10 Steps to an Amazing INFJ Life: #9 Stop Trying to Control the World

BossyDon’t you just love it?  That feeling that everything is going as it should?  In my blog post The Illusion of Control I talk about how we fool ourselves into thinking we’ve got things under control.

As “J”s we have a natural desire to arrange circumstances, correct problems, make sure that things run smoothly.  Add our “F” energy to that, all that mushy desire to make sure everyone is happy, and we can end up really overdoing it.

It feels good from our end, arranging things for other folks, but I can tell you from personal experience, it’s not fun to be on the other end of that energy.  When I was growing up my father used to decide what was best for me and then badger me endlessly until I did things his way.  I’ve never felt more disempowered and small than I did after giving in to his pressure.

I talked about defining and protecting your boundaries a few weeks ago, but my topic today is about identifying and respecting the boundaries of others. Because, really, the only person we need to control in life is ourselves. The only circumstances we are entitled to arrange are our own circumstances.  The people in our lives have their own approach to solving problems and if they need our help they’ll ask for it.  And yes, we can organize the heck out of committees, events and special occasions, but the only way we can make sure we’re not overrunning everyone else is to ask permission and accept the answer.

Exercise:  Practice Letting Go

This exercise requires that you step out of your routine and pay attention to your assumptions.  This can be difficult for an INFJ, there is often an inherent feeling of correctness to our opinions, they can feel so right that we forget there are other perspectives.  You can overcome this “assumption of correctness” by stepping out of your personal perspective and taking on the perspective of an “observer self.”  As an observer self, you become neutral, watching yourself interact with others as if you’re watching a movie.

  1. Over the next week, start paying attention to the small decisions you make where you assume that your way, or the way it’s always been done, is correct.  These are the little things, like making the assumption that you and your friend will always have lunch at your favorite restaurant, automatically planning to arrive at a movie 20 minutes early, assuming that you and your neighbor will walk at the same time every day (these are all, by the way, examples from my life).
  2. Start letting the other person decide.  Check in with them to see if they want something different.  A casual way to do this is to say something like “We always go to lunch at Scotty’s, would you like to try someplace else?”  or “What time would it work best for you to leave for the movies?  If you’re in a group and plans are being made, try staying quiet and let the group make the decisions without your input.
  3. For each experience ask yourself the following:
      • What was it like to give up control?  Uncomfortable? Scary? Or was it freeing, a relief?
      • What was the outcome of the new decision?  Did things work out worse, better or the same?
      • How did the other person/people respond to being consulted or making the decision?
      • What did you learn?

Exercise: Who Do You Want To Be?

Who do you want to be when the time for decisions to be made?  Think about your role in your family, friends and co-workers lives and design a set of rules for where you want your limits to be.  By deciding before the fact you’re more likely to be aware as you navigate through this tricky terrain.

As an example, here are my rules:

  • Don’t try to “fix” anything for my adult daughter.  This means that if even if I see her struggling with something I don’t jump in with a solution unless asked. Letting other adults work out their own issues is a sign of respect, not neglect.
  • When I’m planning something as part of a group:
      • Voice my opinion as an opinion, not as a declaration of the way things should be.
      • Listen to the suggestions of others openly, recognizing that their ideas might be better than mine.
      • Step back from the desire that everything be planned, stop worrying about what might happen and just let it happen, knowing that I can handle whatever comes up.
  • Ask for permission before planning, “fixing” or taking over someone else’s effort.
  • Take “No” for an answer.
  • Recognize the fact that just because I think my ideas are right doesn’t mean that they really are.

This is the ninth 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.

6 thoughts on “10 Steps to an Amazing INFJ Life: #9 Stop Trying to Control the World

  1. Sometimes I just don’t understand…While other personalities just live life the way it is, why do INFJs have to change a lot to be happy. Isn’t it too unfair?

    1. Hi Chihiro, nice to hear from you 🙂 Other personalities don’t have it easy either. T’s struggle to become more caring and sensitive to others, P’s work to become more organized, S’s work to develop their “right brain” and on and on. Every type has challenges that make life harder – every person I know is struggling to be happier. What I write isn’t trying to help INFJs fix something that’s broken, I write to help us become even better, stronger, to become even brighter stars in the world.

      ❤ Melinda

      1. Something happened to my family and I haven’t seen my parents for more than 3 years. Time spending alone created a different world in me. No one could understand me. I’m not always alone but I always feel lonely. Sometimes I just wanna get rid of the “inner me” and just live life and interact with people as who I am. But I just can’t. Is this considered normal for an INFJ?
        Thank you for having replied my email the other day.

  2. Melinda, another great entry, thank you for this. This is exactly what I needed to read lately, as a reminder to myself.

    ” Letting other adults work out their own issues is a sign of respect, not neglect.”

    I have anxiety, and sometimes my biggest fear is never being good enough for anybody thus I try to take over control as a way to ‘compensate’ which I know is quite unhealthy. There is also that fear that things in life might not go according to my ideals, but I suppose I have to know although I love my ideals, not everything is about my ideals. It’s just really fear and anxiety of not being there enough, not being good enough but now I know by giving a lot more space, I’m giving respect, thank you.

    1. Thanks, Izzati! I love what you say, and I agree – the desire to control is often the fear that we can’t handle what will come up. We end up spending all our energy on trying to make things come out “right” when what we really need to focus on is making sure that we can adapt to changing circumstances. In other words – we need to work on our skills at being out of control!


  3. Chihiro – We’re all individuals so trying to figure out if we’re “normal” can become an endless trap. You are who you are, and you’re ok! If you start at that place, if you accept the feelings you have as normal for you then you can start growing. If you see yourself as broken you’ll always be trying to change who you are, if you view yourself as whole then you have a lovely, firm base to grow and learn from.


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