3 Steps to Confidence

Self ConfidenceMost of my life I’ve struggled with confidence and I hear the same from other INFJs. Over the years I’ve watched people who appeared confident and worked to figure out what makes them tick.  What I finally realized is that self-assurance isn’t some kind of inborn magic that only a lucky few have.  It’s a specific mind set, a perspective that anyone can learn.

Here are 3 steps that will help start you on the path to confidence:

1.  Stop worrying about what other people think of you

Self-consciousness, worrying about what others will think, is an instant confidence drainer.  People who are confident don’t stress if they’re under-dressed for a party or if people don’t agree with them.  Confident people own who they are and don’t care if they’re different.  They don’t get upset every time they goof up and if someone doesn’t like them they don’t agonize over it, they just shrug and move on.

2.  Be yourself

Imagine a shy person at a party, shrinking back in a corner, obviously worried that no one will talk to them. Now imagine that person sitting comfortably in that same corner, but they are relaxed and are enjoying just sitting quietly and watching the activities around them.  The first person is clearly insecure and anxious, the second comes across as relaxed and confident.  The difference between the two is that the second person accepts their quietness and just enjoys their experience of the party, the first resists who they naturally are and thinks they should be different. 

It’s interesting, once we really step in to our natural preferences, they stop feeling like problems and simply become facets of our personality.  Once I embraced the fact that I remember experiences rather than facts, I was no longer embarrassed that I forgot details and started enjoying my ability to replay the feeling of a sunny day or the joy expressed by the bride at her wedding.   

3. Focus on living a rich life rather than impressing others

You want to be beautiful/handsome, interesting, exciting and magnetic?  The good news is that you have everything you need to be all those things. Beauty?  It’s found in a relaxed smile, enthusiasm and personal style (think of the charismatic appeal of Adrian Brody, who’s exuberant personality makes him attractive, crooked nose and all). You want to be interesting and exciting? You’re both when you’re discussing areas that are obviously fascinating to you, areas that you’ve explored and spent time delving into (check out the engaging and compelling Benjamin Zander on TED.  I don’t care a thing about piano playing but I was riveted when I saw this little talk).  

In other words, the more you focus on who you are in the world, on learning, growing and connecting with others, the more attractive and confident you’ll be.

Sure, there are people who are born with confidence.  They don’t struggle like we do with shyness and insecurity.  But confidence is less about personality and more about self-acceptance.  People who are confident aren’t focused on their flaws, they’re focused on living life.  Rather than asking “Will this person like me?” they ask “What’s this person like?” When they make a faux pax they apologize and move on.  They enjoy who they are, idiosyncracies and all, because they know that their uniqueness is what makes them special.

 

Surviving a Toxic Work Environment

Photo: Getty

For eighteen years I worked for a company that valued Extroversion, Sensing and Thinking.  As an INFJ I sometimes felt like I was on a battlefield. Fortunately Judging skills were also considered important, which was the main reason I was able to succeed.

I suspect that this is a trap many INFJs get into – we’re hired for our skills at organizing, streamlining work processes and getting things done, only to find that we’ve ended up in a job that wreaks havoc with our sensitivity.

While it’s not ideal, we can survive in an workplace that’s not compatible with our types. 

Here are some tactics:

Recognize That You Are Different

Every company has its own personality and preferences.  If the company I worked for had been a person I think it would have been an ESTJ.  Social skills, data, analytical thinking and execution were highly prized, while reticence, a process-orientation and sensitivity were seen as weaknesses.  Which explains why I was most successful in positions where my “J” skills were emphasized.  And why I often felt that my feelings were trampled on. 

In this type of environment self-acceptance becomes especially important if you are an INFJ.  You need to realize that, yes, you are different, and that’s ok. And while you can learn many of the skills that ESTP/Js have there will be times you won’t be able to excel in the areas that your company values. You need to allow yourself to be who you are and don’t try to fit in with the corporate “type.”   

Accept the Results of Being Different

There was a point where my career seemed to top out – no matter what I did I couldn’t get promoted past a certain level. During that period the buzz word at my company was “leadership” which our management equated with the ability to make group presentations confidently (I kid you not – it didn’t take much more than an energetic speech and some flashy handouts to get ahead). While I was comfortable presenting material that I was passionate about to an interested group, I failed miserably at the “dog-and-pony” type presentations to large groups who were focused on critiquing my speaking style.  I’m convinced that this stunted my career. 

Which, looking back, is fine with me. 

The corporate philosophy that we should focus on our “improvement areas” implies that with enough work we can excel even where we don’t have aptitude. And while I probably could have eventually learned to be comfortable speaking in front of a hostile group if I’d worked hard enough, I didn’t really want to. I had no interest in learning to act like an ESTJ, I wanted to learn to be the best INFJ possible.  That meant that in my current career there were some areas where I simply would not excel. I had to accept the fact that I’d probably get a mediocre score or two on my performance review and that I wasn’t always going to be a star.

Part of staying in an environment where we’re not in our element is accepting that we’re not going to be able to achieve our fullest potential there. And that’s ok.  We don’t always need to get the “A”, a hard earned “B” or even “C” can sometimes be just as good.  And when we find ourselves in this position there is still much to be learned. We can take advantage of where we are to practice our “opposites” and learn new skills to help us succeed in our next job.

Figure Out What You Need to Be Successful and Ask For It

I used to work in a small group that had to sign off on the specifics for technical projects.  There were three of us and, as a group, it took us some time to process the details of the projects. However we’d always find ourselves in meetings being asked for approvals on the spot.  Our pattern was to approve whatever it was in the meeting, go back to our offices and discuss it, then come back to the group and un-approve it.  As you can imagine, this didn’t work out very well. 

Eventually I figured out that even though we were expected to come up with a decision at the meeting, this wasn’t practical.  I learned to push back and ask for more time, regardless of the pressure we were under to decide at that moment.  After that we were able to make thoughtful decisions that stuck. 

There are times when you don’t have to adjust yourself to fit your job.  You don’t always have to do things the way they’re always done, you don’t even have to do things the way others want them done. You are part of the process, if you need to make changes so that you can be effective, it’s up to you to make them. 

Create Your Own Environment

Many workplaces can seem hostile, but we create our own environment.  Whether you have an office, a cubicle or a desk, there is an area that you can make your own.  Music, small family pictures, even a screensaver of a favorite vacation spot can bring you back to center.

And get out as often as you can.  I used to take my lunch to a sunny park near my office and sit alone and read for an hour.  Often it was the high point of my day, even now I feel the rush of peace when I visit that park.   

Don’t Take Any of It Personally

I have had some terrible bosses over the years.  A couple were the meanest and most self-serving people I’d ever met, and one was so incompetent that he had me write emails for him.  And I won’t lie, I took it all personally.  I hated them, hated my job, hated my life.

But now that I’ve left it all behind I realize that all that emotion was simply junk, a bunch of turmoil over nothing.  Even the worst people you deal with are, at some level, aware of their limitations.  The bullies are mean out of fear, and even if they don’t seem to know it, those incompetent bosses and co-workers are aware, deep down inside, that they aren’t up to the job and live lives full of anxiety. 

And none of it is really about you.  All that bad behavior happens because of lack – your boss might lack skill, or awareness, or even humanity, but, bottom line, it’s about them. 

Balance Your Work Life with the Rest of Your Life  

You are not your job, and your job is not your life.  If you find yourself in a work environment that doesn’t support you, it’s especially important to make sure that the rest of your life is engaging and fulfilling.  This is the time to pick up that hobby you’ve been talking about, make time to play with the kids after work, or get busy on the book you’ve been writing in your head. 

 

 

10 Steps to an Amazing INFJ Life: Epilogue – It’s Your Turn

Writing journal

The steps in 10 Steps to an Amazing INFJ Life are based on my challenges, on what I’ve learned in my life.  They are the rules I try to follow every day to be the boldest, strongest and best person I can be.  But we all know that all INFJs aren’t the same.  So it’s time for you to create your own list of steps.

Here’s how:

  • Go back and read each of the previous ten steps in this series with a critical eye, exploring what’s true for you and what isn’t.  Redefine each step so that it suits you, adding what’s needed and tossing out what’s not.
  • Next, it’s your turn.  From the context of your life, what can you add to the list? Take your time in creating and exploring what you come up with – your rules are important.  When I started creating this series, when I took the time to really think about what I wanted to say, my awareness deepened and I learned even more about how to deal with my challenges. Your rules for life reflect who you want to be in the world, so create them thoughtfully.  You can use the following questions to help you flesh your new rules out:
      • What’s important about this rule?  Why is your rule worth thinking about and working on?
      • What’s lost when you don’t follow the rule?
      • What do you gain when you do?
  • Honor your rules in a way that works for you.  You might want to record them in a beautiful journal, or share them with someone else who can benefit.  Make sure they don’t get lost, they are an expression of what’s important to you. Your

Your rules for life should be a living, breathing list that grows and deepens as you go through your  life.  You can use them as guideposts when making decisions, and let them help you stay clear and focused during tough times.  They should reflect not only what you’ve learned but what you want to learn, they should inform both who you are and who you want to be.

Thank you for going on this journey with me, this is the final installment in 10 Steps to an Amazing INFJ Life.  I love all the connections that I’ve been able to make with other INFJs through this series, and I love hearing from you about your experiences as you discover the beauty of being an INFJ.

 

10 Steps to an Amazing INFJ Life: #10 Find Your Higher Purpose

Earth from Space
Image via Wikipedia

It’s time to talk about the big picture – who we are in the world.  While self-awareness and self-acceptance discussed in the first nine installments of this series are important, we also need to pay attention to our fundamental need for contribution.  The desire to share our wisdom, values and grace with others can be a powerful force in our lives.

I spent much of my life vaguely aware that I was only part of who I was meant to be.  My jobs most often utilized my N & J skills – I was a whiz at organizing, planning and making stuff happen. But the child I’d been, the “me” that loved helping others, the little girl who played rescue with her Barbies and built tiny homes for pill bugs, had been thrust aside. I was living in survival mode, and, in my desire to succeed in what often felt like a foreign world, I tended to ignore what was really important to me.

I believe that we are all put on this earth for a purpose.  And each individual has been designed to be the perfect combination of life experience, curiosity, ambition, and awareness to fulfill that purpose. I call it my Higher Purpose but you should call it whatever works best for you.

At some level you already have a sense of your higher purpose, whether you’re fully aware of it or not.  It’s an internal awareness – you can identify it by the zing of correctness you feel when you’re on target and by the discomfort and discord you feel when you’re off purpose.  For many people our higher purpose never emerges as more than just a jumble of vague feelings – they’re happy when they’ve done “good” and feel embarrassed or unsatisfied when they’ve strayed.

I want more than that for you.  I want you to get clear on what’s most important to you, and what impact you want to have on the world around you.  I believe that to know our higher purpose, to accept it as such, and to seek to live it, whatever form it might take, is why we are on the earth.

Exercise:  Mining For Your Higher Purpose

Already know your higher purpose?  Great!  Go ahead and skip to the next section.  This exercise is for those of us who aren’t quite clear about it.

Often our higher purpose is right on the tip of our tongue, just out of sight.  We kind of know what it might be, or we know the general category, but it’s still a foggy idea of something that will be great as soon as we figure it out.

Below are some questions that help you start to identify your higher purpose.  Whatever it turns out to be, it comes from what’s important to you.  It can be about the wrongs you want to right or change you want to bring about, or the beauty you want to contribute in the form of art or music.  Its the pure expression of your unique combination of talent, insight and sense of what matters.

Mull over these questions in whatever way works best for you – jot your thoughts in your journal as they come to you or consider a new question each time you exercise.

  1. What did you want to be when you grew up?  While our childhood answers might seem trite and conventional – we wanted to be firemen, ballerinas, or cowboys – even those answers contain information (we want to rescue people in danger, create beauty and grace, or have rough ‘n tumble adventures).  At various times I wanted to run a post office, be a private detective and write books. What leaps out at me from my answer is a love for order, finding solutions and communication.  What information can you extract from your childhood dreams?
  2. What are your “hot buttons”?  When you look at our society what upsets you the most?  I react to any form of bullying – from the tragic high school kids who are bullied into committing suicide to watching Donald Trump verbally abuse anyone who contradicts him.  Our hot buttons tell us what’s important to us, what we feel needs to be changed.
  3. What comes up when you remove all the barriers? What would you do with your days if you had all the money, time and support you needed? If your perfect occupation was instantly available to you what would it be?  So often the logistics of our lives get in the way that we spend our time in maintenance mode and never move into the stuff we planned to do when all the work was finished.

What Now?

Think you know your higher purpose?  Here are some things to keep in mind when you decide what’s next:

  • You don’t have to quit your job to pursue your life’s work.  I have a friend who tutors illiterate adults on weekends, another who works for Habitat for Humanity whenever she can. It’s all about finding ways to fulfill your higher purpose where ever you are, not finding a place where it already exists.  I was still employed when I started training to be a life coach so I tried to use my developing skills to help my co-workers deal with the outsourcing of our department.
  • You don’t need to know how to do what you want to do, you just need to start.  If you wait until you feel you’re ready, chances are you’ll never begin.  When I was training to be a coach, we were encouraged to find clients after our very first class. We had to trust that we’d be ok, and we had to be willing to make mistakes. And even though I goofed up plenty I couldn’t have been that bad – I’m still working with several of those early clients.
  • Living your higher purpose will make you uncomfortable sometimes. Any time we try something new we end up pushed out of our comfort zones in some way.  We may end up having to talk to strangers, travel alone, maybe even make a speech to a room full of people! Creating the impact that we want to make in the world takes courage, resilience and persistence.  Luckily, each of us already have those qualities available, all we have to do is use them.  Feel like you’re not courageous? Take the next step by deciding to do something that takes courage and presto! you’re courageous.  Just like that.
  • Your higher purpose will change as you explore it. One thing I learned in coaching is that as we make progress toward our goals, our goals will continually change.  As we learn what we need to know to succeed, our goals tend to become deeper and more meaningful.  The same is true for your higher purpose – as you bring your passion into the world the world will reward you with more passion, which will fuel a deeper and richer purpose to pursue.

My Higher Purpose isto help everyone (including myself!) become more self-aware, self-accepting, and as confident as possible. Everything I write is about learning about who we really are, and then loving what we discover.  And then simply being ourselves in the freest, biggest possible way.

My gift to you is my deepest and sincerest wish that you experience the beauty and power of who you really are deep down inside.  And your gift to me has been your time spent reading and contributing to this blog.

This is the tenth installment in a series of  weekly articles about making the most of being an INFJ.  For previous articles visit 10 Steps to an Amazing INFJ Life.

 

10 Steps to an Amazing INFJ Life: #8 Practice Your Opposites

ESTP“You have no idea how hard this is for me…”  That’s how my friend’s boss began when he told her that her job had been eliminated. You see, he’s an “F” and in his mind this gave him permission to focus on his discomfort rather than the fact that he was ending my friend’s 28 year career.

He’s also the guy that whined in meetings that he was a “J” so he needed more information to make a decision.

There’s one thing about accepting and making the most of our types, it’s another to use them to excuse self-serving or inflexible behavior.  Because no matter what our type is, we are fully able to learn to function effectively in the areas that aren’t our strengths.  I had an introvert friend in high school who was more outgoing than most of the extroverts I knew. No, she didn’t become an extrovert, she just learned to focus her attention outward in social situations when she wanted to.

Part of becoming a fully functioning adult is learning to do what doesn’t come naturally.  I have a terrible time with directions but over the years I’ve learned how to manage finding my way around.  Sure it takes a bunch of aids – I have a GPS system, a notebook full of directions and when I don’t have my tools I have to focus hard on landmarks and street names, but most of the time I can get where I’m going without any problem.  It’s hasn’t become easy, I’m not like an “S” with their uncanny way of knowing how to get anywhere they’ve been, but I do just fine.

You Can Learn

With some practice you can learn to function in the areas that aren’t your type.

To Practice Extraversion:

  • Join and participate in a social or professional group or club (find a group where the size and frequency of meetings won’t overwhelm you).
  • Have lunch with one new social or business contact per week to increase your networking circle and to add breadth to your relationships.
  • If you think someone can help you formulate a plan or move it into action, ask him or her for assistance, even if you prefer going it alone.
  • Solicit another’s input; open up with at least one other trusted person and share what you’re thinking.
  • At your workplace, make a practice of getting away from your desk, even if only briefly. Keep your office door open at times, and connect with co-workers.    If you don’t work, or work from home, get out of the house at least once a day and connect as much as possible with the people you meet when you’re out.

To Practice Sensing:

  • Take stock with your five senses periodically. What do you see, hear, smell, taste and touch? What does the air feel like, what do you see around you?
  • When going someplace new, pay attention to the route, landmarks, and what your destination looks like.  Note where you park your car and what entrance you use.   Try to stay oriented to north, south, east and west.
  • Stay in the present – frequently check in with what’s actually happening in the moment.
  • Focus on what you truly experience and what it means vs. what you make up or infer about it.  Take a situation purely at face value without adding any interpretation or “story” to it.
  • Practice relaying direct, specific facts to others.
  • Tell a story in more depth than you typically would including precise, exact and accurate details.
  • Periodically do a mental scan of people in your life – what’s going on with my daughter? spouse? co-worker?
  • Increase your connection with the external world by consistently listening to the news or reading a news paper or news magazine.  Focus on staying informed about key local and world events.

To Practice Thinking:

  • Practice giving simple, direct, to-the-point feedback to others. When feedback comes your way, don’t take it personally; use what’s helpful and ignore the rest.
  • Ask yourself if-then and cause-effect questions such as, “If I say ‘yes’ to this, then what do I need to give up?” “What are the effects that result from these actions?”
  • Make a decision using an objective framework.   List pros and cons, but don’t include any with emotional content (except for what’s in line with your personal values).  Make a decision based on an analysis of the pros and cons.
  • After making a decision using an objective framework, take a tough­ minded stance and hold firm.  Use the information from your analysis to support your position.
  • When you believe that something you’ve said or done has hurt someone’s feelings, check in with them to see if your perception is correct.

To Practice Perceiving:

  • Schedule a day to go with the flow.   Note what turns up that adds value to the day.
  • Allow a reasonable period of time to elapse (a few hours or a day) before finalizing a decision.  Use the extra time to gather more information or probe for additional insights.
  • In solving a problem, think of several options besides the one you think is correct. Make a list of the pros and cons of each option and its impact on people. Challenge your original selection.
  • Monitor yourself for a day and see what happens when you allow yourself to be interrupted. Try to increase your tol­erance for delays, ambiguities, and unforeseen changes.
  • Don’t answer e-mails or voice mails immediately, wait as long as practical before replying.
  • If people want your opinion, try remaining neutral. Give several alternatives and let them decide for themselves.
  • Go on an outing with no plans or schedules.  Let others make all the decisions and focus on relaxing and enjoying whatever happens.

This is the eighth 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.

10 Steps to an Amazing INFJ Life: #4 Learn to Say “No” and Mean It

Stop SignBoundaries are a loaded topic for me.  Like many INFJs it’s hard for me to say “No” to someone I care about, and I have the tendency to want to look to others to for happiness.  It takes work for me to get clear about how far I’m willing to go in some situations and to communicate that to others.

I didn’t learn much about healthy boundaries when I was growing up, so I’ve turned to the experts.  What follows is the information I found on how to figure out what’s right for me.

Rights of the Assertive Person

One of our basic rights is the right to say “no” when we don’t want to do something.  David Richo in his “Rights of the Assertive Person” from his book How to Be an Adult elaborates further:

Richo’s list of rights:

  1. To ask for 100% of what you want from 100% of the people in your life, 100% of the time.
  2. To enjoy emotional and physical safety.  No one has the right to hurt you, even if she loves you.
  3. To change your mind or make mistakes.
  4. To decide when and whether or not you are responsible for (a) finding solutions to others’ problems or (b) taking care of their needs.
  5. To say No or Maybe without pressure to decide in accord with someone else’s timing.
  6. To be illogical in making decisions.
  7. To have secrets, to decide how much of yourself or your life you choose to reveal.
  8. To be free to explain your choices or not (includes not having to make excuses or give reasons when you say No).
  9. To be non-assertive when you see that as appropriate.
  10. To maintain the same principles, skills and rights of assertiveness with your partner, parents, children or friends.

Visible and Invisible Boundaries

This is a list I’ve extracted from Anne Katherine’s terrific book Boundaries: Where You and I Begin. She describes how she sets boundaries:

  • I set my physical boundary by choosing who can touch me and how and where I am touched.  I decide how close I’ll let people come to me.
  • I set my emotional boundary by choosing how I’ll let people treat me.  One way I do this is by setting limits on what people can say to me.
  • Healthy, safe expressions of anger by people I’m close to are acceptable. In appropriate anger from an inappropriate person [e.g. strangers] is not.
  • Setting emotional boundaries includes deciding what relationships I’ll foster and continue and what people I’ll back away from because I can’t trust them.

What’s Appropriate?

Katherine also provides a list of what’s appropriate based on orientation:

  • If you’re looking up to a person for guidance, supervision or parenting, you are not his peer.  If he’s your dad, minister, therapist, or boss, you are not required to parent or counsel him.
  • If you’re looking down to a person because she’s a child, a client, or a subordinate, she is not your peer.  She should not be counseling you.  And you should not give her inappropriate personal information.
  • If you’re looking across to a person, she’s your peer.  You support each other.  You confide in each other.  Giving goes both ways.
  • If you’re doing peer things with someone you look up or down to, something’s wrong.  A boundary is being crossed.
  • If you’re looking down or up at someone who’s a peer, something’s wrong.  A wife is not a subordinate.  A husband is not a boss.

 

Exercise: Define Your Boundaries

As you read the lists above you might notice that adhering to them requires lots of decisions. How much do you want to reveal?  Is that person a peer or subordinate?  It’s helpful to explore your answers ahead of time so that as situations occur you’ve already figured out where your boundary is.

Create a Will/Won’t List  – This exercise is designed to identify your boundaries with the people in your life. I use Will/Won’t Lists anytime I find myself struggling with not wanting to hurt someone or feeling like I’m being asked for more than I want to give.

  1. On a piece of paper or Word document create three columns.  At the top of the first column put “Who” and the other two columns are “What I Will Do” and “What I Won’t Do” (see sample below)
  2. In the “Who” column list the significant people in your life or someone who you’re having difficulty setting boundaries with.
  3. In the next two columns list what’s ok and what’s not. In the sample below I’ve listed my boundaries for my family and in general.
Who

What I Will Do

What I Won’t Do

  My Family
  • Understand and accept that they are different from me
  • Be as kind as possible
  • Be respectful
  • Recognize Xmas and birthdays
  • Be kindly honest
  • Respond when they reach out to me
  • Be submissive
  • Feel guilty
  • Engage in games
  • Respond to disrespectful communications
  • Attend family gatherings when I don’t want to
  • Tell them what they want to hear just to keep the peace
  Others in General
  • Be as honest and straightforward as possible
  • Be vulnerable
  • Be proud of my coaching career
  • Extend myself for others when appropriate and to an appropriate degree
  • Be submissive
  • Do things I don’t want to do just to be nice
  • Judge
  • Give unsolicited advice
  • Agree just to be nice
  • Be ashamed of things I like (like watching TV)

Exercise: Practice “No” Sandwiches

As INFJs we can have trouble saying “No.”  We don’t want to hurt feelings or create disharmony.  But in order to observe our boundaries we need to get good at saying no.  The No Sandwich is a great way to do it.

The components of a No Sandwich:

[Statement of regret or acknowledgement]  [Straightforward No]  [Positive follow up]

Statement of regret or acknowledgement – This is an honest, but positive, statement either expressing real regret or an acknowledgement of the other person’s position.  A statement of regret can be simply “I’d love to go but …”, “I’d really like to help but…”  The key here is, again, honesty.  If you say you’d love to go you will be invited again, so don’t say it if you don’t mean it.

If you really don’t feel regret, the first part of your statement can be just an acknowledgement of the other person.  Examples are “I appreciate you including me but…” or “I know that this is important to you but…”

Straightforward No – Keep your “no” simple.  You don’t need to give a reason (which can imply that negotiation is possible) you just need to say no thanks.

Positive follow up – This is just a respectful and kind statement to cement your “no” and take the sting out of it.  They are statements such as ” thanks so much “, “maybe next time” (but only if you mean it), “good luck” or “have fun.”

Here are some examples of a No Sandwhich:

“I love that you want to include me, but I can’t make it.  Have a great time, the weather should be beautiful!”

“I can see that you’ve put a lot of thought into this, but I’m going to do it the way I originally planned.  I appreciate your effort, though.”

“That looks delicious, but no thanks.  How about giving some to Grandpa? He loves cookies.”

“I know that this is important to the school district, but I won’t be able to run the book drive.  Why don’t you sign me up to help collect books?”

If you want to include a reason, by all means do, but don’t argue about it if the other person pushes back.  Consider a statement of “That looks delicious but I’m watching my weight” as an absolute, and if the other person says “Oh, just one won’t hurt,” smile and move away.  You’ve said no.

The truth is, though, that no matter how gentle we are, sometimes people still won’t like our answer, which can be painful for an INFJ.  Our desire for harmony and our concern about hurting others can feel overwhelming when we say “no”.  However, it’s part of life and being an adult to set limits and accept the fact that others won’t always agree with our decisions.

This is the fourth 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.

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.