When I discovered I’m an INFJ and read about the traits associated with it, I was relieved. I wasn’t the only one.
Not only that, my friendships made a lot more sense — my best friend of over 17 years is also an INFJ, and throughout college, I found myself gravitating towards certain people, only to later find that we shared the same Myers-Briggs type. No one gets INFJs like another INFJ.
(What’s your personality type? Take a free personality assessment.)
Similarly, few other types understand the nature of humanity like INFJs do. This is the main reason we’re nicknamed “the counselor” and “the advocate.”
INFJ stands for “introverted, intuitive, feeling, and judging,” and we’re often described as creative, dedicated, compassionate, and people-oriented. Whenever possible, we drop anything to help someone. We live in a paradox of desperately wanting connection but also craving privacy and solitude. We want people, but we want them on our own terms.
Unfortunately, life doesn’t work like that, so we have to muddle through balancing our boundaries and desires.
We are dreamers and idealists whose eyes focus on the future. Our idealism makes us shoot for the moon, but we are not satisfied with landing among the stars. We are perfectionists to a fault, determined to the point of tunnel vision, and private amongst even our closest friends. The INFJ’s priority is to help people no matter the cost to ourselves, and we will settle for nothing less than meeting our goals.
INFJs Want to Help
As you can imagine, these traits greatly influence our career choices. Every INFJ I have known has gone into some sort of helping profession, whether it be counseling, teaching, nursing, etc.
The INFJ is driven by the desire to heal and work against the root causes of life’s problems. INFJs want to make everyone feel heard, likely because they have personally experienced what it’s like to be misunderstood. Our job security is that life is hard and people need other people along the journey.
It is the NFJ parts of our personality which guide us to our career choices. Our intuition leads us to imagine possibilities and potential, rather than simply being consumed by the present circumstances. Our Extroverted Feeling function tells us to go with our gut and listen to the tug of our hearts when making a decision. Our judging nature means we will stick to a schedule, to our goals, with rigid perseverance.
Together, these traits help us help others, but along the road, we often forget a very key component of our functioning: We are first and foremost introverts.
Sometimes it may feel like this is the downfall of the INFJ. I, for one, have at times wished I were extroverted, thinking this would make it easier for me to give myself more fully to my job.
The Problem of Burnout
“What’s the problem?” you may ask. The problem is burnout. We INFJs need a career that makes us feel like we are making a difference in the world. This leads us to the helping professions previously mentioned. These careers usually involve considerable amounts of “people time” on a daily, even hourly, basis.
As a therapist, I spend my days listening to people tell me their stories. It is an incredibly honoring experience, but by the end of the day, I have probably met my word quota about three hours prior. And depending on the number of clients, I have likely maxed out on my people time.
This is a common experience for any helping profession, and when you’re an introvert, the consequences catch up to you all too quickly. Soon enough, you have become entirely drainedand you, your relationships, and your career suffer.
INFJs aren’t the only personality type to experience burnout at work — but it’s certainly a very common experience for us, given our nature.
Signs That You’re Burning Out
Here are some signs I have identified in my own life as indicators that it’s time to do some self-care.
1. When you arrive home, you find yourself avoiding time with your loved ones.
You’ve met your people quota for the day. Even the thought of relaying your day to your spouse, roommates, or kids makes you irritable.
Recognize that every introvert needs some time to decompress, and it’s totally acceptable to make it a quiet night at home. But if it starts becoming your norm to avoid the people you love simply because you are so taxed from work, it’s time to start taking care of yourself.
2. Your anxiety levels constantly rise throughout the day.
Of course, there are times at work that call for a normal anxiety response. Are you presenting a case or leading a meeting? Expect to feel some stress. But if you find yourself anxious to go to work — or anxious during work — this may be a sign that you need to start prioritizing yourself. If you have an existing anxiety disorder, knowing your boundaries is especially important in order to identify a self-care regimen that will work for you.
3. You don’t have the energy to do the things you love.
When reading a good book, going for a walk, or talking with a close friend sound too taxing, take that as a sign that you need to cut back or incorporate more self-care into your daily regime.
4. Perhaps the most telling sign of burnout is a dwindling passion for your job, or doubt about whether this is the job for you.
When you have become entirely spent, the amount of energy you can dedicate to your job starts to dwindle. When INFJs can’t give their 100 percent, we start second-guessing our decisions. Don’t listen to this fear, rather, listen to your body.
If these scenarios are hitting home for you, you are not alone, my fellow INFJ. These signs are not red flags that you’ve entered a career you can’t handle. Instead, they signal that you have listened to your gut, are helping people, and have dedicated yourself to your career.
However, they should also be listened to as the warnings that they are. Remember, you are first and foremost an introvert and that is an integral part as to why you chose your career.
Listen to that part of yourself. Take a long weekend, make no plans, go for that walk even if you aren’t feeling like it, call your best friend, light a candle, do some yoga or mindfulness meditation, or go find a cat or dog to pet.
You have the right to help yourself just like you help others five days a week. The better care you take of your introversion, the better care you will extend to others.