INFJ: Chameleon Gone Wrong

Thursday, February 19, 2015 10 Comments A+ a-


Brrr! It's arctic in the CafĂ© today, guys. When I let my dogs out this morning, they wanted back in immediately. Eighteen below with the wind chill! And since I’m out running around today, I am totally feeling the bluster. Every time I leave a building, there’s a cup of hot tea or coffee in my hand.

I’ve seen a lot of comments coming through lately on the relationship posts, and many of them have a common theme. So I wanted to take a moment to address a major dilemma for the INFJ…which is when we’re drawn to a particular job or personality type that isn’t exactly best for us in the long run.

One thing I’ve noticed about being an INFJ is that I take a huge interest in charismatic people. I enjoy being around them (for short periods of time), mostly because I’m quiet and withdrawn, and outgoing people coax me out of myself. They stimulate my intellect, satisfy a lot of sensory needs, and boost my confidence. I will often become more outgoing, changing my responses to meet their needs, support their views, and meet them on their specific level of extraversion—all without effort. I don’t mind this change, because it’s good for everyone.


But there’s a huge difference between knowing someone like this…and choosing them for a partner or spouse. What I see in many of the comments are INFJs that seem to be stuck in relationships where they can’t be themselves (at least not without conflict). It seems to happen with jobs as well. INFJs are creative and compassionate, and we sometimes choose careers that drop us into a pool of ES personalities, who are also very creative and compassionate, but can wear us out.

How I feel after being around ES's all day (via)

I had the opposite problem by choosing to be a programmer. My job gave me a cubicle, independence, and the ability to use my logical left-brained skills. Which I enjoyed. Unfortunately, I spent most of my time around a lot of other…well, programmers. Logical folks. They, too, wanted their own space and quiet time, and I though I appreciated them, I often found myself bored with cubicle life and craving contact with bold, daring people who would stimulate my creativity.

What’s funny is that I ended up taking a “career” class through work. It was supposed to help me identify my areas of strength as they related to my job position. The results? That my ‘job’ was working with data and things, while my ‘strengths’ were dealing with people and ideas.

(sigh)

Yes, the INFJ is a complete contradiction. We love being with people and have extreme compassion for humanity. Yet some of our best efforts at helping them occur when we’re away from them. You know, when we’re off doing our wilderness thing, and our thoughts have a chance to formulate and become big, beautiful ideas. Finding a workplace with the right mix of stimulation and solitude to foster this can be a huge challenge.

Same with partners and spouses. We often choose people who inspire and stimulate us. But we can’t be around them all the time. Because when we are, we automatically ‘convert’ into whoever those people need us to be. We’re good at it and don’t really realize we’re doing it.

Chalk this up as a superpower side effect, guys. The chameleon gone wrong. We can express ourselves in so many different ways that we sometimes forget who we really are. So unless our partner understands us and what we need, we could wind up getting stuck in a relationship that requires us to convert on a constant basis. And over the long haul, this can push us into exhaustion and depression.

I suspect that by the time a lot of INFJs start to figure themselves out, they realize they’ve cornered themselves into an occupation and/or relationship that—had they known themselves better—they’d have avoided in the first place.

Yep. Been there, done that. (via)

So how do we deal with this? What do we do when we come to the realization that the world we’ve created for ourselves is good for everyone else, but maybe not the best for us?

I wish I had the answer for that. I can tell you, though, that this has happened to me. The programmer job? A fairly good fit, but not my best. I knew this long before my son’s disability gave me the push I needed to become a stay-at-home mom. And there were even challenges with staying at home…like being so focused on my family that I couldn’t be part of the community and find those charismatic people I needed. Even today, I’m still not in the best position to utilize all my strengths.

So what I’m trying to do at this point is change my world from where I’m at. My situation requires that I be at home a lot, so I started blogging (yay!). Writing novels required that I get out of the house, which my husband helped me do by working from home a few days a week. And that put me in coffee shops, where I’ve met some amazing extraverts. When I get home, I enjoy my family relationships more because I was out and in charge of my own life for a while.

via
A little at a time, I’m changing my circumstances. It’s been a struggle and probably will continue to be, but I’m very aware of who I am now. I’m taking steps that will enable me to flourish. Because when I’m at my best, I can be the best for those I love.

Something to think about, right?

I’d love to hear from other INFJs who are, or have been in, this same type of situation. How are you dealing with it? Are you quitting jobs and relationships, or transforming them? What’s giving you the strength to forge ahead and become the amazing superhero you were meant to be?

Take care *raises coffee mug* and stay warm!

10 comments

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Emme Clark
AUTHOR
February 20, 2015 at 1:25 AM delete

Thanks for your post. I can relate to a lot of what you've said. I did pick a career I'm happy in (being a ux designer allows me to use both the infj people skills, but also allows for a lot of alone time). However, romantic relationships are much trickier. I find I can fit well enough to start a relationship with most anyone. But I quickly quit them when I find I can't be my full self. I find myself hopping from relationship to relationship looking for a place where I can be fully me. It's exhausting.

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Wawoo
AUTHOR
February 20, 2015 at 10:54 AM delete

Wouldn't it be nice if each of us had our type tattooed on our foreheads! We could immediately find the type who understands us ;) Relationship-wise I managed to stay married for 15 years and have 3 children with a man who did not understand me in the least, but let me BE me for that time. in the end, though, I needed to be understood and supported by my husband, and he found it easier to move on to a new person. C'est la vie. Parenting comes naturally and I am enjoying it. I know myself pretty well, know that I may never be understood and accept that. In knowing who I am, I am content in what I'm doing: raising 2 strong boys, meeting the needs of a disabled daughter, running my tight ship of a loving household and teaching! Working with kids is such a blessing for an infj! Kids don't necessarily need to "get" you in order to respond to you. With teaching, I get people time while doing my own thing/having quiet time with crafting lesson plans. It's fulfilling and I make a difference .... If only it paid all the bills :) truly the financial sacrifice is worth going to sleep every night with a smile on my face and peace in my little infj soul!

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Anonymous
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February 20, 2015 at 10:53 PM delete

I've been pondering this side of my INFJ self for the last few weeks, both in the occupation level and potential spouse level. I find that I am greatly affected by the mood and atmosphere that is created by those who are around me on a consistent basis. The best time is my life was when I was a competitive gymnast and coach. My coach was an extrovert who was upbeat, energetic, always positive and encouraging. He push us to do our best and not give up. I was able to use my one natural talent (gymnastics) to interact with a broader yet still limited group. Lots of diversity of personalities, but in classes of 7-10 kids at a time. It was a physical activity that I enjoyed that help me work of stress (though I didn't realize it at the time!). I was helping kids learn, grow and have fun in a "field" that was intuitive to me. (Since then, I haven't felt anywhere near as fulfilled in any other work I have done, and when I try to think of what I WOULD like to do, it never quite feels like it would be a good fit for me or there is an aspect of the job/work that I dot think I'd be able to handle.)

At that time in my life, home life was not a positive, upbeat encouraging place to be (not that it was a bad atmosphere, just more of a struggle and "glass is half empty" pessimistic feel to it.) If I'm not around upbeat, positive people, I tend to drift into despondency and depression. If the people I'm around tend to be critical, curt or insensitive of others, or if others around me are continually looking to ME to be the happy, strong and lighthearted one, it wears me down emotionally.

Yet when I think of being married to an extrovert who would be on the go all the time or wanting to introduce me to new people continually, or if they do not understand my need to emotionally regain my balance or decompress from stress, it freaks me out a bit.

Being at the Gym helped me decompress from the stress of homelife, but I'm not sure what it would be like to live with my opposit temperament as my spouse and MAKING it my home life. I sometimes wonder if I'll ever find the balance of traits that I feel would be ideal for me in a spouse. Maybe it is just another side of my INFJ trying to think to hard and have it all planned out to a T with all of the intuitive signals and emotional safety nets in place... Still pondering... A.

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Meridian
AUTHOR
February 21, 2015 at 8:26 AM delete

So glad to hear that you have a job suited for your INFJ awesomeness :) I did the relationship hop quite frequently when I was younger. Thought the problem was me, but really, it was the pursuit of someone I could be authentic with. Those people are few and far between, it seems. But they're out there, and I hope you find an amazing one who will understand and value your true self. <3

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Meridian
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February 21, 2015 at 8:31 AM delete

Sounds like you have a pretty good handle on things! I love this line: "I know myself pretty well, know that I may never be understood and accept that." I've reached that point myself. Like I'm walking between worlds and can partake in each, but never really live there, lol. Makes life tricky, but you're doing a great job. Thanks for sharing!

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Meridian
AUTHOR
February 21, 2015 at 9:05 AM delete

Your thoughts outline exactly the dilemma we face as INFJs. We need a lot of solitude, but we also need positive, upbeat people and environments in between our wilderness times. It's a struggle to find a partner or job that respects and supports this kind of balance. Keep pondering and searching and making your world into what it needs to be. You're in my prayers. :)

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Moira Lauren
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March 19, 2015 at 11:21 PM delete

Thanks for your wonderful and very interesting posts . As a fellow INFJ, I greatly appreciate this blog, and look forward to reading more of your posts, and I also love the Comments section.

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Meridian
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March 23, 2015 at 10:05 AM delete

Thanks, Moira! Your comment made my day! :)

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Anonymous
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April 3, 2015 at 3:02 AM delete

Same with partners and spouses. We often choose people who inspire and stimulate us. But we can’t be around them all the time. Because when we are, we automatically ‘convert’ into whoever those people need us to be. We’re good at it and don’t really realize we’re doing it.

Love this. Especially in my relationship

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Anonymous
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September 25, 2015 at 12:29 PM delete

I have had to realize that just because I'm good at something, that doesn't mean I should be doing it. I can be good at it because others need me to be, but it eventually exhausts me (just like the seemingly good dynamic in an ultimately wrong relationship). I naturally work with what others need me to be; I have to put effort toward understanding who I truly am, beyond that, what I need, and what I feel (apart from others)

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