How do you know if you are an INFJ or an ISFP?

Both personality types don’t like routine work.

Both are quiet, private, and difficult to know well.

These two types might also share the same interests in the arts and the music. So how do you tell the difference?

Many people who type themselves as INFJ are actually not INFJs.

Once a reader told me that after some reflection, she realizes she is an ISFP and not an INFJ. It doesn’t surprise me at all. This isn’t the first time I heard someone mistype themselves as an INFJ and ISFP is commonly mistyped as INFJ.

In fact, when I go to INFJ groups, I often feel that some of the people aren’t INFJs. They don’t seem to give off the INFJ’s vibe, especially after talking to them. But it’s not for me to judge if they are INFJs or not, figuring your personality type is a self-discovery process. It’s out to the individuals to figure out their cognitive preferences.

In this post, I would like to point out a few differences that an INFJ and an ISFP have. I am an INFJ and I have an ISFP brother who I’ve been living with my whole life. Hopefully, my observations and experiences will help you have more clarity on your personality type.

“Am I an INFJ?” Blog Post Series

This is the sixth part of the “Am I an INFJ?” blog post series. In this series, we will discuss the similarities and differences between INFJ and other personality types:

I’ll be using the cognitive function to explain the differences between the various personality types. Each MBTI type has its own unique function stack (i.e. the order of your cognitive preference). So a difference in one letter results in a different order.

If you want to learn more about the function stack, here’s the cognitive functions chart for each of the 16 personality types.

Please note I’m neither a certified MBTI practitioner nor I wish to be one. I write this post based on my insights and observation of the people around me. If you have difficulties finding your MBTI type after reading this post, you can read other articles or hire and talk to a certified MBTI practitioner.

ISFP vs INFJ: What’s the Confusion?

ISFPs can be confused with INFJs because ISFPs are often creative too. As we have the same introverted intuition (Ni) function, ISFPs use their intuition the same way an INFJs do. They also have hunches and insights. However, later, you will see that the order of this Ni function is different.

ISFPs are usually creative in the arts. They enjoy expressing themselves through music, photos, painting, designs, etc. INFJs can be creative in these areas too but we usually use our creativity to visualize a better future for ourselves or other people and to generate insights.

When figuring out your personality type,

consider how you interact with both your inner world and the outer world.

If ISFPs just focus on their inner world, it’s easy to mistake themselves as INFJ. That’s because their inner world is made out of introverted feeling (Fi) and introverted intuition (Ni). So they might think they are an NF type.

But in reality, they have a higher preference for sensing than intuition. They interact with the external world by taking in the details and all the beautiful information in the surrounding through their five senses. INFJs do this too as we share the same extraverted sensing (Se) function. However, we do this to a lesser extent due to the order of our cognitive preference. We tend to be more head in the clouds and pay less attention to our surroundings.

INFJ or ISFP?: A Quick Test

If you want a quick test and a fun way to determine if you are an INFJ or an ISFP, answer the following question:

Do you enjoy planning for the future?

If yes, you are most likely to be an INFJ. If not, then you are probably an ISFP.

Recently, my ISFP told me about a songwriting competition. All I could think is about the future. If I got into this competition, who am I going to ask to sing my song? Will I have people playing background music for me? What are the dates of the semi-final and finale? Will I be free on these dates? My imaginative INFJ mind has zoomed way into the future, planning as though I will be in the finals.

My ISFP brother, on the other hand, is just taking one step at a time and trying to finish his demo before the deadline. He doesn’t know about the semi-final and finale dates and doesn’t care if he’s free on those dates. He told me that he wasn’t even sure he would make it to the semi-final, why think so far ahead?

In fact, he doesn’t even know about the rules and regulations! He will only deal with the issue as it comes. This is very unlike an INFJ, who likes to plan ahead.

INFJ and ISFP Cognitive Function

INFJ’s cognitive functions stack is as follows:

  • Introverted Intuition (Ni)
  • Extraverted Feeling (Fe)
  • Introverted Thinking (Ti)
  • Extraverted Sensing (Se)

While an ISFP cognitive functions stack is as follows:

  • Introverted Feeling (Fi)
  • Extraverted Sensing (Se)
  • Introverted Intuition (Ni)
  • Extraverted Thinking (Te)

INFJs and ISFPs share the same perceiving functions (Se and Ni).

However, the order is rather different.

INFJs have introverted intuition (Ni) as their dominant function and extraverted sensing (Se) as their inferior function. We enjoy planning ahead because it stresses us out if we leave everything to the last minute.

ISFPs, on the other hand, have a bigger preference for extraverted sensing (Se). They prefer to live in the moment and only start working more intensely when the deadline approaches.

But it’s not only our approaches to deadlines that are different, this also applies to our life in general.

4 Differences Between the INFJ and ISFP Personality Types

1. INFJs and ISFPs approach life differently (Ni vs Se).

Due to our dominant function (Ni), INFJs are imaginative and idealistic. Left alone, we are often found daydreaming and fantasizing about the future. Unlike ISFPs, we don’t enjoy staying present and living in the moment as much even though mindfulness can be very beneficial to us.

INFJs approach their life by planning and visualizing a better future. Reality can feel a bit uninspiring, dull, or unsatisfying to us sometimes, so we are constantly looking for ways to improve it by dreaming about it. Furthermore, INFJs don’t like to deal with sudden changes and the anxiety these changes bring. We plan ahead to avoid unforeseen circumstances that could surprise us.

INFJs avoid last-minute work,

whereas ISFPs thrive at last-minute pressures.

ISFPs, on the other hand, are very adaptable and flexible. They want time to experience each moment and enjoy the sensory pleasure slowly. They don’t like to be rushed. They also don’t plan or think too far ahead into the future as an INFJ does.

Instead, they prefer to deal with each moment as it comes and keep their options open. This makes them very suitable in jobs that require them to be spontaneous and act on the fly.

But due to their auxiliary function (extraverted sensing, Se), they often appear lazy to other people such as their parents when growing up. In reality, they just want the freedom to have their own space and act on their own timing. They feel energized with last-minute work and they know that they will eventually get things done when the deadline gets closer and they feel the pressure.

2. The way INFJs and ISFPs deal with information are different (different order of Ni and Se).

INFJs have a higher preference for introverted intuition (Ni) to extraverted sensing (Se). We will take in information for a short while and quickly jump into our Ni mode to form a conclusion about the information we perceive.

In contrast, ISFPs have a higher preference for extraverted sensing (Se) to introverted intuition (Ni). They take in information slowly and are soaked in all the details before they form a conclusion.

ISFPs spend more time perceiving with their five senses (Se) than using their intuition (Ni) to draw insights as compared to an INFJ.

INFJs get drained and overwhelmed with too many details

while ISFPs want to perceive all the fine details.

ISFPs are detailed-orientated people. As they can see the imperfections clearly, they spend a lot of time polishing their work or art to the standard they desire. INFJs, on the other hand, are big picture people. We tend to miss out on details unless we really focus on them.

For example, both my ISFP brother and I enjoy music, but we pay attention to different things. He can easily tell when someone sings a note wrongly or gets too flat or sharp. He admires singers who are both passionate about singing and with great vocal techniques.

For me, I can’t really tell the minor differences. So when I listen to music, I pay more attention to the overall feel and tone first. I’m more concerned if the singer delivers the message of the song than the nitty-gritty details.

3. INFJs and ISFPs help people differently (Fe vs Fi).

INFJ’s feeling function is directed outwards (i.e. extroverted). Therefore, we are usually more concerned about what the group wants than what we want. We tend to be accommodating because we value social harmony. We are highly empathetic and are able to understand others easily.

On the flip side, my ISFP brother has his feeling function directed inwards (i.e. introverted). I often find him not able to get the other party’s point of view fully. But this doesn’t mean that he doesn’t care about others.

In fact, he cares deeply about people but he shows it through doing things for others and his care for others is guided by a strong core of inner values. As an INFJ, I care for others too but not because I feel that caring is important. It’s because I feel what the other person is going through and I know how tough it must be for them to experience what they are experiencing.

INFJs help others by sharing our insights,

whereas ISFPs get involved in caretaking activities.

ISFPs are more likely to be involved in social work than INFJs. For example, my ISFP brother used to volunteer for charities during weekends. They tend to help people in tangible, concrete ways such as helping the elderly paint or clean up their house.

INFJs, on the other hand, are not doers. We are more conceptual and abstract, we help others by understanding their perspective and offer them a new way of seeing things which they previously might not have thought of. We are the kind who is more likely to teach people how to fish than to provide them with fishes. Sometimes, INFJs can be misunderstood as not caring enough as we don’t do as much as the sensors do.

In general, I would say INFJs are more understanding than ISFPs, while ISFPs are more caring than INFJs even though both types might try to care and understand others.

4. INFJs and ISFPs have different motivations (Ni vs Fi).

INFJs are driven by their ideals and visions, while ISFPs are driven by their internal values. Even though they might seem alike, ideals and values are rather different.

Ideals are something to do with the future. You are comparing the present moment with the perfect picture of the future in your mind. Values, on the other hand, are what you deem important. They tend to be more past-orientated because your experiences shape what you value now.

INFJs are more idealistic and visionary,

while ISFPs are more realistic and practical.

For the idealistic INFJ, things can always be better. That’s why we are constantly searching for better jobs and better relationships. One of our biggest problems though might be that we can never feel content and satisfied with what we have now. If we don’t have an inspiring enough vision of the future, we lack the motivation to act and might procrastinate.

ISFPs are more realistic. They focus on what they can do now and do things that they find important. If ISFPs are called to do things that are not important to them, they lack the motivation to act. But if an organization or a group shares the same values as them, they will readily contribute and support it.

Also, anything that opposes or threatens their values will cause the ISFPs to act. The once adaptable ISFP will stop adapting and they might fight for what matters to them. INFJs, on the other hand, tend to be more neutral and would be more likely to harmonize the different values that people have because of our extraverted feeling (Fe) function.


If you want to learn how to love yourself as an INFJ, be sure to download my free eBook, Self-Acceptance for INFJs.

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Featured Photo Credit: Kamille Sampaio