Not Everyone Likes What They See When I Drop My INFJ Mask INFJ mask

It happened again the other day: I frightened people by suddenly shifting from my quiet public persona to the person who hides behind the mask. I know most people buy the mask that I have carefully constructed for myself over the years. I am quiet, polite, and I can become invisible if I wish, as other people fill the room with their noise and busyness. My life probably seems dull to them, filled with routine and silence. I come home to no noisy family, just a cat. I know not to talk about her much, as a woman of my age can gain a reputation from living alone with a cat.

Like most introverts and INFJ personality types, I speak slowly, weighing my words, which makes snappy small talk a special kind of torture. I also find it hard to look directly at people when I talk to them. Instead, I break the social convention, preferring to look past them to reduce stimulation so that my thoughts remain ordered. Unfortunately, this often makes my more rapidly speaking extroverted colleagues grow distracted and move on to the next person before I have even warmed up.

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As a result, I sometimes find myself spoken to in a remarkably patronizing way. People think I’m unintelligent or dull, despite the fact that I am the editor of a literary magazine and a teacher. I often wish for a little of the INTJ’s bluntness, for then, like Sherlock, I could call them boring for talking about the weather or their weekend plans. But my INFJ nature will not allow such rudeness. For an INFJ, an overly blunt comment and the hurt feelings of another, no matter how well earned, will cause as much hurt to the INFJ as to its intended victim. I am a person who cries in anger and feels the need to apologize when my temper is lost. Another reason why, as an INFJ, I prefer to just quietly close the door on a person or a situation rather than stir up conflict. But the INFJ Door Slam is an extreme act. Usually by that point, I have endured a person’s patronizing for a while.

This time however, was different. I was speaking with a colleague about growing up gifted. His daughter’s school had recently reassured the students that they should be less nervous about their final exams than other children. My colleague was unimpressed by the lumping together of all children who achieve high marks as gifted. I revealed that had Gifted and Talented been a category when I was at school, I likely would have qualified as a gifted child.

As a result, my overriding memory of school was that it was boring. A combination of introverted thought processes and my gifted nature allowed me to process and remember much of the information that interested me quicker than most other children, while those things that did not interest me were disregarded and neglected. Like Sherlock not knowing that the Earth revolves around the Sun. I was gifted, but what I was gifted at was not on the curriculum. However, given the freedom of university, my introverted thought processes and gifted nature flourished. INFJs tend to be professional students.

As I warmed to the conversation, making the kinds of odd leaps that INFJs would be famous for (were we more well known), discussing Chinese astrology and eventually the concept of introversion and extroversion, I could see my colleague’s face change. He seemed to grow confused and a little freaked out to discover that this quiet, polite person had disappeared and a wild, talkative, loud person had replaced her. So shocked was he by this change that he likened me to a slot machine—put a coin in and information comes out.

That was when I knew it had happened again. I had relaxed, shown my true nature, and I had surprised someone. I was sharing my interior world, the thoughts and concepts that make my mind buzz when I sit alone. But he had not seen a person connecting, sharing something of value. He acted like he had seen a freak, someone whose world he could not comprehend. And in that moment I pulled back, replacing the mask, returning to the safe, polite, quiet persona that he knew. And inside, behind the mask, as always happens when a moment of revelation is met with bewilderment rather than connection, I died a little.

Taking off the mask that you wear to fit into the social world is always hard, and something that many introverts and certainly INFJs would recognize. Most of us find that our masks have been finely crafted over a long time and help us to pass as extroverts in public. But a mask, no matter how well made, is not comfortable and we do long to take it off. Usually, with my INFJ ability to read people’s emotions, I can judge accurately whether or not to remove the mask and reveal my thoughts. But on occasion, even the most skilled reader can make a mistake, and find themselves lowering the mask at the wrong time or to the wrong people. When this happens, the person grows confused, thinking the INFJ has multiple personalities.

So, to those who have been confused by a glimpse behind the INFJ mask, be assured that we are quite sane. There is only one personality in here—it just happens to be a complex one.

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Read this: I’m an INFJ, and I Have ‘Resting Sad Face’


  • Alexander James says:

    Wonderful article, Natalie. Being an INFJ myself, I totally understand what you mean about the mask. I too feel the desire to ditch the mask when possible. It is so great when you find yourself in a position where you can let your guard down a bit, hold yourself more lightly, and let shine a few of those beautiful INFJ rays of light and warmth. I feel better, and I think those around me do too. It’s perhaps unfortunate that it takes such a long time for us to trust other people so that we can let go of the mask. But, to look at it from the other side, perhaps the fact that an “exposed” INFJ is somewhat uncommon makes the encounter more precious when another type gets to see the real us. As it is with many things, the value increases the more rare the thing is.

  • Laura says:

    I have had the exact same thing happen to me as an INFJ. I also hate when people assume I am shy or have nothing to say – on the contrary!

  • Emmet Cunneen says:

    Hi im 18 infj still learning allot about myself. The thing about my mask is that I over time started mimicking my popular elder brother who happens to be abhorrently sarcastic. So my mask is now also abhorrently sarcastic which weirdly helps people warm up to me but now Im sarcastic about everything and every time I try to open up people never take me seriously. And they think Im dumb, rude, obnoxious and insensitive and that makes putting on the mask hurt even more. Im really trying to change myself around other people so its more natural taking off the mask.
    But im so used to my mask its more hard. But i totally understand what you were saying. I just hope i can get as good as you with it. Thanks for sharing

  • JERRY says:

    I NFJ are not warm people. I just had a door slammed on me and I’m devastated. It will take a long time for me to get over it.
    I get no help from my I NFJ friend, or should I say former friend.

  • Ginger says:

    INFJ here and enneagram 9. I recently had an incident where I defended myself against an aggressive person trying to get his way…this was a shocker cuz it’s so unlike me to engage in a non-peaceful approach. The reactions from those closest to me were interesting: family criticized me and said i should be more careful; girlfriends said i did the right thing by putting him in his place. The hardest thing for me after i pull away the mask is getting back to my peaceful homeostasis. I am working on welcoming all emotions and becoming awakened by their energy.

  • Jerry, I’m sorry you had an INFJ slam the door on you. I don’t know the story, but I’ve learned as someone who has slammed the door on my former best friend that there are two sides. While I believe my actions were justified, I acknowledge that my former best friend is hurting as a result of my actions. It caused me great pain to do so. My former friend accused me of betrayal, but she simply is unaware of the ways in which she hurt me.

    I know your pain is real, and I’m sorry. INFJs can be warm and kind, but sometimes we don’t communicate well. Eventually we hit a point where it feels we can no longer handle certain behaviors from others and then comes our famous door slam. I’ll be the first to acknowledge that this is unhealthy and hurtful to the person on the other side. I hope you and your former friend come to a resolution.

  • Ginger, I’ve experienced the same when I engage in uncharacteristic behavior. I get mixed messages from family and friends. How do you handle this? Being an INFJ, I truly see all sides, and I find that other’s commentary is often more confusing for me and takes away from my inner peace.

  • Ginger says:

    Sorting through the mixed messages is difficult. Family, especially, tends to be resistant to personal growth as it may change the longstanding social dynamics. When I venture to step out of my comfort zone, I process the ensuing personal unrest through awareness. The tools I’ve been using lately are journaling and writing poetry. This helps me to see my patterns and notice if i am inline with my values. Oddly enough, dreams tend to help, too! I dont know if its just me or an INFJ thing- my subconscious frequently provides me with amazing insights through dreams.

  • Sherri says:

    I had someone say ‘ well you must have had a little DRINK since you are so talkative. Never knew you were so funny.’
    Nope! I can be downright fascinating if I really want to ( and get the chance to actually speak around extroverts)

  • I directly relate to everything in this article. As an INFJ, I find it almost impossible to concentrate on what someone is saying if I am looking right at them. I need to focus on something beyond them in order to truly process what they are communicating. In my experience, no one understands this behavior and they think you are bored, disinterested, or just plain weird. I wish people could understand that I am not tuning them out; on the contrary, I am actively listening and inhaling every word. If I looked you in the eye the whole time you were speaking, I would be thinking about what your perceptions of me as a person are and everything you said would go in one ear and right out the other. Appreciate that we as INFJ’s genuinely care about what you are saying, instead of looking right at you while we block out your words and thinking only of what we will say when you finish speaking.

  • Jes says:

    An INFJ Door Slam isnt given easily and is always earned.

  • I’m sorry about your situation, Jerry.i can understand the hurt. But what you probably didn’t know is that INFJs don’t slam the door until they are in a world of hurt. Another thing you might not realize is that the door slam does have to be permanent. You just have to start over from the beginning. If the relationship is worth it to you, then start building it again, from the bottom up, as if you’d never met before. This time, pay more attention to your friend and his/her unspoken needs and wants. I have had friends I felt forced to close out that I have rebuilt a relationship with. You just have to start over.

  • omg
    always so accurate
    I sometimes feel sad for people who treat with me as I can come with different personalities honestly haha
    that is confusing to even me but thanks god ..I know well why .. I just become so serious and preserved with stranger
    so witty and opened up with friends
    so and so … it depends on the other person

  • LT says:

    While the public face of me (as an INFP) is lively and free-spirited to be attractive and enjoyable to be around, the private face of me (as an INFJ and HSP) has always secretly taken off the public mask by the end of the day and hid in my room or someplace quiet to recharge my battery and just embrace myself as is. I gave up wearing makeup because I kept reminding myself how much it felt like I was wearing a mask and not showing my true beauty from the inside-out. Now I confidently ditched the makeup for natural beauty and am content at openly sharing how much I value authenticity with being true to myself. It is my strong hope someday to be loved as I am to a compatible man (& as I to him) through God’s plan for my life, once it unfolds in God’s time; not my own.