How INFJs Can Lose Out

INFJs walk in the footsteps of such illustrious figures as Carl Jung, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, and Eleanor Roosevelt, to name a few. The path can be challenging. But for INFJs who struggle to evolve throughout their lives, it’s a rewarding one. However, problems can come up if one or more Myers-Briggs functions move to the extreme end of the scale.

• When their expectations aren’t met, the resulting stress damages their ability to function. 

• Their perfectionism can get them in trouble when their perceiving function is too weak to buffer setbacks.

Their idealism can bring them down if people disappoint them.

They can trick themselves into thinking they’re above rules and regulations—a sense of entitlement resulting from their superior grasp of principles and ideas.

They may be intolerant of people who lack their gifts, becoming arrogant and difficult to approach.

They can let their four dominant traits get out of control and lead them into depression.


Because their expectations are high and they work hard to achieve them, INFJs stumble when their efforts backfire. Under stress, they’re likely to do more of what they’ve been doing all along, trying to force things to turn out as planned. More of the same is not what’s needed. They need to acknowledge what is and adapt. In situations where their judging function leads them astray, they need to tap into their flexible perceiving function to adapt their expectations and strategies to current realities.

If an INFJ is planning a big party and the caterers are late delivering the food, he or she may come unglued. Someone must fetch the caterers! It’s hard for INFJs to reframe the problem of no food arriving in order to devise an alternative solution. Instead they waste time blaming themselves for not having the foresight to avoid the disaster. At this point, wringing their hands is not helpful.


Having intuition as a dominant function, INFJs can become wedded to their expectations for the future. When facts conflict with their predictions, they’re inclined to cling to their hopes despite evidence to the contrary. If, for example, they have watched their Widget stock rise over several years, they may be confident that it can’t fall. When the stock market has a downturn, INFJs may hang on to their stock with unrealistic fantasies of a market reversal.

False expectations can be personal. INFJs can be disenchanted by friends and co-workers who turn out to be less perfect than they thought. When a person shows himself or herself to be flawed in important ways, the INFJ feels let down. To them, this is a reasonable reaction because they expect no more from others than they do of themselves.


INFJs resist rules that make no sense to them. If they park where a sign says “One-hour parking” and stay for 90 minutes, they’re indignant when they find a police citation under their windshield wiper. There were no other cars on the street! They believe in the spirit not the letter of the law. Other sources of frustration are penalty fees when a payment was only hours late, returned forms for minor missing information, and so on. Bureaucratic details are beneath INFJs.


INFJs have little patience for sensing/thinking/judging types, considering them to be barriers to progress. They consider many STJs to be shortsighted and obsessed with trivial details. Why can’t they see the big picture? INFJs get exasperated when required to follow protocol, even when it’s necessary to the smooth operation of an organization. This is why INFJs tend to do poorly in administrative positions where routine is critical. Security jobs, for example, are often unsuitable because they require so much focus on detail.


Knowing that they’re gifted with more wisdom than the average person, some INFJs adopt an attitude of moral superiority. This puts others off. As a result, friends and colleagues hesitate to ask them for guidance. Only when INFJs use their feeling function to empathize rather than criticize are they able to relate to others authentically and help them as equals.


Many INFJs are prone to depression. Each of their four dominant traits contributes to this tendency. Being introverts (I), they are focused inward much of the time. Their highly developed intuition (N) provides them with insights into themselves, others, and the world at large—insights that are sometimes painful. Their feeling function (F) gives these insights emotional weight that wouldn’t count as heavily in a thinking type. Their judging function (J) sometimes leads them to gloomy conclusions. If they could call on their perceiving abilities, they could open their minds to more promising possibilities.

3 replies
  1. Annie says:

    Oh so true, particularly expectations/idealism – thank you.
    Do you have insights into how we might better tap into the flexible perceiving function? My judging is only “slight” over perceiving (22%) but in the context of disappointed expectations the perceiving function is going to have a fight an internal battle to try to learn to shed expectations and face current realities…
    In appreciation of your beacon 🙂

    • beaconadmin says:

      Avoiding expectations isn’t easy. Nor is giving up idealism. After all, they both feel good. The trouble is that when they’re out of sync with reality, disappointment results. Usually, the Myers-Briggs Judging and Feeling functions are responsible for the letdown.

      Judging and perceiving are different ways of looking at the world. The judger likes labels, clear definitions, and predictions about the future. Perceivers are better at taking events as they are without labeling and categorizing them or requiring closure. The process of making predictions and expecting them to come true is an abstract form of closure.

      In my opinion, cognitive therapy is the biggest help for people who worry or are disappointed easily. In 1989, Dr. David Burns, a cognitive therapist, published a book, “The Feeling Good Handbook,” that’s the best I’ve seen. You can buy a used copy on Amazon for less than a dollar. I’ve been using mine for almost twenty years.

      The book tells you how to spot cognitive distortions that give rise to failed expectations. There are ten: 1) all or nothing thinking, 2) overgeneralization (seeing negative events as never-ending patterns), 3) dwelling on the negatives and ignoring the positives, 4) discounting the positives, 5) jumping to conclusions (mind-reading or fortune-telling), 6) magnifying or minimizing situations, 7) reasoning emotionally, 8) making “should” statements, 9) labeling (saying “I’m a fool” instead of “I made a mistake”), and 10) blaming (self or others).

      Cognitive distortions can be reversed by the process of “reframing,” that is, seeing problems in their larger, more realistic contexts. Dr. Burns’ book describes many ways of doing this. The first, which I’ve used for years, is writing down the details of your negative thoughts and then seeing which of the cognitive distortions apply. There are many others.

      I recommend that you buy the book. Let us know if it helped.

      • Annie says:

        Thank you so much for showing how what is perceived as a battle might become a journey. Have ordered the handbook and shall also enjoy the beams of your blog 🙂


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