4 Honest Confessions of a Paradoxical INFJ

a paradoxical INFJ personality

INFJs are a unique breed. Making up only 1-2 percent of the population, this rare Myers-Briggs personality type is a paradox of traits. Called “the counselor” or “the advocate,” INFJs are fascinated by people and love serving them. However, their introverted nature clashes at times with their desire to sustain meaningful relationships.

Their traits also involve a complex mix of idealist and realist. They are dreamers and visionaries who are grounded enough to embark on concrete steps to make their dreams come true. In addition to this contradictory aspect, their uncompromising dedication to achievement often conflicts with their highly empathetic nature and need for harmony in their relationships.

These warring aspects can make life difficult for the sensitive and emotional INFJ. Others may see us as indecipherable puzzles who are both mysterious and compelling at the same time.

(What’s your personality type? We recommend this free personality assessment.)

As an INFJ myself, I embrace my unique nature and seemingly incompatible mixture of traits. However, I must admit, there are some elements of my make-up that are a bit perplexing, even to me. Here are four. INFJ, can you relate?

4 Honest Confessions of an INFJ

1. Sometimes I self-sabotage my chances at friendship.

Like other INFJs, I try to be loving and caring, but there are only a select few people who I allow into my inner circle. I can’t tell you how many social outings I’ve accepted, but seconds later, began brainstorming the excuse I knew I would use to cancel. Others try to break down the walls that allow passage into my inner sanctum, but what can I say, I have round-the-clock guards for these hallowed chambers. The result? People either assume that I am snobbish or give up the fight because, as an INFJ, my doors are often locked tight against potential friends.


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The ironic thing is that many of these people who I avoid are beautiful souls, kindred spirits who I know through my intuitive nature that I could form bonds with. Still, I choose the path of solitude.

Why?

Perhaps one of the reasons for this is, like most INFJs, I abhor small talk. And unfortunately, this is the first step towards starting a friendship. Also, it’s not easy to let others into my vortex of a mind. It’s always whirling and swirling with questions and concerns. I fear others may see my thoughts as, well, a little “out there.”  

Sometimes, I must admit, I react quite foolishly. For example, in a brave moment, I invited a teacher friend over in the summer to plan lessons for the upcoming school year. The truth was, I really liked this person and wanted to get to know her better. The “work agenda” was my excuse to have a get-together. I scheduled the planning session in the evening and bought a bevy of cocktails to mix so the session would REALLY be creative.

The planning session was productive, but we finished early. Her husband dropped her off at my home, and there was still an hour left before he would return. Talk about pregnant pauses! I stumbled and stuttered my way through the next sixty minutes like a schoolgirl trying to talk to her crush. When it was time for her to leave, she invited my husband and I over for drinks the next Saturday night. A Saturday night I had completely open. I told her I already had plans.  

One step forward. Two steps back.

Like most INFJs, I often valiantly dip my toes in the waters of a social ocean, and then, moments later, run back toward safety.

Often, for us introverted INFJs, the moment has to be “just right” for us to poke our head out of our shell and not immediately put it right back in. As a result, truly meaningful friendships are rare. At times, this leaves us feeling lonely, filled with envy at the gaggle of friends we see huddled at the mall cafe, laughing and talking and wearing BFF necklaces. Oh well, Alexa, I guess it’s just you and me until the next social inspiration strikes.

2. Most Friday nights, I’d love to be left completely alone.

Nerd alert! Don’t let me plan your weekend (unless you are another INFJ, that is!) My exciting weekend? The “pre-party” ritual begins with a long hot bath, comfy jammies, and a glass of wine. Let the good times roll!

Festivities include researching my latest passion on the computer, a good book, some soul-searching music, and a deep dive into my own frenzied thoughts. Jello shots? Overrated. Loud dance music? Absolutely not. Club Peace is the only nightlife I seek out, and membership is usually limited to one.  

My husband often sees me on the computer on a Friday night and says, “Stop working.” What he doesn’t understand is that this is my solace, my sweet spot. INFJs have an insatiable quest for learning and, when they can do this in the quiet of their own home with lit candles and soft music, even Cinderella’s ecstasy at the ball cannot come close to this sweet moment of happiness.

So, my extroverted friends, go ahead. Attend the latest comedy at the local cinema or laugh it up with strangers at the bar — I will still be there for you in the end. I may even be ready to “poke my head out of my shell” after my own personal “celebration” at home.

3. I can totally destroy a hobby.

Merriam Webster defines a hobby as “a pursuit outside one’s regular occupation engaged in especially for relaxation.” For INFJs, what often starts out as a hobby turns into an obsession, a quest for excellence, or a frenzied attempt at self-actualization. For example, as I work a forty-plus hour workweek as a teacher, writing started out as my hobby. Like most INFJs, my internal world is constantly in motion, and expressing myself on paper or playing with words and language to create emotions provides two things people of our type crave: challenge and relaxation. The problem is, even our hobbies are not safe from our perfectionistic tendencies.

Now, my hobby is a bit more like a compulsion; I read fervently about how to be a better writer, get up at 4 a.m. to hone my writing skills — and on and on.

Don’t take me or any other INFJs to one of those “wine and paint” classes to enjoy a night out. You may find us swigging the bottle in a corner, upset that we messed up our canvas and that we can’t get another one to start over. Excellence is a continual pursuit for the INFJ, and we won’t stop until we find it.

4. I let people off too easily.

There is one question on the Myers-Briggs assessment that always has me soul searching. The question is, “Is it worse to be unjust or unmerciful?” To be honest, the majority of times I favor mercy. After all, INFJs have an uncanny ability to slip into another’s skin, intuit a person’s motivations and behaviors, and feel deeply for them. The problem is, my Judging nature also reasons that, many times, justice should be served in order to achieve positive change.

What would happen if every speeder was let off because of “emotional excuse X“? What would our world be like if all judges exonerated criminals because they had an unhappy home life or a dysfunctional childhood? I see the necessity of imposing fair punishments for wrongful deeds; I am just not quite sure if I could be the one to pass down those verdicts.

As a teacher, my Feeling tendencies frequently make me a “bleeding heart.” For example, a student I know has to work a job to help support his family. He comes in, eyes bleary, footsteps heavy with fatigue, and admits his assignment is undone. The policy? No late work accepted. (You can probably figure out that I did not create this mandate, but I am expected to follow it.) In my head, I know the rules. As a teacher, I know the consequences of not enforcing measures fairly, but… here I go, giving him the harshest “teacher look” I can conjure, and then telling him to bring it tomorrow.

After two decades of teacher experience, I still cannot always manage to “do the right thing” if it is “the harsh thing.” It requires almost a total override of my basic nature. Thank goodness, I have a husband who is a disciplinarian, and good school administrators who can dole out justice if I can just get myself to write out the referral to the office.

Yes, I am a mass of lively contradictions, ones that often make me shake my head in embarrassment and, at times, scream in dismay. I may not be the life of the party. I may not be the fun-loving free spirit who will wow you with her karaoke; I may not be the authoritative leader who wins wars and builds unwavering obedience.

But, you know what? For those who can see past my jumble of idiosyncrasies, I can be quite endearing… a loyal friend, a dedicated worker, and a pretty awesome individual. I bet you, dear INFJ reader, are too.

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I am a veteran high school English teacher and easily identifiable INFJ. I write for fun in my spare time and am on an INFJ mission to not let my fears stop me from leaping into scary waters. I can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @dawnbevier. Also, check my writing out on Medium if you want to read more.