Getting Comfy With Your INFJ Personality Type

It’s been quite some time since I published a post about personality types. Since starting grad school last August, the time I have to spend writing on my more personal projects has been limited. I still Bible study every morning, which turns into the posts I share each Saturday, but I haven’t been researching and writing about personality types nearly as much.

Don’t get me wrong–I still find personality type fascinating and knowing I’m an INFJ is a key part of how I understand myself. I just haven’t had time to read typology books or blogs, or think all that much about topics related to Myers-Briggs® that I want to write about. My writing time is focused on things like “A Rhetorical Analysis of the Literature Surrounding Role-Playing Games, Race, and Identity” and a scholarly book review of John R. Gallager’s Update Culture. I might share links to those somewhere on this blog if/when they’re published, but they don’t really fit with the theme “finding our true selves in the people God created us to be” or with my interest in personality types.

One type-related topic I have been thinking about, though, is that I feel like I’m “settling in” to my type. Which I think is a good thing, but it also makes me feel a bit less motivated to constantly research and write about INFJs. Over the past several years, either in comments on this blog or emails through my contact form, I’ve occasionally heard from INFJs who talk about having (mostly) moved past the awkwardness of being INFJ. They talk about being happy, feeling balanced, and seeing their type as a strength or a neutral thing rather than a weakness or something that makes them particularly unique.

In the online INFJ community, we often talk about things like how different we feel from other people, how tempted we are to door slam those who irritate or hurt us, and how we’re a target for unhealthy people like narcissists. It’s easy to think of being INFJ as a burden, or a thing that sets us apart, or something people will never understand. I’ve been there, clinging to my INFJ label like a life preserver that makes the weirdness of your life make sense. And I think there’s a place for that, especially when you first learn about your personality type. The feeling of relief that you’re not alone or broken is one that many INFJ (most that I’ve talked with, in fact) mention when they talk about first discovering their personality type. Normalizing experiences like feeling alien, struggling to communicate, and seeing the world differently helps us realize that 1) there’s nothing inherently “wrong” with our personality and 2) other people really can understand us and they can help us figure out how to be in the world as INFJs.

That initial realization that we’re INFJ and embracing that identify is often the strongest way we relate to our personality type. But the way we relate to our type can change, and I think it probably should as part of personal growth. Based on conversations I’ve had with older INFJs, I suspect that if we were to chart the stages of a typical INFJ’s journey, it might look like this:

  • Recognizing that there’s something different about you
  • Learning about personality types and realizing that INFJ fits you really well
  • Seeking to learn about your type and learn from other INFJs
  • Accepting your personality quirks and figuring out how to manage your strengths and weaknesses
  • Settling into life as an increasingly mature, balanced example of an INFJ

Of course, this is an overgeneralization and it doesn’t account very well for the many people who aren’t sure if they’re an INFJ or another type like an INFP or INTJ. It does reflect what I’ve heard from many INFJs, though, and I think it will resonate with a lot of my readers. I’d love to hear what you think of this idea in the comments!

Right now, I think I’m somewhere in those last two bullet points. I’ve firmly embraced my weirdness, even more so than when I wrote a post about that topic two years ago. I finally went back to school. I’m managing the anxiety and depression I’ve struggled with for more than half my life in a much healthier way. I’m leaning in to the interpersonal strengths of my INFJ type and finally developing my Extroverted Feeling side so I can teach and tutor students. And it feels pretty good.

Wherever you are on your INFJ journey, I hope you’re doing well. I hope you’ve been able to connect with other INFJs (whether in person, on blogs like this one, or using social media), to learn helpful information about your personality type, and to grow toward living a fuller, happier life. And I hope we’ll all keep learning, keep being brave, and keep growing.

If you’d like to know more about personal growth tips for the INFJ personality type, check out my book The INFJ Handbook. I’ve updated this second edition with a ton of new information and resources. You can purchase it in ebook, paperback, or hardcover by clicking this link.

Featured image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Personality Type Myth-Busting: What’s The Rarest Personality Type?

As an INFJ, I often see people talking about how it’s the rarest personality type. According to every type distribution I’ve seen this statement is true. However, I’ve also seen quite a few INFJs treat this rarity as if there’s a huge gap between how rare we are compared to the other personality types. Some also treat this rarity as meaning that we INFJs are so rare no one else can relate to us and/or that it makes us extra special.

While INFJs are the rarest type overall, there are other types that are almost as rare. And when we break type distributions down by gender, INFJ is not the rarest type among women (though it is among men). You can see the Estimated Frequencies of the Types in the United States Population in this chart:

Personality Type Myth-Busting: What's The Rarest Personality Type? | LikeAnAnchor.com

Relative Rarity For Each Type

As you can see from the type distribution chart at the start of this post, most of the Intuitive types each make up less than 5% of the population. The estimates from Center of Application for Psychological Type cover a pretty broad range, though. The Myers-Briggs® Foundation offers more specific estimates in addition to the ranges. These percentages pin-point INFJ at 1.5%, ENTJ 1.8%, INTJ at 2.1%, and ENFJ at 2.5%. They’re all pretty rare. Read more

What Are Your Strengths As An INFJ Personality Type?

Learning about our unique strengths as INFJs helps us realize what gifts we can access most readily. It also gives us some guidelines for learning to use those gifts effectively in work, interpersonal relationships, and our private lives. These strengths don’t make INFJs “better” than any other type (each type has their own valuable strengths) but they are an important part of our personalities.

We often use our personality strengths so easily that we don’t think of them as gifts. For example, it’s so natural for INFJs to pick up on other peoples emotions that it might just seem like a slightly annoying thing we do automatically, rather than a unique gift we can use to relate to other people. But the strengths that are so much a part of the INFJ personality types are not common in the world at large. If we ignore our gifts or assume they are not useful, we deprive ourselves of confidence and deprive the world of our unique skills.

As I’ve been working on the second edition of The INFJ Handbook, one of the things I’m expanding is the chapters on INFJ strengths and weaknesses, as well as the one with personal growth tips. That re-writing that sparked the idea for this post, which is a shortened version of one of the chapters in my upcoming handbook. Read more

Dating Your Mirror: ENFP and INFJ Relationships

Once upon a time, I told my sister, “I don’t think I’d ever date an ENFP.” Even though I’d seen lots of people describing ENFP-INFJ as a “perfect” pairing it just didn’t sound like a good fit for me. I loved having ENFP friends, but the ones I knew were either so intense they made me feel anxious, or so extroverted they wore me out, or too scattered for me to think I wouldn’t eventually get irritated with them in a closer relationship (or all of the above).

Then a few years after making this statement, I started actually getting to know one of my ENFP acquaintances. And now we’re dating (doesn’t that sound like just the sort of coincidence that would happen in a romance  story?). He does have an intense personality but I’ve done enough work overcoming my social anxiety that doesn’t scare me any more (actually, it’s rather exciting). He’s the most extroverted person I know but I’ve discovered it’s not a problem for us. And he’s not scattered or flaky (which, it turns out, is another of those unfair/too widely applied stereotypes bouncing around Myers-Briggs circles).

Now, I could spend the next 1,000+ words telling you about how wonderful my boyfriend is but that’s probably not what you clicked on this post for (if it was I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed). Instead, we’re going to talk about why ENFPs and INFJs have a reputation in Myers-Briggs circles for getting along so well. Read more

“Thinking” Women and “Feeling” Men

One of the ways we relate Myers-Briggs type to culture is by saying most Feeling types are women and most Thinking types are men. This seems to work quite nicely as a partial explanation for gender stereotypes in Western culture. In spite of social pushes to break-down gender distinctions, Feeling-type attributes (emotionally expressive, nurturing, relational, etc.) are typically considered “female” and Thinking attributes (impersonal, fact-oriented, business-like, etc.) are considered more “male.”

If we fit this generalization, we probably haven’t even noticed it. If you’re a woman with traditionally feminine traits or a man with traditionally masculine traits, there’s little pressure to change (though there are exceptions, of course). But if you’re a woman whose mind naturally makes decisions in an impersonal way or a man who prefers harmony to competition chances are someone has told you at some point that there’s something wrong with you.

Type Distribution

As with many generalizations, there’s a whole slew of problems related to this observation. According to the Center for Applications of Psychological Type, about 57 to 84 percent of women are Feeling types and about 47 to 72 percent of men are Thinking types. It’s hard to get exact numbers on type distribution, but even these broad estimates show that, while the generalization holds true, there are also quite a few Feeling men and Thinking women.

"Thinking" Women and "Feeling" Men | LikeAnAnchor.comJust in my family of 5, there are three good examples of exceptions to the general rule that most men are Thinkers and most women are Feelers. My dad (ISFJ) and brother (ENFJ) are both Feeling types, and my sister (INTJ) is a thinking type. My mother has asked me not to type her, but as an INFJ I might be the only one in my family who fits the “women are Feeling types” generalization.

Thinking vs. Feeling

Lest these generalizations lead you to conclude Thinking people don’t have emotions or that Feeling people can’t be intelligent, let’s take a quick look at what Thinking and Feeling refer to when we’re talking about Myers-Briggs types. Both Thinking and Feeling are Judging functions, meaning they describe how you like to make decisions. Read more

Myers-Briggs Types and Grief

 LMAP, CC-BY, via flickr
credit: LMAP, CC-BY, via flickr

I started writing this post nearly a year ago, after losing a dear friend, but I couldn’t finish it then. While I was grieving and watching the people around me grieve, I started wondering if the ways individuals respond to grief might be influenced by personality type. Once I started thinking about it, I was surprised that it wasn’t something I’d already read about in my personality studies.

People experience grief in such different ways that it would make sense for someone to try and find commonalities between how each personality type deals with grief. Maybe then we could come up with a self-help method for the grieving process more individualized than the inadequate and outdated 5 stages of grief model.

A few Google searchers later, I’d found plenty of forum topics where people who shared personality types were getting together to compare notes on how they deal with grief. I also found the following on the official Myers-Briggs website:

There have been many books written about personality type and grief, and it is perhaps one of the most profound uses of type. Understanding one’s personality type helps a person recognize why certain expressions of grief are better suited to his or her personal journey through this difficult process.

Unfortunately, they are neglected to give any more information about the “many books.” I’ve only been able to find Recovery from Loss: A Personalized Guide to the Grieving Process by Lewis Tagliaferre and Gary L. Harbaugh and Understanding Grief Types: Working with the Individual Nature of Bereavement by Lisa Prosser-Dodds (which had not yet been released).

Survey of Available Information

Recovery from Loss is specifically written for people who are grieving the loss of a spouse. It proposes a 20-step model for dealing with grief, and does address the role of personality type. However, the authors’ ideas are drawn from general knowledge of how different types respond to stressful situations rather than on actual research. They suggest this would be a profitable study, but do not undertake such a study themselves.

For such a study, I found a The Relationship Between Grief and Personality — A Quantitative Study by Lisa Prosser-Dodds, who presented this study of 239 individuals’ responses to grief as part of her PhD (I’m assuming it was also the starting point for her soon-coming book). Her study asks, ” Is there a difference in grief response between groups with differing MBTI personality types?” According to her, previous explorations of the MBTI’s role in grief are very few. She mentions four:

  1. a 1990 study of 51 bereaved mothers that said, “Extroverts reported higher levels of coping resources and focused on Social, Cognitive, Emotional and Spiritual resources.” The sample group mainly consisted of Extroverts and Feelers.
  2. a 1999 study of 14 people who had lost a spouse. This study “found differences in styles of grieving between varying personality types” but not “a significant use of inferior function,” which we would expect to show up in times of stress.
  3. the 1990 book Recovery From Loss, which I’ve alredy mentioned. Prosser-Dodds thinks their 20-step recovery model is presented “at a level of intellectual requirement that most grievers might become unable to digest,” and notes their observations are “not grounded in empirical data.”
  4. the 1994 book Voices of Loss, compiling first-hand accounts of grief and loss (not necessarily due to death) from various personality types. It is also “not based upon empirical data.”

 What We Can Learn

If you’re interested in reading part of Prosser-Dodd’s study, her summary of results begins on page 68 of this PDF document. The aspect of her findings that I found most surprising was that “When the dominant function aspect of the personality was compared, none of the results showed significant differences. All six subscales and the total scale scores failed to support the hypothesis.” Given Naomi Quenk’s writings on the role of inferior functions in times of stress, this is quite shocking. I would have assumed eruptions of the shadow played a key role in grief, but our dominant function might actually have more to do with how we grieve than our inferior functions.

Instead, “the results that showed the most significant differences were with the predictor variable functional pairs (NT, ST, NF and SF).” This probably wouldn’t have surprised Isabel Myers, since that is the method she used to divide personality types into four groups: “ST- Practical and Matter of Fact Types,” “SF – Sympathetic and Friendly Types,” “NF – Enthusiastic and Insightful Types,” and “NT – Logical and Ingenious Types.”

NF Types

Prosser-Dodd found that NF types had “higher levels of despair, disorganization and detachment” in their grief response, as wells as “slightly less personal growth.” NF type tend to feel things deeply in general, so it is hardly surprising that our grief response involves high levels of emotion. They are, however, better able than thinking types to find meaning in the tragedy of loss and regain balance in relation to the world.

NT Types

Intuitive Thinkers scored lowest on all aspects measured by the Integration of Stressful Life Events Scale. This measures the ability to make meaning out of a loss and to find one’s footing in the world while recovering. Prosser-Dodd said that considering NT types as “as the logical and strategic types, it would follow they might struggle with a comprehension of the loss in general and perhaps find it difficult to regain their footing in world following a loss.”

SF and ST Types

On the scales of despair, disorganization, and detachment the ST and SF types scored in between the NF and NT types, with SF types just a bit higher than ST types. Interestingly, ST types were the most likely to use a loss for personal growth. SFs scored higher than STs in being able to find their footing in the world and make meaning out of a loss (they’re better at this than NF types, as well).