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What were you like as an INFJ child?
How was it different from being an adult now?
Do you notice that you have changed quite a bit since you were a child?
I have known my friend for 12 years now. A couple of years ago, we were surprised when he told us that he is an extrovert. In our minds, he had always been the most sociable in our group of friends and he often needed people around. How could he not know that he’s an extrovert?
Recently, I met up with him and I was puzzled yet again when he told me that he is an introvert now. How could his personality change so drastically? My intuition tells me that he is going through an introverted phase and that’s why he’s more identified with being an introvert now.
Our personality develops over time.
All of us have both introverted and extroverted functions. They are just stacked in different orders according to our personality types. As you grow older, you will discover the less obvious functions in your stack and you might get confused about your personality or have an identity crisis.
It’s not as if your personality has changed completely overnight. The trait that is the most natural to you is still the most natural to you. It’s just that now you have integrated the other lower-tiered functions and that makes your personality more developed and balanced.
Like in my example, I’m currently going through an extroverted phrase. Now, I’m more focused on developing my extraverted sensing (Se) and being present. But that doesn’t mean that I identified myself as an extrovert or good at interacting with the physical world. In fact, I need to put in a lot of conscious effort to stay present and be aware of the surroundings. Also, It’s not that I don’t use my introverted intuition (Ni) function anymore. I just use it less now.
What Was It Like Growing Up as an INFJ Child?
If you are confused with your personality type and wondering “Am I an INFJ?“, looking at your childhood will be a good way to tell you your personality type. When we are kids, only our dominant and auxiliary functions are visible in our behaviors and preferences. We are just naturally good at or prefer certain behavior since birth even when we aren’t taught to do so.
Your childhood can also help you see how your mind has progressed.
The purpose of understanding your personality type is not to label yourself. It’s not to limit what you can and cannot do. Instead, it can help you be more conscious of what phrase your mind is in and where you need more work to fully actualize its potential.
Below you will find a rough guide of how the INFJ mind develops as we grow up. It is based on my own experience, so you might find that the ages in each phrase might be different from yours.
However, from what I’ve gathered from the other INFJs and personality types, the progression should be somewhat similar. We usually start with our most dominant function and move down our functional stacks as we grow older.
Learn more about the INFJ cognitive function stack here.
0-12 Years Old: Introverted Intuition (Ni) at Its Best
When I look at my baby photos, it’s funny to see how dreamy I was and how heartily I was laughing. My parents told me that I wasn’t very responsive as a child. I don’t cry much. I don’t talk much. Initially, they were worried that I am dumb and can’t speak.
Well, I was just too head in the clouds.
Basically, I’m still the same right now. I often find myself dreaming about the future and in my own world. Even though I’m an old soul, I’m also a big kid at heart. Imagination is fun for me.
We might not have the awareness of our introverted intuition (Ni) function when we were young. But if you look back at your childhood now, you will find traces of your introverted intuition (Ni).
Having Imaginary Friends
INFJs are very creative since young. I don’t remember ever feeling bored or lonely when I was a kid because I always have something to do and entertain myself with my imagination.
After I went to primary school, I imagined being the teacher and the principal of my own school. Every day after I came back from the real school, I played my own version of school.
Imagination is better than the real thing.
It was very elaborate. Not only did I teach using my textbooks, but I also gave names to each of my stuff toys. They were my students and I had an exercise book to keep track of their classes and individual grades for each subject. No one taught me how to play like this, I just copied from the real school I was attending.
INFJs love to role-play. I’m not as lonely as a kid because the stuff toys were my friends. Each of them has a unique personality and I make them talk to each other even before the movie Toy Story was created. Those 6 to 7 years that I spent playing school are probably the happiest days of my life.
INFJs are naturally eager to learn. My teacher introduced me to the library when I was 9 or 10 and I love it ever since. It was my quiet sanctuary and a place for me to hide from people in school. It is quite an irony though because I never felt lonely when I’m alone, especially in the library.
But having people around makes me lonely.
I have mixed feelings for school. On one hand, I love to learn. But on the other hand, I don’t really want to be around so many people. My extroverted functions are lacking when I was much younger and I couldn’t connect with most of my classmates.
When I was in kindergarten, I also didn’t understand why the other kids were crying on the first day of school. For me, I just wanted all the parents to leave so that I could start learning.
I was one of those independent kids who didn’t cling to my parents. It was fortunate that both of them were working because it gave me a lot of freedom to do what I want and learn on my own. I’m glad that no one was around to stifle my creativity and imagination.
9-21 Years Old: The Good & Bad of Extraverted Feeling (Fe)
When I was around 9 years old, I was able to understand other people’s feelings easily. Whenever I watched a drama on television, I felt the emotions of the characters. It was the same when I was exposed to music around 11 years old. I could relate to the emotions behind the songs even though I did not have the same experience.
I felt the intricacy of all emotions.
Some of which I didn’t want to experience.
Initially, I was cool about it until one day I realized how problematic it can be. There was this documentary show about crimes on my local channel called Crime Scene. I remember whenever it was broadcast, I would run into my room and covered my ears. Sometimes, the abuse or murder scene was so vivid to me that I couldn’t stand it.
People Pleasing Tendencies
As I grew older, I began to have more problems with my extraverted feeling (Fe) function. First, I felt responsible for other people’s feelings since now I understand their emotions so deeply. Second, I started to accommodate and please others more, sometimes at the expense of my own needs. Third, it made me lonely because I felt that I understand others more than they understand me.
Knowing the problems it brings stopped me from using this function.
When I was a teen, I didn’t know how to use this function and I was afraid other people like my classmates would take advantage of my kindness, so I hid it from the public view. Instead of mastering my extraverted feeling (Fe) function, I withdrew and relied on my introverted functions. I became more private, quiet, and reserved in secondary school.
It was only when I was in junior college, I sensed the people are friendly that I started opening up and making friends. Ever since then, I learned to appreciate my gift as an INFJ and develop the Fe function instead of avoiding people.
Combining with Creativity
The extraverted feeling (Fe) function was not always troublesome. Even though I was withdrawn from people, I used my extraverted feelings (Fe) function in the arts. Together with my introverted intuition (Ni) function, I was able to create music and write lyrics intuitively since 14 without learning it from anyone else.
INFJs are drawn to sadness.
This might sound perplexing to other personality types, but INFJs find sadness beautiful. It’s very difficult to describe to others who don’t feel the same emotional depth that we feel. INFJs are compassionate people. We want to suffer together with broken souls and help them alleviate their pain.
Understanding other people’s vulnerability makes me feel connected to the other person. This kind of explains why I love emotional ballads and movies since young. Due to our empathy (Fe) and creativity (Ni), we find it easy to write songs or words that speak to others. I do so by imagining myself as the person going through the emotional experience and write my song from the person’s perspective.
12-24 Years Old: Coming to Terms with Introverted Thinking (Ti)
If the Fe function is something I was afraid to use, then the Ti function is something I hated to use. I didn’t like it when I was too analytical. Of course, at that time, I didn’t know about all these functions of an INFJ personality type, so I didn’t do anything about it. Now in hindsight, I realize it took me a long time to integrate the introverted thinking (Ti) function into my life.
The introverted thinking (Ti) function is good for my studies and work.
Downplaying my extraverted feeling function and utilizing the introverted thinking (Ti) function had helped me a lot in my studies and work. Singapore’s education system focuses a lot on mathematics and sciences, so I was able to excel in my studies by using both my Ni and Ti functions.
Later, I became an accountant, and being analytical helped me a lot. I was able to organize my thoughts and make them sounds logical enough for others to understand. This is extremely important now that I’m a writer too.
However, the introverted thinking (Ti) function did give me a tough time at the start, and coming to terms with it wasn’t easy.
Self-Judgment Kicked In
When I reached 13 years old and entered secondary school, I became rather self-critical. This was the period where my self-esteem was at its lowest. Ti is a function that keeps asking why. My mind kept asking me:
- Why am I not able to be like the other kids in school?
- Why do the other kids don’t want to talk to you?
- Why are you so quiet and reserved?
I appreciate the analytical mind but sometimes I just wish that it leaves me alone.
At that time, I didn’t know that there’s such a thing called introversion and my Ti was very weak, so I concluded that I was to blame. I thought that there was something wrong with me. Subsequently, the self-criticism became a habit and the inner critic couldn’t stop beating me up.
Fighting with Kindness
The Ti function opposes Fe. They contradict each other. When the Fe function wants to be kind and compassionate to others, the Ti function will step in and say things like:
- It doesn’t make sense.
- Why do you want to help others at the expense of yourself?
- It’s not logical to be selfless.
At 17, when I did my first MBTI test, I was very confused. The result told me that I was an INTJ, but I was actually 51% T (Thinking) and 49% F (Feeling). Even though the feeling function is more natural to me, I was using my thinking function a lot more at school. Both functions were equally influential in my life.
I find it difficult to make decisions.
I was at a point that I couldn’t make any decision. Many times, I found that I needed to convince my mind logically to do what I feel is good or naturally for me. There are also times when I followed my logical mind and ended up feeling regret that I chose the wrong path.
Now, I understand it’s important to use the Ti function to set boundaries, but not let it lead the way. For an INFJ, this function is more suitable to be a supportive role.
18-30 Years Old: A Wild Ride with Extraverted Sensing (Se)
Being the inferior and fourth function, extraverted sensing (Se) doesn’t come naturally for INFJs. We enjoy daydreaming since young and we find that it’s difficult to be totally focused in the present moment or pay attention to the surrounding. However, as I reach my 30s, I find that:
It’s important to develop the extraverted sensing function too.
First, the other three functions have been somewhat developed and mastered. So I could give more time to this function. Second, learning to stay in the present helps my INFJ mind be more grounded and less depressive when we aren’t able to meet our expectations. Third, it is a necessary function to execute INFJ’s idea and insights. It helps to balance INFJ’s over-idealistic trait.
Even though our extraverted sensing (Se) function opposes our dominant Ni function, it’s slightly easier to deal with than introverted thinking (Ti) because it’s the weakest function of the four. It is easier for us to detect when the Se function misdirects our lives.
Wanting Material Comfort and Enjoyment
Before I started working, I don’t recall that I had much desire for money, material stuff, comfort, or leisure activities. It was only when I started working and I had excess money that I spent a lot of money on material things or immediate enjoyment.
It’s not that you can’t treat yourself to a nice meal or holiday. But I was buying a lot of stuff that I didn’t need. For example, clothing that I didn’t wear much or going to concerts that I could have missed. Even though I did save up some money for the future, I realized that I was more reckless with the way I spent my money than I typically was.
You can’t repress your inferior function.
At first, I was like most people, I repressed the inferior function. Then, I noticed that the more I repressed the Se function, the more I was obsessed with Se activities. For example, I would be addicted to watching television programs instead of doing the work I have envisioned.
After some time, I understood the purpose of the Se function. It is here to tell me to take a break and I can choose healthy and more enjoyable Se activities during times of stress instead of letting it run havoc. Now, I don’t feel compelled to spend unnecessary money to satisfy my Se desires anymore.
Initially, I thought that one of my strengths is being meticulous. Now, I understand that this so-called strength is compensation for my carelessness. INFJs are better at looking at the big picture than being meticulous. It actually took us a lot of effort and energy to be detailed-oriented.
After being an accountant and animator, I realized that yes I can be focused on the minute details and ensure accuracy. But whenever I went back home after work, I would feel so drained that I could hardly do anything else. I had used too much energy to be hyper-vigilant.
If you are naturally good at something, it doesn’t take much effort to be in the flow. This misunderstanding of my own strength makes me choose the wrong careers time after time.
INFJs’ perfectionist tendencies cause us to be over-observant.
Whenever INFJs become obsessed with details, it’s because of our perfectionism. As we are afraid of making mistakes, we trained our minds to be more alert than needed. Sometimes, I found myself going through numbers and details many times to ensure they are correct. Not only is it a waste of time, but it also creates anxiety.
It’s good to be observant but learning to calm down our extraverted sensing (Se) function is what INFJs have to do if we want to properly integrate this function with our psyche.
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.
Featured Photo Credit: Anya-Rose (Explored) / Chris. W