What fictional characters do you relate to as an ISFJ?
Just as we can describe real people using the Myers-Briggs® typology system, we can also use the system to type well-written fictional characters. Some of fiction’s most iconic characters are ISFJs, and today we’re going to talk about seven of them that I think real-life ISFJs will find very relatable.
One of the other great things about looking at character personality types is that it can help those us to better understand people who have different types than we do. Fictional ISFJs can serve as examples for what real-life ISFJs can be like, and also show how much variation there can be between individuals with the same type.
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The heroine of Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion* is a beautiful example of the ISFJ personality type. She’s perhaps the character on this list that best demonstrates why Personality Hacker nicknames an ISFJ’s dominant function of Introverted Sensing “Memory.” They say, “people use this process to learn new information based on their memories. Introverted Sensing wants reliable information … which is why SJs seem so insanely tied to personal experience and expert opinion.”
Anne Elliot is so tied to expert opinion that she breaks off her engagement to Frederick Wentworth on the advice of Lady Russell. While she sees obeying her godmother as the right thing to do, she regrets it for years and finds herself unable to move on. I suspect many ISFJs can relate to how hard it is for Anne to let go of past mistakes. She isn’t crippled by her regrets from living a good life, but she does cling to the past enough that she turns down other offers of marriage. It’s a struggle for her to do anything other than filter her current experiences through the lens of what happened in her past.
Many ISFJs will also relate to Anne’s sweet nature and her desire to put others first. She cares for her demanding father and sisters without complaint, continues a relationship with Lady Russell even though she’s to blame for Anne losing Wentworth, and connects on an emotional level with other hurting people throughout the story. Anne also surprises people by how intelligent and level-headed she can be at times, which is a trait of ISFJs that people who only see them in a quiet or care-giving role often overlook.
There are many versions of Cinderella that we could talk about, but just to keep things simple I’m going to focus on Disney’s live-action version* starring Lily James. ISFJs like Ella have a strong desire to help other people. They are often more willing than other types to serve without looking for a reward. Even though they may crave appreciation and resent being treated like a doormat there’s a good chance that, like Ella, they will put up with something as long as they think it’s their duty to continue fulfilling their obligations without upsetting the status quo by telling others that they deserve better.
This can earn ISFJS an unfair reputation of being “too nice” or even “spineless.” Some viewers marvel that any one would put up with what Cinderella went through, but an ISFJ would given the right circumstances. Ella stays with her stepmother because she feels that staying in her father’s house is part of 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. Not every ISFJ will identify with Ella’s precise motivations, but I think most can identify with the feeling of being underestimated or misunderstood because of their kindness and faithfulness.
Another relatable aspect of Ella’s ISFJ personality is how she daydreams. ISFJs lead with a perceiving function called Introverted Sensing that takes in and processes information almost unconsciously. It’s generally concerned with reality, but that doesn’t mean they won’t imagine a reality that is better than the one they have now. For Cinderella, I think her dreams serve a self-encouraging role as she insists on framing things in a positive light. Ella dreams about the future because she needs to believe things will get better.
If Cinderella is a picture of the sweet and gentle ISFJ, John Watson is a picture of the grumpy and practical version who’s just about had enough of people’s shit. I’m talking specifically about the John Watson in BBC’s Sherlock,* but other versions are also ISFJs. This one played by Martin Freeman is my favorite, though, so we’ll just focus on him.
ISFJs will identify with John Watson’s loyalty to his friends, his grounded perspective, and his commitment to seeing justice done. They may also identify with his short temper when it comes to people he cares about doing stupid things or running off in the middle of conversations. John would rather have things wrapped up and explained neatly. Watson’s mind functions very differently from Sherlock Holmes (an INTP). Even after years of friendship he still asks Sherlock to explain things to him and is somewhat in awe of the way Sherlock’s mind handles patterns. Eventually, though, John also knows Sherlock well enough to call him out when he starts showing off or toying with people.
Another thing that ISFJs might identify with is John’s struggle to process his own feelings. Since FJ types use Extroverted Feeling so comfortably, they’re much less accustomed to turning their Feeling side inward. That makes analyzing, understanding, and working through their own emotions very difficult. Case in point: John’s struggle to process the causes of his psychosomatic limp in Series 1 and to move on after Sherlock’s death in Season 3.
Obi-Wan Kenobi shares a common ISFJ trait of blaming himself for everything that goes wrong with the people around him. For some ISFJs, this might even be the aspect of his character that you’ll relate to the most. Obi-Wan takes responsibility for Anakin’s fall to the Dark Side (Revenge of the Sith* — “I have failed you Anakin”) and for the decision to train him (The Empire Strikes Back* — “I thought I could instruct him just as well as Yoda. I was wrong”). While he did influence Anakin (who’s an ENTJ), Obi-Wan didn’t need to blame himself for creating Darth Vader, and ISFJs don’t need to blame themselves when people they care about make bad choices.
Obi-Wan Kenobi isn’t as stereotypically ISFJ as a character like Samwise Gamgee (who we’ll get to in a moment), but I do think that’s the best-fit type for him. Like many ISFJs, he’s quite comfortable working on his own yet is also very good with people. His Extroverted Feeling (Fe) makes him a good teacher who can connect with and even charm the people around him. If you watch The Clone Wars series, you’ll also get to see a more relaxed side of Obi-Wan who freely shares his dry sense of humor (a unique, private sense of humor is a common trait among ISFJs).
Like several other Jedi (at least the way I type them), Kenobi is a Guardian (SJ type) who focuses on the problem at hand and relies heavily on the past to determine his future action. ISFJs will likely relate to Obi-Wan’s nostalgia for a “more civilized age.” He is heavily invested in maintaining or restoring traditional balance and order. Yet he also has a very personalized and subjective view of things, which starts to come out more as he gets older and spends more time alone on Tatooine. I suspect many ISFJS, particularly older ones, will relate to Obi-Wan’s journey from a staunch defender of tradition to a more personalized view of right and wrong that they hold to as the basis for their lives.
ISFJs are so often called the “mom” of personality types that I couldn’t consider this list of relatable characters complete without including an actual mother. Queen Elinor is Merida’s mother from Pixar’s Brave* and she’s a lovely example of an ISFJ working as hard as she can to make sure the people she’s responsible for will be okay.
Any well-meaning ISFJ who’s ever tried to convince another person to do something “for their own good” can identify with Elinor’s frustration with her daughter’s rebellious nature. Elinor has a wealth of historical evidence and past experience to draw on which tells her Merida (an ESTP) will be happier in the long-run if she conforms to the established traditions and social norms. It takes a lot (like being turned into a bear) to shake her from this viewpoint and concede that there’s another way to look at things. Similarly, ISFJs see the past as a solid and reliable basis for making future decisions and they’re generally cautious about adopting change until they’re convinced it’s actually for the best.
ISFJs may also identify with Elinor in her peacemaker role between the different clans. She has a strong sense of self-respect as well as clear expectations for proper behavior, and she expects others to work on improving themselves. She also has a strong sense of compassion and empathy for the people around her. She uses her ISFJ Extroverted Feeling to act as a peacemaker, which is a role ISFJs who become comfortable with this side of their personality often find themselves filling.
Not many fictional characters are as easy to type as Samwise Gamge from The Lord of the Rings*. He is the perfect ISFJ. Not only that, but he’s one of the most admirable characters in fiction. There’s probably a lot of us who admire Sam Gamge while also being quite sure we couldn’t have done what he did in helping Frodo destroy the ring. For many ISFJs, though, he’s an incredibly relatable character because that kind of selfless loyalty is so much a part of their being.
Like many SJ types, ISFJs tend to resist change and settle down comfortably into a traditional routine. But if a best friend needs them they’ll go through hell for and with them. With Fe as an auxiliary function, ISFJs are very people-oriented and attuned to the needs of others, especially their close friends. ISFJs will also identify with Sam’s strong sense of responsibility and loyalty.
While ISFJs are often seen as one of the more worried, pessimistic types, they also have a very strong desire to see the world end up as it “should be.” And, like Sam in both the books and the film versions*, they will keep fighting to see good triumph in the end.
One of the few ISFJ heroes in fiction (they’re usually cast as side-kicks, especially male ISFJs), Steve Rogers just oozes all the best traits of ISFJs. His strong sense of right and wrong, along with a conviction to do what is right, are very similar to Samwise Gamgee. For Steve, these deep-rooted ideas form his character and he refuses to compromise.
It’s fascinating to watch Steve’s journey as a character in the MCU*. He starts out, like many ISFJs, wanting to work within established authority structures. He joins the U.S. military, (mostly) follows orders, and saves lives. Once he arrives in the modern world, he again aligns himself on the side of law and order. It’s only when the authority structures fail to match what he knows is right and wrong that Steve rebels. I’m sure many long-suffering ISFJs will identify with Steve, who wants to make the system work but also refuses to support something that is hurting people. It’s a struggle to know when to keep trying to change things from within and when to take a stand and say, “this isn’t right.”
I also think ISFJs will identify with the hints we see of Steve’s amusement and sometimes puzzlement when he’s looking at the world around him. Isabel Meyers said an ISFJ’s view on the world “may be absurd, irreverent, touching, or hilarious, but never predictable because their way of sensing life is intensely individual” (Gifts Differing*, p. 103). The way ISFJs process the world is unique to each individual, but they rarely share it unless they’re in a relaxed setting with people they trust.