Following on from the 10 Contradictory Traits of the INFJ Male post, I wanted to explore some of those traits further (along with a few others) and how they seem to affect/influence me in both life and work. Whether they are true to other INFJs I don’t know, but I would be interested to see if you relate and if so, hear your own stories…
1. All or Nothing Syndrome / procrastination
An affliction that has plagued me for as long as I’ve known, and will probably continue to do so until I shuffle off this mortal coil. Love fiercely, or not at all; exercise relentlessly and eat well, or pig out on the sofa and eat junk food; work 20 hours a day for days on end, or sit and procrastinate all weekend like it’s no-one’s business. I cannot do middle of the road or consistency… at least not for any appreciable length of time. Not quite sure why, or even if it relates to INFJ ‘type’. Could it be that we are simply wired to do things “with Passion or not at all”? Perhaps middle of the road feels like a stagnant approach to living? It seems bland, uneventful, uninspiring. No room for development, lack of challenges, no richness in diversity. No opportunity to explore, to go off the beaten track in search of your own path. I suppose it rids us of the opposites that we need in order to experience the full spectrum of what ‘life’ really is – which I believe is the true nature of our existence. Although this constant going from one extreme to the other could simply mean I remain on the wrong road/path and am aimlessly searching for the right one.
Some days, I feel everything at once. Other days, I feel nothing at all. I don’t know what’s worse: Drowning beneath the waves. Or dying from the thirst. ~ o.m
Procrastinator? No I just wait till the last second to do my work because I will be older and wiser
Beware the barrenness of a busy life. ~ Socrates
2. Inability to settle.
This in some way ties to the All or Nothing Syndrome. Searching for the ‘one’ – not in the romantic sense (although that still applies) – but in the life mission sense. That quest to find an endeavour or field of work that gives you that feeling of contributing to the greater good, to help others or to create a legacy. I often feel I am ‘burdened with glorious purpose’ to quote Loki, but have not a clue what that purpose is, nor how to find it. So when settling into an occupation or project, if I’m not ‘feeling’ it, I invariably end up moving on. I would rather escape and look for something else than pursue something that doesn’t stir up any emotion within me and/or restricts my capacity for personal and spiritual growth… but that seems to bring with it it’s own set of problems (lack of a regular income for one thing!). I’d like to think this is my entrepreneurial spirit in action, but I don’t know, that inability to see something through that I started is becoming a little tiring. I would say that it seems like a P trait (as opposed to J) but perhaps it’s P for perfectionism?
Action and reaction, ebb and flow, trial and error, change – this is the rhythm of living. Out of our over-confidence, fear; out of our fear, clearer vision, fresh hope. And out of hope, progress” ~ Bruce Barton
I find in my entrepreneurial endeavours, if something doesn’t go to plan, or people start letting me down (as is often the case due to my idealist and perfectionist nature) then the initial passion for the project begins to wane. People or companies just don’t live up to my (albeit I admit, too high) expectations and disappointment sets in. And as with the ‘All or Nothing Syndrome’, if someone is not giving their all, then it can quite quickly become nothing. And lo and behold I move onto the next project. As this happens more and more, I begin to feel it reflects badly on me… Going from project to project, vision to vision but seemingly unable to realise those visions and in turn struggle to make a living. Wrong people, wrong time, fault in the way I’m doing/dealing with business? Granted I can be too soft/naive etc (believing in the best of people) which invariably sets me up for disappointment, but I’ve made a promise to myself to never get too disgruntled or negative in my outlook, rather I try and see the positive lesson I need to learn from those events.
Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place. ~ Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
4. Solitude vs friendships
I can count the number of close friendships on the fingers of… well… one finger. I’m talking IRL friendships here btw, not online, which is a whole different ball game. Given our Fe nature, this seems somewhat of a contradiction. I have the need to develop close and intimate ties – I crave deep and meaningful friendships and relationships. Ones that help inspire, motivate and sustain growth of both parties (just recalled a good post on Brain Pickings on this topic). And in order to develop that degree of closeness, intimacy and freedom, then a lot of time/energy needs to be expended. And therein lies the problem… If I have a friend or partner, I want to be able to give them my all, so anyone outside that small circle usually gets relegated to ‘acquaintances’. If I can’t give my best to any one person, I’d rather not give at all. That’s probably why I see many INFJs with a very small friend circle or more than happy with that one close friend/partner. Actually I’m reminded of a post by my INFJ friend Brandon who covers the whole friendship aspect in much more depth (of which I relate to implicitly). Check out his post on INFJ friendships here.
In solitude where we are least alone ~ Lord Byron
5. Paradox / contradiction
Again this relates in part to many of the former points… All or Nothing because I can go from opposite ends of the spectrum on a whim, hunch or gut feeling (intuition) and others can’t fathom or deal with it. So to others I may appear contradictory, mysterious, enigmatic but more often than not, incredibly frustrating (for both parties).
I am simultaneously the most emotional/least emotional person I know ~ Unknown
Our Ni/Fe functions are also great for mirroring, adapting to different environments and to other people (if we feel the need to) so I can appear vastly different in different scenarios – I can be the life of the party amongst those who ‘get’ me (very rare) but come across painfully shy, solitary and quiet to others (very common). I can fit in when I want, but more often than not I rebel fiercely. I suppose this rebellious nature has come about later on in my life when I started to settle into my INFJ skin, when I decided to drop the mask and to live true to my beliefs and personality, even if they conflict with the majority of society and friends/family. So the transition from being a people pleaser (mirrorer) to not worrying (as much) about conflict can be confusing for people around me, especially those who have known me a while. Because I’ve got a firmer sense of self, I don’t feel the need to fit in with others (or their plans) and I suspect it can come across a bit jarring. I am much more careful these days in picking and choosing where to expend my energy/love and not afraid to reject completely the ones that don’t fit that pattern – i.e. the people that don’t respect or honour my boundaries and those who have a negative, pessimistic outlook on life.
Surround yourself with the dreamers and the doers, the believers and thinkers, but most of all, surround yourself with those who see the greatness within you, even when you don’t see it yourself.” ~ Edmund Lee
That reminded me of another contradiction I see in many of us… We see the potential in people and in the human race and yet can be apathetic to them at the same time.
They can be a great people; they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way. ~ From Superman; The Movie
6. Writers not talkers
Although I’ve yet to meet an INFJ in real life (that I know of) I’ve heard this said many a time. We have difficulty talking on the spot, on the phone, in person… but when it comes to writing we can often knock out masterpieces (no wonder there are a disproportionate number of INFJ writers/authors). We can mumble, splutter, stutter (well that might be just me) or just be plain mute. But in writing we seem to flow effortlessly (although personally I have to read back several times and tweak often before I’m happy with anything). What might be the reason for this? Well I think it all boils down to time – we have the ability to see many different angles, possibilities, eventualities and gray areas to any given scenario (I suppose this is another contradiction to our seemingly all/nothing, black/white approach we adopt). Our introverted intuition also means we live inside our heads almost all the time. So we may have several conversations going on at once, arguments even. And all this internal Cacophony just serves to create a bottleneck, which when we have to verbalise… spews out in such random fashion that it makes no sense (even to us at times). Yet with writing we have the time to sit down, process the influx of ideas, then categorise, refine, tweak, add, remove etc until it comes across eloquently and succinctly. Our writing is a way of bringing order to that chaos and allowing others to read/see/understand it. I think our Fe temperament might be a factor too – in keeping all parties sweet rather than blurt out something we might regret later… in short we need the time to absorb and process.
One of the risks of being quiet is that the other people can fill your silence with their own interpretation: You’re bored. You’re depressed. You’re shy. You’re stuck up. You’re judgmental. When others can’t read us, they write their own story—not always one we choose or that’s true to who we are.” ~ Sophia Dembling, The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World
7. Big picture and small detail thinkers
This can be a good trait IF we are balanced, which given our contradictory and All or Nothing nature can be an ongoing challenge. As visionaries we see the bigger picture for almost everything and play out scenarios from any given circumstance to its logical conclusion (or set of conclusions). Plus we have the ability to delve into the details and minutiae of a project which can help realise that vision. The problem arises when we stay at one extreme or the other which fails to drive the project forward.
8. Dot connectors. Visionaries. Doers
Not an issue, but reading back I realise this post may come across a little negative (personally I see a lot of positives), so I wanted to end on a good note. For all the issues and contradictions we experience, I believe we have one great thing going for us, and that is that we are compassionate visionaries and doers. We may not finish a project or rather realise our own perfectionist vision for it, but we almost always have a go. If we have an idea, and the passion for it, and it will help serve others… then we will endeavour to accomplish it and make that difference to at least one person.
The world I think, needs more of us…
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson.
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. ~ Theodore Roosevelt