Read This If You Think You’re An INFJ

The clear answers on what makes you different

INFJ is one of the most frequently mistyped Myers Briggs (MBTI) types, highly misrepresented and skewed in pretty much everything you read online.

The types who mistype as INFJ most are ISFJ, ISFP, and INFP. And “taking a test” isn’t how we type ourselves — the tests are almost always wrong. We have to understand the cognitive functions and how they relate (see below.)

Why does this matter?

It doesn’t.

So don’t @ me in the comments saying so. I know it’s “parlor games.”

That being said: for those playing, knowing our cognitive functions might help us understand our strengths, our weaknesses, and our blindspots — what’s healthy versus unhealthy and how to be happy, because it differs for each type.

ISFJ, INFP, ISFP and INFJ are easily confused for each other

Which makes sense — because they’re all introverted, and they’re all “feelers.”

But that’s about where the similarities stop…

QUESTIONS

Here’s a quick assessment to help you identify your type:

1.) How much do you like black & white clarity, definition, detail?

a.) A LOT. I like things defined, detailed, and remembered
b.) Sure. I like clarity on my feelings, may replay the past to relive emotions
c.) What? This means nothing to me. (Or, tbh even bores or irritates me a bit.)

2.) How in touch are you with your feelings?

a.) VERY. I am highly in tune with my own experience and emotions — but that doesn’t mean I’m all sunshine and rainbows!
b.) I mean… I probably have feelings… sometimes…? I’m probably more often in tune with others’ needs and/or my own logic

3.) How do you feel about “new ideas?”

a.) At my best, I am full of endless ideas (especially to express my feelings) — though sometimes when I’m down I feel like they’re not worth it
b.) Tbh, I don’t really love uncertainty — but I do like to “shake it up” at times (though I can be anxious doing so and/or imagine “worst case scenarios.”)
c.) Uh, I feel nothing (good or bad.) I am neither full of ideas nor do I worry about them. It’s cool when others do, but whatever; I prefer singular “insight.”

4.) How do the highest / happiest times of your life look?

a.) Expansive, creative, authentic expression! w/ clear, measurable headway
b.) Certainty, simple pleasures, love, family, comfort, etc — and some fun! :)
c.) Understanding others’ values and improving the human experience

5.) How do the lowest times of your life look?

Not a bad day, but something longer-term like a breakup.

I withdraw most from…
a.) new ideas / creativity, to replay what happened, reliving emotions
b.) real-world application, to ruminate on abstract insights
c.) other people, to replay what happened, seeking logical explanations
d.) other people, to ruminate on abstract theory, seeking logical explanations

6.) When you lash out from place of “desperation,” do you…

a.) Feel “I’m not special” — and try to silence your sensitivity / creativity by instead pursuing conventional, measurable goals (and end up soul-crushed)
b.) Feel anxious about past decisions or worst case future scenarios— and try to shake it up with something new, seeking hope (but end up still anxious)
c.) Feel “tired of thinking” — and try to obliterate it by overindulging in sensory pleasures (drinking, food, sex, etc.)*
*all introverted types get “tired of thinking,” the point is sensory overindulgence

7.) What’s your biggest “life struggle?”

The pull between:
a.) My dreams, self-expression, creativity, etc. — versus being “responsible”
b.) Certainty, stability, and comfort — versus not getting bored
c.) “Meaning” — versus “reality” (i.e., “what matters?”)

8.) What’s your greatest aspiration (and fear):

a.) certainty, love, stability (fear: uncertainty)
b.) individuality (fear: normalcy)
c.) meaning* (fear: meaninglessness)
*Everyone wants “meaning” — it’s human — but c.) isn’t driven by the other two

9.) Your biggest relationship woe — or why you dumped your exes

“I didn’t feel…”
a.) Secure, prioritized, and/or committed to
b.) Validated / special or enough love and magic
c.) Understood

10.) HOW you broke up with them

“If I’m being honest? I just kind of…”
a.) Got increasingly passive aggressive until it all came to a head
b.) Drifted off into a happier fantasy
c.) Cut them out suddenly and without full explanation

11.) How weird are you?

a.) Super weird — and I take pride in it! I’ve never met anyone else like me!
b.) Kinda weird — like stalking strangers’ social media accounts, bailing on social outings at the last minute so I can stay home binging Netflix, or running late because I sat too long in my towel, staring at the wall
c.) I sometimes struggle to relate to others on the big things I care about most

Answers:

1. a.) ISFJ, b.) INFP or ISFP, c.) INFJ
2. a.) INFP or ISFP, b.) ISFJ and INFJ
3. a.) INFP, b.) ISFJ, c.) INFJ or ISFP
4. a.) INFP or ISFP, b.) ISFJ, c.) INFJ
5. a.) INFP, b.) ISFP, c.) ISFJ, d.) INFJ
6. a.) INFP or ISFP, b.) ISFJ, c.) INFJ
7. a.) INFP or ISFP, b.) ISFJ, c.) INFJ
8. a.) ISFJ, b.) INFP or ISFP, c.) INFJ
9. a.) ISFJ, b.) INFP or ISFP, c.) INFJ
10. a.) ISFJ, b.) INFP or ISFP, c.) INFJ
11. a.) INFP or ISFP, b.) ISFJ, c.) INFJ

INFJ, INFP, ISFP, and ISFJ aren’t “just one (or two) letter(s) apart”

They are far more different than we may realize.

I know we’re all introduced to Myers Briggs as a dichotomy of four sets of letters: extraverted vs introverted (E vs I), intuitive vs sensing (N vs S), thinking vs feeling (T vs F) and judging vs perceiving (J vs P)… but that’s not actually how it goes.

In reality, the 16 types are categorized by “cognitive functions,” which are defined by taking the middle two sets of letters (S vs N, F vs T) and orienting each as either extroverted or introverted (E vs I):

Introverted sensing (Si): certainty, clarity, the past
Extroverted sensing (Se): the present and “doing”
Extroverted intuition (Ne): abstract ideas
Introverted intuition (Ni): abstract insights
Extroverted feeling (Fe): other peoples’ feelings
Introverted feeling (Fi): our own feelings
Extroverted thinking (Te): external, measurable systems/things/goals
Introverted thinking (Ti): internal logic

For INFP, ISFJ, ISFP, and INFJ, these are:

INFP: Fi — Ne — Si — Te (driven by: their own feelings, then new ideas…)
ISFP: Fi — Se — Ni — Te (driven by: their feelings, then present application)
ISFJ: Si — Fe — Ti — Ne (driven by: certainty, regarding people…)
INFJ: Ni — Fe — Ti — Se (driven by: insights, regarding people…)

Reasons for the confusion between them:

  1. We aren’t familiar with cognitive functions (see above)
  2. We don’t really understand those cognitive functions we don’t employ
  3. We assume that being “analytical” / “insightful” makes us N or T (it doesn’t), being a perfectionist makes us J, or being unique makes us the rarest type
  4. Our first (“dominant”) function is so fundamental that we often assume everyone has it, or differentiate ourselves against our own group rather than others
  5. Introverted intuition (Ni) is very difficult to define. (Which is totally meta, because Ni is defining things that are difficult to define.)

…Described as things like “intuition,” which everyone has from time time, it’s so abstract that it’s susceptible to others rushing in to claim it. It’s almost easier to see Ni as what it isn’t. Introverted intuition is not: our feelings, others’ feelings, certainty, action, ideas, or goals. It’s not even “logic.”

It’s just… what’s “left.” It’s white noise, white space, an ever-funneling toward “the one thing” that can look and feel a lot like “nothing.”

INFJ vs INFP

Both are private. Both are idealists. Both can be perfectionists, especially when it comes to things they care about. Both are insightful, analytical, logical, and meticulous. And both are intuitives, and perceive in the abstract rather than black and white.

Both the biggest difference?

INFP is highly in tune with their own feelings 
INFJ is usually oblivious to theirs

INFP’s dominant function is Fi (their own feelings), but INFJ doesn’t even have Fi in their stack. Instead, their “F” is extroverted — i.e., other people.

INFP has ever-expanding ideas …inspired by feelings 
INFJ has ever-narrowing “insights” … about people

i.e., these are INFP not INFJ:

note on third image: yeah both are introverts, but it’s the INFP who speaks fluent “ideas and dreams”

INFP is inspiration, with insight
INFJ is insight, with inspiration

At a low point:

INFP gets lost replaying what happened and reliving emotions; is sensitive (not critical)
INFJ gets lost in white noise and nothingness; is critical (not sensitive)

When desperate:

INFP obliterates their creativity with convention (ending up soul-crushed)
INFJ obliterates their thinking with hedonistic indulgences (ending up ill)

Biggest insult / insecurity / fear:

INFP — “you’re not special” (or: “you’re too sensitive/naïve/spaced out”)
INFJ — “your insights aren’t meaningful” (or: “your life is meaningless”)

INFP feels pride from being unique and being seen that way
INFJ feels pain from not being understood or connecting with others

INFJ biggest value isn’t “authenticity” but rather “universal meaning.” They are merely a vessel, and their F is focused on others, not self (their thoughts and insights — not feelings — are what’s focused internally, and sometimes INFJs are utterly blind to their own emotions.)

As Heidi wrote,

“Because INFPs tend to be highly creative and individualistic, most of them have never met another person quite like themselves (including other INFPs). For this reason, they find it fitting that their type is 1% of the population — they think this explains their individuality, when in reality it is their introverted feeling that sets them apart.”

Deepest desire:

INFJs want universal insight on others
INFP wants unique expression of self

INFJ vs ISFP

They’re both introverted. They’re both private. Both are insightful.

And, unlike INFP and ISFJ, they both have Ni — introverted intuition — in their stack, which ISFP can access in combination with their dominant Fi.

The biggest difference, though, is just that: Fi… Like INFP…

ISFP is highly in tune with their own feelings 
INFJ is usually oblivious to theirs

ISFP is inspiration, with insight
INFJ is insight, with inspiration

At a low point, both can get lost in the white noise of Ni, but

ISFP has insight tied to their feelings (Fi) and is more sensitive than critical
INFJ is more critical (Ti) than sensitive

When desperate:

ISFP obliterates their creativity with convention (ending up soul-crushed)
INFJ obliterates their thinking with hedonistic indulgences (ending up ill)

Biggest insult / insecurity / fear:

ISFP — “you’re not special” (or: “you’re too sensitive/naïve/spaced out”)
INFJ — “your insights aren’t meaningful” (or: “your life is meaningless”)

ISFP feels pride from being unique and being seen that way
INFJ feels pain from not being understood or connecting with others

ISFP’s biggest value is compassion, self-expression, and authenticity

INFJ’s isn’t. Rather, theirs is “universal meaning.” They are merely a vessel, and their F is focused on others, not self (their thoughts and insights — not feelings — are what’s focused internally, and sometimes INFJs are utterly blind to their own emotions.)

INFJ vs ISFJ

They’re both analytical; both seek logic and truth. Both can be perfectionists. They’re both compelled to get answers, can spend hours “researching” and planning for the future. Both can be insightful.

The biggest difference:

ISFJs want black & white — and hate uncertainties
INFJs want abstract — and what’s “clear” bores them

They are each other’s least favorite thing.

And the biggest “tells” of this mistype is: 
a.) ISFJ upholds inherently-SJ values that INFJ’s don’t want or need
b.) ISFJ embraces “positive” INFJ values but doesn’t exemplify “negative” ones

In other words: an SJ mistyped as NJ tries to have the best of both worlds. But INFJ isn’t ISFJ 2.0; they are dominated by directly-contrasting functions…


ISFJs like things clearly defined
INFJs… don’t care.

Jung wrote that SJ, “wants things to be pinned down and concluded.”

For example, SJs are the ones “defining the relationship,” asking: “what are we?” / “where is this going?” Intuitives often don’t care.

Intuitives are excited by the unknown” and energized by the undefined. They don’t crave clarity.

ISFJ is detail-oriented
INFJ … isn’t.

“Intuitive perception ignores the details.”

INxJs frustrate SJs, who often write them off as: absent-minded, scattered, inattentive, inexact, careless, irresponsible, incompetent, unprepared, etc.

As expert Susan Storm wrote, “we need sensors… to help us keep track of details that intuitives are more likely to miss.”

ISFJs have a good memory (and/or value it in others)
INFJs… don’t

As expert Susan Storm wrote, SJs: “absorb and place importance on proven facts, which they can recall swiftly.”

In Neuroscience of Personality, Dario Nardi, PhD wrote: “when reviewing past events…ISTJ and ISFJ easily enter an expert flow state… reliving it in rich detail”

They, “Have a vast memory bank of stored impressions, facts, and details that give them unshakeable ideas and viewpoints… [they] can easily recall details and experiences from the past… [and] pull from their memories to give you all the details that are so necessary to know before deciding what step to take next. They aren’t the types to make forgetful blunders because they are very careful, responsible, and attentive to all the practical facts.”

But intuitives, as Storm wrote, “have a harder time remembering.” And Jenn Granneman agrees: they aren’t good at “the actual details of what happened.”

ISFJ is practical, pragmatic, and seeks stability
INFJ …isn’t, and doesn’t

As Storm wrote, SJs are “careful in all their decisions. They consider what they’ve learned, from mistakes, from memory, from their education, and they take all that accumulated knowledge and apply it to their decisions. They create stability for the people in their lives, and crave stability in their own lives.”

Jung wrote that an intuitive “can never exist in stable, long-established conditions… [which] have an air of impending suffocation.”

ISFJ is dutiful 
INFJ …isn’t

ISFJs “place great importance on keeping their word… and are consistent and dependable…. [they] believe in being responsible, in following through and completing projects, and they tend to be rattled by change and unpredictable or unfamiliar situations.”

Conversely, Jung wrote that intuitives “abandon… cold-bloodedly, without regard and apparently without remembrance, as soon as their range becomes clearly defined and a promise of any considerable future development no longer clings to them.”

ISFJ lives in the real world
INFJ lives at odds with reality

Sensing: “perceives objects as they are — realistically and concretely. It… attempts to represent, factually and in detail, the information that is available.”

While intuition “perceives (without clear evidence or proof)… by reading things into the situation.”

Carl Jung wrote that an intuitive:

  • Lives as though “reality has no existence”
  • Has a “remarkable indifference” to “anything outside their unconscious pursuit”
  • Doesn’t establish connection “between the phenomenon and himself”
  • Shows “an extraordinary aloofness of the individual from tangible reality”
  • “Is never to be found among the generally recognized reality”
  • “Gives himself up to fruitless phantasies”
  • Which “is of course fruitless from the standpoint of immediate utility”

An ISFJ would never live like this.

As expert Susan Storm wrote: “we need sensors to remind us of what is real.”


Both focus attention on society and people, but

ISFJ seeks clear answers to clear questions
INFJ seeks abstract answers to abstract questions

ISFJ serves others using clear expectations, like social norms
INFJ serves others without regard for social norms

On weirdness:

ISFJ is weird in relatable ways — social media stalking, bailing on social events, Netflix binging — but dislike when others are too unrelatably weird
INFJ is weird in less relatable ways. Not even creatively like INFP, just often outside of normal society, struggling to relate to others on what they think

At a low… both withdraw from others, analyze, and can get critical, but:

ISFJ replays what happened for logical explanations 
INFJ gets lost in the theoretical looking for logical explanations (rarely replaying what happened)

When desperate:

ISFJ overthrows certainty and stability by brainstorming, shaking it up, trying something new, etc. (ending up anxious)
INFJ obliterates thought with hedonistic indulgences (ending up ill)

Biggest insult / insecurity / fear:

ISFJ — “you’re unreliable”
INFJ — “your insights aren’t meaningful”

ISFJs lives and breathes clarity
INFJs lives and breathes ambiguity

Is one type better than the other?

Absolutely not.

(What does “better” even mean here? How is it measured? Each type measures themselves and others differently.)

Look around most any work environment and you’ll notice that it’s the SJ’s more than any other type that keep the thing well-oiled and afloat. It is no small stretch of the imagination to suggest that civilization as we know it would crumble apart were it not for SJ efforts, and the ISFJ is far more the backbone to society than the other two.

And without a doubt, much of history’s greatest artwork, poetry, and expressions of the human spirit and experience are at the hand of INFPs. Few types can even come close to them in terms of creativity.

Why does it matter?

As I said, it doesn’t.

…If you’re happy and getting what you want in life.

It only matters if you’re not. In that case, knowing your type can help immensely.

I went my whole life thinking I was INTJ. I might have gone forever thinking this — and suffering. Because I wasn’t thriving how INTJs thrive. I wasn’t even bumping along how INTJs happily bump along. Pursuing what makes INTJs happiest didn’t fulfill me.

So I hired a coach, who typed me INFJ. After researching, I realized that I was often in an Ni-Ti “loop,” in which I rejected society in preference of “rationalization,” which looks like INTJ.

I thought this was normal. But I also realized I wasn’t happy. Because my fix wasn’t in INTJ’s functions — Te-Fi — but in my own: Fe, people.

And that’s why it’s important to know our type — because the “fix” for INFJ is muting their insights and reconnecting with people… but the “fix” for INFP is fresh ideas, and the “fix” for ISFJ is softening the need for certainty and reconnecting with others.

Knowing this helps us thrive and live our best lives.


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