What is the difference between a healthy INFJ and an unhealthy INFJ?
How do we improve ourselves and be a healthy INFJ?
How do we grow and develop our weaker cognitive functions without being someone that we are not?
Once, a reader asked me, “How does a healthy INFJ live and think?” He assumed it’s to develop his non-dominant side to become a more balanced individual. So for an INFJ, we have to develop our thinking and sensing function and learn to be more extroverted. But is this the case?
To balance or not to balance?
Using the word “balance” can be rather misleading. Some of us might think that it means we need to have an even distribution i.e. we have to be 50% intuitive and 50% sensing, 50% feeling and 50% thinking, and so forth. But in reality, this is not possible and it is not very helpful to keep forcing ourselves to use our less preferred functions.
However, this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t develop our less dominant functions at all and make them stronger. But our goal is not to achieve an equal usage of all the cognitive functions. It’s more effective to use our less preferred functions to counterbalance our more dominant functions instead.
The keyword here is “counterbalance”. When we overused our dominant functions and it gets out of control, the opposing functions help to bring us back on track. MBTI tells us about our natural, mental preferences but it doesn’t show us how to use it for our personal growth. Just because you love eating sweets doesn’t mean that you should overindulge in them and expect yourself to stay healthy.
When people say that everything in nature is in balance, they mean that everything is in harmony. When something disrupts the harmony, nature has a way to adjust itself and restore the balance. Similarly, our goal in developing our less preferred functions is to create a state of well-being and harmony within. It’s not so much about being an all-rounder, or even worse, suppressing our natural preferences.
INFJ Personal Growth: How to Be a Healthy INFJ
1. Be willing to revise the conclusions that you have formed.
Due to our Fe, extroverted feeling function, INFJs usually look deceivingly open-minded and receptive towards others. We will listen to other people’s opinions even if we don’t agree with them. But on the inside, we might be secretly critical and judgmental of others, especially when other people’s opinions don’t fit the conclusions that were formed by our Ni, introverted intuition function,
Sometimes, when we share our views or things that matter to us, we might sound rather opinionated and harsh, and people are taken aback by this. The thing is Ni is a convergent function. We collect information from different sources so that we can come to a conclusion about things and not think about them anymore.
Unlike the Perceiving Types, Judging types like INFJs feel rather uncomfortable leaving things open-ended. We INFJs are willing to listen to other people UNTIL we have formed a conclusion. Once we have a conclusion, we can become rather stubborn, inflexible, and unwilling to change our views. We believe that we are right and defend our opinions very strongly because we trust our intuition. Plus, we had taken the time to ponder on the subject before we draw a conclusion.
However, this also means that we might stay stagnant in a period of no growth and get stuck in our old or flawed beliefs or views for a very long time. That’s why if we became depressed, hopeless, or stress, it’s very difficult for us to snap out of it.
To grow, we have to give up everything we know and
kill the person we once knew we were.
To become a butterfly, the butterfly has to give up everything it knows about being a caterpillar. It can’t be both the caterpillar and the butterfly at the same time. When I look back at my teenage years and 20s and compare it with me right now in the 30s, I feel that I’m not the same person at all. Every time I move from one stage to another, there is always a shift in my paradigm and consciousness.
But for this shift to happen, I had to give up everything that I once knew about myself. To grow, I cannot be the same old, low self-esteem person who feels bad about myself. If I don’t kill my previous self, I can’t reconstruct a new me and I’ll always be stuck in the old paradigm of self-pity and unworthiness.
So even if you have formed conclusions about something now, know that it might change in the future. Don’t get tunnel-vision and be too quick in dismissing other people’s ideas. Other people, especially the Perceiving Types and those who have strong preferences for Ne (extroverted intuition) i.e. INFP and ENFP, might open you up to a wider perspective or share with you something valuable that can help you grow and be a better, healthier INFJ.
2. Don’t just focus on other people. Focus on yourself too.
INFJs derive a sense of identity from helping other people. We are deeply concerned and sensitive about other people’s moods and feelings. But when we overused our extroverted feeling function (Fe) and never take time to consider how we feel about things, we don’t have a strong sense of self. Our sense of self keeps shifting based on what other people want from us.
Even though introverted feeling (Fi) isn’t natural to us, it’s important to find some quiet time alone to learn more about our feelings, values, and preferences. From time to time, check-in with your body and observe what are you feeling. Ask yourself questions such as:
- “If I have the time right now, what is something that I would like to do?”
- “What do I enjoy eating? What do I wish to eat right now?”
- “What do I care about? What matters to me?”
- “If there is one place I want to travel, where would I like to go?”
Some of these questions seem rather simple but these questions are not always easy for an INFJ to answer. For example, whenever I have to buy lunch for my family, my natural tendency is to ask my family what they want to eat. Seldom, do I ask myself, “What do I want to eat?” It’s easier for me to accommodate and go with whatever they want than having to make a decision for the whole family.
Breaking away from others can help you focus on yourself
and build your own identity.
When reflecting about ourselves and our desires, it’s good to be away from other people. INFJs can be easily influenced by other people’s opinions and preferences unless like what I’ve mentioned in point #1, we have already formed a fixed conclusion about certain things. So in a group setting, we might end up thinking about what other people want and mistake that as what we want. To become a healthy INFJ, we have to develop the awareness to separate the two.
However, sometimes, being with other people can help us know what we do not want, which in turn can help us know what we want. When other people do or say something that irritates and offends you or make you angry, then you know where your personal boundaries are. Unfortunately, for some INFJs, it might be difficult for us to tell what we like or dislike through self-inquiries until we have bad experiences with others.
3. Learn to ask and receive help from others.
INFJs are usually the ones giving other people advice and offering help. Due to our Ni and Fe combination, we have great insights to offer to others and we understand where other people are coming from.
However, most INFJs feel uncomfortable in asking for help in return. We prefer to handle our problems on our own, relying on our own introspection (Ni and Ti) or reading self-help books rather than seeking help from our friends and family. Even if we are in need of serious help or psychological support, we would rather go to a therapist.
But this causes issues in our relationship. Our friends and spouse don’t feel that we trust them enough to share our problems with them. When we just give and don’t want anything in return, it makes the other party feel unworthy to be in a relationship with us. They find it pressurizing to match our selflessness. So INFJs usually end up attracting clinging, needy and narcissistic people who have no problem with taking from us.
You are not a burden to other people.
There are various reasons why INFJs don’t ask for help. We find it difficult to trust other people, we are afraid of rejection, we don’t think other people will understand our problems, and etc. Most importantly, we don’t want to be a burden to other people. We feel this way because when other people ask us for help, sometimes it feels like a burden to us.
However, due to our weak Te (extraverted thinking) and lack of assertiveness, oftentimes, we don’t voice it out. Furthermore, we feel bad and responsible for not helping others with their problems and we don’t know how to reject their requests. So when it’s our turn to ask for help, we believe that other people will feel the same way about us too.
Everyone needs a little help and support sometimes. If you don’t wish to trouble others, change the way you ask for help. Instead of just flooding them with your problems, seek solutions and ask them to share their experiences with you. Remember you are not asking people to help you fix or solve your problems for you. You are asking them to teach you how to do something they are good at. For example, if you see someone who is emotionally healthy, you ask them what do they do to maintain such peace and joyfulness.
When you do this, you bring very different energy as compared to someone who is complaining about their problems. You are giving other people the opportunity to share their experiences with you and most people are happy to do so. This is not a burden to them. It’s a win-win situation.
4. Learn to be grounded and present.
Being present is not easy for an INFJ. We INFJs are often head in the clouds. We don’t pay much attention to our surroundings and we carelessly bump into things quite often.
When it comes to growth, most INFJs focus on their relationships or the psychological aspect of their well-being. What we tend to neglect though is being grounded. This is actually very important to building a good relationship.
When you learn to be present for another person, you really listen to what they have to say. You don’t go into your head and prepare what to say next or think what insights you are going to share with them. Being present creates a connection between you and the speaker. If you are not present and attentive all the time, people would feel unheard and start to lose interest in talking to you.
Furthermore, it’s very obvious when INFJs are preoccupied with their own thoughts. We are completely not there. We are somewhere else. It’s like nobody is at home in this body.
Shut down your Ni and Ti while listening to another person speaks.
Use your Fe and Se instead.
It’s good to practice using your sensing functions (Si and Se) regularly. Our Se function helps us to focus on the external world using our five senses. Our Si function can be used to focus on our inner sensations and details. The sensing functions bring us back to earth and help us stay grounded. Here are some things you can do:
- Cut vegetables: You will have to pay full attention when you are cutting food. Otherwise, you will cut your hand.
- Do your budget or anything that deals with data: Too much details and data can make INFJs feel stressed. But it can also help you stay super focus, meticulous, and present because as a perfectionist, INFJs would want to make sure that everything is in order.
- Mindful eating: Eat slowly and really taste the flavor in your food.
- Check-in with your body or meditation: From time to time, focus on your bodily sensation and observe what your body is feeling.
- Take a walk in nature: Observe the nature in details (the plants, the trees, the animals, the sky, and etc).
- Any exercise that helps you focus on the present moment: For example, running, dancing, martial arts, Tai Chi, Qi Gong.
Of course, you do not want to make a career out of them. Having a job that is evaluated based on your sensory weaknesses will just stress you out. But do these activities as hobbies, when your Ni needs a break, or when you feel like you are drifting away from reality. You don’t have to be perfect or good in them.
5. Make the effort to show up and take action.
I know when life gets tough or the world feels overwhelming, INFJs would want to escape and retreat into their inner world. I hibernate from time to time too. It’s okay. If you need a rest, go for it. Sometimes, we just prefer to be private, unnoticed and blend into the background.
However, having difficulties in showing up in the physical world doesn’t give us the excuse to not to show up at all. We have to counterbalance our tendency to withdraw and dream (Ni) with showing up and taking action (Se) if we truly want to manifest what we desire.
Even though we might feel uncomfortable interacting with others in groups or feel that we don’t fit in, try and step out of our comfort zone occasionally. No one is responsible for making us feel included, we are. Also, if we just focus on our Ni function, we will lose sight of reality. We don’t keep in touch with what the world is doing and wants. Then, our ideas will have no practical impact in the real world.
Most INFJs don’t feel fulfilled if we are not able to execute our vision.
We will keep comparing our ideal life with reality and it makes us feel that life is meaningless. It’s like we have abstract concepts that are only true in our mind but they are not validated in the real world. They won’t serve a purpose in helping others or in this world like what we have imagined it to be.
If we don’t show up at all, a dream remains a dream. It’ll be like we have creativity but we don’t create. The only way to know if something works or not is to bring it to the real world and test it. If not, it merely works in your mind, it doesn’t work in reality.
From time to time, it’s good to challenge yourself and take risks, doing something that you are uncomfortable with and not be restricted by your INFJ personality type. That’s where the real growth is and that is how we can start to be a healthy INFJ.
If you want to find out more about how to love yourself as an INFJ, be sure to download my free eBook called Self-Acceptance for INFJs.
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