Written by Keona Tang
Dealing With Fear as an INFJ
After thinking about the role that empathy plays in the development of the various personality types in general (and INFJs in particular)–and reading some amazing articles on this site since then–I thought it would be interesting to take a look at something from the opposite end of the emotional spectrum. Namely, the subject of fear, which brought to mind some questions. What causes us to be afraid? What do we do in response to that fear, and does that have anything to do with our personality type? Can fear motivate us to grow and develop as individuals?
I believe that the way we deal with our deepest, darkest fears is indicative of who we are as people, and that our fears can manifest in a myriad of ways. For me, it takes the form of an extreme pessimism, a sense of self-loathing, which causes me to isolate myself and withdraw. I also become very angry and impatient. Normally, I like to deal with these things on my own anyway, but it’s very difficult for me to discuss how I’m feeling with other people, including my friends and family, when I’m having a bad day. I feel like a burden when I’m unloading it all on them, even though I know I shouldn’t.
Even as recently as a few days ago, I found myself in the midst of a sudden and unexpected feeling of depression as I was corresponding with my best friend. I didn’t really know what brought it on, or why I suddenly felt this way. Perhaps it was due to the demands placed on me at my job, or maybe I was just feeling physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. It was probably all of those things, to be perfectly honest. In order to deal with it, I isolated myself for a day and tried to refocus and rediscover my perspective (and got back in touch with my friend).
Of course, being an INFJ, I became curious and began to analyze exactly why I felt this way. I needed to make sense of it, and at least begin to understand what caused it. In doing so, I came to a conclusion.
I was afraid.
You see, there are times when I am my own worst enemy. If you’ll pardon me for being self-referential for a moment, I pretty much understand who I am. I try to be kind, open-minded, and non-judgmental. I listen to my friends and family when they need a sympathetic ear, and I attempt to be a moral person. Furthermore, I know what I’m good at, or at least, where my potential lies. I think I’m a fairly decent writer, and I believe that I perform at my day job relatively well. I enjoy connecting with people, either in person or online, by speaking with them or writing words down on a page or screen.
Sometimes, though, none of that is enough. My inner perfectionist crops up, and tells me I’m not good enough. I’m a waste of space. I’m a fraud, a liar, someone who pretends to be good but is really just a piece of garbage. I’m fat, ugly, and I’m always going to be alone.
I don’t know how these feelings of inadequacy and self-hatred began, but I do know how destructive they can be. And I know that it ultimately comes from fear. There are many things I’m afraid of in this life, but the biggest one has to be that I’ll end up alone and unloved. Paradoxically, though, loneliness is something I’m used to, and being by myself in a quiet place is something I often welcome.
Still, being isolated and alone, feeling unworthy of love and friendship and happiness because of some perceived failure on my part… that, friends, is my greatest fear. Sometimes, I find myself staring that fear in the face, and I flinch. I run away and shut myself down, just so I don’t have to keep moving forward. Indeed, fight or flight is a normal human response in times of stress, but I use it to escape, and in doing so, I bring about the very result I’m afraid of, and I end up alone.
Thankfully, this isn’t the end of the story, because that would be even more depressing. There are ways to fight back against our fear, to stand fast in the face of adversity and push through it. One of them is to reconnect with our hobbies and just take some time for ourselves. We all need time to recharge, to maintain a healthy outlook and lifestyle, and to de-stress from the negative things we face in our daily lives. Being an introvert means that I like to read, so sometimes I’ll turn off the TV and settle in with a good book or magazine. In contrast, an extrovert may enjoy taking part in sports or hiking in order to relax. The important thing is to center ourselves and regain our perspective, and to stop our fears from controlling us.
Ultimately, I believe that our personality types do play a part in how we deal with our fears, and that knowing the various types’ strengths and weaknesses can definitely help us conquer them. Personally speaking, I’m well aware that we INFJs long to make a difference in this world and try to help people in any way we can, but we also need a lot of time for ourselves to make sure we have the energy to do so. It’s part of the “INFJ Paradox,” or the somewhat contradictory way in which we live our lives. However, this inherent contradiction not a bad thing; rather, it enables us to maintain a balanced outlook on life and allows us to connect with others and confront our fears. Through cultivating our type’s strengths and harnessing the opportunities to learn and develop, which our weaknesses provide, we can become our true, best selves. And isn’t that the point of all this? I’d like to think so.
All that said, this was just one entirely subjective example of how we can overcome our fears. I know that I’ve written a mostly INFJ-focused article, because that’s who I am, but I’m very curious to know how the other types utilize their unique qualities to confront their fears and evolve into the amazing people they are. This is why resources like Personality Growth are so interesting and valuable to me. There is so much to learn when it comes to the personalities. It’s awe-inspiring, to be sure.
Finally, I want to encourage you all to do one thing when you’re facing the darkness: find a close, trusted friend and talk about it with them. Sometimes another person can offer feedback or a unique perspective on your circumstances, and that is a rare and valuable gift. Take advantage of it, and let’s all continue striving to make the world a better place!