I’m an INTJ personality type, but I seem to be surrounded by people who identify as INFJs. My mother is an INFJ, as well as a couple of close friends, and I find myself balanced by their heart-centred approach to life. For this reason, I want to share some lessons I have learned from them that I hope can support other INFJs. These lessons have been learned through observing the world, through seeing my own life run parallel to theirs, and through watching them as they find their way. I hope these six points can help you, too.
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1. I’m not certain I will ever understand you. I don’t mean this in an abstract way, such as the idea that we can never really understand another’s experience. I mean this in a concrete way that acknowledges just how differently INFJs see the world. I know this is a source of pain for you, as one of your greatest dreams is to feel understood (although you seem to believe that this can never happen). But I won’t let that stop me from trying. What I do understand, however, is that despite some similarities in our approach to life, you see the world in a unique way. We both live inside our minds — inside intricate worlds made of memory and fantasy and creativity and abstract, speculative ideas. Whereas my world is based off sometimes harsh, logical reasoning, yours is calm and warm and always kind. We need more of that in this world, so please don’t hide it. And, most important, please don’t stop trying to help me understand. I think we are both better and more complete people because of it.
2. Don’t let me shield you. This is a relatively new realization for me. When I see you, with your seemingly constant pain and soft surface, I automatically want to shield you with my tougher exterior. Don’t let me. You can manage just fine without me and actually grow faster and better without the restriction. Released from those benevolent bonds, I have watched you learn and exhibit an assertiveness that is in no way diminished by the gentleness you extend to everyone who crosses your path. By trying to shield you, I prevented you from the chance to grow and protect yourself. Don’t let me do that again. The next time I see you reach out to someone who is in pain and try to stop you, afraid of the suffering you are knowingly taking on, remind me that this is how you shine, and that pain is sometimes a natural part of that.
3. Keep showing me a different way. As an INTJ, I am blunt and assertive, often obsessed with completing tasks and sometimes forgetful of the extent to which my actions can affect others’ lives. But watching how you move through the world — ever tender with the borders of the lives around you — has encouraged a deeper understanding of how the emotional world can intersect with my rational, fact-based world and peacefully coexist. Thank you for this lesson, and please keep it up.
4. You help me see a simpler way. I sometimes make things difficult. This is probably an understatement. I assume the world is difficult and hostile, and when a problem comes up, I automatically react as if the solution will be complex and time-consuming. When I have conflict with others, I often assume ill-intent where there is none, or even anticipate all the ways people might oppose me before I’ve even started something. But you see the simpler, truer side of things. You see that the world may be harsh, yes, but that sometimes the solution can be simple and straightforward. That agile, flexible brain of yours sees past the surface and right to the heart of things. You see a straight way through when I see only obstacles. In my life, this has been as simple as your advice to simply ask for help when I don’t know things, rather than eventually working it out through a long process of research and making mistakes on my own. To you, it was so simple, but I had been doing it the long way my whole life and never even considered that there were lots of people in my world who would be happy to help. You reminded me that people like to be helpful and kind when they can. I may never be able to see the world in this way, but as long as you’re in my life, I won’t have to.
5. The dark is never completely dark. If there is one ubiquitous thing I’ve seen you struggle with, it is this: You have a tendency to get lost inside the pain that you feel and remember so easily. Every insult, every wound, every injustice collects inside you. You collect it from your own experiences, from friends, from family, from media, even from listening to a seven-times-removed story. It collects inside you like malevolent, hungry dust, and sometimes you get lost in it, unable to find a way out, and unable to see a time when you will not be drowning in it. But I know you can find a way out. I’ve seen you do it, time after time. I’ve seen you reach out to help another soul even while struggling yourself. I’ve seen you use your generous heart to comfort and find comfort in the simple act of serving. The dark is never completely dark, and as an INFJ, you can always find your way out. You just have to remember that you can.
6. And finally, thank you. Thank you for a glimpse into another life, a softer world. Thank you for accepting my hard edges and sometimes ungenerous brain. Thank you for continuing to try to show me kindness in a world that sometimes seems to have none. And thank you for seeing enough value in my place in your life that you continue coming back to my side.