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By Charis Branson
Otto Kroeger once said, “INFJs nonstop search for learning, self-growth, and development—and wishing the same for everyone else—makes them very reassuring to others and people worth emulating.”
INFJs are sincere, sympathetic, unassuming, easygoing and reserved. Their personal values include spirituality, learning, and community service. They can often be found in careers that involve religion, counseling, teaching, healing, or the arts.
They represent only 1.5% of the population, with females outnumbering males only slightly. This makes them the least common type in the human population.
They are known for their high GPAs in college and they usually stay in college, unlike some of the other Intuitive types.
INFJs are the most likely of any type to seek therapy and they rank highest of all types in marital dissatisfaction.
In a recent survey of INFJs we asked four questions:
- What are the top 3 challenges you face as an INFJ?
- What 3 things do you wish others knew about you as an INFJ?
- What 3 books/movies/courses/events have most impacted your life?
- What do you wish you could have told your 15 year old self ?
Almost 500 INFJs opened up and shared their complicated inner world with us! In this article, I would like to focus on the last of the four survey questions –What do you wish you could have told your 15 year old self ?
Many of the answers shared some common themes. So, I have broken them all down to 5 items INFJs wish they had known when they were 15 years old, in order of frequency.
#1 Don’t Allow Others to Define Who You Are
This was by far the most common thing INFJs reported as something they wished they could change. As an INFJ myself, I found this extremely enlightening. I looked back on a life of service to the beliefs of others and wondered if it was cowardice or love that forced me to succumb. I have a paralyzing fear of hurting or disappointing those I love. And because of that, I’ve only just begun living life on my terms. This seems to be a theme for Extraverted Feelers.
18% of INFJs said they wished they hadn’t given so much power to others.
- “Others perspectives do not define who you are. Make your own decisions. There are no right answers, only different circumstances and values.”
- “I would have told myself to keep dreaming and not focus on the beaten paths that the world has laid out – college, 9-5 job, etc. Think creatively about what I can offer and bring that to the world.”
- “It’s okay to be who you are and feel what you feel. You don’t have to live up to other people’s expectations.”
- “You do not have to please everyone else all the time and at your own expense. You should not feel guilty for spending time alone. Try to be mindful and follow your own feelings about your life’s decisions rather than getting caught up doing what others think is best for you.”
- “No one – no friend, no family member, no boyfriend – is worth you giving up all of your private time. If someone demands that much of you, you probably don’t need him/her in your life. It will drain you.”
- “”Don’t worry about trying to find, fix, or befriend someone who will love you the way you think you ought to be loved. Work on developing your talents and genius. Don’t try to accommodate others to the point where you have no identity of your own or self-confidence.”
- “Trust yourself and stop trying to appease others. No one can ever approve of you enough to make everything okay. You have to approve of you, and if you’re the only one, that’s okay. (If I had embraced that ideology when I was 15, I would have saved myself a lot of stress and heartache.)”
- “You are not stupid. Other people do not define your worth. You are your own person, you don’t have to have someone else’s qualities to be valid, you actually exist. And I love you.”
- “Pay more attention to bettering yourself, and stop worrying about what others think. You can be your very best when you learn to assess yourself as you do others. Never, ever, compromise your values, morals or feelings for the sake of someone else.”
#2 Take More Calculated Risks
INFJs dominant mental process is Introverted Intuition (“Perspectives” in the Genius system). This process feels great when it is given lots of time to drift, all alone, in peace and quiet. My favorite place in the world is a graveyard in the middle of the night. It’s dark, so there is no sensory stimulation. I don’t have to worry about anybody interrupting me. And there is profound stillness and awe in a place dedicated to the dead. I’ve often spent entire nights just letting my mind drift from one thing to another. I never get bored.
It may be due to this love of our inner world that INFJs struggle with motivation. 11% of INFJs surveyed wish they had tested the boundaries more.
- “It’s okay to feel the things you feel. Your opinions are just as important as everyone else’s. If you want to be “seen” as you really are you have to be brave and show yourself; it’s okay that not everyone is going to “get” you, as long as you can live as freely as you can. People can hurt you only if you give them the power to do so. Live more in the moment! Seriously, you live in your head too much. Travel, feel, taste, take in everything and feel it without trying to figure out what it all means.”
- “You have the potential to be a hero, to be anything you want to be. I know this to be true – although beware of the trap of arrogance and conceit. You just have to accept yourself and remove the masks. You know what I mean.”
- “Yes, you do in fact move through the world differently…you are not crazy. Just remember to get out of your head and try something that scares you. And most of all, you are enough just as you are.”
- “Keep calm and channel your over thinking energies into constructive change.”
- “Stop procrastinating and just do it! You can’t waste your life worrying about a future you’ll never get to create if you’re too busy worrying. Take a chance and have a bit more fun, always put your problems into perspective.”
#3 Everything is Going To Be Okay
The third most common piece of advice INFJs would offer themselves was some much needed insight into the future. Teenagers are notoriously myopic. Perspectives is a future focused process and in its undeveloped state it can become paranoid and fearful of the future. So, although most of the surveys thus far have had this piece of advice, it means something extra special to INFJs.
9% of INFJs would tell themselves the future is bright. An additional 5% would tell their younger selves to stay present and stop obsessing over what may never happen.
- *Go your own path! No one but you determines your success or happiness. If you’re going through hard times, remember that you’re changing – you’re growing! Sooner or later you will start to see the gifts you’ve been blessed with due to the struggles you have been through. It will be worth it!”
- “You’re hurt now and you’re bleeding, but someday you will realize that this pain gave you something you can’t get any other way. You just need to let yourself live.”
- “It gets much, much better. There are others out there who are more like you. You can heal the pain to a large extent. It will be okay. Follow your desires to be an artist, and push yourself.”
- “Everything unfolds perfectly.”
- “Not everything is the end of the world and it’s okay to be emotional. Love yourself. You’re going to grow up and have a cool apartment right down the road from that record store you love with the cool zines and it’s going to have a BALCONY (!!!!) and you’ll be published and happy and skinny. Everything you’re going through now is so the adult you will challenge herself harder. I think you would be proud.”
- “Take the time to enjoy your life. Slow down, you’ll get to the future quickly enough. Enjoy what you have in front of you. You need to find your passions to become truly happy. Start doing the things you love. Stop focusing so much on other people and how much you want to be like them. You CANT be anybody but yourself; it’s impossible and it will never make you happy.”
#4 Stop Being So Hard On Yourself
INFJs auxiliary cognitive function is Extraverted Feeling (“Harmony” in the Genius system). This function concerns itself with getting the needs of everyone around it met. INFJs are particularly good at this because they lead with Perspectives, which gives them special insight into people’s motivations and desires. The dream team combination of Harmony and Perspectives is not perfect, however. Every now and then, an INFJ will say or do something that receives negative feedback from the outside world. This cuts the INFJ to the core because they honestly expect better of themselves. I have been known to torture myself for decades over the thoughtless things I have said or done.
8% of INFJs wish they could tell their younger selves to ease up on the self-criticism. An additional 4% would like their adolescent self to stop obsessing over being perfect.
- “I’d tell myself to stop trying to fit into some sort of stereotype and use all the bad things that happened to me as a reason to be a better person. There’s also something I try to make myself understand even now, but it’s hard – ‘Stop taking things so personally.’ It would’ve been easier if I had learned this at the age of 15.”
- “You are special. You are not strange or weird or crazy. Just a beautiful, rare gem. Go with your gut in spite of what other people tell you. Listen to yourself. Love yourself!! (I have always struggled with this. If I’m not perfect then I’m not worth loving.) Cut yourself some slack. Not everything has to be perfect! Sometimes it’s best to let go and just enjoy. Cut others slack. They aren’t perfect either. (Also a hard one for me. I hold others to an impossible standard.) Let go of what you can’t control.”
- “”Don’t be so self-conscious. Don’t put yourself down so much, you are fine! ACT, ACT, ACT on your thoughts. Calm your anxiety and center yourself. Working on yourself is GREAT, keep at it. Please be kind to yourself. Let go of the idealism, moral conscience and responsibility. Don’t over-analyze, just enjoy the ride.”
- “Pleasing everyone is impossible so say ‘no’ and accept your decision. There’s no such thing as perfect so your best is enough. Care for yourself along with everyone else because it will catch up with you someday if you don’t.”
- “You CAN do this on your own. You’re smart enough. You’re intuition WILL guide you. Love yourself and never be afraid of failing. A man will never complete you. YOU complete you.”
#5 There is Nothing Wrong With You
As is true with all the Intuitive surveys thus far, INFJs acknowledge their differences and the pain which comes along with being a Fruit Loop in a world of Cheerios.
7% of INFJs would tell their younger selves that there is absolutely nothing wrong with them. Another 6% wish they could have been more comfortable with who they were.
- “Everyone is different, and that’s not only OK but necessary. You are the way you are by design. And it’s good. You can give to the world in quiet ways, via depth of conversation, and interacting in your way. You need to be you and not someone else. Do what you love.”
- “This is clichéd and cheesy but that’s because it’s a universally acknowledged virtue – Be Yourself. Be true to who you are; you’ll be happier that way. Also, before I go, I’d like to share something with you. I know you’re a pretentious little fuck, so you’ll enjoy this. To quote John Keats, ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty- that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.’”
- “If I could go back in time, I would tell the younger me to slow down. I had a list of things I wanted to accomplish that was miles long and I got it all done before my 30s… slow down, kid. Take it all in. Live in the moment, appreciate and savor everything you have right now. Stop trying to please everyone and make yourself more of a priority, because in the end the only relationship you have that you can trust, that is eternal, the only true love is the love you develop for yourself. Stop being so critical. You are wonderful, perfect and unique in your own way. Appreciate yourself.”
- “There is nothing wrong with you. You are worthy of love from yourself and from others. You deserve to be treated with respect and kindness no matter what. Once you learn to love yourself then make self-care your number one priority and everything else in life will be experienced with a sense of joy, even the painful times.”
- “You are beautiful. You are smart. You are worthy. You are enough.”
Never Stop Caring
I have a vivid memory that has defined my life. At the age of 13, I remember making the choice to never feel again. I was sitting on the floor of my bedroom, my back against the door, and I was sobbing for the hundredth time over injustices I thought my family was experiencing. I knew to the very marrow of my bones that life was never going to get any better. The pain would never stop. My only apparent option was to become a robot.
And it worked. I never shed another tear. Not even at my mother’s funeral when I was 19. My voice flattened and became emotionless. My face became a permanent mask of controlled expression. My body hardened to reflect the shell I was hiding behind.
Now at the age of 43 I am trying to regain my connection to myself and the world. But what did I lose along the way? What connections were never made and what lessons were never learned? I may be a lot further along in my development if I hadn’t shut it all down 30 years ago.
Apparently, I am not alone. 5.5% of INFJs would tell their younger selves to hold onto their humanity, no matter the cost. An additional 3% would plead with themselves to always remember kindness when dealing with others.
- “I wish you didn’t try to cover your genuine feelings and love for people with cynicism and unnecessary judgments.”
- “Focus on your emotions, try and understand them as much as you can – you’ll want them later.”
- “Nothing will ever feel okay inside, until you learn to see yourself through the lens of love and gratitude and learn to be as kind to your vulnerable self as you are to your vulnerable friends.”
- “Don’t try to give up your heart. Don’t try to be the best at everything because it’s not gonna happen. You can’t stop wars, you can’t stop injustice, you can’t stop hate, you can’t stop greed, you can’t make everyone happy and that’s okay, it doesn’t make you a bad person. You don’t need to punish yourself and you don’t deserve to die. You can’t make your scars disappear but you can fill them with gold, like in kintsukuroi. And I’m not gonna say that it’ll get better because it won’t – you’ll just become tougher.”