Are all INFJs Highly Sensitive People?

Categories: Self-Discovery, INFJ

Quiet but passionate, wise but childlike, creative but caring, these gentle, intuitive people are highly complex and often misunderstood individuals. But are we describing INFJs or HSPs? Or are they the same thing? Many of the characteristics of the INFJ personality can also describe a highly sensitive person (HSP). Whether you are an INFJ, an HSP or both, it’s important to understand who you are and what you need to be happy.

What is an INFJ?

INFJs are Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling and Judging personality types. They are gentle, caring and creative people who are highly attuned and sensitive to people’s feelings. Their deep sense of intuition and insight means they are able to understand people and situations instinctively.
While they are often found in caring roles, and helping people whenever they can, they dislike conflict and violence and will go out of their way to avoid it. Conflict and stress takes a toll on INFJs, and they can experience health problems as a result.

INFJs aren’t interested in group activities, small talk or superficial relationships. They want and need deep and meaningful connections with a select few people with whom they can talk about ideas and relate to on an emotional and even spiritual level. Despite their caring nature and natural empathy, the INFJ’s focus is internal, and they are driven by the world of ideas, meanings and possibilities, as well as a lifelong search for personal growth, identity and authenticity.

What Is an HSP?

Psychologist Dr. Elaine Aron coined the term Highly Sensitive Person in 1991 when she discovered that many people, like herself, had a more sensitive nervous system. And the condition is more common than you might think – approximately 20% of the population are highly sensitive. Researchers have identified high sensitivity in many animal species as well, including dogs, cats and horses.

HSPs are often mislabelled and misunderstood as introverted, shy, insecure, fearful, and socially anxious, but high sensitivity is none of these. It’s an innate trait that some individuals are born with, like blue eyes or brown hair. Aron’s research shows that an HSP’s brain actually works differently than other brains, making the person more aware of subtleties and giving them the ability to process information more deeply. Consequently, HSPs can easily feel overstimulated and overwhelmed by sights, sounds, smells, crowds, bright lights and even the emotions of people around them. They feel stressed when they have too much to do at once and cannot bear violence or injustice. They usually have a deep appreciation for art, music, animals and nature.

HSPs are also vulnerable to developing low self-esteem and can experience anxiety, depression and shyness because of the lack of acceptance of their trait. Western culture tends to value outgoing, extraverted personalities and the sensitive, thoughtful HSP can easily feel criticised, unappreciated and unaccepted.

Unlocking the Four-Letter Code

Let’s take a look at the four dimensions of an INFJ and see how they compare to HSPs:

I – Introversion. Introversion and extraversion are not about how outgoing or talkative you are, but how you get your energy. Introverts get energy and recharge by spending quiet time alone, often reading, taking nature walks, listening to music or engaging in creative activities. Extraverts are energised by socialising and participating in stimulating activities. Both INFJs and HSPs have a lot of internal energy, so they don’t need as much stimulation from the external world. They both tend to live in a world of thoughts and ideas, and too much stimulation from their environment can be stressful. According to Aron, most HSPs are Introverts, however, approximately 30% of HSPs are Extraverts, so they would be more like ENFJs.

N – Intuition. The second letter can be either an S for Sensing or an N for Intuitive. This dimension describes how you take in information. Sensing types focus on facts and concrete details in the outside world, while Intuitive types, like INFJs, learn by thinking about ideas, feelings and trusting their intuition. HSPs are also very intuitive people, preferring to navigate life with the help of their own instincts, thoughts and feelings. They tend to avoid experiences that stimulate the senses, like nightclubs, shopping malls and parties because they are overwhelming. Psychologist David Keirsey suggested the symbol of the dolphin to describe INFJs. Dolphins use a sonar system to communicate and navigate through the world. Like dolphins, INFJs use their strong sense of intuition. Similarly, HSPs’ sensitivity is like a sonar system, allowing them to be aware of and understand subtleties in their environment.

F – Feeling. The third letter is not about whether you Think, as a T, or Feel, as an F. It reveals how you make decisions. Thinking types use logic and objective analysis while feeling types base their choices on personal values and consideration for people. Feeling types can be just as logical and intelligent as thinkers, but they place a higher value on compassion than rules. This focus on people and values describes a key decision-making process for both INFJs and HSPs.

J – Judging. The fourth letter can be either P, Perceiving or J, Judging, and deals with how we run our lives. Perceiving types are flexible, open to change and can have a hard time finishing what they start. Judging means you prefer to stick to a plan, a schedule and a structure, allowing this type to be more organised and get things done. For this aspect of the personality, INFJs and HSPs may differ. Highly sensitive people can be organised, methodical and seek closure, but they can also be less structured and more interested in starting a project than finishing it. In this respect, they can be more like an INFP. But there’s a key difference. INFJs, more than INFPs, are known for being determined and passionate about their work and pursuing their goals with the intensity of their convictions – qualities that are also key characteristics of the creative, sensitive HSP.

Coping in the World

So what does this mean for the INFJ and HSP? The combination of the four INFJ traits translates into a person who is focused on ideas and possibilities, and often struggles with the mundane tasks, details and practicalities of life. Like HSPs, INFJs have specific needs, challenges and coping methods, some of which are addressed below.

1. Peace and quiet

Both INFJs and HSPs need a lot of quiet time to recharge their energy. They both find outside stimuli such as noise, activity, lights and people not only distracting, but stressful and at times exhausting. This is because the INFJ’s strength is internal and they are highly sensitive to the outside world. Of course, only negative stimulation overwhelms them. Both INFJs and HSPs thrive when exposed to gentle stimuli like beautiful music, art, a calm atmosphere, a walk in nature and the time to think.

2. Compassion and empathy

Despite feeling overwhelmed by noise, crowds, people and their demands, both INFJs and HSPs feel a deep-rooted desire to help others, not to look good, but because they want to make the world a better place. They don’t want to rescue people as much as inspire and motivate them to help themselves. This personality type can not only understand other people intuitively, but they can often feel their emotions as well. The strong feeling function in INFJs creates a gift for empathy and compassion, a trait shared by HSPs. Unfortunately, they are also vulnerable to becoming people pleasers and victimised by selfish and demanding individuals who take advantage of their caring nature.

3. Authentic relationships

INFJs and HSPs are intelligent, insightful and thoughtful individuals who value deep, meaningful, and genuine connections with people. INFJs and HSPs have uncanny insight into people and situations. They have little time for superficial relationships or small talk, and often see through sales tactics, deception and facades. They love in-depth, mentally stimulating conversations and one-on-one discussions. But that doesn’t mean HSPs and INFJs are missing all the fun. Research suggests that when it comes to happiness and well-being, quality conversations matter more than quantity.

4. A meaningful career

Unlike most people, INFJs and HSPs need more than a steady job and a paycheck. They need a career with a purpose. Despite their quiet, gentle, and sensitive natures, INFJs/HSPs are passionate about their values and beliefs. They are not motivated by money, fame or personal glory, but by making a difference and standing up for those in need. Consequently, many INFJs and HSPs seek careers in the healing professions such as healthcare or counselling. Their sensitive, creative natures also provide them with a talent for language, writing, speaking and communicating and they may seek careers in teaching, publishing or the arts.

5. Creativity

The sensitivity, empathy, insight and heightened sense of awareness of INFJs and HSPs mean they are naturally creative people. A study at Northwestern University shows a clear link between a person’s inability to filter out external stimulation and their creativity — and we know that INFJs and HSPs are sensitive to their environments. Creativity helps the INFJ/HSP express their emotions, solve problems, and release the pent-up energy they’ve absorbed from their external world. In his book, The Neuroscience of Personality, Professor Dario Nardi explains that INFJs need time away from external stimulation to get into the relaxed mental state where they can create connections and engage in the introspective process in which they excel. When INFJs are free to express themselves and explore the possibilities they see so vividly in their imaginations, they flourish. 

Ultimately, we cannot say for certain whether all INFJs are HSPs, but it seems they probably are. Most HSPs are either INFJs or INFPs — the ones that don't tend to be ENFJs or ENFPs. Whether you’re one or both, it’s important to know what stresses you, what overstimulates you and what makes you feel calm, relaxed and happy. With their caring, compassionate nature, deep desire to help and tendency to feel overwhelmed, it’s essential that INFJs and HSPs take care of themselves first.

Deborah Ward

Deborah Ward is a writer, editor and an INFJ. She has a passion for writing articles, blog posts and books that inspire, motivate and encourage people to build self-confidence and live up to their potential. Her latest book is Overcoming Low Self-Esteem with Mindfulness. Deborah lives in Hampshire, England, where she enjoys watching documentaries, running and taking long walks in the country, especially ones that finish at a cosy pub.

Comments

LisaB (not verified) says...

hi there--infj & hsp here. the article seems spot-onto me. i have to psyche myself up to go to the mall & then recover afterwards. my best coping strategy is taking a walk with my dogs or even just sitting in nature. i've decided that that's because nature has no agenda, no underlying emotions that i will absorb like a sponge, as people have. (of course my dogs do have an unending agenda of getting food, but that doesn't upset me.) i have created a quiet life for myself of homemaking, reading & some volunteer work for a cause i believe in passionately. i'm a cliche!!

Laura Vanhook (not verified) says...

Infj w/hsp
Thank you, this was explained quite well!

Guest (not verified) says...

AMAZING ARTICLE!! Truity, you're simply the BEST! So spot on and insightful.

Kathy Rawls (not verified) says...

Did I just read my diary ?
I am an older woman who has outlived two husbands both of whom were extroverted; however, the similarities ended there. The reason I mention this is that both men were very gregarious, and I could hide behind one and lean on the other in social situations.
Now again, I am alone with my friend Time.
Again....since my memories of childhood and early adulthood are as the loner, the lonely one, too fearful to aspire, too unexceptional to try, always wanting to fit in, yet unable to do it. Then the Myers- Briggs analysis identified me as INFJ and so what the faking continued. In the 1970's I was still on the outside looking in and not until books and blogs began discussing me have I felt somewhat accepted. Thank you for your knowledge, understanding and support. Thank you to all who get it. Xk

INFJ BUDDY (not verified) says...

Excellent description of my INFJ personality....I feel like taking a print out of this page and framing it to paste on my wall so that people would understand me better as I am often misunderstood!!!

ExhaustedINFJ (not verified) says...

On several occasions, I have tested as an INFJ and a HSP. I feel like an alien on this planet. Is there any country that an INFJ can live and not feel so foreign? I am almost always underpaid, even though I am frequently told that I am their best employee, because I can't stand negotiating. Just be fair and pay me what I am worth in the first place. I live in the USA and feel that it is VERY dog eat dog. We might not admit to having class systems, but it certainly seems that we do. The wealthy seem to rule the country, the schools, and society. Are there any countries that offer freedom, work/life balance, and equality for all citizens? Where can an INFJ feel at home?

Deborah Ward says...

I know the feeling. I used to live in Canada and I found that the focus on commercialism and cars wasn't for me. I now live in England where I can enjoy lots of quiet country walks. I have read that countries like Japan and Norway are more appreciative of quieter, more sensitive types of people, but I think the important thing is to take the time you need to rejuvenate and relax and to find a career where you can use your skills and strengths.

INFJ and HSP (not verified) says...

If you are American seeking a country where you won't feel like an alien, Japan would not work. I lived in South Korea as an English teacher, and I can tell you those cultures are particularly rooted in exclusivity that does not and will never include "foreigners" (you being the foreigner). On the other hand, there may be very good reason they guard their culture so jealously. For our personality type, well for any, it is just a lil slice of heaven, period. Can't really go into why here, but did find that the overall culture suited my personality.

However, you are so close to success where you are! First of all it's huge that you have identified your oppressor. The worst is when an invisible culture that you cannot name labels you as "different" and you are left to internalize your shame in isolation, as another commenter spent most of her life doing, sadly.

Especially as introverted intuitives, we feel subjected to our environment, and life seems to conspire to snatch away our sense of agency, leaving us feeling victimized rather than empowered. As you have noticed, our culture is designed around capitalism and the material resources and rewards go to those who thrive on competition rather than cooperation. Our victory will be when we forgive the ones in our pasts who in their ignorance judged and labeled us, injuring our sense of self during our formative years, and then continue to reaffirm the valuable treasures to be found in our personality type. The answer is not to escape to a more accepting place but to be refined by the fire of current circumstances without waivering in who we are. We should continually love and value ourselves until those around us learn to do the same. Again, they are simply ignorant and parroting out-dated notions of shyness, etc. 

I love Susan Cain's work, because she does exactly what I describe, questioning the value of solely extroversion in the workplace, introducing research showing how and when introverts are better leaders  and working to install learning systems in our schools that favor introverts.

So I would say stay, don't imagine the solution is segregation. Stay and advocate for you. Recharge at home and among like-minded people, but I guess light your candle instead of running from the darkness, as they say. You've got the most powerful candles around, the rest of the INFJ community, backing you up.

PEFarrell (not verified) says...

I am virgo INFJ 37 years. I have learned to live alone in a quiet apartment. I can be out and work all day, but I have to have the quiet organized space to recharge and collect myself. I have a 7 foot folding table setup to work on creative projects at home. I constantly rearrange my apartment to maximize its creative space. I rebuild my computer to keep it running fast. I need the computer for its music, games, communication, and journaling. I've learned to adjust the mood in the space with the lighting and music. I do work out my stress at home, and I have a gym membership where I can work out physical stress. At home I cook, paint, dance, a lot of cleaning, build plastic models like airplanes. One thing that made me happy was to work on a creative art project like a card or note that wished someone well while I am at home, and then bring it to them later when I am out.

I liked the INFJ article Are INFJ's highly sensitive people. I feel everything empathically and have learned its not me when I am tuning into other's feelings. After too long socially, in a store, or on the road my heart and brain fatigues. I do take anti-psychotic medication because I have been overwhelmed so many times that I was diagnosed with an mental illness. A low dose of medication is the healthiest way I have found to help cope with the sensitivity. As long as I take time to relax and take care of myself at the apartment I can get along fine.

Callie (not verified) says...

Hey PEFarrell,

I just found out that I am a INFJ, but I am a cancer.

I grew up HSP, and really related to all the things you said that you have in common with this article. I really enjoy my alone time to reamp my inspiration, and love to reorgnanize my place, keep my area at work and home clean, so I am not overwhelmed. I have also been diagnosed with mental illness, Major Depression. I take a low dose as well to keep myself stable, so my emotions are controlable, and it really works. 

Although I like my personal time. I enjoy having personal relationships with people who are willing.

 

Thanks for your share

-Callie

Deborah Ward says...

Thank you to everyone who has responded to this article so far. I'm really glad it connected with you and made you feel understood, which is always a challenge for INFJs and HSPS! I really believe that the more you understand yourself and what you need to feel relaxed, the happier you will be. My best wishes, Deborah

Lindsey M (not verified) says...

Excellent article! When I tested on the Myers Briggs almost a decade ago, I came out as an INTJ, so I continued to assume that was my "type"; I really did not think my "F" was as strong as my "T". However, having read more about the INFJ just recently, I feel like someone has been spying on me and reading all my journals. THIS is probably more me than the INTJ!
I often feel like I don't fit in (especially in workplace environments), and that I belong in another galaxy. I do have a nervous system that is particularly sensitive to stress and external stimuli which is why I have experienced prolonged health problems and burnout in the past. I have since learned to "tune in" and take care of myself first and foremost before I can give to others like I want to. I have a very strong sense of what people are about, below the surface, have a strong acuity for counselling/encouraging others, not to mention that others tend to naturally divulge their personal problems to me no matter how well I do or do not know them. My intuition is generally spot on in many situations and I can discern BS from about 5 miles away. Misunderstood?? Let me count the ways.........
Thank you for sharing your insight here; it just may help so many others to walk forward with a deep breath of relief, to realize they are indeed UNDERSTOOD by someone, they are not "weird", and they have valuable and rare (but no less desperately NEEDED) gifts to offer a world that hungers for their insight and awareness. THANK YOU.

B. (not verified) says...

I would like to thank for the article as well as for all the comments, with which I connect entirely.

It makes me sad how hard life can be for INFJs, but for me finding out that my personality type is the least common and that I experience life differently made me understand better why I so often get very low and why I've never felt like I fit in, although I've always tried really hard to do so. I had a relationship in which I was not happy for quite some time, but I just didn't want to connect my depressions with being misunderstood by my partner (and my parents, AND most of my friends at that time), so I would intentionally overlook everything negative and force myself to see the good in the relationship. Typically, I would blame myself for everything and hate myself for being so different and misunderstood. Eventually, I could not bare the self-sacrificing anymore, as I suddenly realised I'll either lose my partner OR myself, which was a waking call for a break-up with my ex-partner (after almost 4 years). Being alone is hard, but honestly, I feel just as alone as I felt in the relationship most of the time (especially the last year). Now I'm trying to reconnect with myself and get to know myself as much as I can, and, for God's sake, finally trying to stop faking my way to "normality". I'm trying to let myself cry when I need to, not trying to stay strong all the time, fearing that my vulnerability will make others love me less (although I hate crying in front of others, so I always connect with my emotions only all by myself; a huge help is yoga, meditation, reorganizing my room, playing piano, reading books and writing - I've kept a journal since I was 5).

So that's how I'm coping with my sensitivity. But if there's one thing I really want to say here, it is this: Learn to MAKE YOURSELF A PRIORITY. For some personality types a little bit of selfishness is absolutely natural; not for an INFJ. Fail at listening to yourself and try faking being someone else and it's a straight road to depression, disconnection and misery. But the world needs us strong, calm and active. Because who else would wake up every morning determined to make the world a better place?

vanessaher (not verified) says...

i am infj ( according to several tests i took, mostly infj outcome and without knowing what infj is beforehand ) and i think i am definitely hsp. so much that i think it majorly contributed to me getting diabetes 1, a few years ago. i was in so much stress that i slowed my body down, i was caught in my body, like psychologically paralysed ( which i think is an infj thing   ? ), i lost muscle mass and became ill without knowing ( diabetes 1 is where when you have no insulin you can eat 10 hamburgers and get skinny ). so my hsp definitely majorly contributed to me becoming ill  ( and i am now building muscle mass and producing insulin, diabetes 1 isn´t healable, so i think i was partly misdiagnosed ), hsp has had a big impact on me, thinking back, the sensitivity sometimes to light and air and sounds and textures, feeling like i could pass out at school, wanting to curl up and be in the dark for 8 hours ( or more ) just to soothe the sense, what an incredible stressfactor. i am glad i stumbled upon the description a few years ago, it explained so much, and i could start acting more aware and doing things that would soothe me. physically soothing things, that soothe the psyche. i now take even more in through the body since i was ( mis ) diagnosed, my boundaries aren´t as strong as they were, i have to re-build the protection, i am a bundle of nerves oftentimes but also strangely strong ( the paradox of an infj, i suppose ), i have little energy but feel that energy wants to burst through, i just have to slowly and calmly nurture it, i am making progress   *  she says with a dizzy head because my bloodsugar is going down *. i find being an infj hard, it is beautiful when things flow and make sense, and one feels things positively flow through one and one flows through time or timelessness, then the harsh realities of everyday life, trying to juggle those things.

 

and regarding conflict, even if i don´t like it, i create it when i see injustice and want to make people question themselves, bringing facts to the table in a blunt fashion. i have read this is something infj´s do.

 

but i have to be careful not to go too much into that energy, especially after all the problems that arose after extreme stress. i need a lot of soothing things, i feel things instantly in my body, people´s emotions, behaviours, it is stressful to be such a sponge. dis ease smacking me in the mouth telling me i have to look after myself     better,      even better.   become more selfish.   eventhough i really don´t like that. but i suppose it is a selfishness that is important in a health context.

and,  ooh,   hampshire.    my half brother grew up there.    i always seem to think these websites are by americans.

 

:)

vanessaher (not verified) says...

my post sounds muddled up. still dealing with healing, healing myself, and a lot has to do with expending energy, to create insulin, and i have no energy, so am a bit frazzled and not that clear.

 

i found things that calm my senses ( like i have an electric fan that feels like by the sea, and it makes me feel like i´m getting sea air oxygen ), but through the (misdiagnosed) diabetes 1 ( i think i have/had something like age diabetes because through shock i didn´t move and thus became ill and the symptoms showed diabetes 1 symptoms, losing weight fast etc ) my already sensitive protective walls were torn down, but the things that helped my hsp still help me, just that i am even more sensitive.

 

i thought that sounded a bit muddled up in my other post.

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