We live in a world that is so different from ours. There are people all around us who don’t understand our personality type, and it can be really difficult to navigate this life when we feel misunderstood. It’s hard for other types of personalities to understand the INFJ because they usually only see what we want them to see: the show that we feel like we have to put on that’s made just for them. But there is so much more depth to us than just those surface-level qualities!
How do we navigate a world that doesn’t understand us?
When we feel misunderstood, our natural inclination is to retreat into ourselves and overanalyze everything. We focus even more on what sets us apart from others. Then the anxiety kicks in.
I have the worst anxiety. When I go to the grocery store I’m sure that everyone is looking at me and judging me for what I’m buying. I’m just sure they’re analyzing my clothes and my hair and my shoes. I feel their judgement along with everything else they’re bringing with them: their emotional baggage, the annoyance from their kids running around, the anger from the man who’s upset that the store doesn’t have his coffee, the exhaustion from the elderly cashier who’s overworked. I soak it all up and my anxiety kicks up about 12 notches.
I’ve found a way to deal with this anxiety as best as possible. I make a list of what I need at the store and try to focus my attention on getting everything as efficiently as possible to minimize my exposure to this nightmare. When my list is complete, I run for the door, no longer caring what people think about me. As soon as I close my car door, my anxiety starts to subside. I can breathe again.
I tried to explain this anxiety to a non-INFJ one time and they looked at me like I needed to be in a mental institution. When I went to see a counselor, she suggested I take anxiety medication. And I did for a while. But no matter what I took, none of it helped. This is a whole different kind of anxiety. It’s the empath’s anxiety.
As empaths we soak up everyone’s emotions. We can stand next to someone in the grocery store that we don’t know, and still feel what they are feeling. It’s more than seeing their anger or anxiety. It’s more than listening to their voice. It’s literally feeling what they are feeling.
When we’re young, we don’t really understand what’s happening. We’re just bombarded with all kinds of emotions from all different directions, with no way to know what belongs to us and what doesn’t. Sometimes it really feels like a kind of torture.
I always dealt with it by going in my room and closing the door. Sometimes I would even go in my closet and close that door too. The more layers between me and the world, the better.
A bit older, a bit wiser
Now that I’m a bit older I know that it’s important to spend time alone, for a lot of reasons. But one that’s really important is to consciously look at what you’re feeling and thinking about and see if it really belongs to you. If it does, you know you have to deal with it. If it doesn’t, it’s time to put it down and walk away.
Once you master this process, the next step is being able to experience these emotions and feelings in real time, recognize that they don’t belong to you and let them go then.
It sounds so easy. Believe me, it’s not. I’ve been trying to master this for several years now and it’s still challenging. It’s even more challenging with the quarantines from Covid-19 in 2020 and part of 2021, because I’ve spent so much time alone. I forgot what it was like to be so bombarded with other people’s feelings. It’s a challenge to be in that space again and pick up with letting things go. But it’s necessary.
A world that doesn’t understand
It’s difficult to navigate a world that doesn’t understand you. There’s massive power in saying that and owning it. It’s hard to be an INFJ! We didn’t choose it, but we have to deal with it.
There’s massive power in lifting yourself out of a victim mentality as well. I didn’t choose to be INFJ, but I’m not going to be a victim of my personality either. I’m not going to use it as an excuse to be less than I can be in this world. That’s not happening.
What I am going to do is recognize that the world doesn’t understand me. They don’t, but that’s ok. I may not fully understand them either.
It’s also not my job to “educate” people about me. If they want to know, that’s one thing. I can help them learn about me. But if they don’t want to know, then it’s not my job to explain myself. They can only understand to their level of understanding anyway. Some people have such a low level of understanding that they could never be able to understand even part of my personality type so why would I try to explain it to them? It’s a complete waste of time.
I can accept that they don’t understand and not try to change them.
My job is merely to understand that they don’t understand. When I keep this in the front of my mind I can interact with people intentionally. I can pay attention to their understanding. I can adjust how I communicate with them when I see that they don’t understand.
Being an INFJ will never be easy, but it can be easier
So many times we think that people are capable of something because we know that if we were them, we would be capable of that thing. We assume that because we would, they should too. We’re setting ourselves up for failure here though.
We have to remember, keep in the front of our minds on a daily basis, that we see the world differently than others. We navigate differently. We make choices differently.
It’s 100% ok for us to be different, but it’s also 100% ok for others not to understand that difference. You can’t make people change. You can only accept them as they are and navigate around them.