For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term INFJ it is one of the sixteen MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Index) personality categories as defined by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers and it has been derived from the typological theories proposed by Carl Jung. For a brief overview of the 16 different types visit the Myers Briggs site here and if you want to find out your own type you can take one of the many online tests.
I found out that I was an INFJ type many years ago and have since developed a very close affinity to the label, not that I like being boxed into a category, but more that it made me feel less self conscious about the way I am and the way I view the world… especially having gone through life feeling a little odd and different to others. This made even more sense after finding out that the INFJ male is listed as the rarest of the personality types coming in at 0.5% of the population (1 in 200). Originally I put down my differences as being a result of my hearing loss, i.e. the not wanting to socialise in noisy or busy environments (because I have trouble following conversations) but I always thought there must be something else… the not fitting into the traditional male role – I’m teetotal, not into team sports or football, enjoy the home life, quiet, introverted (although I didn’t really know the full implications of that at the time) and reserved. All seemed counter to what friends were like and as such, school, college and University were quiet, lonely affairs and I ended up focusing solely on my studies and work.
Anyway, I digress, after discovering the INFJ type, finally I understood why I felt out of place and more importantly, after further reading and research, I found and connected with others of the same type (initially through an online forum called PersonalityCafe). That fueled my interest in the whole genre of personality type (including Enneagram, cognitive functions, instinctual functions) and how everyone perceives the world outside and the world outside so differently. By learning the various types, it helped me to understand the various relationship dynamics between them and it shed light on my past friendships and relationships, where they (and I) went wrong.
Many INFJ men have traits that are contrary to the male stereotype and as such many have learnt to hide those values under a bushel of shame (or mask), therefore being untrue to themselves. This in turn leads to feeling trapped, disingenuous and often unhappy. However once they learn to embrace those traits (often later on in life) and ignore what society expects of them, they can often start to shine.
In my experience INFJ males can be an enigma of sorts, living a life of contradictions and in opposition to the traditional (perhaps stereotypical) roles that society bestows upon us. Here are just 10 of the many contradictions of the INFJ man (although I do realise many of them are not gender specific)…
1. We’re not materialistic, yet have a strong desire to surround ourselves with quality.
This isn’t to prove we have the best stuff or to show off, but rather that we find value in being surrounded by beauty… and quality more often than not means more expensive. We rarely desire ‘things’ but when we do, we’d rather have the best of it or go without.
2. We want to be noticed but not the centre of attention.
As introverts we don’t like being the centre of attention and you will often find us gravitating to the walls of any party or get-together – that’s if you can get us there in the first place! That said, we still crave an emotional connection and in-depth conversations with others, and in order to experience that we need to meet new people. However our quiet, reserved and introverted nature means we rarely approach others, so in order to prompt others to make the first contact, we need to be noticed.
We find refuge in ourselves, but still ache for human connection. To us, life contains so much that is wonderously mysterious; and yet we will never be able to share that sense of wonder. ~ Seraph1m
3. We care about how we look, but we don’t like superficiality.
This is a follow on to the aforementioned traits, in that we know we live in a predominantly materialistic, superficial, extroverted world and this is in direct opposition to our true nature. But in order to be noticed or to get ahead in life, we realise we have to accept and embrace some of these societal ideals. However once we get past that, we start to delve into the deeper and emotional side of things. This is another reason why you might see INFJs who are into health, fitness and fashion but also very philosophical and idealistic.
4. We can come across as moody and cold, but are very sensitive, deep and emotional.
We are very much in our own heads and forever thinking and contemplating… about anything and everything. As such we can be distracted from the outside world and the people in it. This complex and constant internal dialogue we experience, along with the disassociation from the outside world can result in the appearance of a moody and cold demeanour. But the depth of thought comes from a deep, sensitive, emotional place and unfortunately only those who get really close to an INFJ man tend to see and experience this side of them.. again because society often beats men down for being empathetic, emotional and sensitive and we can keep this part of ourselves hidden for fear of ridicule.
5. We’re all or nothing, rarely in between.
This is a result of our perfectionist and idealist traits and kinda follows from the first point… In that we’d rather do things well or not at all. And I rather think that this applies to most aspects of our lives… We love completely or not at all, we get the best products or we don’t bother, we train hard and eat healthily or you can find us on the sofa eating Ben & Jerry’s, chocolate and Pizzas (ok, that last one is just me but I suspect many of us have similar idiosyncrasies).
We can rarely do consistent or middle of the road for long periods. Although in our heads we might like things to be organised, planned, and steady we also have a thirst for learning and discovering new things… and that requires constant change. This is another reason why we might confuse others, as we can go from one extreme to the other in a split second, seemingly without any notice or reason.
Do it with passion, or not at all
6. We’re understanding, listening and empathetic, yet incredibly stubborn.
The INFJ personality type is often referred to as ‘The Counsellor’ or ‘The Confidant’, as a result of our empathic, listening and intuitive nature. That said, our strong intuitive capabilities mean we trust our instincts above all else, and this may result in a stubbornness and tendency to ignore other people’s opinions… We believe that we’re right and usually know it!
There he goes. One of God’s own prototypes. Some kind of high powered mutant never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die. ~ Hunter S. Thompson
7. We rebel, but also want to be accepted.
We tend to rebel against a society that promotes the very things our moral compass goes against (rules and regulations, extroversion, freedom, materialism, superficiality). Yet we strive to be accepted, understood and welcomed by others. We have a tendency to be solitary, but have an unfulfilled need for deep, trusting relationships.
To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
8. “They’re wonderful and frustrating at the same time.”
9. Feminine yet masculine at the same time.
Especially once they’ve accepted and embraced their emotional and sensitive nature, INFJ males can encompass and interchange both stereotypical feminine and masculine qualities depending on the situation and their environment (why INFJs are sometimes referred to as the chameleons of the MBTI table). I recall family Sunday dinners… I’d be the one who’d be helping out with the cooking, washing up etc, whilst the other men in the family would be busy watching the football.
Another contradiction I have found is that we can relate to women better than most men, but have a difficulty pursuing or developing a romantic relationship. Again because of our perfectionist and idealist nature and the decision to never ‘settle’ and also our introverted nature and fear of rejection. This I suspect, becomes more evident after a failed long term relationship.
“Never apologize for being sensitive or emotional. Let this be a sign that you’ve got a big heart and aren’t afraid to let others see it. Showing your emotions is a sign of strength.” ~ Brigette Nicole
10. We’re hopeless romantics with a dirty mind
He certainly seemed to have the quality of a gentleman but the interesting kind who knows exactly when to stop behaving like one. ~ Michael Dibdin