Each introverted Myers-Briggs personality type has strengths, but also has fears. Eventually, we all find ourselves alone with them — and that’s when they start to run wild. So what is each personality type afraid of? Here’s what I think gives each introverted type a serious case of the creepy-crawlies.
(What’s your personality type? We recommend this free personality assessment.)
What Scares Each Introverted Personality Type
“What if something happens to you…?”
Everyone, no matter their personality type, fears the loss of a loved one. But most of us go through life accepting — and sometimes ignoring — all the smaller risks: the tiny chance of getting mugged, the unlikely event of a car crash, the one-in-a-million chance that your loved one will be the one to catch a strange disease on vacation. If you’re an ISFJ, though, just reading that laundry list of “unlikely” threats may have sent your mind spinning.
ISFJs are deeply invested in a sense of closeness and caring toward their loved ones. Since they tend to be risk-averse, they definitely notice when someone they care about is headed into harm’s way. Or might be. Or almost definitely isn’t, but have they THOUGHT about what happens if…
You get the idea.
This fear can sometimes go beyond well-meaning concern and veer into what non-ISFJs would describe as nagging. But cut the ISFJ some slack: Addressing their fear is mostly beyond their control. They can’t really stop loved ones from doing things they themselves would feel are too risky (at least, not once those loved ones are grown ups). And they can’t stop a comet from hitting your car just as the brakes go out on a mountaintop highway with no guard rail. So, if they seem a little freaked out by your seemingly innocent picnic lunch plan, go easy on them.
“You c-can’t scare me, I’ve got a p-p-plan!”
Things ISTJs like: re-watching movies they’ve enjoyed before; going to restaurants they already know they like; volunteering at that festival that happens every year, on the same weekend, with the same group of people. Things they don’t like: anything starting with the words, “So there’s this new —”
Of course, ISTJs know that if they try something new, there’s a chance they’ll end up liking it (and then insisting on doing it over and over, the same way every time). But they also know there’s a chance they’ll hate it. Or someone there will rub them the wrong way. Or there will be a big crowd, which is the last thing they need…
But ISTJs are hardy, and they can deal with these low-grade concerns (possibly with their trademark bluntness). It’s the bigger uncertainties in life that scare them. ISTJs thrive on familiarity, security, and comfortable routines with loved ones. Take that away, and they’re chilled to the bone.
Want to build an ISTJ-only haunted house? Just send them down a well-lit corridor with voices whispering:
You’re going to lose your job.
The stock market will crash.
Your daughter is moving away.
You left the back door unlocked.
Is that a lump? Was that there before?
Sorry, ISTJs. We’ll look away while you change your perfectly-folded underwear.
“You mean if I open one door, another will close — forever?”
If you tell an ISFP that life is an endless series of branching possibilities, they’ll agree with you. If you ask them how they feel about that idea, they’ll say they love it. And if you offer to take away some of those possibilities —
Well, that’s when the hair stands up on the back of their neck.
ISFPs gain their energy and enjoyment of life from the fact that so much is possible, just waiting to be discovered (or at least tried). Of course, like most people, they have their favorite routines, and they like having a familiar home to come back to. But for them, the routine might be a daily chunk of unstructured time for experimental new tastes, and home might look like, well, a carefully-curated playlist of experiences that’s always getting better and never quite “done.”
As a result, anything that smacks of commitment can be scary — especially if it’s the kind that rules other options out. Committing to a cactus collection? No problem. Committing to one job over the other, or one relationship for life?
Yeeeeah, that can be tricky.
That doesn’t mean an ISFP can’t commit, and they will if they see an option that’s clearly the healthiest one for them. So if you’re the one you’re hoping they’ll commit to, pro tip: You better show an open mind and laid-back attitude toward their spontaneity. Otherwise, you may as well be putting on a Jason mask.
“So you’re saying if I don’t do it this one exact way, it’s ‘wrong’?”
It’s a dark and stormy night. The ISTP’s car has broken down on a deserted road and, for once, they can’t fix it — not even with the box of vintage Army motor pool tools they found at a garage sale. Must be a gremlin, if they believed in that stuff.
Luckily, there’s an imposing mansion on a hill nearby. A perfect adventure! The ISTP trudges toward it without an umbrella, and briefly wonders if they’d be able to climb over the spiked iron fence without getting hurt. Oops, too late, they’re already climbing up! Ha, this fence is easy. Guess mansion owners don’t have good taste in security measures.
Approaching the house, they see it looks pretty abandoned — but the front door creaks open, even though there’s no one there to open it. Huh, they think, Did they do that with an electric motor or some kind of counterweight system? Pretty nifty.
Except, just as they step into the foyer, they find something floating before them.
A spectral book, ancient by the look of it, with golden words inscribed upon it:
BOOK OF RULES AND PROCEDURES — MANDATORY
Behind them, the door slams shut, and they scream.
“One day it’ll be over… and what did I really do?”
Imagine you are born with a sense of purpose branded upon your soul. Imagine you know, from day one, you have a mission. A reason for existing.
Now imagine you lost the mission dossier… you can’t remember the briefing… there’s a black hole in your memory about what you are here to do. Not a single person around you knows the answer, and many laugh when you bring it up.
Welcome to the existential state of an INFP. Delusions of grandeur, you say? Yeah, they’ve heard that before — and every other painful thing the world lobs at the people who actually care. The ones who believe in ideals. The ones who think we can actually do something important here.
So INFPs realize very young that they’re going to have to explore and figure it out on their own. That sometimes, they’ll have incredible friends and allies, but a lot of the time, they’re going to have to do everything themselves.
This is when the fear starts to nag. Not just the self-doubt (oh, the self-doubt!), but the “what if” kind of fear. What if I never do it? What if I never make a difference? What if I waste my WHOLE life, and when I get to the end, I realize —
I won’t say it, INFPs. You know the fear.
This fear gets endless fuel. It gets fuel when people wring out your creativity just to water it down and market it. It gets fuel when you pour out your dreams and beliefs at a world that doesn’t seem to notice. And yeah, it gets fuel from your deep worry that you’re not doing enough, from the days and weeks and seasons of life when you start things but don’t get them finished.
I’ll stop; you should never show too much of the monster in a scary scene. But I will show a little bit of what you don’t get, INFP: some frickin’ approval. I, for one, believe you can make something meaningful in the world — and you know how to do it. I don’t think you need to get in the history books to do something that matters, but if anyone can get into the history books, I think it’s you. It’s okay if it takes time and roundabout ways to get there.
I hope you can feel that for a second. Then I hope you drive it like a wooden stake into the heart of everything that’s holding you back.
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“They were the only person who ever got me.”
INTPs are totally independent non-conformists, right? (Right.) That means they don’t care what ANYBODY thinks of them, right? Well… not quite.
The message INTPs have been getting their whole lives is, “You are different, you are broken, you’re not doing it right.” On a purely factual level, they quickly learn that this kind of rejection comes from people who are either not smart enough for the job they’ve been given or are way too convinced that whatever an authority says is right (or both). That’s a big part of why they usually ignore it and just do their own thing anyway.
But it’s still rejection, and yes, INTPs are locked into the same human brain as the rest of us. Rejection hurts, and love is the cure, even for great visionaries like INTPs. But INTPs know they aren’t going to get love, affection, and friendship just any ol’ place. Most people they meet will only be able to relate to them on a superficial level — or not at all.
Which brings me to the special friends. The rare breed who may not see the world at all like the INTP, but does have an instant chemistry with them — not (necessarily) a romantic chemistry, but an idea chemistry.
This is the friend who helps the INTP pick through the trillion threads in their head and start to follow the golden ones. The friend who listens and it sparks ideas of their own. The friend who advises and doesn’t get upset that the INTP takes none of their advice, instead seeing even more new possibilities.
The friend who truly makes the INTP experience love and acceptance. Any given INTP might only have one or three of these people in their lives, and each one is worth more than diamonds.
And any day, at any time, something could take that friend away. Forever.
This is what terrifies an INTP.
“There’s something out there. You can’t see it, but I feel it.”
INFJs are a diverse group, and like any other personality type, they don’t all have the same beliefs. Some believe in the supernatural; others don’t. But many INFJs, regardless of what they believe, have a deep sense of foreboding about what’s lurking… out there… where no one else can see it.
To some INFJs, this fear is very exact: They’ve actually seen, or felt, something uncanny — a ghost, an apparition, a malevolent presence — and, so far, the “rational explanations” they’ve heard just don’t quite explain it.
To other INFJs, it’s less literal. It’s the uncertain dread of their imagination kicking up in an already-ominous situation. Why did the birds just stop chirping? Why does it look like the lock was forced on the door of that boarded-up house? Why would you want to swim in water where you can’t see the bottom?
For better or worse, INFJs are intuitive, blessed and cursed with the ability to fill in the blanks. That means every empty spot in the world is, to them, crackling with possibilities — some of them bad rather than good.
This doesn’t just apply to their surroundings; it also applies to the corners of the human soul. Why did his eyes shift slightly when he said that? What isn’t she telling me? That older man with that small child — the situation just doesn’t feel right. Often, INFJs see in their fellow human beings what others completely miss. They see the layers of motives behind a person’s words, and sense the primal depths that person is capable of. Even a normal person. Even the nicest person. Perhaps even… themselves.
And that is a darkness far scarier than any haunted house.
“That was the day my brain stopped working.”
No one wants to lose their mind. But for INTJs, it’s not just the stuff of creepy movies. It’s the stalker in the dark.
When polled, INTJs report this fear under many guises: old age, Alzheimer’s, extreme mental disorders, even a brain injury (eek!). INTJs live in the future, not the present, taking much of their joy from distant goals and long-term growth. To an INTJ, the exigencies of the present are often an annoyance (shopping, repetitive chores, the drive time it takes to get somewhere… need I go on?). The real action is in their heads.
Anything that threatens that is an Enemy of ontological proportions.
Of course, INTJs don’t assume these things are out of their control — nothing is totally out of one’s control, to an INTJ. Instead, they take steps to assess and stave off this threat. A common first step may be a DNA test to assess their genetic risk for Alzheimer’s and other diseases; it only gets more convoluted from there. (I’ll cop to this myself: I’m an INTJ, and personally, I do my best to follow two research-based diets that help reduce the risk of cognitive decline with old age. It’s a die roll, I know.) Even then, the fact that there’s no guaranteed preventative terrifies us. All our knowledge and planning is a silver crucifix held out against the dark.
For INTJs, the terror of the decline of the mind affects even how we see death (if there’s a heaven, it damn well better include a good library). A painful end is manageable, but an end to learning, thinking, planning, envisioning? That is a cold, dark abyss indeed.
So if your INTJ seems too serious or stressed at times, take it easy on them. Of all the types on this list, they’re the only one whose worst fear is guaranteed to get them eventually.
You might like:
- The 17 Phrases That ‘Scare’ Introverts the Most
- Each Introverted Myers-Briggs Type’s Biggest Relationship Pitfall
- What Secretly Makes Each Introverted Personality Type ‘Dangerous’
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