I thought about the many myriads of ways that I could begin this post because there’s so much to say about the unspoken INFJ inner struggles, but I’m going to keep it simple and relay an experience I recently went through that shook my inner core completely. It made me re-evaluate how much of my true nature I should be in conflict with.
See, I tend to pride myself on how self-aware I am about my inner feelings and struggles. Even when it comes to foreseeing how I’m going to potentially react in a situation, because after all, I am an INFJ, and it’s one of my (our) superpowers. But in this one particular moment in time, I willingly denied myself the opportunity to assess a future situation. I let FOMO take control over me.
Let me explain.
A few months ago, when the chill of winter descended upon us, I told my husband that we needed to book a retreat to break the winter in half. I was coming to my wit’s end commuting two hours a day in this unyielding weather. To give you more context, after we sold all our belongings last year, and moved abroad to the Netherlands at the beginning of fall, we decided to live a year without a car (we were sick of the accustomed car culture in Florida). So, here I was, smack in the middle of the coldest months, biking, walking, and running after buses/trams/trains, to make it from one place to another.
Cue, a much-needed break.
We discussed going to Florida for a two-week vacation to catch up with all of our friends, to see my family, and bask in the sun. Everything was going according to schedule. I blocked the two weeks in my calendar, let my internship supervisor know I’d be done by that date, and let my new supervisor know that I’ll start my thesis the moment I got back from my vacation. Everyone was on the same page.
Then something unexpected happened. Something I dreamt of for more than a decade came to pass. We were invited to a skiing resort in Spain by the only friend I made in the country thus far, and the wannabe extrovert in me screamed like a teenager at this invitation. It’s no surprise that as a socially anxious introvert for the majority of my life, all I ever wanted was to be included in such an outing. I always believed I was too boring to be invited to such occasions. For years and years, I scrolled through social media and watched my friends gather in groups at random locations, go on vacations together, and make memories that I couldn’t even fathom making. It was something I desperately sought but never got close enough to.
The problem was that the dates fell smack in the middle of our second week in Florida. I had a decision to make. Keep our initial plan or cut our stay in Florida short by a week in order to make the trip to Spain. FOMO took hold of me. Without a second thought, I accepted the invitation, booked our one week trip to Florida, and then booked our flights to Spain. You can imagine how badly I wanted this if I was willing to fly 10 hours back with a toddler, then two days later, get on another plane, add a three-hour drive, just to be part of a skiing group.
I should have known better. Thought about it more carefully. In hindsight, I should have asked myself: what will it feel like to be jet-lagged, then drive with another (extroverted) couple for 3 hours, then stay in an Airbnb with an additional 3 other individuals I’d never met? How would this affect me mentally and emotionally? If I had asked myself that, I would have known immediately what a terrible idea it all was. But I didn’t. Instead, the acceptance-seeking introvert in me screamed to go. Go, otherwise, they’ll never invite you again! Go, because you’ve been envying everyone else that does such things!
Just go, go, go.
So, not even two days after landing from an international trip with a dazed toddler, we were back at the airport, boarding another plane. Oh! did I also mention that I have extreme anxiety when it comes to flying? I even pushed that aside because of how badly I wanted to go. By now, you must already have a feeling that this trip didn’t meet my expectations.
If you’re an INFJ, you can already sense the disastrous unfolding of this decision I made.
But it’s much more than that. It’s not necessarily the events that occurred that left me shaken, but the conversations that went on in my head and the revelations about my own identity that did. Seeing myself through the lens of an INFJ at every turn during those few days truly opened my eyes to the necessity of honoring myself more in the future. I allowed an old version of me to take control of my decision-making process, that I completely abandoned the person I currently am, which is the main reason why I felt so broken during the whole stay.
That first night, I couldn’t fall asleep until 4 in the morning.
That was the moment all my troubles began. While we made it in time for dinner on the first night, the rest of the group was still on its way and would arrive around midnight the earliest. I didn’t want to wait, especially as I didn’t know them, but one of our friends had to wait up, so my husband kept him company. As an introvert, this was my expectation of how the night would unfold: I’d go to bed, fall asleep, the group would arrive, say their hellos, and head to bed as they had a whole day of skiing ahead of them.
Mistake #1: assuming that everyone else is like me and cherishes sleep.
They were up until 2:30 in the morning, talking as loudly as they possibly could, completely ignoring the fact that there were two sleeping toddlers in the house (on top of me and my friend). I was livid. How DARE they? Don’t they have any awareness of the situation? The TIME? Can’t they talk tomorrow? All I could see was my own perspective, and how I would have behaved were I down there with them. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that other people think differently in such situations and don’t have the necessary intuition to behave accordingly. But then again, what is accordingly? For them, it was a perfect setting, while for me, it was a perfect nightmare.
I’m writing all of this to set the scene for the unspoken INFJ inner struggles.
These are the unspoken struggles we hang on to, ruminate, and ponder upon. We try to make sense of them and the contradictions they bring out. The most difficult part isn’t necessarily acknowledging the struggles, or working with them, but not knowing how to ever resolve them. After this trip, I am more confused than ever when it comes to processing my own personality. I don’t have the tools yet to untangle myself from these INFJ inner struggles. But here they are.
The 5 Unspoken INFJ Inner Struggles
1. Feeling Like I’m Going Through Life Alone (regardless of how many people I’m surrounded by)
As I was staring at the ceiling at 2 am, fuming at the obnoxious noise coming from downstairs, I began to cry. I felt utterly alone and helpless. Why couldn’t I just block all my thoughts out? By asking myself such a question (and many more), I realized (again) how different I was from everyone else. I remembered the essence of my INFJ nature. Of course my extroverted husband would stay up until 2 am chatting away with strangers. Of course our extroverted mutual friend would want to catch up with his buddies from school. They didn’t have the same level of intuition or feeling surrounding such a situation. The following words formed in my brain: “I feel like I’m going through life alone“.
While that’s not meant to be an affront to my husband or family, it’s a confirmation of how complicated my inner conversations and feelings are. So much so that very few people can comprehend them. Hi, fellow INFJ! And even though I said it out loud, it didn’t sting any less. This is the ultimate struggle out of all the INFJ inner struggles… because no matter how much I express myself and try to get others to understand, the truth is that they’ll never know why something can impact me so much.
2. Wanting To Put The Right Mask On But My Internal System Doesn’t Compute
The following day was brutal. I literally locked myself up in the bathroom every half hour, turned on the faucet, and bawled my eyes out. While my husband was out on the slopes having a grand time, I was at the Airbnb with my friend, a stranger, and two toddlers. Oh, and the thoughts in my head. Those utterly consumed me. As I didn’t feel like talking, they left me alone to my own devices. But since I was still surrounded by people, I had to put on a mask and pretend everything was alright. I had to pretend that I didn’t care whether they were chatting for hours on end, leaving me behind. And I had to pretend that I had a good night’s sleep. Oh, and I also had to pretend I was fine and dandy with my husband being carefree on the slopes.
Cue, the tears every half an hour. They must have seen my red eyes at some point, but no one said anything. I wanted to look happy, even for a little bit, but my internal system couldn’t compute the discrepancy in how I felt and how I wanted to look. A common dilemma for an INFJ, as we have so many feelings and intuitions, that they tend to be visible on our faces. This INFJ inner struggle requires a lot of effort and dedication to resolve, as the reconciliation between how you look and how you feel is dependent upon whether as an INFJ you want to show your true nature (at the expense of making everyone else uncomfortable) or hide it in order to avoid confrontation.
3. Having Too Much Nunchi When Others Have None
Ah, Nunchi. My eyes lit at every page I turned in this book. Encapsulated in each written word was my whole being. Finally, someone that understood exactly how I felt! For weeks on end, I teased my husband by telling him that he had “ZERO Nunchi“. Whenever he would say something insensitive, I would put up my hand, make it into a circle, look at him through it, and say “ZERO Nunchi”. I loved it because I finally felt confident and comfortable with my emotional intelligence.
I explained to him, in every situation, what went wrong and what should have been done/said at that particular moment in time. Unfortunately, as the weeks went by, I didn’t find myself saying it less and less. That’s when I realized how difficult it is to teach someone how to be aware of the environment they find themselves in, the emotional aura in a room, and people’s sensitivities. This notion deflated me. How is it that I can have too much of it, and others literally have none of it? This INFJ inner struggle is extremely difficult to resolve because there’s too much conflict surrounding it.
4. Not Knowing How To Stop Managing Surrounding Conversations
I find myself doing this all the time. I listen to ongoing conversations all around me and try to steer them in the direction I see fit. Technically, that means a conflict-free direction. For example, I tend to monitor my husband’s conversations to ensure that peace is kept at the table. He likes to stray into topics that are controversial, which makes me cringe. This takes on a lot of mental effort because not only do I have to foresee where the conversation is going, but I have to analyze everyone’s reactions at the table. I have the need to make sure that no one is “offended” at what’s being said. This is when my intuitive nature comes into play.
It becomes especially important when the people at the table are close friends or family, as I want to ensure their feelings are being acknowledged properly. My goal is to never let anyone walk away feeling negative about a conversation. I’ve been telling myself to stop managing conversations and allow them to unfold naturally, but the moment I sense someone’s discomfort, I pounce to fix it. This is a common INFJ inner struggle and a difficult one to battle against because we wake up the moment someone disrupts the harmony at the table. We feel the need to bring back the peace – even though it means leaving a conversation unresolved.
5. Learning How To Stop Feeling Guilty For My Personality Type
I find myself battling this struggle on a daily basis it seems like. I consistently find myself feeling guilty for the way I feel about things and the way I react to them. As each day goes by, it becomes more and more obvious that I’m completely misunderstood as an individual, and more lost at how to deal with that notion. So what if I don’t feel like being chirpy or smiley at the end of a long day? Does that equate to me being miserable? No, it just means I’m completely spoken out for the day and need time to myself without prying eyes asking me if everything is alright. So what if I don’t want to go out to a party or to dinner? Does that mean I’m not being friendly? No, it just means that I’m peopled out and want to focus on rejuvenating myself.
This constant need to explain myself is taking a significant toll on my mental health as I’m starting to question why I’m this way. On one hand, I want to go ahead, put on that mask, and pretend that I’m part of society and that I’m actually enjoying myself. But on the other hand, I want to flip my finger and tell everyone off because I’m just not in the mood to deal with them. Maybe this is something all personality types have to deal with, but in my case (or the INFJs), I feel guilty for not assimilating better. For not putting on a better “face” when needed. This is probably the most damaging struggle out of all the INFJ inner struggles.
Those are the 5 INFJ inner struggles.
I’m sure there are more out there, but they’ll have to wait for another post to come along. The truth is that this personality type is always in contradiction with itself, which is why there’s so much conflict within. Peace is definitely attainable, as self-awareness is one of its strongest suits, but it definitely comes at a price. The incessant wondering, questioning, and debating that happens internally day in and day out puts a toll on even the strongest of us. It’s only by self-analyzing and digging deep that we can come out victorious against all these INFJ inner struggles. It just takes a lot of time, practice, and mental effort. But clearly, it’s a worthwhile endeavor so that we can eventually become our most confident selves.