ISFJs are painted as compassionate, loyal and dutiful, often to the point of being a pushover. Famous ISFJs include Mother Teresa, Queen Elizabeth II and Rosa Parks—people who embody the notion of putting service above self in most aspects of their lives.
But do ISFJs have a side that's mysterious...or even wild? Here are the top five myths about the ISFJ personality, plus a peek into what's really going on beneath the goody-two-shoes stereotype.
Myth #1: ISFJs cannot make rational decisions (and will do anything to please others)
ISFJs rank among the types most likely to enjoy serving others and are well-represented in the education and religious occupations. But that they blindly people-please and cannot be rational is false. In fact, ISFJs have a strong grip on logic and are perfectly capable of questioning new ideas and behaviors until they reach a conclusion that makes sense to them.
ISFJs are unique in the sense that they possess strong introverted Thinking and extraverted Feeling, and these functions lie very close together. Introverted Thinking makes them logical, analytical and often tough-minded. Extraverted Feeling is the trait that allows ISFJs to see things from another's perspective. Together, these traits make them very aware of opposing sides of an argument - the very skills that allow ISFJs to be so supportive, and strive for win-win, universally beneficial outcomes. You can't make everyone happy unless you can objectively make sense of their competing viewpoints, right?
The drawback, if there is one, is that ISFJs may find themselves caught in a struggle between logic and emotion, earning a reputation as tetchy or moody. This is especially true if they don't have enough "me" time to recharge their batteries and regain control over their feelings. But when the balance is right, ISFJs are capable of bringing great order, logic, clarity, and precision to any situation.
Myth #2: ISFJs have no imagination (and are incapable of being amazing at anything)
Erm...Mother Teresa, Gwyneth Paltrow and Tiger Woods haven't achieved anything amazing? Seriously, this myth stems from the fact that ISFJs are traditionalists who value loyalty, hard work and practicality. They are the type most likely to do the heavy lifting. You'll often find an ISFJ helping out, staying late and volunteering their goodwill, even if their efforts go unnoticed.
Unfortunately, these traits are out of fashion in today's go-getting, entrepreneurial world. The skills that make ISFJs such reliable coworkers, parents and friends have seen them mistyped as dull, unimaginative and lacking in charisma. This is not fair. ISFJs are intensely creative and are fascinated and inspired by many things. They instinctively use their creativity to formulate empathy, observing others' actions and coming up with novel solutions that allow others to be the best they can be. You have to wonder, if an ISFJ's creativity were more self-serving, would it be better rewarded?
For the most part, ISFJ creativity is fueled by two muses: perseverance and observation. ISFJs have a rich inner world and an astonishing memory, and they can use their past experiences to great innovative effect. If an ISFJ wants to be creative, she takes what she knows, knuckles down and develops the idea until she gets the result she desires. It's a very practical type of creativity, but requires no less imagination.
Myth #3: ISFJs are doormats (who never stand up for themselves)
Before we delve into the stereotype, it's worth calling attention to Rosa Parks, the African-American civil rights activist who refused to give up her seat on the bus for a white person. In doing so, Rosa broke both social convention and the law. She was willing, at great personal cost, to stand up for her beliefs. Does this lady sound like a doormat?
We often picture ISFJs as being passive and uptight. But this is far from the truth. People who identify as ISFJ are typically humble and private, rarely calling attention to themselves. Much of what they do is aimed at protecting others' feelings and they may let everyday wrongdoings slide in order to keep the peace. But don't mistake these qualities for passivity. When the chips are down, ISFJs will fight hard for justice.
As Rosa Park showed, ISFJs will not just "fall in line" and do what is expected of them. In fact, since they are far more perfectionist in their handling of facts than other types, and motivated to care for people, it makes sense that ISFJs will draw attention to inaccuracies and injustices that elude other personality types.
Myth #4: ISFJs are controlling (and really can't handle change)
It's a common belief that ISFJs are bad with change, either because they fear the unknown or cannot adapt quickly enough to new experiences. There's an element of truth in this stereotype. ISFJs are defenders of tradition who take great comfort from the habits they've developed over the years. They often have a very clear idea of the ways things should be and may mistrust changes that disrupt tried-and-tested processes. But this does not mean that ISFJs are change-resistant - they just need to pay attention to the details.
To make sense of this, you need to separate the outcome of change from the process of change. Often, it is the latter that an ISFJ finds upsetting, especially if the change is thrust upon them without warning. ISFJs generally need lots of information to get comfortable with a new situation. In particular, they require clear evidence that the proposed changes will improve things or benefit people. They are usually only resistant when the change is ill-considered or lacks a specific purpose. And really, is there anything wrong with wanting to plan, reflect, and consider the options before trying something new?
ISFJs apply the same preparation to large social gatherings, public speaking and other things that they are supposedly scared of. You might be surprised how assured and spontaneous an ISFJ can be in these situations ..... once they've done their homework.
Myth #5: ISFJs are moody, emotional wrecks (and expert door slammers, too)
ISFJs can be moody and temperamental, but so can every other personality type. The reason ISFJs have a reputation for moodiness is that, to the outside world, you can become moody for no apparent reason. While it's pretty easy to predict that an ENTJ will get cranky if they're not permitted to dominate the discussion, it's likely that no one will have the faintest idea why an ISFJ has suddenly thrown a tantrum.
Why? It's because ISFJs have strong feelings, but tend to keep them tightly under wraps. When an ISFJ does unleash their anger in an all-out attack, it's because their emotions have reached critical mass and they can't keep them locked away anymore. An ISFJ might literally cry over spilled milk, but the chances are, there's a lot more bubbling away under the surface. But if they keep their feelings bottled up on a day-to-day basis, then a negative outburst is going to take others by surprise. The ISFJ is going to come across as emotional - even if the label is not true.
Most ISFJs are aware that they repress their feelings and find ways to handle the potential consequences of this behavior. In fact, it explains why ISFJs are such sticklers for social etiquette - social norms provide a comfortable structure and a set of rules for keeping things fair, polite and conflict-free. You might never stop an ISFJ from worrying, but the healthy ISFJ can usually be coaxed to share their feelings openly and thus avoid any major explosions.
Remember, no two ISFJs are the same and if you do find a stereotypical one, it often means that you've taken them at face value. Scratch beneath the surface, and you'll find someone who is kind, hardworking, practical, empathetic, creative, resilient, flexible, well rounded, and far deeper than the prissy stereotype they're boxed into. Way to go ISFJs!