If you’re reading this, you’re probably someone who is obsessed with making a positive impact on the world or the people you care about. You probably have an ambitious vision; you can’t help but see all the possibilities of how this world can be better, kinder, more just. You see the beauty in the mayhem.
You’ve made this vision your purpose and you take it very seriously, to the point where you feel the urge to act on this vision at all times--in your job and home and during leisure time--but this intense passion often gets in the way of finding well-paying work or connecting with potential friends.
I get it: what I wryly call my “pickiness” has led me to several non-profit or creative jobs that barely covered my bills or burnt me out, and it’s made me unnecessarily aloof when meeting new folks who I think might not “get” my vision. I often wonder why the hell I do this to myself.
If you’re reading this, know that you’re not alone in your frustration--with the world, with the slow pace of change, and let's be honest, with yourself!
What makes us such a powerful force for good in this world is also our kryptonite.
Your empathy, vision, and creativity make you the ideal advocate, protector, and changemaker.
And yet, as we’ve discussed in the beginning, these superpowers can also be uncompromising and inconvenient.
Your bottomless supply of empathy and strong sense of justice make you aware of all these people hurting--you can physically feel them hurting--and you MUST DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. Right now. Or so you think. This gives you a more limited view of what is “worth” doing (which may hurt your job prospects) and also makes you more vulnerable to empathic fatigue.
Basically, you’re driven to help, but the intensity of helping can also kick your ass.
Your superpowers are also great for envisioning optimistically about the future, but not so handy when you’re just trying to be efficient or get through the day. This stubbornly idealistic view of the world may drive you to spend lots of time in your own head, hypothesizing and dreaming. This is great when your task is to come up with "big picture" ideas, but if that's not your immediate task, this dreamy state may very well lead to rumination or escapism.
You thrive off of growth, progress, planning, and iteration--but that also means you might take “the road less traveled” even when you don’t have to, and possibly slow the overall progress of yourself and everyone around you. It can be super fun to tweak or fiddle with an idea to death, but ever heard the phrase, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it"? Yeah, I think that phrase was written for us.
I remember the time when I was telling my coworker about yet another new curriculum I wanted to pilot for my young clients at the time, and she joked that I was treating my clients like a "petri dish".
Just like with any personality trait, sensitive and intuitive introverts have personality quirks that don't necessarily work in all contexts. That's totally normal.
But I get how distressing it can be to feel like you're caught in a Catch 22: do what’s meaningful but risk burnout or annoying your coworkers, or do what’s purely practical and be unfulfilled or “stunted” in your growth. Of course, finding a middle ground is possible, but this frustrating push-and-pull is what we can often feel when trying to make big life decisions.
Being a professional (or a grown-up in general) means that you know when to unleash the full potential of your superpowers and when to save them for a more appropriate time or space. And it’s totally okay if you’re still learning how to balance that. So am I.
Regardless of how inconvenient our superpowers can be sometimes, I think our insatiable compassion and creativity are gifts, and should be treated as such.
We are able to feel the suffering and joy of others very acutely. This contributes to our intuition in social situations; we just "know" when there's something troubling going on with Anthony or when Desiree wants to be left alone. Our empathy often drives us to take compassionate action on the behalf of those who are hurting.
Here are just a few reasons why I love this part of being an INFJ:
- Empathy is what gives me my life purpose; helping others is what makes my life meaningful.
- While it's true that empathy can sometimes get depleted ("empathic fatigue"), its cousin, compassion, is something that you ARE. Compassion makes you resilient and persistent in the face of obstacles. But It's hard to have compassion without first having empathy.
- I believe empathy makes me a better leader, supervisor, counselor, coach, friend, partner, and family member. In all these roles, I'm simply trying to take care of my people, and empathy helps me to understand what they need.
We can see the "big picture"--whether that's referring to a system, an institution, a cause, a plan, social dynamics, the connection between ideas, or the world at large.
Compassion + Vision = Purpose. Our purpose is our blueprint for how to create the more compassionate world that we envision.
Here's how I've been able to use this rather heady and cerebral characteristic in a very real way:
- Coordination: Having the ability to hold all the odds and ends of a complex situation in your mind is essential for coordinating people, projects, or systems. Other people might be more organized, but I guarantee you that no one else will be able to coordinate for hours on end like I can! I simply love it and it energizes me.
- Forecasting: Visioning the future involves seeing both the positive AND negative possibilities that may arise. This can help us plan accordingly. The more extroverted, sensing types may tell us that we need to take more aggressive risks, but it takes all kinds to move a mission forward. INFJs simply like to take calculated risks, which is just plain smart in my opinion.
- Reverse-engineering: Envisioning your ideal future is the first step to creating strategic steps to get there (by using conscientious creativity, described below). By seeing a future possibility so clearly, you can reverse-engineer your budget, business, or entire life!
- Inspiring others: I think this is the most important and underappreciated aspect of being a quiet visionary. The ability to hold and then share a clear picture of an ideal future in your mind is what will keep others hopeful as they work to bring that future into reality. Not everyone is born with this ability to make hope feel real, but it is a requirement of all effective leaders.
We aren't afraid to scrap an idea that isn't working and create a whole new way of doing things from scratch. The task may be daunting, but the iteration process can also be quite enjoyable and energizing for us, so long as we get a lot of creative autonomy and it's for a good cause.
Now, there are many ways to be creative. (An image of the disheveled artist, covered in paint, pops into my head.) But the INFJ way of being creative is unique: we love having the freedom to express our ideas in the way we want to express them, and yet, we also love organizing those ideas in a very thoughtful and conscientious way.
I guess you could say we're perfectionistic creatives.
Which... sounds like something that all modern business companies should want, now that I think about it.
Anyway, here's a few roles where we can leverage this unique brand of creativity:
- Writer or blogger
- Program or curriculum development
- Writing business plans
- Writing proposals or grants
- Graphic designer
- DIY crafter
- Make YouTube videos
- Consulting and program evaluation
- Parenting (just kidding! Maybe.)
These are all roles that require constant iteration, creating, and learning on the job. And if you're anything like me, you thrive off of this ongoing challenge to grow.
Like I said, you are a changemaker to your core--whether you want to revolutionize your industry, community, household, or the way that people live within an entire society.
That being said, I know that patience is something we share generously with others, but not so often with ourselves.
That’s why I’ve lovingly crafted some journal prompts for you--for those days when you need a reminder of how awesome it is to be an INFJ. Enter your information below to get 5 journaling prompts that will help you to Celebrate Your Impact.
Print out these prompts, tack it on your wall, fold it behind the front cover of your journal, or save it on your desktop for easy access. Journal using these prompts once per day or once per week.
During times of discouragement, disillusionment, or confusion, these prompts have helped me to sustain hope and my sense of purpose. May they do the same for you.
And remember: the world needs you to be your compassionate, visionary, and creative self. The best way to change the world is by being yourself.