10 Steps to an Amazing INFJ Life: #3 It’s Your Life – Own It

Going to work had become torture by the time I left the corporate world.  I’d get up in the morning (too early) and drag myself to work only to end up enduring endless meetings and political struggles. With the tender feelings of an INFJ I felt assaulted by the environment, I was overstimulated and underappreciated. I felt at the mercy of the corporate tempest, and my natural tendency to absorb the emotions and environment around me made it worse. I finally realized that the best way to deal with those feelings was to  take control of  my environment rather than letting it take control of me.

Creating a Strong and Powerful Environment

Don’t be an empty vessel – There are two ways to enter a situation.  The first is to come in empty and look for what’s available to fill you up.  We do this when we walk into a party and think “Who do I know here that I can talk to?  Did I bring the right gift?Will I fit in?”  This is an example of coming in as an empty vessel, waiting for others to give you what you need.  You want to make sure you conform, that you’ll be able to align with the party.

On the other hand, if you enter the party “full,” these might be the thoughts that run through your mind as you enter, “Oh, I like that group in the corner, they’ll be fun to talk to.  The food looks great, can’t wait to try that dip.”  Or your thoughts might be “Wow, this is a really loud group, I’m not sure I’m going to stay very long.”

Notice how your thoughts when you enter the party “full” are about how the party measures up to your needs rather than the other way around?  You’ve entered with your personality intact – you know what you like and what you don’t like and that’s how you’ll assess the party.  As an empty vessel you let the party assess you.

A work example of being “full” is asking for the assignments you want rather than waiting to be selected for them, taking lunchtime as an opportunity to get away and do something you enjoy, or not participating in the office gossip mill.     

Dial Up Your Personality – First of all this doesn’t mean to be loud or to impose your personality on the people around you.  What I’m talking about is staying firmly connected with who you are, your preferences and beliefs, in any situation.

Some examples of what I’m talking about:

  • Alerting your hostess ahead of time that you don’t eat meat
  • Accepting invitations only for activities that you like rather than being so grateful to be invited that you’ll go anywhere
  • Speaking up when someone tells a joke that is distasteful to you
  • Choosing to leave a gathering that you’re not enjoying
  • Creating an environment that nourishes you in your office or cubicle
  • Wearing clothes that you’re comfortable in

What do these have in common?  They are all decisions based on what you like rather than attempts to please others.

Make Every Decision That You Can – there are some decisions that are yours to make and some that aren’t. You can have a tremendous impact on your environment just by making the decisions that fall into your realm.

Rather than always deferring to others (“I don’t care where we eat, where you want to go?”) make a suggestion.  If your boss asks you what projects interest you, be specific and clear.  If your mother asks you for the best times to call you, tell her.

Avoid the “trying to please others by guessing what they really want” dance and take other’s answers at face value.  If you feel that they’re handing over their decisions to you, send them a link to this post! Exercise: Love Your Likes Similar to the “Interview With an INFJ” exercise from week 1, this exercise it designed to help you identify and own your preferences. Find a small notebook that you can keep with you at all times, and over the next week keep an “I Like” journal by jotting down everything you encounter that you like.  For example, right now my list be: I like the warm sun pouring in the window and hitting my shoulders, the comfy pajama bottoms that I’m wearing, the fact that my office is clean and neat, how quiet my house is, that I’m going to Arizona tomorrow to visit my daughter, the fact that my house is clean and will be welcoming for my house sitters, the turkey sandwich I just ate for lunch, the TV show “Chopped” that I watched while I ate. So often INFJs get the message either directly or indirectly, that what they like is trivial.  All that ESTP energy, so dominant in our society, can make us feel that we are wrong for liking what we like.  Your like journal is a chance to:

  • Identify your preferences
  • Notice and enjoy how elegant and subtle they are
  • Start to own what you like so you can generate more in your life

A caution: Your “I Like” Journal is not a list of demands – it isn’t designed so that you can impose your likes on other people.  Your journal contains a list of things to seek out, to treat yourself with, to make sure exist in your life.  And, when appropriate, to ask for from others. This is the third installment in a series of 10 weekly articles about making the most of being an INFJ.  For previous articles visit 10 Steps to an Amazing INFJ Life.

9 thoughts on “10 Steps to an Amazing INFJ Life: #3 It’s Your Life – Own It

  1. Thank you for this article. I started a journal a few months ago to list the things that “I like” && the things that “I dislike” … but I just haven’t kept up with it. I’m going to start doing it again.

    One of the things that I have a problem with is turning down invitations to events. Maybe you have some suggestions of how to do it without offending others. I think that most people usually make excuses, e.g. “Sorry, I can’t make it. I’ll be out of town that weekend.”

    Now, I’ve tried doing that in the past, but I dislike lying. Especially when you have to tell another lie to cover that lie && then yet another to cover the last lie. && then you have to keep all of the lies straight. && worst yet is when the host asks you for details about your trip out of town … lol

    That always leaves me with the dilemma of how to turn it down without causing offense or anger.

    1. Hi Tiffany,

      It’s hard for us “F”s to turn down invitations because we’re so afraid of hurting other folks feelings. And while it seems easiest to lie, it’s…well…dishonest and, like you said, it feels bad. I think the answer is that we have to toughen up a bit. I have a friend (who’s a “T”) and when he doesn’t want to do something he just pleasantly says “No thanks!” and lets it go at that. At first I was a bit shocked, it felt kind of rude, but I learned to value his honesty – I know beyond any doubt that when he spends time with me it’s because he wants to.

      My article next week is about boundaries and it discusses this topic in more depth. One of the exercises provides a method for saying “No” that softens the impact a bit. So stay tuned!

      Thanks for the comment and enjoy your journaling,


  2. Hi Melinda,

    Thanks for the reply. I look forward to next week’s article 🙂

  3. Wow, I started to like this “empty vessel” concept. When an INFJ enter a party there are two possiblities. He/she will be the life of the party or otherwise being “invisible” depending on that “vessel” he/she is carrying.

  4. Thank you! You have no idea how interesting and helpful finding these articles is for me. I’m a senior level Executive Assistant and work in a toxic environment (government service). As an INFJ it wreaks havoc on my life especially with the current downsizing that has everybody on edge and has (some of us) doing triple the work. I wake up in the early morning sometimes just mentally re-visiting my previous day and trying to determine the best way to navigate the emotional/political minefield at the office. I saw these articles and will try to implement these principles over the next few weeks. Wish me LUCK! I have to create a better environment for myself because leaving this job just isn’t an option.

  5. Wow, I recently discovered I am an INFJ, I can’t explain how great and insightful these articles are. It’s like you’re looking into my mind and tailor-making solutions for my problems. This is life-changing stuff! I’m busy working my way through the steps, but already I can see how even just implementing one of these steps will have huge results.
    I love the empty vessel concept, its something I think I have always felt, but had never phrased quite like that, but I did realise that I could enter a social situation and either ‘own it’ or feel completely lifeless, and it was like a switch I could consciously turn on if I decided. I sometimes feel so much like a people pleaser and so dependant on other people’s thoughts of me that I wondered if I had any control over my life. Time to take the control back!
    Thank you!

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