warning! this page is all about me (and any other perfectionists and INFJers–such as Jesus or Mahatma Ghandi–oh boy, those are tough acts to follow–maybe my standards are little too high–what’s your mbpt?) — or, a little coffee can make for a lo-o-ong night. it can also make for a long post, but the best part is the last part (so here it is: ‘relax’)
‘People have very high standards for themselves. As psychologists point out, we don’t like to see ourselves as not meeting our own expectations. People naturally try as hard as they are able to meet their own goals, so “trying harder” is not a solution. People certainly don’t want to lower their expectations either, so they adjust their image of themselves instead. This temporarily solves the crisis; our expectations are intact and we don’t have to try and improve our behavior and performance to a level above what is possible for us.
Unfortunately, this image shift has some rather undesirable side-effects [uh-oh]. Whenever we have thoughts or feelings that do not fit in with our superior self image, when we are ashamed of our thoughts, we shove those thoughts and feelings out of our conscious attention. We are afraid of such thoughts; they threaten our self-image at a fundamental level.
These thoughts do not go away; they are still in our minds. Thoughts have their own energy whether we are paying attention to them or not. Similar thoughts attract one another and form structures. People who are involved in creative mental tasks experienced this constantly. When they work with related thoughts and ideas, these thoughts begin to form themselves into hierarchies and patterns. Thoughts that we fear are no different; they create mental landscapes of what we fear the most within our own minds.
When something reminds us of these fearful thought structures, we experience a sudden surge of hatred, fear, or disgust as our conscious attention is momentarily focused on our unacceptable thoughts. Because we cannot accept these thoughts as part of ourselves, we assume that the feelings they generate are coming from whatever or whoever reminded us of them. This is called projection [double uh-oh]. Anyone that seems vaguely menacing can cause us to project our own suppressed anger onto them. This anger seems to be separate from “our own” thoughts, making it easy to believe that the anger is coming from the other person. Someone with different customs can prompt us to project any anti-social or simply unconventional thoughts of our own that disturbed or disgusted us, making the person before us seems disturbing or dangerous. Depending on the force of our suppressed feelings, people who are in fact harmless can appear to be capable of bringing down civilization.
Well, that was a long exposition, but it boils down to this. The more you accept your own thoughts as normal and natural, whether they offend your sense of decency or not, the more clearly you will be able to see the world [whew!]. Convincing others of this could be a problem, however [oh]. For more information on communicating with other people, see the essay on “Why does the world seem to be completely insane.”‘
the beeb says, ‘Seeking perfection–Nobody’s perfect
Perfectionists are people who strive to meet very high standards in everything they do, be it in the workplace, in sport, cooking or DIY. As with all personality traits, there are different degrees of perfectionism. Perfectionists can be lumped into two categories based on how flexible they are about their standards:
- Normal perfectionists – set high standards for themselves but drop their standards if the situation requires it
- Neurotic perfectionists – never feel that they have done their job well enough. They are very intolerant of mistakes and extremely self-critical
Perfectionists often feel as if their work is never complete
Risk of illness–Normal perfectionists are often high achievers in life. Perfectionism is usually a good trait whether you are a banker, athlete, artist, actor or builder, because it makes you good at what you do. For example, many professional athletes score highly on perfectionism.
But neurotic perfectionists who criticise themselves excessively, put themselves at risk from psychological and physical disorders including:
Coronary Heart Disease
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD)
Six dimensions of perfectionism–Dr Randy Frost of Smith College, Massachusetts has developed a 35-item questionnaire, or scale, designed to measure perfectionism. The scale recognizes six different dimensions of perfectionism.
- Concern over mistakes–Perfectionists get more upset over mistakes than other people because they are scared that others will think badly of them. As a result, perfectionists are less likely to seek help in rectifying errors, and have a stronger urge to cover up mistakes. Excessive concerns over mistakes can put people at risk of phobias and mood disorders.
- Personal standards–Setting high standards that you feel compelled to meet is a common trait of normal and neurotic perfectionists. The setting of high personal standards is thought to contribute to the eating disorder anorexia nervosa.
- Parent expectations–Trying hard to live up to your parents’ expectations of you is a common feature of perfectionism. This could be because they grow up in households where parents give their children love on condition that they meet their expectations. These children try to do everything perfectly to avoid being rejected by their parents.
- Parental criticism–Seeking to appease your parents is often accompanied by the worry that your mother and father will criticise your achievements. As children, these people may have [been–sic] punished for making mistakes. Consequently, they also develop the sense that they will never meet their parents’ high standards.
- Doubting of actions–Feeling uncertain when a job is finished is a common feature of perfectionism. As a result, these people are often reluctant to give up on tasks and sometimes need to be told to ‘leave it alone now’. Doubting can also make perfectionists very indecisive.
- Organisation–Perfectionists tend to be fussy and exacting about whatever they do. They also have a preoccupation with making everything neat and tidy. This is not a direct cause of perfectionism, but does affect how perfectionists try to achieve their high standards.
not surprising, i’m an INFJ. should have heeded this years ago…
‘What does Success mean to an INFJ?
People with the INFJ personality type are intense and perfectionistic. They have deep insights into many aspects of life, and usually have very high standards for their own understanding and accomplishments, as well as those of others. They are service-oriented and empathetic to other individuals. The INFJ strives for the ideal in every aspect of their life. An INFJ’s feeling of success is centered around their own level of understanding and accomplishment, their usefulness or service to others, and the condition of their personal relationships. The INFJ feels successful when they have used their very deep understanding of something to do a real service for someone. We often see INFJ personality types as counsellors and teachers, or in the medical and health fields.
Allowing Your INFJ Strengths to Flourish
As an INFJ, you have gifts that are specific to your personality type that aren’t natural strengths for other types. By recognizing your special gifts and encouraging their growth and development, you will more readily see your place in the world, and be more content with your role.
Nearly all INFJs will recognize the following characteristics in themselves. They should embrace and nourish these strengths:
- They’re extremely insightful, and see things that are not obvious to others. This ability to see patterns and meanings in the world can help the INFJ in many different ways. INFJs usually have a great deal of insight into different people and situations.
- When given a goal or context, an INFJ is able to generate all kinds of possibilities. They’re able to see the problem from many different angles.
- They understand how others are feeling, and are genuinely concerned with others. This natural empathy and caring helps to be really effective at helping others through problems. In this manner, they make great friends, counselors, teachers, and mates.
- An INFJ has a “stick to it” attitude. They’re not afraid of hard work, and will put forth a great deal of effort towards something that they believe in. This persistence will help the INFJ to achieve an identified goal.
- Perfectionistic and idealistic, they always strive for the best.
- Usually intelligent and able to concentrate and focus, the INFJ can usually grasp difficult ideas and concepts.
INFJs who have a well-developed Extraverted Feeling function to complement their dominant Introverted iNtuition will enjoy these very special gifts:
- They can turn their insightful understanding about a situation into a successful plan of action.
- The INFJ with well-developed judgment will be able to grasp and process concepts that are beyond what their natural intelligence appears to be able to handle.
- They may achieve a level of understanding that makes them appear wise.
- The INFJ’s perfectionism and idealism, when combined with their empathy and genuine concern for others, can cause them to be true servants for people in some fashion. They may be great doctors or ministers or counselors. If they have also achieved a good amount of life wisdom, they can become powerful forces, such as Jesus (INFJ) and Mahatma Ghandi (INFJ).
Potential Problem Areas
With any gift of strength, there is an associated weakness. Without “bad”, there would be no “good”. Without “difficult”, there would be no “easy”. We value our strengths, but we often curse and ignore our weaknesses. To grow as a person and get what we want out of life, we must not only capitalize upon our strengths, but also face our weaknesses and deal with them. That means taking a hard look at our personality type’s potential problem areas.
INFJs are rare and intelligent people with many special gifts. This should be kept in mind as you read some of the more negative material about INFJ weaknesses. Remember that these weaknesses are natural. We offer this information to enact positive change, rather than as blatant criticism. We want you to grow into your full potential, and be the happiest and most successful person that you can become.
Most of the weaker characteristics that are found in INFJs are due to their dominant function (Introverted iNtuition) overtaking their personality to the point that the other forces in their personality exist merely to serve the purposes of Introverted iNtuition. In such cases, an INFJ may show some or all of the following weaknesses in varying degrees:
- May be unaware (and sometimes uncaring) of how they come across to others
- May quickly dismiss input from others without really considering it
- May apply their judgment more often towards others, rather than towards themselves
- With their ability to see an issue from many sides, they may always find others at fault for any problems in their lives
- May have unrealistic and/or unreasonable expectations of others
- May be intolerant of weaknesses in others
- May believe that they’re always right
- May be obsessive and passionate about details that may be unimportant to the big picture
- May be cuttingly derisive and sarcastic towards others
- May have an intense and quick temper
- May be tense, wound up, have high blood pressure and find it difficult to relax
- May hold grudges, and have difficulty forgiving people
- May be wishy-washy and unsure how to act in situations that require quick decision making
- May have difficulty communicating their thoughts and feelings to others
- May see so many tangents everywhere that they can’t stay focused on the bottom line or the big picture
Explanation of Problems
Most of the problems described above are a result of Introverted iNtuition overtaking the INFJ’s personality to the point that all of the other functions become slaves to Introverted iNtuition. A healthy personality needs to have a good balance between its dominant and auxiliary functions. For an INFJ, the dominant Introverted iNtuition needs to be well-supported by the auxiliary Extraverted Feeling function. If Extraverted Feeling exists only to support the desires of Introverted iNtuition, then neither function is being used to its potential.
Introverted iNtuition is a personality function that constantly gathers information, and sees everything from many different perspectives. As the dominant player in a personality, it has the effect of constantly bombarding the psyche with new information to consider. Introverted iNtuition is sort of like a framework for understanding that exists in the mind. As something is perceived, it is melded into the existing intuitive framework. If an entirely new piece of information is perceived by the Introverted iNtuitive, that person must redefine their entire framework of reference. So, Introverted iNtuitives are constantly taking in information about the world that needs to be processed in a relatively lengthy manner in order to be understood. That presents quite a challenge to the INFJ. It’s not unusual for an INFJ to feel overwhelmed with all of the things that he or she needs to consider in order to fully understand an idea or situation.
When Introverted iNtuition dominates the INFJ such that the other functions cannot serve their own purposes, we find the INFJ cutting off information that it needs to consider. If the psyche is presented with information that looks anything like something that Introverted iNtuition has processed in the past, it uses Extraverted Feeling to quickly reject that information. The psyche uses Extraverted Feeling to reject the ideas, rather than taking the information into its intuitive framework, and therefore potentially causing that framework to be reshaped and redefined.
Using Extraverted Feeling in this manner may effectively serve the immediate needs of Introverted iNtuition, but it is not ideal. It causes the INFJ to not consider information that may be useful or criticial in developing a real understanding of an issue. It may cause the INFJ to come off as too strongly opinionated or snobbish to others.
The better use of Extraverted Feeling for an INFJ would be to use it to assess the INFJ’s rich insights and weigh them against the external world. When the INFJ personality uses Extraverted Feeling to cut off incoming information, rather than to judge internal intuitions, it is effectively cheating itself. It’s like getting the answers to a test without having to really understand the questions. It’s easier to get the answer right away, rather than to have to figure everything out. For the INFJ, who has a tremendous amount of information and “studying” that needs to be done, it’s very tempting to take shortcuts. Most INFJs will do this to some extent. The real problems occur when an INFJ personality has become so imbalanced that its owner is extremely self-important and rarely consider anyone else’s opinions or ideas.
To grow as an individual, the INFJ needs to focus on applying their judgment to things only after they have gone through their intuition. In other words, the INFJ needs to consciously try not to use their judgment to dismiss ideas prematurely. Rather, they should use their judgment against their own ideas. One cannot effectively judge something that they don’t understand. The INFJ needs to take things entirely into their intuition in order to understand them. It may be neccesary to give your intuition enough time to work through the new information so that it can rebuild its global framework of understanding. INFJs need to focus on using their judgment not to dismiss ideas, but rather to support their intuitive framework.
An INFJ who is concerned with personal growth will pay close attention to the subject of their judgments, and their motivation for making judgments. Are they judging something external to themself, or are they judging something that they have sifted through their intuition? Is the motivation for judging something to be able to understand its usefulness in the world, or to dismiss it? Too often, an INFJ will judge something without properly understanding it, and with the intention of dismissing it. Seek first to understand, then to judge.
Living Happily in our World as an INFJ
Some INFJs have difficulty fitting into our society. Their problems are generally associated with not knowing (or caring) how they come across to others, and with having unreasonable expectations for others’ behaviors. Both of these issues stem from using Extraverted Feeling primarily to dismiss external ideas, rather than to sort through their own intuitions.
An INFJ who uses Extraverted Feeling in this diminished manner may become so strongly opinionated that they form rigid and unreasonable expectations for others. They may feel so strongly about things that they become very passionate and agitated when they feel that something has gone wrong. In these cases, it’s not uncommon for the INFJ to express their displeasure with biting sarcasm. They become so emotionally upset that they are generally not aware of how their behavior comes across to others. Even if the consequences of their attitude and behavior is pointed out to them, they may be agitated to the point that they don’t care. This kind of situation can be devastating to the INFJ on many levels, and should be avoided. There isn’t much that can be done once the INFJ has reached the point where they are too upset to care about others, but the INFJ can prevent this problem from occuring by ensuring that they never get to that point.
How can you, as an INFJ, ensure that you won’t get that upset? It probably seems to you that these kinds of upsets are caused by external circumstances and situations. Well, that’s not really true. It’s true that things will happen over which you have no control. But you certainly have control over how you perceive these things, or more appropriately, how you *judge* these things.
- Take care to listen to someone’s idea entirely before you pass judgment on it. Ask questions if neccesary. Do whatever it takes to make sure that you understand the idea. Try not to begin judging anything about the idea until you have understood it entirely.
- Before you begin talking to another person, pause for a moment and look at that person. Take in that person’s attitude and feelings at that moment. Be aware of the person with whom you’re speaking.
- If you become upset, walk away immediately. DO NOT express anger. When you get angry, you lose. After you have calmed down, apologize for leaving and continue with what you were doing.
- Try to identify the personality type of everyone that you encounter frequently in your life. Remember that people with the Sensing preference need to be communicated with in a direct, concise manner. Speak plainly and simply with Sensors, giving “yes” or “no” answers.
- Try to be on good terms with all people, even those that you consider beneath you. Try to understand that everybody has something to offer.
Ten Rules to Live By to Achieve INFJ Success
- Feed Your Strengths! Do things that allow your brilliant intuition and service-oriented manner to flourish.
- Face Your Weaknesses! See your weaknesses for what they are, and seek to overcome them. Especially, strive to use your judgment against your internal ideas and intuitions, rather than as a means of disregarding other people’s ideas.
- Talk Through Your Thoughts. You need to step through your intuitions in order to put them into perspective. Give yourself time to do this, and take advantage of discussing ideas with others. You’ll find externalizing your internal intuitions to be a valuable exercise.
- Take in Everything. Don’t dismiss ideas prematurely because you don’t respect the person generating the ideas, or because you think you already know it all. After all, everybody has something to offer, and nobody knows everything. Steven Covey says it so well when he says: “Seek first to understand, and then to be understood.”
- When You Get Angry, You Lose. Your passion and intensity are strong assets, but can be very harmful if you allow yourself to fall into the “Anger Trap”. Remember that Anger is destructive to your personal relationships. Work through your anger before you impress it upon others, or you will likely find yourself alone. Disagreements and disappointments can only be handled effectively in a non-personal and dispassionate manner.
- Keep Your Eye on the Big Picture Watch out for your tendency to become obsessed with details. If you find yourself feeling very, very strongly about a small detail, take a big step back and make sure that you can still see the goal. You’re not going to get there if you get mired in the details.
- Be Accountable for Yourself. Don’t blame the problems in your life on other people. Look inwardly for solutions. No one has more control over your life than you have.
- Be Humble. Judge yourself at least as harshly as you judge others.
- Assume the Best. Don’t distress yourself and others by dwelling on the dark side of everything. Just as there is a positive charge for every negative charge, there is a light side to every dark side. Remember that positive situations are created by positive attitudes. Expect the best, and the best will come forward.
- Relax! Do yourself a favor and learn how to effectively unwind. Get exercise and restful sleep. Take vacations. Engage in relaxing activities. Take care of yourself and your loved ones by learning to let go of your passion and intensity for a respite.’