Being principled is generally regarded as an honorable trait. It’s a sign of integrity and strength of character, and it makes us seem trustworthy in other people’s eyes. If you are principled, people know that they can count on you to do the right thing because of your commitment to behaving in an honest and moral way.

But principles, like any moral standard, can be taken too far. INFJs are often so devoted to their principles that they become overzealous, striving to live by their sacred and untouchable values even when it would be better to make exceptions or compromises.

Here's what's going on.

What's wrong with being principled?

For INFJs, having strong principles is something of a calling card. This type is known for their heartfelt idealism and desire to live authentically, according to their values. It takes a lot for them to renounce their beliefs.

On paper, it might seem that there are no downsides to being principled. After all, someone with a good moral compass:

  • Makes conscious and consistent decisions
  • Sticks to their guns
  • Has a strong sense of justice
  • Is accountable for their actions
  • Respects others
  • Is someone people can trust

Generally, when you act in congruence with your values, you feel good about yourself and the decisions you're making. But is it possible to honor your principles too much?

The answer, sadly, is yes. When an INFJ gets over-attached to their values, it can put blinders on their behavior. They might feel obligated to continue down a certain path, even if it's no longer the most beneficial choice. They may refuse a job opportunity, end a relationship, or refuse to cooperate with others who don't share their stringent standards. These are extreme examples, but they illustrate what can happen when your attachment to your principles becomes too intense.

How do you know if you are being too principled for your own good? Here are four signs that you may be tipping into "too principled" territory.

#1: You set unrealistic expectations for yourself and others

A clear sign that you may be too principled for your own good is when you start setting unrealistic expectations that are neither fair to you, nor to the other people involved. For example, if you expect your significant other to know how you're feeling without you telling them, then you're setting them and the relationship up to fail.

INFJs are highly perfectionist. In your mind, there’s no point doing something if you’re not giving your all. But there's a difference between high standards and unrealistic expectations. High standards might be, “I expect to be treated with respect.” Unrealistic expectations might be, “They can’t say or do that as it offends me." This all-or-nothing approach can be incredibly damaging as, when expectations aren’t met, INFJs can get crushed and blame themselves for not predicting how things would play out. 

What you can do about it: Don't be so hard on yourself or others, INFJ! Use your natural sense of empathy to be in tune with your emotions and avoid taking a hard line on principles that others may not follow. Remember to include other perspectives when your actions impact others, so you don’t impose unrealistic expectations that could later cause disappointment.

#2: You are quick to judge when you disagree with someone

The "J" in INFJ does not stand for judgmental, but the truth is that INFJs can sometimes make hasty judgments about others, especially when that person says or does something that shakes the INFJ's principles.

For example, suppose your friend has taken a new job for a company or cause that clashes with your personal values. Is your knee-jerk reaction to condemn them for their decision, or can you take a step back and understand their motivations for taking the job? The former is a sign that you have become too single-minded in your focus and are rejecting any opinion or action that challenges your vision.

What you can do about it: Becoming too single-minded in your convictions may lead you to make assumptions and decisions that are not necessarily in your best interest. It could also prevent you from developing relationships with other people whose views could very well enrich your understanding. If you find yourself too quick to judge, step back and try to understand why someone might have a differing opinion or perspective, and how that's okay.

#3: You are very sensitive to any type of criticism

Having strong principles can sometimes lead INFJs to become hyper-sensitive to any type of criticism. If someone doesn't agree with your ideas or points out a flaw in your thinking, you will take it to heart and ruminate on the criticism for days.

This happens because your values are so important to you that to have them challenged feels like a personal affront. In reality, it's just a difference of opinion or fresh insights from someone with a different worldview.

What you can do about it: Not every suggestion that differs from yours is a personal attack. Receiving constructive criticism is an essential part of bonding with other people. If you’re struggling with detaching yourself from criticism, try a grounding exercise. Keep in mind that you don’t lose any value as a person just because someone has criticized you – you are not your principles!

#4: You feel the need to control everything

INFJ control freaks, unite! For some INFJs, the need to be in control of themselves and the situation is an urgent thing, and it is linked to our perfectionism. When you set up unrealistic standards, you don’t delegate. You simply assume you’re the only one capable of meeting them.

INFJs can be rigid and controlling because they want to minimize failure. They fear that not planning out everything ahead, or distributing responsibilities, may diminish their chances of success. 

What you can do about it: Imagining the worst-case scenario is a coping technique for anxiety that might help you embrace uncertainty and let go of the need to control. Write the scenario down, and you'll soon see that it's unrealistic. And even if it did come true, the messiness of life would still go on!

The bottom line

Honest and loyal INFJs are one of the most principled Myers and Briggs personality types – and that's usually a good thing. But it’s important to remember that too much of anything can be a bad thing. When it comes to principles, too much attachment can lead to rigidity and unrealistic expectations that can hurt you and the people around you.

If you find yourself in this situation, use the tips in this article to give your principles a sense check. Don’t forget that they should serve as guidelines, not rules. After all, life is too short to live it by the book. Happy journey!  

Andreia Esteves
Andreia is an INFJ who used to think she was the only person in the world terrified of answering the phone. She works as a freelance writer covering all things mental health, and psychology related. When not writing, you’ll find her cozying up with a book, or baking vegan treats. Find her at: