Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Musings of an INFJ

Do you believe in the Myers-Briggs personality test? I'm not sure I do. I know that professional psychologists are quite dismissive of it. However, I find it very interesting. Even if it's a load of cock-a-doodle, it is now a bona fide part of folklore.

We did the test in my secondary school-- in religion class!-- when I was about sixteen. Being a dyed-in-the-wool snob, I was delighted that I came out as an INFJ, which is the rarest of all the types, between one and three per cent of the population. I took the test again a few years ago, on Facebook, and once again the result was INFJ-- which is the rarest of all the types.

INFJ stands for "Introverted, intuitive, feeling and judging". Other INFJs include (apparently): Alanis Morisette, George Harrison, Leonard Cohen, Plato, Dante, Hitler, Trotsky, Billy Crystal, Nicole Kidman....I don't know when exactly Adolf Hitler took the test, but this is what the internet tells me.

Without wanting to be blasphemous, I might note that some websites list Our Lord as an INFJ!

When I first read the INFJ personality description, I thought much of it fitted pretty well. Of course, I'm aware of the "Barnum effect", but what did Barnum know? I doubt he was an INFJ.

People join INFJ forums and communities-- I even briefly joined a Christian INFJ Facebook page myself. Anything that brings people together and adds to the gaiety of nations, right?

So here is my parsing of Wikipedia's description of an INFJ, and how it applies to me:

INFJs are conscientious and value-driven. I think this is true, although my conscientiousness is highly selective.

They seek meaning in relationships, ideas, and events, with an eye toward better understanding themselves and others. Half-true. I seek meaning for the sake of meaning. I also seek to understand myself and others, but the quest for meaning is independent of that.

Using their intuitive skills, they develop a clear and confident vision, which they then set out to execute, aiming to better the lives of others. I actually think the first part of this is very true. I do have a clear  and confident vision, and it's based mostly on intuition. And I do try to propagate it, if not execute it.

However, am I trying to "better the lives of others?". I think the Ireland and the world I envisage would be a more interesting and rewarding place. Indirectly, I suppose it would better the lives of others. However, in many ways it might materially worsen them. 

Like their INTJ counterparts, INFJs regard problems as opportunities to design and implement creative solutions. How wrong can you get? I am the worse person in the world at problem solving and my immediate response to a problem is "Oh no! All is lost!". (I hope no prospective employer ever reads this...)

INFJs are believed to adapt easily in social situations due to their complex understanding of an individual's motivations; however, they are true introverts.
I don't know if I adapt easily in social situations. I think I do have a pretty complex understanding of peoples' motivations...but only over time. I'm nearly always wrong about people at first. Yes, I'm a true introvert.

 INFJs are private individuals who prefer to exercise their influence behind the scenes. No. I enjoy the limelight. I like exercising influence behind the scenes as well, though.

Though they are very independent, INFJs are intensely interested in the well-being of others. Ouch. Other than intellectual independence, I lack pretty much every other kind of independence. And I'm not "intensely interested in the well-being of others". I wish I was. I tend to live in a world of ideas and atmospheres. I do care about the well-being of others, but in a very selective and erratic way.

INFJs prefer one-on-one relationships to large groups. Oh boy, do I ever.

Sensitive and complex, they are adept at understanding complicated issues and driven to resolve differences in a cooperative and creative manner. I'm sensitive and complex, but I'm not adept at understanding complex issues. I try to resolve personal differences in a cooperative and creative manner, and think I'm often quite good at it. When it comes to a public cause, though-- fight to the death, no compromise!

INFJs are deeply concerned about their relations with individuals as well as the state of humanity at large
. I'm deeply concerned about my relations with individuals, but it's shameful how little time I spent thinking of the state of humanity at large-- God forgive me!

They are, in fact, sometimes mistaken for extroverts because they appear so outgoing and are so genuinely interested in people -- a product of the Feeling function they most readily show to the world. Maybe. Sometimes, when I tell people I'm very shy, they don't believe me because they've only ever seen me amongst people I know quite well. A girl I knew in college told me she was confused by me because I always spoke in class but I never spoke out of class. And yes, I am genuinely interested in people-- I'm intensely interested in their opinions, values, view of the world, experiences, etc.

INFJs are said to have a rich, vivid inner life that they may be reluctant to share with those around them. My inner life is so "vivid and rich" that I can share it with the world via this blog, and other outlets, and still have tons of it left over, which I do enjoy keeping to myself.

Nevertheless, they are congenial in their interactions and perceptive of the emotions of others. Yep.

Generally well liked by their peers... This is hit and miss. A fair amount of people seem to like me, while I get the distinct impression that quite a lot of people don't like me at all.

...they may often be considered close friends and confidants by most other types; I've developed close friendships in the last decade or so, although before that I didn't even really have distant friendships. People sometimes confide in me, but not notably often.

...however, they are guarded in expressing their own feelings, especially to new people, and tend to establish close relationships slowly. Personally, I don't think this is true, but I'm told it is. People often tell me what a private person I am. I don't think I'm private at all. I think I'm constantly telling people my ideas and emotions. However, I do keep some areas off-limits, so this might be where the perception arises. Yes, I develop close relationships very slowly indeed.

INFJs may "silently withdraw as a way of setting limits" rather than expressing their wounded feelings—a behavior that may leave others confused and upset. Yes, I do, and I don't care if they're "confused and upset"-- they've been such jerks they deserve it.

INFJs tend to be sensitive, quiet leaders with a great depth of personality. I don't think I've ever been a leader of anything. Sensitive? Yes. Quiet? No. Great depth of personality? Who would answer "no" to this one?

They are intricately, deeply woven, quilt-like, mysterious, highly complex, and often puzzling, even to themselves. Amen, sister!

They have an orderly view toward the world but are internally arranged in a complex way that only they can understand. I think this is true. People often think I am being inconsistent when I feel I am being entirely consistent.

Abstract in communicating, they live in a world of hidden meanings and possibilities. Oh yeah.

With a natural affinity for art, INFJs tend to be creative and easily inspired, yet they may also do well in the sciences, aided by their intuition. Creative? I hope so. As for "easily inspired", perhaps the reader is smiling ruefully at this, thinking of my tendency to write a three thousand word blog post about something I saw on my morning commute. The sciences bore me to tears.

So there you go. There is my assessment of how my own personality tallies with the personality description of the INFJ, which is the rarest of all the types.


  1. Same here. According to the MB test I'm an INFJ as well. I'm not sure if I put much stock into it, but I do see some truth regarding my own personality and temperament.

    One test said that an INFJ has too many interests, that majoring/concentrating on one subject would be like choosing which child was your favorite. I see this in myself. I majored in sociology and philosophy during my undergraduate years and I'm currently in grad school for social work. There's a junior college nearby that has a solid music department where it covers the first two years of a music major. If I were financially well-off I'd work for a few years in social work then return to school to complete that music curriculum. Not for a career in music but because I have an interest in expanding that part of me.

    In the wizarding world I was sorted into Gryffindor and received a 10' wand made out of Acacia wood with a Phoenix core. I then took the sorting quiz for Ilvermorny, the American wizarding school, and was sorted into Thunderbird. Now the question is do I keep my British wand?

    1. I thought you had to keep your wand forever? I'd much rather be with the bad boys in Slytherin.

      Philosophy is a good grounding for anything, I think; I much prefer to have a conversation with someone who has some philosophy. I recognise the bewilderment of interests, too. I find it hard even to finish one book without being lured to another!