The pathway to a fulfilling career is doing work that matters to us and using our strengths and natural talents. However, the workplace isn’t always fair, and without healthy boundaries, INFJ personality types may find themselves taking on work that isn’t theirs or becoming everyone’s counselors. As an INFJ, this drains your emotional energy tank — and burns you out in the process.
Feeling overlooked, underappreciated, and disrespected because you aren’t doing work that matters or using your strengths, is not the path to a fulfilling career. As INFJs predominantly think about what others need and spend most of their time operating from other people’s perspectives, they can struggle to know their own limitations. It can feel unnatural to think of themselves first and can leave them feeling guilty and uncertain.
Having clear boundaries enables us to say no to work, people or behaviors that drain us, that aren’t aligned with our vision, and undermine our mental, emotional and physical wellbeing in the workplace. But before we can ask for our boundaries to be respected, we have to know what our needs and limits are.
Identify your needs
INFJ’s don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what they need, and they can struggle to set boundaries for fear of others’ disapproval or negative feedback. So the process of recognizing your needs can feel a little strange at first, even uncomfortable. But as an INFJ said after recently pushing back at work, “It feels great, I just want to do it more.”
Needs and boundaries go hand in hand. There are about 50 core human needs, ranging from the basics of sleep, food and water, to more intangible needs like belonging, authenticity, stability, independence and learning. While we all have the same needs, how we express them differs, and that’s where boundaries come into play. Knowing our needs helps us know where our line is. Boundaries let ourselves and others know what happens when our needs aren’t met.
You will know when a boundary has been crossed when you feel angry, resentful or guilty. Pay attention to those moments and look beneath your feelings to find the need not being met and the line that was crossed.
Define your limits
Once you identify your needs, it’s time to define your boundaries. Start with your physical needs — sleep, food, water, exercise. What do you need for each of these needs and how is work helping you meet those needs? For example, I know an INFJ who is not a morning person. She simply can't function if she wakes up before 8 am. So she chose a flexible job that allows her to start her day at 10 am and work into the evening.
What about emotional needs and boundaries? While you have a need for empathy, appreciation and cooperation, you also have a need for alone time. Having emotional boundaries allows you to distinguish between your emotions and someone else’s. This allows you to say no to tasks or people that aren’t safe or appropriate. This includes saying no to working weekends, always being available, or taking on other people’s tasks. It allows you to put on your headphones, close your door or turn off your phone when you need quiet time. It also helps you delegate work and not take responsibility for everything and everyone.
Next are mental needs and boundaries, and by these, I mean your thoughts and opinions. These relate to our need for self-expression, contribution and effectiveness. Understanding our mental needs helps us express and stand by our opinions and not be influenced by others. This could be sticking to your guns about an idea or voicing an opinion about how a project should be managed.
Determine what needs to change
Once you know your needs and have defined your limits, it’s time to determine what needs to change. Who or what needs to change in order to reset your boundary to where it should be? Make a list of the problem areas and the actions you want to take for each. Do you need to make a request for yourself or someone else?
Once you have that, it’s time to make clear, specific requests about your new limits, but do so in a way that is mutually beneficial and supportive. Start from the position that the request will meet the other person's needs as well as your own, and will enhance the relationship. Think of it more as a negotiation than a demand, but one where you don’t compromise on getting your needs met.
Remember to expect some pushback, not because you aren’t allowed to have boundaries or people don't respect you, but because you are changing the status quo and people need time to adjust to that.
And keep in mind that no matter how well you communicate your limits, people will try to cross them. It takes time for people to get used to your new boundaries and it’s up to you to enforce them. Prepare for pushback by roleplaying how you’ll respond to boundary pushers. Be assertive rather than defensive. Expect others to get upset and angry, but remember their emotions are not about you.
Whatever your boundary is, you are worth it, and the more you practice standing up for yourself, the more confident you will feel, the more a fulfilling career will flow your way.