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.