish your new normal and find your new comfort zone.
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