As an INFJ personality type, there was a lot about myself that I didn’t understand growing up. Though I had plenty of friends, I often felt like an outsider. I enjoyed spending time with friends, but I felt enormous relief when I finally got to be alone. Though I liked the comfort of my family and small town, I longed for places and cultures I had never seen.
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Growing up in the South, there wasn’t a lot of discussion about personality traits, psychological preferences, or deepening one’s understanding of the self. That was tolerable enough for me back then, because no one else seemed to be discussing the questions bouncing around in my mind. But in college, when I was introduced to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, something within me began to bloom.
Learning about introversion and extroversion helped me understand things like why my mother and I were so different in our “people capacity.” But it was once I began to unearth the unique characteristics of the INFJ that I finally understood why I often felt like an outsider, even among my family.
INFJs are inquisitive by nature. We’re intensely curious about many things, which makes the cultural expectation of nailing down life’s one passion quite difficult for us. We love to observe, think, and create, and we’re skilled at enjoying life’s simpler things. We prefer to slow down and are intentional in our words and relationships. We thrive in places that foster our desire to create and dream, and can shrivel up if told to put away these aspects of ourselves.
Because we are dreamers, we are motivated by the future and all the romanticized potential it could hold. It is this aspect of myself with which I have often struggled. Growing up in my small town, I dreamed of what life would be like if I lived somewhere else. I watched The Weather Channel and imagined what it was like to get snow in the winters of the North, to have salt-kissed skin from the coasts, or to breathe in the piney mountain air of the West.
The Travel Channel’s Samantha Brown also fueled my wanderlust. After watching one of her episodes about a place I had never visited, I imagined living in a small cottage in Europe or close enough to the coast of Australia that I could hear the waves from my kitchen window. Ever the romantic, unvisited destinations were the precipice of my uncharted future.
Dreaming Can Lead to Discontentment
However, there are downsides to all this dreaming. When your head seems to be somewhere different than your body, it provide the fertilization for discontentment to grow. It is this discontentment that I struggle with, because I feel I haven’t achieved all that I dream of doing. I wonder if I’m in the right place or the right job, because I can always dream up other options.
Even now as I write this, I live in the Colorado Rockies, where my mountain views are expansive and adventures are in my backyard — but this doesn’t stop the dreaming from happening. I still wonder what it would be like to live in the deserts of Utah, in a villa in Italy, or in an intellectual capital such as Paris, Boston, or London.
This can create tension in relationships if your family or friends don’t understand that your constant dreaming doesn’t have to do with a lack of love and appreciation for them, but rather a strong appreciation for novel places and experiences. Your endless dreaming may also be confusing for them if, like many INFJs, you prefer your favorite reading corner and coffee mug over going out.
Though we romanticize the idea of new places, we can also find ourselves preferring to stay somewhere familiar where the stimulation is predictable. This is especially true if you’re a highly sensitive person. If you find that this aspect of your personality strains your relationships, it may be helpful to reassure your loved ones how important they are to you and why your dreaming is helpful for you.
INFJ, Notice the Good You Already Have
There’s also an upside to all this daydreaming. In Psychology Today, Dr. David Feldman points to research that shows daydreaming and imaginative play can be an avenue for creative pursuits and social activity. He cites the work of psychiatrist Eugenio Rothe, who notes that daydreaming can activate parts of our brains that were previously dormant, allowing new ideas and solutions to surface. Dreamers have a lot to offer. We can provide much-needed creativity and problem-solving to those who are focusing on what’s directly in front of them.
The thing about being an INFJ is we must learn to balance our need for dreaming with our need for remaining present. The irony of our wanderlust is it can give both life to dreams and ground to discontentment. The challenge is striking a balance between the two: Finding ways to allow yourself to remain future-minded enough to be hopeful while remaining present enough to be grateful.
If you find yourself feeling dissatisfied with your current status, job, relationship, or location, my challenge for you is to ease up on yourself. As INFJs, we often have big dreams for ourselves, and it’s good to be reminded that we don’t need to achieve them all before we reach a certain age.
Keep dreaming, INFJ dreamers. But don’t forget to look around and notice the good things you have right in front of you.