I’m guest posting today at Susan Storm’s Psychology Junkie blog. Click here to read my article “10 Things INFJs Need In A Friendship”
“Just relax, have fun, and be yourself.”
Usually when I hear this phrase someone is trying to talk me out of being anxious about something. I’m sure they mean well. It’s supposed to be reassuring. Maybe they mean it as a promise that I’ll find acceptance and enjoy myself if I just stop thinking too much about things. But when someone says, “Just relax, have fun, and be yourself” what I hear is, “Be the person I want you to be and have fun doing it.”
What if my real self simply can’t relax in that situation? Or “myself” doesn’t have fun with activities like the one you’re trying to talk me into? In that case, I assume that you’ll either judge me for failing at such a simple instruction or you’ll feel bad that I haven’t enjoyed myself. So instead of actually being myself when I hear this, I want to try to be whatever version of myself I think you expect in response to what you said.
To Chameleon or Not To Chameleon
INFJs interact with the outer world using a function called Extroverted Feeling. Personality Hacker calls this mental process Harmony because it’s concerned with creating and maintaining harmonious relationships between people. It’s often (but not always) something that INFJs are tempted to skip developing because it’s more comfortable for us to stay in our introverted side with Intuition and Thinking.
When you pair a Harmony process that isn’t very well developed with anxiety (not all INFJs have anxiety, but I do), you end up with the sort of situation I described above. You try to “chameleon” into what other people want desperately trying to keep things in a comfortable state of non-confrontation. Read more
You know you’re a writer when one of the first things you think after a breakup is, “I could turn this into a blog post.”
It’s taken me about three months to get to the point where I felt I could write the post I wanted to — an article sharing tips for other INFJs going through heartbreak. I was quite certain I would get through this heartbreak eventually, but I wasn’t going to write this post until I felt like I had some good things to share with you.
When INFJs finally let someone in (not an easy thing for us to do), we tend to become very attached to them. We “map” them into our inner world so being with them is almost as relaxing/energizing as being alone. We rearrange our lives to make room for them. We start to consider their needs, wants, and desires as equally (or even more) important as our own. So when a relationship like that ends (whether it’s dating, marriage, or even a close friendship) it leaves a huge hole in our lives.
In some ways, of course, that’s true for everyone who really cares about someone and then loses that relationship. Today, though, I’m just focusing on one personality type. We INFJs don’t let many people in, and losing a close relationship often feels like being cut lose from an anchor. Especially if we still care about the person deeply (rather than in the case of an emotionless door slam). Read more
It’s nearly impossible to study Myers-Briggs types on the Internet without coming across several articles about the incredibly rare and nearly magical INFJ type. They’re described as the world’s prophets and shamans with deep spiritual insights. They’re called natural empaths with unfailingly accurate telepathy. They appear so deep you’ll never plumb the depths of their souls. They’re seen as the ideal type — the one everyone mis-types as because they wish they were this special.
If you’re vomiting a little in your mouth after reading that description (or laughing out loud at the crazy claims in the image up there), you’re not alone. The tendency to portray INFJs as something akin to a demigod or goddess doesn’t sit well with most healthy INFJs. Aspects of it even scare me. And yet it’s still around.
On the one hand, you have certain INFJs (and wanna-be INFJs) embracing the label and using it to look down on other types. That’s not the purpose of personality types and it’s damaging to us as well as to others. And on the other hand, you have people buying-in to the otherworldly INFJ stereotype and reacting in ways that aren’t good for the INFJs. Some even “hunt” INFJs for a relationship, which is pretty creepy.
How Did This Happen?
The simple fact that INFJs are the rarest personality type is going to make us feel and appear different than other people. That’s where this whole thing started — with acknowledging and explaining why INFJs aren’t like the other 98-99% of the population. So far so good. But soon, it started turning into a “different=better” idea. Read more
As an INFJ, you’re good at picking up on other people’s emotions. And when you pick up on what other people feel you also start to get a good feel for their expectations. For some of us, that seems like a good thing. We know what’s expected of us in different social settings and from different friend groups. We understand who we need to be so we can fit in.
But is that really a good thing for us? Does being able to fit in help an INFJ?
We call it the chameleon effect when an INFJ leverages their unique combination of mental processes to blend in with different groups of people. Chameleon INFJs might even appear as if they’re a different personality type in different situations because they’re automatically shifting toward being extroverted around the extroverts, logical around the thinkers, and interested in the real world around the sensors.
Blending in feels like an advantage at times. That’s why we do it. Fitting in feels safe. It seems like a way to protect ourselves from negative attention. But in reality, using our gifts in this way doesn’t just protect us from bad things. It also blocks us from really being seen and appreciated as ourselves.
The Challenge Of Being Real
Living authentically as an INFJ (or any other type for that matter) means having the courage to be yourself instead of trying to figure out who you “should” be in each situation. But it’s hard for INFJs to move past the pressure of becoming what others expect from them. As FJ types, our decision-making process is focused on maintaining Harmony in all our personal relationships. Any hint of confrontation and we’re worried the relationship is going to crash in around us.
We also worry what might happen if we take off our masks and the person we are underneath is different than what the people we value expect. What if the real “me” scares away the people I care about? What if they want me to go back to wearing my mask?
If that were to happen we know it would hurt. A lot. And we’ve been rejected far too many times not to know that it’s a very real possibility. So we settle for being what’s expected of us because the dull ache of not being seen and understood seems less dangerous than the vicious hurt of being rejected for who we truly are inside. Read more
I have issues with trust. I knew this to a certain extent, but being in a relationship has brought it to the forefront of my attention. My boyfriend wants to build the kind of trust that I’ve always wanted in a relationship, which is fantastic. But it’s harder to get there than I was expecting and that’s frustrating for both of us. I probably feel safer with him than anyone else who I haven’t known a minimum of 10 years and yet I still feel nervous opening up to him and being “me” around him.
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I love Brené Brown’s TED talks. Since writing that post, I’ve read her book The Gifts of Imperfection and I’m halfway through Daring Greatly. Since I’ve been confronting some deep-seated fear issues as well as this trust thing, they’ve been really good books for me. They’re tough, though. For example, she has a list of 10 things that “Wholehearted” people who believe in their worthiness do. I’ve only got one down pretty good and maybe half of two others. And that’s even though all 10 points on the list are things that, in theory, I agree are good and which I’ve considered worth pursuing for quite some time.
The Anatomy Of Trust
Earlier this year, Brené Brown gave a talk called “The Anatomy of Trust.” In this talk, she tells a story that she also relates in Daring Greatly about her daughter experiencing a betrayal of trust at school. You can click here to read the full story (or just watch the video below), but in short summary the situation got so bad that the teacher took marbles out of the Marble Jar (marbles go in when the kids are making good choices and come out if they’re breaking rules, acting out, etc.).
Brené then used the analogy of the marble jar to teach her daughter about trust. When we’re in a relationship with someone and they do things that build trust, we put marbles into the jar. When they do things that destroy trust, we take marbles out. Only the friends with full marble jars have earned a close enough connection to be trusted with things like your biggest secrets, your strongest fears, and your deepest hurts.
Trust is something we talk about quite a bit without always having a clear definition. The one Brené uses in this video goes like this, “Trust is choosing to make something important to you vulnerable to the actions of someone else.” She expands on the sort of people we can have this sort of trust with using the acronym BRAVING:
- Boundaries – we trust people who are clear about their boundaries and respect our boundaries
- Reliability – we trust people who consistently do what they say they’ll do
- Accountability – we trust people who own their mistakes, apologize, and make amends and who let us do the same
- Vault – we trust people when we know they hold things shared with them in confidence
- Integrity – we trust people who choose “courage over comfort … what’s right over what’s fun, fast, or easy” and practice their values
- Non-Judgemental – we trust people if we can fall apart with them and ask for help without being judged, and who we can do that for in return
- Generosity – we trust people who make generous assumptions about what we do and say, then check-in with us to clarify what’s going on from our perspective
She says this acronym also works with self-trust, which is an essential part of trusting others. In her words, “If your own marble jar is not full, if you can’t count on yourself, you can’t ask other people to give you what you don’t have … We can’t ask people to give to us what we do not believe we’re worthy of receiving.” It’s closely connected with the idea that we can’t really love others if we don’t know how to love ourselves.
Looking At Your Marble Jar
Here’s where it gets hard. Because if there’s a lack of trust in a relationship and you go through the BRAVING list and can’t pin-point where the two of you have an issue, that means the next option is you don’t trust yourself enough to really trust the other person. Which puts the burden for fixing trust firmly on your shoulders.
One of the biggest things that sticks out in my mind from Brené Brown’s research is what she learned about the difference between people who feel they belong and are loved and the people who don’t. The only difference is the people who have a sense of love and belonging believe they are worthy of love and belonging. That’s it. How you view your worthiness determines whether or not you get a feeling of love and belonging from the people around you.
For some of us, that’s a drastic shift in how we think. Since I blog so much about personality types I’ll use this example. INFJ types look for relationships with people who will see past our masks and understand and accept the “real me.” But we’ve built up so many years of expecting people not to accept us that when someone does, it’s often hard to let them be the person we’ve been looking for for so long. We don’t trust that they really do see us and like us the way we truly are. And there’s a good chance that’s becasue we haven’t really worked through our feeling that we aren’t actually worthy of the belonging and love we crave.
The thing is, I am worthy of love and belonging. And so are you. We deserve to have relationships built on trust. Which means we owe it to ourselves to do the hard work of getting to the point where we really believe in our worthiness and trustworthiness. Reading Brené Brown books is a great place to start. And then possibly re-reading them (which is what I intend to do) and taking action on it, like working through The Gifts of Imperfection and focusing on one of the 10 Wholehearted traits each week.