The Myers-Briggs scores of INFJs can change over the years, sometimes dramatically. Twelve-year-old INFJs who never turn their homework in when it’s due can, by age 17, become academic achievers. That’s because the childhood years of INFJs are devoted to developing imagination and creativity. They daydream, have just one or two friends, and share their make-believe world with only one or two trusted adults. Between ages 6 and 12, their introverted function occupies the main stage.
In their teen years, INFJs become more extraverted, getting good grades and excelling at sports, acting, or other extracurricular activities. They become conscious of their appearance and want to dress attractively. They take on added responsibility, often holding down part-time jobs. At the same time, being INFJs, they always feel a little out-of-step with their peers. They know they’re different and tend to think that something must be wrong with them.
As teenagers, their feeling preference turns their attention to causes such as animal welfare, human rights, and so on. They become more aware of ways they can help others. They may get so involved in these activities that they have little time for themselves—quite a contrast to the reclusive children they were between ages 6 and 12.
From ages 20 to the mid-thirties, socially approved ambitions take hold. INFJs look for ways to become autonomous, run their own lives, and succeed at their jobs. They learn to be smooth and accomplished in many settings, even though inside they may still feel unsure of themselves.
Many INFJs decide in early adulthood that they were too submissive in their earlier years. The INFJ becomes assertive and sometimes rebellious. Family and friends may be puzzled by the change. What happened to the quiet, accommodating INFJ they used to know?
At the same time, INFJs start to tap into their sensing abilities and put them to work. In their early twenties, they may learn to play the guitar, take up oil painting, or collect antiques. INFJs pursue these new interests with enthusiasm, attentive to the smallest detail. Unlike their former tendency toward introversion, the company of others becomes desirable in their quest for new interests.
The departure from the ingrained INFJ style serves their overall development well. With time and maturity, the fully evolved person should be proficient in all eight personality functions.
Readers may get the impression that it’s best to develop all the functions equally. According to Carl Jung, the Swiss psychoanalyst who developed personality theory, it doesn’t work this way. If a person dedicates a period of his or her life to, say, sensing and intuition simultaneously, neither function will get the attention and energy needed to become fully developed. The same is true of the other three trait pairs. One of each pair of functions must be dominant at any given time to produce a stable, reliable personality.
The objective of personal development in terms of the Myers-Briggs theory is to have access to each of the mental functions when its use is appropriate. By being able to use the less-preferred functions when they are needed, the person brings more balance to his or her life.