Top Ten Reasons why INFJs are Walking Paradoxes10 March 2019 / By Deborah Ward Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on March 10, 2019
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.
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.
Thomas Stead (not verified) says...
When my test results came back INFJ my first thought was have these people been watching my entire life? I’m 77 and finally I get to understand myself in a different, but exciting, context.
I’m a art professor (emeritus) and painter. I find that I get totally immersed in my work (often lost in time). My children (now grown) were my main focus for many years. I always held that my job was to allow them the freedom to discover who they truly wanted to be. That worked well in that they had great educational experiences (that they chose) and are now happy in their lives. I recommend Khalil Gibrans “About Children “.
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?
Deekshith (not verified) says...
Hello Hannah, as a fellow INFJ, I understand your search for a career suitable for yourself. Do check out this page, if you haven't already. Good luck! :)
San (not verified) says...
Occupational therapist (using art for treating seniors to enhance eg dexterity or kids with disabilities to invigorate confidence and expression) or run similar community art classes to suit mentioned??? Just thinking outside the paradox box ;-)
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
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.
JDiP (not verified) says...
#11...... oh yes
And a Master number 11I might ad
On a mission,
to fix society one random stranger at a time! This is mostly done during an in depth 1 on 1 with that person who picked you out from a quick visit to our closest quick mart with no intention to be gone that long! Instead telling that person everything they need to hear to send them in the right direction for a better future and a smile that made it all worth it, of course all done with no expectations in return. It's just what we do as INFJs. Now I need to take a break before I spend too much time trying to proofread this thing to ensure it's exactly how I want to say it LOL I'm just going to push send
cali (not verified) says...
"On a mission to fix society one random stranger at a time" resonates so much. At 67, I've finally stumbled upon an article that makes me feel seen and that one addition is the icing on the cake. I can finally give myself a break from constantly working on fixing myself -- I'm not broken, I'm simply an outlier. No shame in that.
im here for you
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 email@example.com
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.
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!
Isabella70 (not verified) says...
I am an infj and two of my daughters are infjs too. I believe my father was an infj as well. I always wonder..,
Palesa (not verified) says...
I've also been wondering about this for a while now, 'do infj's begot infj's?' My younger daughter is definitely an infj & I'm still trying to figure out my older daughter, whom I suspect could be either infj or intj...
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.
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
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.
Jeraldine (not verified) says...
Filipino and not confident to speak English. Translate if you want to read. INFJ-T
They always misunderstood the way I behave, response and my way of thinking. Noong grade 11 ako palagi akong nagiisa at ok lang yun sa akin kasi ayaw ko makagulo sa iba, kumakain sa sulok ng classroom hanggang sa sunod-sunod na merong nagnanakaw sa classroom. Sa 45+ student, 3 lang yung nakaintindi sakin na hindi ako yung nagnanakaw and the rest nakikita ko sa mata nila na parang ako talaga ang nagnanakaw. Dahil para sa kanila weird ako they jump into conclusion and I understand them dahil lahat naman ng tao nagkakamali. Pero nung pinapunta ako sa guidance counselor (psychologist) she keep asking then I answered truthfully. Hanggang sa na share ko about my family problems (broken family), ipinapakita ko sa tao na ok ako pero ang totoo ay hindi ako ok. No one's no my suffering and every time I remember those painful past I always found myself silently crying at night. Sometimes I spend my time to exercise and travel alone where I can found peace (ocean or forest) and relax especially if I am about to explode. I tried to understand the Cruel society and escape from their judgement and being called baliw(crazy) because it is to much from my parents who nags my laziness, relatives, Teachers, classmates and friends ( old friends) that abuse my kindness because they treat me like a fool. I know what their thinking but I never complained because as much as possible I don't want to have a conflict with them and feel sad at night. I hurt people a lot with my words because the way I speak my opinions about them even though I am not cursing and shouting but I am feel guilty. Back then (2020) I get violent towards my sister which I never expect because I lost my patience to explain again and again about her module but she still did not understand what I teach to her. After that, I always cry at night for about 3 nights and will always feel guilty. If I did something wrong or hurt me it's hard for me to forget and the post painful part is I remember most is the sad part of my life. Negative right, I know.
Back to grade 11, I am starting to be aloof to others and always alone which is ok for me. They see me as a weirdo, conservative, naive, intimidating and crazy or insane which I become aware by looking at their eyes. I easily know what their thinking because the way they talk, behave, body language or gesture and socialized with me (group work). All of that I did not study about psychology because it seems natural and that is one reason they think I read their minds which is not true. There is a person who seems curious about me. He talk to me once in our gardening in school (four people in all-sunday, no class) and without knowing we seems comfortable to each other and a lot of laugher, I never expect this. We talk about our grandmother who also likes planting but one day I slowly notice that he likes me. From that I start to avoid him, I like him to but my body says avoid him which is weird to me. Until they say that "matalino nga, manhid naman". I know his feeling towards me but I act like I know nothing about it and avoid him. Probably trust issue. Until when I was grade 12, I think it remains the same because sometimes I caught him staring at me and check me inside our classroom if I go to school. And as usual a lot of people hates me again because they think I don't know. I also tried to be friendly again at first they do not like me until we are comfortable to each other (end of grade 12). I ask their 1st impression, they say that "at first you seems boring to be with but it's actually the opposite." Until now we are together (despite of pandemic) we chat and meet f2f to bond and help each other with acads if someone has a problem (1st year college). When it comes to reasoning, logic (not math) or philosophy they are amazed the way I think deeply that sometimes they do not understand what I am saying or trying to explain to them. It also happens when we are grade 12 that I tend to answer the philosophical questions of our teacher when my classmates cannot answer it. They always shock or amazed about it because the silent person has a deep understanding and thought. It also happen, when I was grade 9 (ESP class). My teacher ask why satan oppose to God and build his own kingdom. I raised my hand because no one wants to answer, I said "I think that execpt he oppose to God he wants also to be a king on his own and be a leader who controls what he likes and wants." They all are shock because back then, I seems nice and never comes in their mind that I have a possibility to understand an evil. My teacher ask what is my religion but I said "This kind of teaching did not teach in our religion" (Iglesia ng Diyos- they believe the teaching in bible). Back then I already accept that I am a weird person, did not understand myself and question my sanity (easily change of mood or moody). Until last 2 days I found out that I belong to the rarest type of personality (INFJ) and I am glad of that because I am normal person but unique. I keep searching about INFJ and still amazed of who I am. Thanks to that.
I'll leave a message for those people who misunderstood INFJ (all) that "Please be kind, you don't know they been through and try to understand them as much as you can because they are, as always."
For those my fellow INFJ especially T because we are sensitive and easily to stress and worry. "Do not give up, stay strong and try harder to be with them. This is not our end." That's all thank you.
12:53 am ( Philippines- midnight)
I am Jeraldine, 18 years old and INFJ-T. I share this part of my life not to sympathize or relate your self (Fake). I do not usually do this. I just want to be one of the voice for them (kapag ayaw nila, edi wag hahahah charot). Thank you for spending of your time.
Boolie (not verified) says...
I love your points for us INFJs ^_^ I have discovered more about myself. Only I can say is we INFJ are just like the different spectrum embodied in one state (physical) yet over flowed with intrinsic rays. We tend to choose playing safe so that we are able to grasp the different people we interact. Thanks for your substantial and informative description of our personality type. Keep it up!
Sarah DeBarge (not verified) says...
Thank you for this article. I can relate to it to a T! :)
I am constantly thinking, dreaming and trying to understand myself and the people around me. I like being around people I am comfortable with yet my energy depletes rather easily around others. I like to converse in deep conversations to make sense of it all and I often have a hard time starting a conversation with others, which may appear standoffish for some. I don't like small talks. I think alot, which makes me appear quiet for others. I can easily sense vibes, which makes me highly sensitive to the people around me.
There's so many things I'd like to know and discover.
ellimac (not verified) says...
thank you for this. Thank you @M.A.R.S. for the additional point. I recently adopted a puppy for me and my family. Turns out I was spoiling and confusing the dog with my pardoxes. I had to be confronted a couple of times to stop doing whatever I was doing with the dog. When I ask them how should I do it, I just get this shrug and irritated look that I should know what should and shouldn't be done. The people around me don't understand the great wars that were happening in my head. And so I have recently decided to let go of all the responsibilities that I thought I needed to carry for the dog and let another family member be the "pack leader". It's tough, because instinctively, I want to still do it, but I know the dog will be better off if I stay on the sidelines. Initially I took the "taking care of the dog" as a mission, and now I am trying to let go of it and focus on other things like, you know, myself. haha!
Thomas S (not verified) says...
I'm a male INFJ-T, and wow... this website is incredibly accurate! I feel heard, despite my rare and complex personality. I definitely enjoyed reading this!
Simon9999 (not verified) says...
Dude, so am I! Nice one. We are a rare breed indeed!