Top Ten Reasons why INFJs are Walking Paradoxes

Categories: Self-Discovery, INFJ

INFJs often feel misunderstood. Perhaps it’s because they’re quiet and reserved and tend to share their deepest thoughts and feelings only with select people. Or maybe it’s because they are so rare—personality test research shows they make up less than 1% of the population.

More likely though, it’s because they are walking, talking contradictions. As Introverts who want to help people, and feelers who love logic, they can seem confusing, even to themselves.

These contrary characteristics are not due to a lack of conviction or an intent to mislead. We all know that INFJs value personal integrity very highly. No, the reason INFJs are confusing is because they are complex people who are struggling to understand themselves. But once they do, they can use their plethora of paradoxes to truly make the world a better place.

Here are the top 10 contradictory traits of the INFJ. See how many you recognize in yourself!

1. Introverted and people-oriented

The dominant function of INFJs is Introverted Intuition, which means they focus primarily on their internal world of ideas. But their auxiliary function is Extraverted Feeling, which gives them a focus on people.

In her book, What’s Your Type of Career? psychologist Donna Dunning calls INFJs “compassionate visionaries” because they have a values-based focus that emphasizes the needs and feelings of people. This contradiction means that INFJs are torn between their need to socialize and their need for time alone to think.

As an INFJ, I enjoy spending time with people, but if I’ve spent too much time around others, I feel exhausted, burned out and I need several days to recuperate. Doesn’t stop me being a shoulder to cry on through!

2. Crave connections and feel overwhelmed

Unlike many other types, INFJs need more than just company. An evening spent chatting is a night out from hell. What INFJs really need from their interactions is a meaningful connection. They want to get to know other people—their passions, desires and motives— and they want other people to know them. But this process is exhausting because we’re forever seeking a level of intimacy that other people don’t often share.

For INFJs, it’s quality that counts, not quantity.

3. Stand up for others and neglect themselves

INFJs have a passionate desire to help people, so much so that it can take over every area of their life, including their relationships with friends, colleagues and in romance. But it is very easy for this sensitive type to give way too much and put other people’s needs before their own.

Have you noticed how you steadfastly stick up for another person’s rights while struggling to speak up for yourself? That’s the paradox. You need to set clear boundaries about how much you will give—and remember to keep some of that compassion for yourself.

4. Creative and rational

The combination of introversion, sensitivity and empathy in INFJs creates a person who absorbs lots of information from the world and the people around them. INFJs are constantly processing this steady stream of details. Consequently, they need a way to release all that energy and express what they’ve learned in a meaningful and creative way.

But INFJs are more than just dreamers. They are also practical, organized and logical people who enjoy thinking, analyzing and studying complex ideas. As an INFJ writer, I love playing with words and using my Introverted Intuition to create stories. But I also love learning and have discovered a passion for science.

I often felt torn between what appear to be opposite interests, but they don’t have to be. INFJs can be both creative and rational, artistic and logical, writers and scientists.

5. Detail-oriented and big-picture thinkers

The minds of INFJs are always busy making sense of information, seeing patterns, forming theories and creating ideas. As intuitives, INFJs are focused on the big picture. They like information that is abstract, conceptual, and future-oriented. They see possibilities everywhere and become absorbed in the way that disparate elements can connect.

But they also care about the details of their vision and work hard to get it right, whether they’re writing a song or preparing a presentation. However, sometimes they get so caught up in the details of their ideas, they forget about the details of everyday life. Consequently, INFJs can spend hours tinkering with a sentence while forgetting to pay the electricity bill.

I’m always thinking about ideas, which means I’ve learned to write myself reminder notes so I don’t forget my dentist appointment, or my lunch, while I’m planning my vision.

6. Perceptive and gullible

Ah yes, the “G” word! As sensitive, intuitive people, INFJs have a sixth sense about others. Our finely tuned empathy means we can feel others’ feelings and we know when they’re not telling the truth. We have this ability to see through people’s outward persona to the real person underneath. We are also experts at body language and can detect subtleties in tone of voice and language. This can make us appear almost psychic—okay, weird— to people who don’t have these abilities.

Problem is, once we get to know someone, we can be stupidly gullible and overly trusting. As one of Keirsey’s Idealists, we tend to see the best in people and can be fooled into believing someone is trustworthy when they are not.

7. Quiet and passionate

In his book, Creativity: the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes ten antithetical traits of creative people, many of which can be applied to INFJs, who are themselves creative. One of these is the tendency for creative types to be both full of energy and requiring a lot of rest. INFJs often appear as quiet, shy and withdrawn individuals, but underneath that reserved exterior is a cauldron of ideas and passions, quietly bubbling away.

INFJs are always thinking about their next project, and feel a fiery enthusiasm about the causes that are so important to them. So while their dedication to the common good combined with their sponge-like ability to pick up information gives them an enormous source of energy, it also means they need long periods of rest and quiet time to reflect and recharge.

8. Smart and naïve

According to Csikszentmihalyi, creative types are usually intelligent people, who also tend to exhibit a childlike manner. Children are often creative and yet many of us lose that creativity when we get older and perhaps that’s because when we’re young, we’re given the freedom to play. Creativity is really about looking at things as if you’re seeing them for the first time and making innovative connections between things.

Creative people, including INFJs, have the ability to see things in this childlike way, free from the constraints, judgements and criticisms that often stop people from being creative as adults. A keen sense of curiosity, wonder and fun can make you appear naïve and immature, but it can also mean you’re a highly creative person.

9. Playful and responsible

Related to the previous point, INFJs who are creative tend to have a playfulness about them. This quality leaves their minds open to experience and consequently, to further creative endeavours. But this sense of play works in tandem with a dedicated responsibility to their work and to people they work with. INFJs are committed to working hard and doing their best, especially on the projects that are part of their creative vision.

The INFJ Judging preference also gives them a drive to finish what they start and to be neat and organized. As an INFJ, my Judging preference has given me the self-discipline to write books and articles. But I also have been known to laugh out loud while watching The Muppet Show, especially episodes with my favourite character, Pepé the King Prawn.

10. Conservative and rebellious

Despite the stereotypical image of the rebellious artist, INFJs are like many creative people in that they embrace both tradition and novelty. According to Csikszentmihalyi, it would be difficult to be creative without appreciating what has gone before. But it’s also important to take risks and try something new.

It’s often said that INFJs are hard to pick out of a crowd because they try to fit in and look like everyone else. But they are silent rebels, always working behind the scenes to change the status quo, to create works of art that will make people think and to use their empathy, compassion and vision to make the world a better place.

INFJs are unique for many reasons, and not just because they’re rare. They are also quiet, sensitive people who are full of contradictions and can seem like several different people, even to those who’ve known them for years. But integrity is always at heart of the INFJ as they quietly, methodically, passionately and creatively work to express themselves and bring people and ideas together.

Deborah Ward

Deborah Ward is a writer 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. She has written two books on mindfulness, Overcoming Low Self-Esteem with Mindfulness and Overcoming Fear with Mindfulness. Her latest book, Sense and Sensitivity, is based on her Psychology Today blog of the same name. It's about highly sensitive people and is out now. 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.


Elisabeth Slate (not verified) says...

This makes so much sense to me - an understanding of paradoxes that I have recognized in myself but not been fully able to articulate.  What a gift.

Barbara Caisse (not verified) says...

Oh my goodness you just explained me to a 'T'. I have so many people who don't understand that I am an introvert because once I get to know someone I am comfortable with them and will talk and share my ideas. Yet, I struggle at gatherings of any type because I am not a conversation starter or maintainer. I am very comfortable sitting at a table full of people talking and not engaging with them but instead quietly watching it all and listening to my inward thoughts on what I am sensing and seeing. I also struggle being with a lot of people at the same time the vibes I get totally shut me down pretty quickly. Now I understand that I am most likely picking up on all the stuff happening that no one is saying. But, again, because people I am friends with see me comfortable with them and very passionate about my ideas I am sharing with them they equate that to an extrovert. They forget how long it took me to get to know them and they forget that I don't like crowds and crave quiet times. So few people get the paradox that I know I am. Loving and outwardly passionate about what I am seeing, feeling and creating yet quiet and almost stand offish in a room full of people. Thanks for this article it helps. 

Monali (not verified) says...

The way you have described yourself, Barbara, at social gatherings, is exactly how I feel. I get so tongue tied! And that happens even when I'm with people I know and get along with them one on one. Thank you! I feel so relieved now.

Valerie Sole (not verified) says...

Honestly..u just described me..and often times i feel misunderstood..when i try 2 b social with ppl i dont know and trying to share my ideas..i come off as proud and self centered

Hannah M (not verified) says...

Wow, this makes me feel somewhat normal. I've always felt like Two-Face(minus the bad guy parts) from Batman and thought it was a problem but I guess it's just who I am, fire and ice.

Number 4, creative and rational is probably the one I struggle with the most when it comes to a career. To live a creative life and help others at the same time, this one I haven't figured out for myself yet. Sometimes I wish I were okay with dreaming small so I could just pick something and move on, but that wouldn't be any fun now would it?

Iris Waters (not verified) says...

A very accurate assessment of who I am. I especially loved number 10, so right on and something I have often thought about. 

Otavio Aversani (not verified) says...

Wow! I could read it and see my everyday issues and behaviour just like a movie scene haha 

Deborah Ward says...

Thank you all for your kind comments and for sharing your own stories about being a paradoxical INFJ. I'm so glad you found this blog helpful. It's not easy to have so many forces pulling you in different directions, but understanding yourself and what you need is the first step. Best wishes, Deborah

Man who lives in Mongolia. (not verified) says...

Hi Deborah, i agree with your article and comments. It was feeling that i've found myself. Right now i am on the verge of whole new beginning of career path. Because some times i fight with myself that i've been gone through wrong path. Moreover, I've been working as a geologist.

Elaine W. Williams (not verified) says...

Thank you for such clarity in describing ME!  I thought there was something wrong w/ me because I get exhausted around crowds and have a hard time w/ chit chat and long-winded talkers.  I find myself thinking “enough already” and wanting conversations to just get to the point.  I’m very strategic when having to attend or engage w/ groups.  I get there early to plan my escape route.....sit in the back, close to the door.  I also realize that part of my need to get away is because I am always picking up people’s thoughts, body language, vibrations and feelings.  These traits work well for me as a Life Skills Coach & Energy Healing Practitioner.  

Deborah Ward says...

You're welcome Elaine! I'm so glad you found my article useful! It's hard to keep those boundaries between yourself and others, especially in your work as a life skills coach, but hopefully knowing you've got a sensitive side that needs protecting will benefit you and your clients. Best wishes, Deborah

M.A.R.S. says...

Yes. Yes, to all 10. Thank you.

And here's #11: "INFJs often see themselves on a mission, and they take their missions very seriously." I don't know if that's true about some of the other 15 personality types, let alone all INFJs, but I do know that it's true about me. 


Summer says...

im here for you

Slate says...

hi Summer, trying to figure out what you mean: "im here for you"?

Toheera (not verified) says...

Yaa Yaa that's me.I'm  an H S P and  empathic.At the age of 40 I understand my personality better,but still practicing to control my nervous system.At this age I'm not scared to take risks depends on my instinct just as I was younger. I would love to write a bit of my life as an IN F J.Currently I'm in a relationship with a narcissist (already with one foot out). 


Rainy (not verified) says...

This is so awesome and so dead on!  I totally get myself now! : ) 

Deborah Ward says...

Hi Rainy. Thank you! I'm so glad you found the article helpful! Best wishes, Deborah

Keh1016 (not verified) says...

May I just say I love your page. The so I am aspects are awesome but what about another really ironic contradiction infjs that deal with depression. How are we infj moody and or depressed which helps vs hurts us? I've been asking myself this in terms of purpose what is it can my purpose to help be right now? Do we inches over think things?

Idk but i  agree  we infjs have a tendency to give too much sometimes? Either way I love everything you had to say you make it sound like one is have it easy and most to offer who h I never thought of it that way but I n eve had someone tell me that lol 

I think we infj are taken for granted and we all tend to feel that at the same time absorb others empathy and after a while it's exhsusting . For lack of a better phrase example its like when a. Cat comes by the first time to greet.then next few times is like whatever and yet we are still there like a cat reassuring at the same time overlooking our own needs or unacknowledged.

I think that's the lack of a better example for being taken for granted. Hopefully there are infj books on this stuff you have me babbling but really opened my eyes and just wanted to e sound one. Few things about infjs which I felt needed to be said. 

Let me know if you come across infj books at 

Dr. Mészáros Zoltán (not verified) says...

Are the INFJ type the less understood, and are they yhe rarest because they usually do not have a lots of children?


Deborah Ward says...

I think many types are misunderstood, but INFJs certainly feel misunderstood a lot. But that's because we are introverts in an extraverted-centered world. INFJs are also creative, imaginative, sensitive types who need a lot of time alone to recharge their batteries and unfortunately many people see this tendency to withdraw as unsocial. But the rarity of this type nothing to do with how many children you have.

541janice says...

Yes, this is ME!! The title of this blog is what made me stop to read it-- I had just taken a personality quiz in which I was once again perplexed at being contradictory in my answers ie: Do you have a lot to say, my answer strongly agree, yet when the question is: Are you very talkative, my answer is neutral. It made me want to rant at the one who made up the questions-- "ya know why I have a lot to say but am not overly talkative?! It's bcuz you extroverts won't shut up long enough for us introverts to barely slip in a comment now and then! So we just save it for later on in a more intimate setting and/or journal it instead." Hahaha! Oh,we have soooo much to offer and its anything but superficial. 

Angela McCoy (not verified) says...

Deborah words can not express how this article has touched my heart. I am not alone! Yes, yes, and yes. I often have in-depth conversations with my daughter whom also seems to be an INFJ. Do INFJs begot INFJs?.

Also, Kudos to you for finding your true self, and helping fellow INFJs in the process. We really needed this!

Thanks Deborah

Isabella70 (not verified) says...

Hi Angela,

I am an infj and two of my daughters are infjs too. I believe my father was an infj as well. I always wonder..,

Chand (not verified) says...

I am an INFJ, I feel so much better after reading this, I can resonate with each of the points. I like being around people and suddenly start feeling very low and need to withdraw a few days to get back. I would have had indepth conversation with them and they assume I am the same. I almost hide, i wonder how the other person feels when I totally avoid co-workers, cab mates etc and try my best to pretend to be busy / not well. 

Dennis Hall (not verified) says...

I have to take ownership of so much of what you had to say.  Hannah M. referred to herself as "Fire and Ice".  That's me.  With me, they both have a tendency to burn.  How does one come  to grips with this contradictory personality and maintain a sense of self? Where do you even start?

Wayne.K (not verified) says...

Perfectly true. I often have a gut feeling of people that differ from their outward demeanor. Even if my gut feels that they do not like me, I still try to look for their potential to try and hope to change their mindsets. In the end, I often left with one-way conversations and being played out for situations.

JM (not verified) says...

It's nice to feel normal, to feel understood.

My wife shared this with me because it is .. me.

Thank you for placing these words together in such a perfect way and helping us understand ourselves a little better. 

Beautiful work.

John Serfontein (not verified) says...

I an an Afrikaans speaking South-African. I was stunned to se myself in words. I understand myself better.Caritas

Thysta says...

Just created an account to tell that all 10 describes me. How can I stop feeling I'm from another solar system?

Susan Jones (not verified) says...

This article is just amazing for me because it describes my inner conflicts so perfectly, it's uncanny. It also reminds me of the positive things about me when the world is feeling hostile and judgmental. I can so easily get into low self esteem mode and spiral downwards. My husband died recently and had been in a nursing home before that for two years. I had been caring for him for twenty years before that. He had a brain tumour at 46 and in the last two years he had Parkinson's. I suffer from fibromyalgia so all in all it's been a tough time. However learning about my INFJ personality about 3 years ago has helped me to understand and accept myself so much more. All the contradictions were driving me mad and I think that made it easier for people to manipulate me because half the the time I didn't know myself whether I was coming or going. Thank you for this article.Its been really helpful.


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