Loneliness is not exclusive to INFJs.
INFJs aren’t the only personality type that struggles with loneliness.
Everyone feels lonely from time to time.
But what makes INFJs different from other types is we are more likely to feel lonely when we are with people than when we are away from them.
Most of us are conditioned to believe that the more we interact with others, the less lonely we feel. However, this is not always true, especially in the case of an INFJ.
INFJs enjoy solitude and love spending time alone. Reading a book, listening to music, watching my favorite TV programs by myself doesn’t make me feel lonely at all. In fact, I feel lonelier when I’m surrounded by people who don’t understand me or are not interested in what I have to say.
Being alone is not the same as loneliness.
Loneliness is a feeling of no one cares about you, no one loves you, no one understands you, etc. It’s a longing for love and a feeling of someone is missing from your life.
People can be alone and not feel lonely at all because they are not longing for someone to be there with them. On the other hand, someone can feel extremely lonely even when they have a lot of friends if they desire a deeper or more intimate connection with their friends.
So in this blog post, I’m going to differentiate the two. I’ll first explain why most INFJs have few or no friends and then why INFJs feel lonely.
Why Do Most INFJs Have Few or No Friends?
First of all, having few or no friends is neither a good thing nor a bad thing. It’s a choice.
The number of friends you want to make depends on you.
Extroverted types tend to enjoy getting to know people and making friends, so they tend to have more friends. Introverted types like INFJs usually prefer a small group of close friends. We prefer quality over quantity, so we are more selective with who we want to interact with.
Please don’t compare yourself with others and judge yourself. There’s nothing wrong with you for having fewer friends. But if you want to make more friends and you wonder why you have so few. Here’s why.
1. INFJs don’t spend enough time meeting new people.
There are two important elements when it comes to building friendships. The first is to meet new people and the second is to nurture these relationships.
INFJs face a paradox. We want meaningful connections with others but yet, we don’t wish to spend too much time on networking and meeting new people. We usually feel drained after long periods of social interaction and we need quite a bit of downtime later to recover from these social events. So we might not be willing to attend such events.
Furthermore, INFJs dislike small talk and the conversations in a large group setting or an initial meetup tend to be more superficial and lack the depth that INFJs desire. Coupled with social anxiety that some of us might face and not having the right words to say to strangers, INFJs might avoid social events altogether.
But if you want more friends, you have to meet more people.
Even if you prefer quality over quantity, you will have to show up first and get to know others before you can cultivate a deeper relationship with them later. The fewer people you meet, the smaller pool of people you have to develop a close bond with.
If you don’t want to attend networking events, you can find alternatives such as shared interest groups, learning platforms, or online communities. Otherwise, the chances of meeting someone who resonates with you and the number of friends you can potentially have will be very limited.
2. INFJs are often inconsistent in nurturing relationships.
After making new friends, you will have to nurture these friendships by maintaining consistent contact over time and keeping in touch with your friends. If not, these friendships will fizzle out eventually.
INFJs might be warm to their friends initially but we have difficulty maintaining consistent contact because we tend to be passive and we procrastinate a lot when it comes to social interactions and taking actions.
Due to our passiveness and procrastination, others might misunderstand
that we are not interested.
I usually wait for my friends to ask me out or initiate contact with me. It’s not that I don’t enjoy hanging out with my friends. Just that initiating a meetup can be rather tiring for a perfectionist like INFJ. Due to our second function, extraverted feeling (Fe), we usually think a lot from the other people’s perspective and try to cater to their needs the best that we can.
Initiating a meetup means we have to think of the perfect venue to meet, schedule a common time to meet, what to say, activities we can do, etc. There are a lot of things to be planned. It would be much easier if someone decides what they want and we just follow. Sometimes, planning a meetup can be such a drain for INFJs that we rather have imagined conversations with our friends in our minds instead of asking them out.
Other times, it’s because we have nothing particular to say to our friends and so we don’t feel the need to connect with them just for the sake of connecting. We might also disappear for a long period of time if we need some alone time or if we are busy. But this inconsistency might confuse others and become an obstacle to creating great friendships.
What Makes an INFJ Feel Lonely?
1. INFJs have too high an expectation for relationships.
When INFJs say they don’t have any friends, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they have no friends. It usually means that they don’t have that unique, deep friendship they desire. We might be friendly towards many people but we don’t necessarily consider or define them as our friends.
INFJs tend to idealize their relationships, especially Enneagram Type 4 INFJs. We are wonderful listeners and we easily understand others from their perspective, so we expect our friends to reciprocate and give us the same attention we give them.
However, it’s difficult for other personality types to do the same because they might not share the same empathy or depth as us. So our friendships usually don’t meet our expectations or match what we have fantasized about, and therefore, we become disappointed.
INFJs are good at seeing what’s missing or what’s wrong in our relationships.
As we hold a perfect image of how friendships should be, we can often tell or sense when someone falls short of our expectations and when something is missing from our relationships. We will still put in the effort and give the other person a chance. But after some time, if we realize the friendship is not going anywhere or our friends are incompatible with us, we might label it as meaningless or superficial and give them up.
Constantly longing and searching for someone ideal to have a deep connection with, we go from one friendship to another only to realize that no one can meet our expectations. So we end up feeling lonely and disconnected from love. Some of us might also become so despair or tired of being disappointed that we conclude we don’t need friends anymore.
2. INFJs can’t help notice how different we are from others.
One thing that keeps making INFJs feel lonely is we can’t seem to find anyone who can understand our contradictory personality. Growing up as an INFJ, we frequently feel different from our peers and we find it tough to fit in and belong.
Even though some of us might have decent or even great social skills, we usually feel awkward, excluded, invisible, or like an outsider looking in when we are in a large group. Typically in a group, people who are louder, quicker to speak, more opinionated, and have more things to say control the conversations in the group.
But INFJs tend to be slow, deep thinkers. We need time to mull over things and find the words to express ourselves before we share our opinions. So we are more likely to be quiet and overlooked in a group setting. Oftentimes, when we finally have something to say about the subject, the conversation has already moved on to something else.
When we share our opinions, others might not get what we want to express too.
Sometimes, it’s because we have not taken the time to organize our thoughts into something that makes sense for others. Other times, it could be what we said is just too unconventional, complex, or deep for others to understand. So others don’t quite get it and because we INFJs are so sensitive to other people, we usually can tell when someone doesn’t get us or uninterested even when they didn’t say so.
We want to engage in deep conversations with our friends but not having someone there to have such conversations makes us feel alone. Instead of sharing our opinions, we start to keep to ourselves since most people won’t understand us anyway. To not get hurt, we build up walls but that only makes us feel more isolated from everyone else.
How to Deal With INFJ Loneliness
1. Resolve any issues you have in your previous relationships.
Recently, I wrote a book on loneliness and as I write the book, I realize that the unresolved issues you have in your previous relationships have a huge impact on your current relationships. The relationship patterns you experienced in the past often get carried over to your relationships with others now.
For example, if you have peers who excluded you from some activities, you might keep finding yourself in a situation where you are excluded. In psychology, this is commonly known as re-wounding or reenactment. You are attracted to similar events because you want to re-experience the pain you felt before.
From the spiritual perspective, these events come into your experience again
to give you a chance to rewrite the past.
You get to choose a new way of dealing with them and let go of any resentment or hurt feeling you still harbor for the people in your past. These new events give you a chance to forgive, get closure, and come to a place of neutrality.
So if you often find yourself feeling lonely and disappointed in your relationship, check and see if you are still replaying stories from the past and having imaginary arguments with people in your head. It could be something that happened in childhood that makes you feel abandoned or neglected. It could be something you experience in school with your peers.
If you want to find out more about how to resolve these past issues you have, you can read my book, Reconnect to Love: A Journey From Loneliness to Deep Connection.
2. Lighten up!
I feel that we INFJs sometimes take relationships way too seriously. I get that we value relationships and we are desperate to find someone to connect deeply with but we have to learn to lighten up a bit.
Socializing is not supposed to be a time to evaluate how good you are.
You don’t go to social events to judge yourself how bad you are at small talk, how much you don’t fit in, how different you are, and etc. You already know all these about yourself. There’s no need to go to social events to reaffirm your beliefs or experience your wounds again. Focus on something else when you are socializing.
Socializing is about having fun. Maybe you will meet someone that vibes with you, maybe you won’t. Both are okay. If someone doesn’t meet your vibe or the feelings aren’t mutual, just move on to another person. If you find a few people who you feel good about, take the conversations outside of the social event and see whether the friendship can be nurtured further.
Not knowing who you will meet is part of the fun. When you stay curious and present, you are more likely to enjoy yourself. On the other hand, when you keep evaluating yourself during the social event, then you are internally focused and you can’t be connecting with others at the same time. This only results in more negative socializing experiences and more feelings of loneliness.
3. Stop seeking someone ideal.
When you are fixated at finding someone ideal, you keep seeing the so-called “flaws” in other people who don’t match your expectations. You are focusing on what’s missing instead of what’s present or good in the other person. So no matter who you meet, you will keep feeling disappointed and lonely.
Instead of comparing your relationships with the perfect image you have in your mind and judging them as superficial or meaningful, enjoy and appreciate all your relationships. Every relationship, no matter how deep or shallow and how intimate or casual it is, brings something to the table.
What you desire in an ideal friend might not be found in a single person.
It could be manifested in various people.
I know we INFJs just want to find one to five friends who we label as close and our job is done. We don’t have to make an effort or waste our energy to socialize and meet new people ever again. But it doesn’t work this way. Even if you find like-minded people, your friendship might not last forever. People change and outgrow each other.
Also, someone who you deemed as superficial might be the one who introduces you to another person who you can have a close bond with. So don’t rule them out.
I’m not telling you to give up on your ideals. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a deep relationship but what’s holding most of us back is the belief that we will only be happy when we find the ideal someone. Don’t expect others to meet all of your expectations all the time. No one will be able to do that. And don’t expect others to reciprocate exactly what you have given them. Keeping scores doesn’t help a relationship to grow.
But bear in mind though, not having high expectations of others is not the same as having high standards. Standards are the bear requirements you seek in friendship. If expectation represents the highest tier, then standard represents the lowest tier. You don’t want to stay in a relationship with someone who abuses you or is disrespectful and unkind to you.
4. Know that your desires can never be met by another person.
Most of us live with this false premise that we are incomplete and we need to find another person to feel complete and whole. But a broken half added to another broken half doesn’t give you a whole. It’s still two broken halves because eventually, you have to divide the whole by two. Unless you and your partner become conjoined at the hips and both of you do everything together, it’s not possible to get a whole.
The truth is we are all complete and whole.
We don’t want relationships because we are broken. We want relationships to share our wholeness and goodness. If you feel incomplete, lonely, and needy, that’s because you are holding to some mental perceptions and beliefs that are blocking you from seeing the completeness within. And it’s your responsibility to clear those perceptions. Other people cannot do that for you.
We INFJs, especially Enneagram Type 4 INFJs, often want others to understand us. But what’s underlying this desire to be understood is a need for approval, a need to be accepted, a need for attention, a need to feel significant, etc. We want others to tell us it’s okay that we are different, intuitive, and weird. We want others to acknowledge how we feel and our intentions. But no one can make you feel validated if you don’t approve of yourself or love and accept yourself first.
If other people don’t understand your complex ideas or why you follow your intuition instead of logic, so be it. It doesn’t matter. We don’t need other people’s approval to do something. They have the freedom to do what they want and we have the freedom to do what we want. We don’t have to justify or explain to them why we do what we do.
5. Practice solitude.
This sounds like a counter-intuitive way to deal with loneliness, especially for an INFJ who is already very good at being alone. But when I say practicing solitude, I don’t mean reading a book, watching TV, listening to music, having imaginary conversations in your bed, thinking of ways to help your friends, and etc.
What I meant by practicing solitude is to get away from all the distractions and spend time with yourself on a regular basis. When you are alone, you want to start asking yourself the following questions and jot down the answers in a journal:
- “Who am I without others?”,
- “What do I like or desire?”,
- “How can I fulfill my own needs and desires without relying on others?”
- “What am I feeling at this moment?”
- “How can I help myself like I help others?”
Perhaps the biggest distraction to INFJs is people.
Due to our second function, extraverted feeling (Fe), INFJs tend to be outside-orientated and people-focused. We build our identity and sense of self through other people. We are so good at accommodating, sometimes we confuse other people’s desires and emotions with our own, especially when we are hanging out with others.
The practice of solitude is good for us. We don’t develop a strong sense of self and personal boundaries when we keep looking to others and outside of us for answers. Spending time alone and being away from people really helps us to be in touch with our deeper dimensions and our desires.
When we learn how to detach from others and create a healthy sense of self, we actually feel less lonely and find it easier to relate to others too. People have a clearer picture of who you are and they will understand your emotions better when you have taken time to understand your own emotions first. Many times, we want someone to understand us but we don’t even understand ourselves well enough.
Of course, solitude is not a replacement for healthy social interactions. It doesn’t mean that once you practice solitude, you don’t need anyone anymore. Practicing solitude just prevents you from being heavily influenced by other people. As mentioned before, how much you want to socialize is your choice.
If you want to find out more about how to deal with loneliness, be sure to read my new book, Reconnect to Love: A Journey From Loneliness to Deep Connection.
Featured Photo Credit: Marina Shatskih / Looking for a Friend Bear