I had two Myers-Briggs-related thoughts while watching Disney’s new live-action Cinderella last Sunday. 1) she’s a perfect example of an ISFJ, and 2) she’s a perfect example of why people mistake ISFJs for INFJs and vice versa.
Usually when we talk about fictional ISFJs we talk about men — Samwise Gamgee, John Watson, Steve Rodgers … and they are all very good examples of ISFJs in fiction. But in real life, ISFJ women outnumber ISFJ men, so it seems odd not to have a woman on the list of famous fictional ISFJs. I think Cinderella is a great example of an ISFJ, and here’s why.
Cinderella, like other ISFJs, leads with a process called Introverted Sensing (Si). Dr. A.J. Drenth considers it one of the “least understood of the eight Myers-Briggs functions,” and David Keirsey chategorized them with the Guardian types (SJs). All Guardians use Si as their their first or second function.
They are more concerned with ensuring their beliefs and behaviors are consistent with an existing standard than they are in formulating their own set of standards. In many ways, they are dependent on what has already been already been tried and established, systems of thought that grant them a sense of consistency and security. –Dr. Drenth
Because ISFJs pair Si with Extroverted Feeling (Fe), which is a deeply relational function, they are largely motivated by a desire to help other people. They need to be needed, and they are more willing than other types to serve without looking for a reward. This doesn’t mean they don’t crave appreciation, or that they won’t resent being treated like a doormat, but they are unlikely to upset the status quo by telling those in authority that they deserve better.
My sister (an INTJ) has always described Cinderella as her least favorite Disney princess because she’s such a “spineless push-over” and she’s “too nice.” No one would actually put up with being treated like that, right? Actually, yes. An ISFJ would given the right circumstances, but it’s not because she’s “spineless.” It’s because she feels like she has a duty to stay. In this new version of Cinderella, Ella tells a friend in the market that she stays with her stepmother because the house was important to her parents. She will not leave because the grief she has to put-up with from her step-family is not too high a price to pay for fulfilling her duty to her parent’s legacy. For an ISFJ, it is more important to maintain peace, help others, and preserve important locations and institutions than it is to be independent. An INFJ, for example, would stay for different reasons.
INFJ vs. ISFJ
Before I even left the theater, I knew I wanted to write about the difference between ISFJs and INFJs if I mentioned Cinderella in a blog post. When I got home and checked my e-mail, I saw I had a comment on a post I wrote several months ago about Myers-Briggs types among the Disney princesses. I’d typed Cinderella as an ISFJ, but this commenter argued, “she’s an INFJ. She thinks and dreams about the future (Ni) way too much to have Si rather than Ni.” This is a perfectly understandable argument. I’m an INFJ, and while I was watching Cinderella I realized that I would have acted almost exactly the same way Ella did in these circumstances. At least, it would have looked the same to an outside observer.
INFJs lead with Introverted Intuition (Ni) instead of Introverted Sensing (Si), but they both interact with the outer world using Extroverted Feeling (Fe). Personality Hackers calls Fe Harmony, because every type who uses Harmony as their first or second function are interested in maintaining peaceful relationships with others. They will do, or put up with, almost anything to avoid confrontation. That would be a chief motive for an INFJ who stayed in a situation like Cinderella’s. In that, they are like ISFJs. Duty, however, would not play much of a role in an INFJ’s decision-making. They would be more likely to feel trapped because they weren’t sure how to turn their dreams into reality, not because they thought they shouldn’t leave.
This brings us to the idea of dreaming. Cinderella’s imaginative side is more visible in the 1950 version, with the song “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes.” But I don’t really get the impression that Cinderella’s dreams function the same as the way as an INFJ’s dreams about the future. For an INFJs, the inner world is real, often more real than the outer world. For Cinderella, I think her dreams serve a more self-encouraging role as she insists on framing things in a positive light. You see that more clearly in the 2015 version, when Ella convinces herself that being banished to the attic is actually a positive experience. An INFJ dreams about the future because that’s what INFJs do. Cinderella dreams about the future because she needs to believe things will get better.
Both Si and Ni are perceiving functions, meaning they take in and process information on an almost unconscious level. Dr. Drenth says, “Si more or less preserves and relays information in its original form. Ni acts more synthetically, weaving together disparate information to construct novel theories, visions, and insights.” Intuitive are more creative, and Sensing types are more detail-oriented. INFJs are concerned with possibility, ISFJs with reality. Ella didn’t go to the ball for the abstract possibility of meeting the prince, falling in love, and being rescued from her mundane life. She went to the ball with the more realistic expectation of attending an enjoyable party and seeing a man named Kit again.
Please feel free to weigh-in with your thoughts in the comments. What did you think of the film? Do you think I’ve typed Cinderella correctly?
8 thoughts on “Fictional MBTI – Cinderella (ISFJ)”
Cinderella’s ability to see the world not for what it is, but what it COULD BE is the essence of Ne in any position, but she is indeed an ISFJ. She dreams of the unknown future not in specifics as a Ni-dom would do, but as a Ne-inferior: an interest in all the potential outcomes that might transpire, with an unwillingness to commit to just one. Ne — wants many possibilities, and is intrigued by the unknown. Our worldview widens to embrace many different philosophies, while Ni-users’ worldview carefully narrows down to a specific truth.
Unfortunately, a lot of the online descriptions and profiles for ISFJs make them sound completely uncreative, disinterested in dreams, and practical — and we are not. Or at least, I am not. I daydream just as much as any intuitive. It’s just that my common sense tells me that most of my dreams are unrealistic and I can separate the two in my head — fantasy and reality as I perceive it. Which may or may not be accurate, since my perceptions are subjective and not factual.
I never cared about the original Disney animated film, but I felt a real kinship for Cindrella in this adaptation because … she was me, in SO MANY ways, right down to bawling the Prince out for chasing a stag.
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I am an INFJ, and I felt a real strong connection to Cinderella in the live action movie. Her convictions and desire to see things through, not quit (leave) just because it’s hard, and seeing the good in people, the possibilites, even when they’re mean. Trying to find the reason why they are that way. And feel pity for the hardships they experienced that made them “mean”. Then also be bitterly hurt when treated so harshly. The real question seems to lie in whether she is more Se or Ni. The fact that she wants to figure out & counsel the dogs’ intentions & help him stop wasting time chasing Lucifer is classic N! At least to me. I would have been completely thrilled with just going to a Ball. That alone was a total fantasy dream for an INFJ Cinderella. The unknown possibilities would have been extensive, despite the Prince etc. I am a Mom of 3 and I often feel I am multi-tasking and anticipating practical needs & staying focused with what needs being done. Guess it depends on how much of your life has integrated other facets of Intuition or Sensing, in how well we relate ourselves to Cinderella. For me, I cried during the movie for how much I could relate to her choices & decisions, with my 3 demanding “steps”, my high & extra needs children. I choose to “stay”, not give up, or quit, for my duty and dedication to them.
Thanks for your comment! Typing fiction characters is always subjective, and it’s particularly hard with introverts since (in film at least) we don’t get much of a look inside their heads. I identified really strongly with Cinderella, too, but I’m also trying to resist the urge to simply type characters I feel a kinship with as INFJ. I do think she leans more toward ISFJ, but that’s me 🙂 My ESFJ friend strongly identifies with her as well. ESFJ, ISFJ, and INFJ all use extroverted feeling, so it’s understandable why we all find her so relatable.
I loved this movie, by far one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. I agree with you that her dreams are a coping mechanism, not a way of life. I actually think the narrator was wrong saying that she saw things not as they were but as they could be. She saw how things were, she just wished they were not. For example, she says “Just because it’s what’s done, doesn’t mean it’s what should be done”, thus proving she sees reality foremost. For sensors reality comes first. My mother (ISFJ) talks about being more positive and carefree when she was younger and thinks her personality type would be different, but seeing the movie and reading your explanation makes me realize this is more of who she was she just doesn’t realize it’s the same personality type. I’m an INFJ and I could definitely see Cinderella as much more like my mom than like me, even aside from the fact that I’m a guy.
Reblogged this on thenewgirlsworld and commented:
As an ISFJ, I love everything about this. Brilliantly written. x
I really like the new Cinderella and couldn’t put a finger on exactly why until now. I knew that the “I forgive you” line was at least part of it, but until I read this I didn’t realize that it was because I’m just like her in so many ways. I’m an ISFJ/P. That’s why I identify with her so well! Thanks for clearing that little mystery up in my mind. 🙂
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Very interesting comparison between the ISFJ and INFJ. I’m an INFJ and just watched Cinderella. It completely warmed my heart as I could so relate to her attitudes throughout the movie. But now I agree with you that an INFJ would definitely conjure up a whole new story about the prospects of attending the ball. My daughter is an ISFJ and I could certainly see her more realistically sticking to the facts, that she’s going to the ball to see Kit. Period. Very insightful of you!
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