This is my all-time favorite description of the INFJ personality, from personalityjunkie.com. Please make sure to check out their great website for even more great articles: http://personalityjunkie.com/
Article by Dr. A.J. Drenth
INFJ’s are among the rarest of the sixteen personality types, constituting only 1-3% of the general population. Unlike INTJs, in which males predominate, there is greater gender parity among INFJs, with nearly equal numbers of males and females.It is difficult to broadly classify INFJs as either right-brained or left-brained since they utilize both sides of the brain with equal adeptness. INFJs are both creative and responsible, artistic and logical, spiritual and scientific, intuitive and analytic.INFJs grow up feeling “different” from their peers. The more pronounced their Introversion and Intuition, the more estranged they are likely to feel. Young INFJs also feel misunderstood by their elders, who can be quick to ignore or dismiss their precocious insights and observations. If given unsympathetic circumstances, INFJs may come to feel isolated or rejected rather early in life.INFJs are “old souls.” They grow up feeling far wiser than would be predicted by their chronological age. Some may experience themselves as wiser than their teachers or parents. They may take on the role of counseling and advising their friends and siblings, or even their adult family members, from an extraordinarily young age.Having discovered the benefits of their Introverted Intuition (Ni) quite early in life, INFJs grow to trust its judgments and insights. Their Ni often works through dreams or premonitions that turn out to be startlingly prescient. While others may at first be skeptical of INFJ’s powers of insight or foresight, many will come to see them as psychic or prophetic, or at least highly perceptive.Because of their strong powers of intuition, many INFJs report feeling like aliens in the world. One INFJ described her experience as almost a constant feeling of deja vu, since her Ni is constantly foreseeing the future before it unfolds. Other INFJs report feelings of disembodiment, as though their body is independently moving through space while they watch from without. The fact is that many INFJs experience the world and their bodies in radically different ways than other types. It is therefore not uncommon for INFJs or others to question their sanity.INFJs see two people in everyone. They see the public persona, the outer shell, that everyone else sees. But they don’t stop there. Their Se and Fe functions pick up subtle non-verbal cues which are then synthesized and interpreted by their Ni. This provides them with information about an individual’s inner world that is completely missed by other types. Because of their keen perceptiveness, INFJs are rarely fooled by facades or fakery. They can readily see beyond appearances and apprehend an individual’s deeper motives and intentions, including any underlying ego issues. In fact, INFJs can often see the truth about people more clearly than those people can see it in themselves. It is no wonder that many INFJs can make a decent living by hanging a “Psychic” sign on their front door.Growing out of their distrust of first-blush appearances, INFJs are reluctant to trust majority opinion. They are often the last to read a bestseller, feeling that if everyone else (i.e., the majority of whom are prone to being fooled by appearances) thinks it is good, it probably is not worth their time. Like INTs, however, INFJs can be suckers for a good conspiracy theory, appealing to their sense that “most things are not what they seem.”A misconception about INFJs is that because they prefer Feeling they are less likely to be interested in intellectual endeavors. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, some of the most intellectually-inclined people I know are INFJs. They rival and resemble INTs in their level of openness and hunger for new ideas and perspectives. In some regards, they may actually eclipse INTs with regard to intellectual openness, readily appreciating both science and literature, fiction and nonfiction, poetry and prose.While INFJs are deeply theoretical, they are less impressed by theories built by a mere assemblage of facts or data. Rather than being “fact” oriented, INFJs concern themselves with forging new connections and reconciling opposites by way of their Intuition. They feel that everything is somehow connected to everything else, forming a vast and interconnected web. For INFJs, discovering truth involves getting a better handle on the nature of this connectedness and the holographic patterns of the universe. In fact, this happens to be one of the signature strengths of their Ni, which subconsciously processes and synthesizes copious amounts of information, wraps it up in the form of a symbol or metaphor, and proceeds to upload into the INFJ’s consciousness.More than any other type, INFJs tend to feel that much of their intellectual work is being done for them, the product of which can feel like nothing less than a divinely bestowed gift. Consequently, INFJs do not feel the need to consult outside sources when it comes to discerning truth. Nor do they rely on a preexisting method or framework as other types might. They trust their Ni to provide whatever information is necessary to understand a given problem or situation.The inner world of INFJs in many ways resembles the outer world of ENFPs. It is playful, colorful, mischievous, and daring. Because their Ni is dominant rather than auxiliary, INFJs tend to be more subversive in their ideation than ENFJs. Once they begin to develop their tertiary function (Ti), INFJs may become even more open-minded and subversive in their thinking.INFJs often think by way of images. The visual nature of their minds is germane to their creativity, ingenuity, and ability to generate and wield metaphors. While other types are thinking in words or concepts, INFJs understand through “seeing.” Their Ni functions as a proverbial bridge between the conscious and subconscious mind. And since the subconscious is filled with primitive images, INFJs swim in a sea of vivid dreams and imagery.INFJs also tend to be purists and classicists. Many enjoy collecting antiques, historical artifacts, old first edition books, rare art, or anything that satisfies their thirst for what they perceive as pure or classic works. For similar reasons, they may find themselves captivated by a certain period in history, a specific genre of music, or a handpicked selection of actors or writers. In selecting a novel, would far prefer a known classic to a new bestseller. Similarly, if they are going to wear shoes (which according to recent research, most INFJs do), they want the shoes to be of high quality and a classic, rather than trendy style. If selecting artwork for display in their home, they most would opt for an original over a print.Despite their refined tastes, INFJs are typically not pretentious or excessively serious individuals. They regularly enjoy spending time with other people, listening to music, and watching movies (especially “classics”). Perhaps more than anything, INFJs love spending time engrossed in meaningful conversation. Because of their verbosity and enjoyment of others’ company, they can easily be mistaken for Extraverts.Many INFJs struggle with bouts of depression, which may relate to any number of things. They may, for instance, get depressed when they feel their creative inspiration has left them. Or, because of their otherworldliness, they may struggle with feeling deeply alone and misunderstood. Depression may also stem from feeling dissatisfied in their careers or relationships. They may dream of having a beautiful home adorned with beautiful things, but feel stuck in a low-paying job that they are reluctant to quit because of a poor economy.A Penchant for Analyzing Human ProblemsINFJ are masters when it comes to reading people and their motives. The Ni/Fe/Se combination, whether occurring in INFJs or ENFJs, is adept at detecting and interpreting human emotions. Not only are INFJs adept a surveying and reading emotions, but they are highly skilled at solving people-related problems.When it comes to people and humanitarian issues, INFJs typically feel they have answers, or at least have the capacity to generate one. INFJs feel that in order to solve the myriad humanitarian crises facing the world, we must first gain a better foothold on the fundamentals of human nature and human behavior. We need to better understand ourselves—our motives, behaviors, and personality.INFJs often feel happiest and most fulfilled when helping others understand themselves and their problems. INFJs are least content when they become too caught up in themselves and their own personal grievances. This is why healthy relationships and/or a well-suited career are so important to INFJs’ satisfaction.Creativity & MetaphorINFJs are among the most profoundly creative of all types. When engrossed in creative flow, they experience themselves in perfect synchrony with the universe. Some have described this as a trance, an altered state of consciousness in which they morph into a vessel of creative energy. Others have likened it to divine inspiration or being visited by muses. Such metaphors speak to the power of the creative process for INFJs. When engrossed in a creative stint, they may write for hours, occasionally even days, without rest. They may feel that, should they stop, they will lose out on the wealth of insights that are effortlessly flowing through them.Metaphor, the primary offspring of a fertile Ni, is INFJs’ bread-and-butter tool for communication, allowing them illustrate their complex ideas in a more digestible form. It is interesting to note the degree to which Sensory details collected by their inferior function (Se) show up in their verbiage. A good INFJ friend of mine and student of the culinary arts cannot help but use food metaphors on a routine basis.Although INFJs are commonly drawn to music, visual arts, design, or architecture, writing may well be this type’s signature creative talent. Adept at channeling their right-brain creativity into a fluid and engaging left-brain storyline, INFJs are unmatched in their feel for and creative use of the written word.INFJs’ Functional Stack & Type DevelopmentINFJs’ functional stack is composed of the following functions:Dominant
: Introverted Intuition (Ni)Auxiliary
: Extraverted Feeling (Fe)Tertiary
: Introverted Thinking (Ti)Inferior
: Extraverted Sensing (Se)INFJs’ type development can be broadly conceived according to three phases:Phase I (childhood-20s)Early in life, INFJs are characterized by the development and dominance of their Introverted Intuition (Ni). Since they are Introverts, they may also show significant development of their second function, Extraverted Feeling (Fe), which can serve as a helpful extraverted tool for navigating the outside world. The Ni-Fe function pair allows INFJs to make and express judgments. INFJs are particularly well-equipped to read and evaluate people, including their underlying motives.Since Ni is a perceiving function, it would be spurious to classify INFJs as closed-minded at any point in their development. But during Phase I, at least when viewed from without, they may seem rigid, stubborn, opinionated, or closed-minded. Even if their judgments are precociously accurate, they may, at this stage, lack some discernment regarding if, when, and how it is best to express those judgments. Moreover, their Ni-Fe conclusions are not yet being honed and tempered by their tertiary Ti, making the INFJ more reluctant to review or revise them.Phase II (20s-30s)Once the dominant function reaches a certain threshold of strength and dominance, the inferior function enters the picture and begins to play a more influential role. This can be confusing because the inferior is not next in line for development in the functional stack. The inferior’s undue influence derives from its bipolar relationship with the dominant function.The inferior function seems to have its own agenda, exhibiting needs and desires that seem contrary to the dominant function. What often results is a sort of love-hate, either-or situation, in which one alternates between indulging and depriving the inferior. Less obvious, but no less problematic, is the way in which the inferior can unconsciously influence decision-making. As I’ve discussed elsewhere, the inferior function is the primary culprit in unwise career and relational decision-making. Unfortunately, its influence peaks in Phase II of type development, which happens to be the same time people are making life-altering decisions about their careers and relationships.In addition to the increasing presence and influence of their inferior function, Extraverted Sensing (Se), INFJs also begin to open up and hone their judgments by way of their tertiary function, Introverted Thinking (Ti). The logic of their Ti serves to cross-check and refine their Ni-Fe judgments. As INFJs develop their Ti, they also become more interested in exploring their inferior function, Extraverted Sensing (Se).Phase III (30s, 40s, & Beyond)Phase III, a phase which many individuals never reach or complete, is characterized by an attempt to understand and integrate the tertiary and inferior functions. By bringing these less conscious functions into the light of consciousness, we can better envision our path toward wholeness. Doing so requires understanding the nature of how these functions manifest within our type, including the ways they can be grandiose, selfish, defensive, and destructive. It also requires becoming more aware of our personal patterns of unconscious behavior, including ways we have avoided, indulged, or crutched our inferior function. Once these patterns have been laid bare, they can be supplanted with new and healthier thoughts and behaviors. Decisions and behaviors become increasingly wise and conscious, engendering a lasting sense of satisfaction and wholeness. For INFJs, Phase III personal growth entails a deeper exploration of the nature of and challenges associated with their tertiary Ti and inferior Se.INFJs’ Dominant Function: Introverted Intuition (Ni)INFJs’ dominant function is Introverted Intuition (Ni). As with all Introverts, INFJs’ first order of business is an internal one. They enjoy tinkering with ideas, perspectives, theories, visions, stories, symbols, and metaphors. Their dominant function, Ni, serves as the veritable foundation for this inner playhouse.Since Ni is a perceiving function, INFJs often report that its workings often feel effortless. When they express the need to “think about” something, this means something very different from what it might for other types. Namely, the lion’s share of INFJs’ “thinking” or processing occurs outside of their conscious awareness. In other words, their best thinking is typically done without thinking, at least not consciously. For INFJs and INTJs alike, “sleeping on” a problem is as sure a route to a solution as any.Because it does much of its work subconsciously, Ni can seem to have a magical quality to it. In fact, it is not unusual for INFJs to be viewed as having some degree of psychic or prophetic abilities. Despite its magical appearance, Ni can be understood on a rational basis. What seems to be occurring is that INFJs have a highly sensitive inferior function, Extraverted Sensation (Se), which gathers copious amounts of sensory information from the outside world, including subtleties that other personality types tend to miss. Their Ni then subconsciously processes this data in order to make sense of it, like assembling pieces of a puzzle. Once finished, Ni generates an impression that seems to come “out of nowhere.” But the fact is that the intuition did not come from nowhere, but from a synthesis of sensory data gathered from the immediate environment combined with information from the INFJ’s own psyche.It is often said that human beings rely more heavily on vision than any of the other senses. This seems especially true of INFJs, who often associate a strong visual element with their Ni. They think by way of images rather than words. Their intuitions often manifest in the form of symbols, images, dreams, or patterns. This is consistent with Jung’s characterization of the Ni type as a dreamer, artist, or seer. There is a distinct visual character to these notions, which is why vision-related terms—foresight, insight, seer, visionary, etc.—are invariably used in describing INFJs.Of all types, INJs are those most concerned with the “big picture.” This can be understood in terms of their Ni, which is the most abstract and forward-looking of all functions. Ni is comprehensive and holistic. Its visions, answers, and insights manifest as comprehensive wholes. Consequently, they often feel more like recipients than they do creators of their ingenious ideas.In his memoir, On Writing, Stephen King, most certainly an INJ type, describes his process of writing novels. He is adamant about the fact that he does not consciously plan or piecemeal the plot or direction of his stories. Rather his stories emerge from his unconscious as preexisting wholes, requiring little as far as conscious effort or planning. Other INJ novelists report similar experiences, feeling that once they have established the spigot to their creative unconscious their ideas seem to flow effortlessly and without volition.Because of the inherent sense of completeness in Ni-spawned insights, INFJs often feel they have been granted a sneak preview of the future, or at least a vision of a possible future. This strong sense of foresight can serve as the driving force behind their desire to see their ideals actualized.While not technically a judging function, Ni often functions in a convergent fashion, providing elegant answers and solutions to complex problems. As discussed above, it takes clues gathered by Se and unconsciously pieces them together toward a comprehensive solution. INFJs commonly report that the solution arrives through a single flash of insight—an “aha!” moment. This may occur while dreaming or awake, but often comes suddenly and all at once. INJ philosopher Frederich Nietzsche describes his intuitive process this way:Something profoundly convulsive…suddenly becomes visible and audible with indescribable definiteness and exactness…There is a feeling that one is utterly out of hand…Everything occurs without volition, as if an eruption of freedom, independence, power, and divinity. The spontaneity of the images and similes is most remarkable; one loses all perception of what is imagery and simile; everything offers itself as the most immediate, exact, and simple means of expression.INFJs’ Auxiliary Function: Extraverted Feeling (Fe)Extraverted Feeling (Fe) is INFJs’ auxiliary function. One element of Fe involves meeting others’ needs and maintaining harmony in the external environment. It works to ensure that everyone is getting along and is well taken care of, that everything is running as smoothly and seamlessly as possible.Fe types (i.e., FJs) focus much of their time and energy on social, moral, or humanitarian concerns, with special concern for their family and closest friends. They are often conceived as self-sacrificing, deferring their own needs for the sake of the collective good. SFJs, in particular, tend to enjoy the role of homemaker, working to ensure their families are healthy and well-supported.Fe plays a role in perceiving and empathizing with others’ emotions. It helps INFJs intuitively recreate another’s emotion state within themselves. This allows them to know from within what another person is experiencing. This ability to profoundly empathize with others allows INFJs to understand and counsel people more effectively than any other type.Interestingly, INFJs have a more difficult time when it comes to perceiving and understanding their own emotions. This is due to the fact that their Feeling function is directed outwardly (i.e., extraverted) rather than inwardly. Unlike INFPs, INFJs don’t spend a great deal of time trying to sort out their emotions. Inwardly, they deal in the currency of Intuition (Ni) and Thinking (Ti). Hence, when INFJs find themselves in emotionally taxing circumstances, they often turn to others for support or direction. So while INFJs are extremely gifted at helping others solve their problems, they can have greater difficulty when it comes to navigating their own.Fe also entails an extraversion of judgment. INFJs utilize their Fe to express their thoughts, feelings, opinions, and grievances. Fe gives form and definition to INFJs’ intuitions. In many cases, INFJs do not know fully understand what their Ni is telling them until they are given the opportunity to verbalize it. They may have a hunch or a gut feeling, but the content of the intuition remains somewhat nebulous until it is expressed via their Fe. Assuming they have not been severely censored in their upbringing or past relationships, INFJs are typically undeterred from extraverting their feelings. As mentioned earlier, they can be highly talkative. If given the opportunity, they will talk at great length on any number of subjects.INFJs’ Fe can present differently among strangers than it does with their intimates. In larger groups, INFJs can seem cheerier and warmer as part of their attempt to ensure external harmony. Many INFJs have a great sense of humor and can be incredibly funny and engaging. Enlisting their vivid imaginations and knack for metaphor, they can be gifted entertainers and storytellers. In the company of close confidants, however, INFJs use their Fe to be more open and direct with their emotions. Since some INFJs feel like tortured souls, their commentary may take on a characteristically negative tone. They may seem moody, pessimistic, discontented, or restless. They can also seem quite intense in their communication since their words are infused with the emotion of their Fe. Consequently, their expressions may seem exaggerated, dramatic, or irrational, especially to Thinking types. INFJs can also be susceptible to self-pity and self-loathing, seeing themselves as victims. They may curse the fact that life isn’t fair, feeling that they always end up with the short end of the stick. Such negative attitudes are more common among INFJs who are no longer living in the mode of naive idealism, as well as those who have not found a satisfying career or relationship. Despite what may seem a penchant for complaining or forecasting doom, INFJs exemplify what it means to be open and forthright. As one INFJ put it, “I don’t know how not to be honest.” This is why INFJs are constantly championing authenticity, since authentic expression by why of their Fe is their most natural mode of operation.For INFJs, expressing themselves through their Fe is critical to their psychological and physical health and well-being. Even if doing so does not provide them with immediate solutions to the problem at hand, they tend to feel better once they have expressed their feelings, whether through words or tears. This is especially important for the mates or friends of INFJs to recognize. Namely, INFJs are usually not looking for others to solve their problem, but only to offer support, empathy, and reassurance. Without such an outlet, INFJs can begin to feel isolated and depressed, turning to their inner fantasy world as a means of escape. And while fantasizing may seem helpful in the short-term, it usually makes the real world seem even less tolerable and can exacerbate existing frustrations toward life.Even if not to the same extent as EFJs, INFJs can be warm, welcoming, and endearing. They genuinely want to please and help others, working to ensure that people are getting along and are well cared for. They tend to be loyal, giving, and self-sacrificing. At the same time, however, INFJs are forward-thinking, goal-oriented, and independent-minded. As Introverts, they need time to themselves to recharge their proverbial batteries. This creates an ongoing, even lifelong, struggle for INFJs. Namely, trying to balance their own needs, values, and desires against those of others.For example, an INFJ may be asked by a friend or relative to donate money to a cause that she may not truly believe in. This puts the INFJ in a very difficult position, being forced to decide between her own ideas about truth (Ni) and the harmony of the relationship (Fe). Since INFJs can having enormous difficulty saying no, they will often opt to oblige others, even while inwardly regretting doing so.INFJs may experience similar issues in school. Those who are especially precocious may be disposed to questioning the veracity of what the teacher or other students are saying. They may also feel compelled to criticize what they see as ineffective methods of instruction or discipline. At the same time, however, INFJs want to please the teacher and to maintain external harmony. This again leaves them feeling torn between allegiance to their Ni penchant for truth versus their Fe people-pleasing.INFJs may also feel that their Fe interferes with their ability to be self-disciplined. An INFJ writer and friend once suggested that her Fe seems to work contrary to her dominant Ni and tertiary Ti. She felt that INTP writers, for instance, can more easily devote time to writing because their top three functions (Ti-Ne-Si) tend to work together in a harmonious and mutually-supportive fashion. INFJs, however, because of their Fe, can find it harder to prioritize their personal ambitions over their relationships.Because of the strength of their Fe, INFJs need to be careful not to abandon their Ni in the face of outward pressures. Too many outside voices can at times obscure INFJs’ typically clear vision. Since their Ni is their best and most reliable compass for navigating life, when they lost track of it, INFJs will inevitably feel lost, restless, and frustrated. Hence, when making decisions, INFJs are wise to ensure they are listening primarly to their own inner voice.INFJs’ Tertiary Function: Introverted Thinking (Ti)The role of Introverted Thinking (Ti) in INFJs is to open and further refine their Fe judgments. It adds an element of skepticism and logic that is less apparent in their earlier development. For instance, INFJs who grew up in a religious home may automatically interpret their own wisdom and insights through the lens of their childhood faith tradition. As they develop their Ti, however, they might come to question whether their wisdom might better understood in psychological rather than religious terms. Or, they might come to see their insights as ubiquitous and available to those of all faiths rather than being limited to any one tradition.Less developed INFJs may see little need to use or develop their Ti. Since their Intuition provides them with strong feedback about what is or isn’t true, taking an additional step to Ti may seem unnecessary. With time and maturity, however, INFJs grow increasingly more comfortable with their Ti and come to recognize and appreciate its inherent value. Ti helps INFJs think more critically and analytically, acts as an aid and check to their Ni-Fe, and helps them discern where their ideas might fit into existing categories and frameworks of knowledge.INFJs who have honed their Ti can work side-by-side with Thinking types, capable of analyzing and classifying their theories according to the objective standards of a given field. Such individuals are often drawn to academia, research, or scholarship, making scientists, philosophers, and scholars of the highest order.What INFJs may perceive as a negative or difficult feature of their Ti is its tendency to generate self-doubt. As Ti butts up against the insights offered by their Ni, INFJs may temporarily distrust their most cherished and utilized mode of knowing—their Intuition. But personal growth is never easy, not for any type. With time, INFJs settle into a healthy balance between their Ni and Ti, intuitively knowing how to apply their Ti without spoiling the delicious insights proffered by their Intuition.INFJs’ Fourth/Inferior Function: Extraverted Sensing (Se)For those unfamiliar with the powerful influence of the inferior function in personality, as well as common strategies for dealing with it, I strongly encourage you to explore my post, Understanding the Inferior Function.Like INTJs, INFJs struggle to reconcile their dominant Ni with their inferior Se. Even highly perceptive INFJs can be blinded by the influence of their Se on their decisions and behavior. Without sufficient awareness and integration of their inferior, INFJs will continue to feel unsatisfied and prone to unwise decision-making. INFJs seeking self-knowledge and personal growth must work to understand the ways in which their inferior function, Extraverted Sensing (Se), manifests itself in their personality.DisembodimentOf all types, INFJs (and INTJs) are the most detached and disconnected from their own bodies. Not only is their S function inferior, but INFJs do not have Si in their functional stack (Or, more technically, Si might be considered their last/eighth function), which is the function that contributes an internal sense of one’s body. INFJs commonly report being plagued by the sense that their body is not really a part of them. In his book, Jung’s Four and Some Philosophers, Thomas King writes of the Introverted Intuitive: “his hands are alien to him and his body unfamiliar.”Because of their detachment from their physicality, INFJs may have nightmares about unexpected declines in their health. One INFJ, for instance, recounted to me his recurrent dreams of his teeth falling out. Another reported her fear that she might develop a disease and be unaware or ignorant of the symptoms until it was too late. Other INFJs report worrying that their obliviousness to physical reality might compromise the safety or well-being of their children. INFJs may forget to eat regularly and appear undernourished, or they may overeat because of lack of attention to how much they are eating. To compensate for this mind-body disconnect, they may subject themselves to overly strict, even obsessive, regimens of diet and exercise. Like other types, when trying deal with inferior-related issues, they are wont to go to extremes.Sensory Novelty & Material SecurityDespite being the most otherworldly and abstract of the types, INFJs have a curious thirst for sensory novelty, material comforts, and physical thrills (Se). They may drive expensive cars, purchase luxurious homes, or arrange for the exclusive accommodations when travelling. INFJs often develop refined and expensive tastes for food, art, design, architecture, and the like. Not only do they love the pretty things that money can buy, but also the experiences. INFJs love to travel, to attend the opera or symphony, or to savor a fine meal. While ENPs, whose Sensing function is also inferior, may display some similarities here, ENPs rely on the outside world to stimulate their Intuitive faculties (Ne) more than their senses.When caught in the grip of their inferior Se, even the most responsible INFJs may lose control. They may turn to drugs, alcohol, sex, pornography, extravagant vacations, desserts, or shopping binges to indulge their Se. Again, to guard against such extremes, INFJs may attempt to impose severe restrictions on their behavior.Because of their inferior’s concern for all things physical/material, INFJs also tend to struggle with subsistence-related fears. They may worry excessively about losing their jobs, being forced to relocate, or not having enough money. ENPs, in contrast, tend to be more relaxed when it comes to money, potentially even viewing physical displacement as more of an adventure than a threat.Despite their love for the material treasures and pleasures the world has to offer, INFJs have a commensurate propensity to discount or downplay the importance of “things” in their lives. After all, INFJs tell themselves that they are supposed to be concerned with the metaphysical (Ni) rather than the physical (Se). They can be quick to criticize Sensing types for their materialism while surreptitiously envying them for having it. INFJs may also balk at the idea of getting married, seeing the S marriage contract as superfluous to their metaphysical union with their partner.This tug-of-war between their dominant N and inferior S often surfaces when making decisions about careers or relationships. The INFJ may struggle with choosing a job or partner that promises material security (S) versus one who connects with them on a metaphysical plane. INFJs’ need to see themselves as unique and unconventional also plays into this struggle. S This love-hate relationship is representative of the struggle INFJs have within themselves, the battle between their dominant and inferior function.Ideal (Ni) vs. Actual (Se); PerfectionismEnvisioning a more ideal world is inherently bad or unhealthy for INFJs. The fact is that they wouldn’t be INFJs if they didn’t routinely manufacture new visions or novel ideas. The issue is not with their dreaming per se, but with the degree to which they become attached to or insistent on the perfect materialization (Se) of their dreams. This is where INFJs’ perfectionism comes to the fore.All dominant Intuitives can be perfectionistic. They are driven to see their N ideals perfectly translated into S reality. This partly explains INFJs’ penchant for the finer things in life. Not only do INFJs seek sensory novelty, but also goods and experiences of the highest quality. This issue of quality is extremely important to INFJs, which is why they can be so particular about the things they buy and the way things are done. It is worth noting that their perfectionism does not extend to all facets of their lives, but is generally limited to those areas they really care about, namely, the artistic and human domains.Some INFJs may be willing to sacrifice everything, even their own health or sanity, to ensure that their vision finds a perfect incarnation; no detail is overlooked. In so doing, they can become restless and obsessive, locked into a narrow mode of existence they cannot readily escape. Any deviation from their ideal can feel like the end of the world, an irreparable marring of their perfect ideal. It is therefore unsurprising that their perfectionism can be destructive if left unchecked.INFJs are also perfectionistic when it comes to themselves. They are harder on themselves than they are on others. Their Fe makes them more than willing to forgive the offenses and shortcomings of others. But since they see themselves as more insightful and wise when it comes to human behavior, they often fail to grant themselves the same degree of grace. They figure that if they are unable to perfectly embody their theories and ideals, then why should they expect anyone else to. And if their ideals have no chance of being actualized, then why even bother? Without the ability to maintain hope in their ideals, INFJs may feel they have no reason for living. This is why it feels so important for them to act perfectly. This notion is well-captured in the words of Jesus: But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Luke 12:48, NIV) INFJs know they have been entrusted with much, so they expect much more from themselves than they do from others.Dealing with N-S DiscrepanciesIn attempt to temper their perfectionism, some INFJs may try to content themselves with being mere producers of ideas without direct involvement in their actualization. In typological terms, they focus on N while downplaying the importance of S. This may be why some INFJs are drawn to academics, since the academy allows them develop their theories more or less independently of their application. INFJ writers also enjoy the opportunity of expressing their ideals without direct concern for their application.Other INFJs may opt to involve themselves with actualizing their ideals while trying to be content with something less than perfection. This option, while frustrating to their Ni, may be more enticing to their Se, which pushes for a tangible end result or product. But this introduces a new set of concerns. Namely, once an Se product deviates from the N ideal, at what point is it no longer acceptable? INFJs may face this question in both their work and their relationships. They are forced to grapple with whether the product or relationship is acceptable or whether they should just cut their losses and start over.The problem with INFJs acting (Se) is it displaces them from their natural role as abstract perceivers (Ni). This, in combination with their relative disembodiment, is why action feels so strange and foreign to INFJs. As I discuss in this post, integrating the inferior function is more about enhancing the conditions for functioning authentically according to one’s type than it is about directly developing or “improving” the inferior function. In doing so, many inferior-related issues will take care of themselves; they are resolved indirectly.It is therefore unlikely that the solution to INFJs’ N-S debacle will entail improving their ability to act or otherwise implement their ideas. Nor is it likely to involve a complete repression of their Se, which will only worsen matters. Rather, the solution is more apt to involve a shift in N perspective. So instead of always seeing the world as flawed, problem-ridden, or in need of modification, INFJs can learn to notice and appreciate what is already good and beautiful about it. This is not to suggest that INFJs will no longer make critical evaluations or produce visions of change, but only that their Ni will be tempered and influenced by an appreciation for what already is. Such a shift in perspective can help INFJs better reconcile the present with the future, as well as the ideal with the actual. It can also serve to satisfy their thirst for Se pleasure in a healthier, more sustainable way.* * *The task and challenge for INFJs seeking personal growth involves cultivating conditions that allow the opposing forces of their Ni and Se to co-exist and work together. INFJs looking for further guidance with regard to personal growth and integrating their Se might explore my post, Integrating the Inferior Function.