We Really Need to Stop Stereotyping INFJs as Sweet and Sensitive

Categories: Myers Briggs, INFJ

Sweet, sensitive and reserved – this is how many describe INFJs, the rarest of the 16 Myers and Briggs personalities. Whilst it’s true that stereotypes circulate about all types, the INFJ personality gets a lot of attention. A quick Google search will lead you to dozens of articles that define INFJs as quasi-mythical, super-sensitive snowflakes who thrive on being mysterious. 

But are INFJs really that way? 

Three biggest INFJ myths … and the reality

Here are the three biggest misconceptions around the INFJ personality, why they’re so popular, and why they can be harmful to INFJs.

Myth #1: INFJs can’t use logic

Linking INFJs with hyper-sensitivity, some believe that those with an INFJ personality are unable to be practical or use logical thinking. After all, if you’re so tuned into other people’s moods and emotions, how can you be rational? Plus, we INFJs really do love the idea of being unique and mysterious, don’t we? I’ve even heard rumors that we’re a little bit psychic. While I’m pretty sure that INFJs are not winning the lottery every week, it’s myths like these that take us far, far away from the notion of INFJs as rational beings.  

The reality: INFJs can’t be logical? Nothing could be further from the truth. 

While INFJs are big picture thinkers – meaning we aren’t as concerned with details as our Sensor peers – we still use reasoning as Intuitive, future-oriented planners. We may not be as meticulously organized as some other Judging types (looking at you, ISTJ), but we still use logical reasoning to create a plan and see it come to fruition.

What’s unique about INFJs is that we’re often both Feelers and Thinkers, in the sense that we have a rare combination of empathy and practicality. We can read people’s moods well, but we also care about learning and absorbing hard facts and information to better understand the world.

In fact, if you have an INFJ personality, your primary cognitive function is Introverted Intuition, which is more concerned with facts and logic than might appear at first glance. With Ni, INFJs can subconsciously collect tiny bits of information that will later help them form an intuition about a certain topic. You might not define this as "logic" in the conventional sense, but it’s a well-developed method of analyzing situations systematically and bringing new information into your worldview.

Myth #2: INFJs are too weird to fit in

According to this stereotype, INFJs are so caught up in their own inner worlds that they don’t mesh with other people. It’s also believed that, due to their sensitivity, these personalities are unable to socialize with anyone remotely different from themselves. Feeding on the idea that they’re different from everybody else, INFJs seclude themselves and refrain from interacting with the outside world.

The reality: INFJs are social chameleons, capable of adapting to different surroundings and contexts. 

INFJs really don’t try to set themselves apart from others or wear an "I’m special" badge. Quite the opposite. Precisely because we see the world differently, we actively strive to fit in—and we’re really good at it too. 

We may feel more at ease with people who share similar interests and passions to our own, but we can mesh with pretty much anyone. This adaptability only becomes problematic when – as sometimes happens – we fade into the background and lose ourselves in the camouflaging process. Nonetheless, it is important to remember that healthy INFJs are so good in social settings that people might mistake us for Extraverts!

Myth #3: INFJs are endearingly selfless

This has to be one of the biggest stereotypes circulating about the INFJ personality: the idea that INFJs are completely selfless. According to this notion, we are superior to other types because we are constantly sweet, empathetic, altruistic and nurturing. This myth stems from a misinterpretation of Fe, which stands for Extraverted Feeling. INFJs use Fe to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. This is a great quality – until it is taken to extremes and interpreted as a permanent state of availability to listen to other people’s problems.

The reality: INFJs can – and often do – think of themselves first. 

While there’s some truth to the idea that INFJs are compassionate and empathetic, it’s absurd to expect an INFJ to behave as this completely selfless creature.

As an INFJ, I can tell you that yes, I very much care what other people think and am generally a good listener. But sometimes I have to take off my "Counselor" hat. Why? Because it can be emotionally draining for an INFJ to sit and listen to other people’s issues all day.

In fact, despite our ability to read other people’s moods and emotions, INFJs can also be fearlessly independent. As we lead with Introverted Intuition, we need room to breathe and be alone with our thoughts. When an INFJ doesn’t have that space, we can come across as cold or indifferent. That’s not exactly compatible with a personality of "endearing selflessness," is it? 

The problem with stereotyping INFJs

INFJs are statistically the rarest type in the Myers and Briggs personality system. This rareness has imbued INFJs with some kind of mystical quality, where they’re perceived as unique, over-emotional, ultra-sensitive and completely selfless. The reality? INFJs can be all of these things in small doses, but they’re more likely to want to be understood than stand out.

The problem with any stereotype is that it reduces and simplifies an entire group of people. INFJs who encounter these idealized narratives about themselves might start believing they can’t take a stand and be assertive, because they are "supposed" to be sweet and sensitive. 

The key thing to remember is that, as an INFJ, you are much more than these stereotypes. Whilst typology can be a way for you to learn more about yourself, it’s also just a starting step.

The more you read around your type, the more you’ll learn that your Myers and Briggs personality is not the end-all-be-all of who you are. Ultimately, you are the one who can choose how to act on your innate preferences, and be the person you wish to be.  

Andreia Esteves

Andreia is an introvert (INFJ) who spent most of her life thinking she was the only person in the world terrified of answering the phone. She works as a freelance writer focusing on mental health, and literature content. When not writing, you'll find her with her nose in a book, indulging in a cup of tea. Talk to her about untranslatable words, cupcake frosting, and stationery supplies. Find her at: andreiaesteves.com.

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Comments

Linda Balsamo (not verified) says...

I am an ENFJ qualified to administer and interpret the MBTI.  As Speech-Language Pathologist, one of my favorite parts of my job is mentoring first year speech pathogists, known as Clinical Fellows.  My last CF is an INFJ, and very much as your article has described.  She remains one of my closest colleagues and confidantes.

My question is this:  I have always reported the data that, of the 16 paths to excellence described by preferences in the MBTI, INFP was the rarest, and sometimes considered the fragile snowflakes of the types.  This makes sense, because all 3 of the 4 preferences are less reflected in Western culture, and Felling decisions tend to be of a more subjective nature than logical Thinking decisions.  You stated, however, that INFJs are the rarest type.  Please advise me of the new data that supports this, as I do not want to impart false information when I interpret the MBTI.

Many thanks!

Linda Balsamo

Andreia Esteves says...

Hi Linda,

Thank you for your comment! The MBTI manual has some data about the distribution of personality types across the US (pages 156 to 158 in the 3rd edition). Other national samples include that of Hammer & Mitchell (1996). I'd also point you to this article. Hope that helps :)

Saj1242 (not verified) says...

I agree that the stereotypes do not fit my case and I am a HARD INFJ. 

Nobody would call me sweet. I've even been called selfish but this might be due to caring a lot about the comfort of others. BUT when I can't listen to their drama any longer, I'm not good at the slow backing away. I tend to go from listening, listening, listening to ok I'm done. Go away. This shift can make the other person upset but at that point, I no longer care as my tank is empty. If they push it then the Door Slam happens.

This combined with our ability to see patterns and likely future scenarios adds to the frustration of listening to someone complain about a problem, you give them advice based on what is likely to happen, they ignore it, what was predicted happens, they come complaining to you about the same problem. 

What makes INFJ's different with our empathy compared to other feelers is I bet if many of us had a switch to turn it off completely for a few hours at a time just to get through the day we would. We feel empathy so strongly that it can distract us from things we REALLY want to get done or we want to retreat to our thinking side to work out problems. I would trade places with an INTJ for half the day in a heartbeat. 

I LOVE logic. My career is an awesome mix of understanding people and logic (UX Design). I love unraveling complex systems to understand them and rebuilding them in a way that lets my empathy for understanding how other people process information differently interface with this complex system. 

Socially if you don't know me very well I can be extremely charming because I'm focused on the other person, can read their body language and inflections, and want to get to know their authentic selves. If you are a good friend then that mask comes off and I'm way more comfortable but also less "on" as being charming takes work. Good friends who have taken my life and career advice have done really well, even better than myself due to my reluctance to stand out and not being great at understanding my own feelings without talking them through.

Andreia Esteves says...

Thank you for your comment. Glad to know it resonated with you :)

Tonya Christine Osterman (not verified) says...

I completely agree with these myths and truths. Fits me perfectly.

Andreia Esteves says...

Thanks for your comment, Tonya. Happy to know it resonated with you :)

Jena (not verified) says...

I do so completely agree with these myths and truths. Definitely fits me well . Just so well

Andreia Esteves says...

Thanks for the kind words, Jena. Glad to know it resonated with you :)

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