My Journey to Discovering What May Be My True Type
When I took my first Myers Briggs test my first year of college, I tested as an INFP (introvert, intuitive, feeler, perceiver). At first, I really resonated with the definition….until I started testing as an INFJ (introvert, intuitive, feeler, judger). Many aspects of the INFJ made sense to me, especially before I understood the concept of cognitive functions. I thought, how could I possibly be a “P?” P’s are so spontaneous, laid-back, go-with-the-flow, and I am so….not. I need routine, structure, a plan, and if not, I feel untethered, like the rest of my life may just fall apart. Clearly, I had to be a judger.
Then, I started to learn about how in Jungian theory, it isn’t the letters that you should be paying attention to, but the cognitive functions. Cognitive functions are the processes by which one perceives the world and makes decisions. Intuition and sensing are perceiving functions, while feeling and thinking are decision-making functions. An INFJ’s cognitive function stack is as follows:
Dominant: introverted intuition (Ni)
Auxiliary: extraverted feeling (Fe)
Tertiary: introverted thinking (Ti)
Inferior: extraverted sensing (Se)
Rationalizing the INFJ Functions
Now, some of these functions made a lot of sense to me. I figured I needed to have Fe in my stack, because I am a people-pleaser and am highly concerned about needing people to like me and be happy with me. At first, I thought this was an Fe quality, as I needed harmony in my relationships.
However, I started to wonder if Fe is a more selfless function than what I myself am using. I need harmony in my relationships for my own comfort. I need people to like me because the approval of others fuels my self-confidence and self-worth. And upon reflection, those motives seem much more about myself, fueling an introverted need, than about engaging with people in the outside world, or engaging an extraverted function.
Then, I started to learn more about how the Ni and Ti loop can work. Because Ti is not very well developed in the INFJ, it is often utilized in an unhealthy manner. For me, I felt it playing out in my tendency to become rather critical of others and of situations, especially in the face of conflict. I have a tendency to become cold, calculating, and judgmental when arguing with another person. In order to protect my pride, I often try to convince myself of my superiority, creating judgments about the other person’s failures in order to give myself the confidence to defend myself (sounds pretty awful, I know). So I also believed Ti had to be a part of my stack.
Extraverted sensing as my inferior function made a lot of sense to me. I am often in my head, in my own world, and I can easily forget the outside world around me. I can be clumsy, I often walk into people and things, and I even sometimes cross the road without looking both ways, because I am so lost in my own thoughts. I can also be physically awkward; I’m not good at dancing and don’t have the coordination for most athletic activities.
However, the one function I couldn’t quite wrap my head around was Ni, which of course as the dominant function of the INFJ is the most utilized and crucial function. INFJs are often described as “mystical,” “psychic,” and “mysterious” in the way that they are able to predict events and outcomes due to their uncanny ability to recognize patterns and apply those patterns to situations and concepts. I do have the ability to sometimes get an idea of what a person is like, how a relationship will work out, and how a situation will play out, but I wouldn’t really describe as powerful enough to give me a sense of being “psychic.” However, I justified my unawareness of Ni because perhaps, as my dominant function, it just wasn’t something I was conscious of using. I also applied it to my anxiety; because Ni fuels the ability to “see” far into the future, maybe I was able to foresee how my decisions and actions would play out in the long run, fueling my indecisiveness and anxieties regarding what is to come.
Testing as an INFP
However, within the last year, I have started testing yet again as an INFP. The first couple of times, I figured it was a fluke. I was going through a period of change in my life and was struggling to commit to any path. I figured that this inability to decide was reflected in my test answers, making me veer towards P. And in my results I am always just slightly more P than J. However, the cognitive functions between INFJ and INFP are extremely different and utilize opposite functions, so even just a few percentage points’ difference meant that my mind could be wired in a very different way than I had previously thought.
The cognitive function stack for the INFP is as follows:
Dominant: introverted feeling (Fi)
Auxiliary: extraverted intuition (Ne)
Tertiary: introverted sensing (Si)
Inferior: extraverted thinking (Te)
Mistyping as an INFJ is Very Common for an INFP!
So, I began doing more research into the INFJ vs. INFP phenomenon. And according to a Personality Hacker podcast I recently listened to, apparently, it is extremely common for INFPs to test as INFJs, and as other types as well. This is due to the dominant function in the INFP, which is introverted feeling. This function makes an INFP able to recognize many different components of their character and personality, considering all of the options. Therefore, it extremely difficult for them to select answers to Myers Briggs tests, which usually have hypothetical and somewhat vague questions and answers. This would explain why I often have a hard time selecting an answer, because I can recognize different parts of my personality that would cause me to act in a way that corresponds to each of the answers to a given question.
In addition, people tend to think that Myers Briggs is all about the four letters, rather than understanding the cognitive function theory behind it. That would explain why I thought I had to be a judger (J) rather than a perceiver (P); I figured J just meant that you are straightforward and routine-oriented, while P means that you are carefree and easygoing. However, an INFP can also enjoy routine and structure due to their Si tertiary function, which causes them to be affected by their past memories and an appreciation for tradition.
Considerations of the INFP Functions
I then had to adjust to the fact that my mind may be wired differently than I thought it was. The introverted feeling dominant definitely made sense, because I tend to view decisions as a way to honor my own feelings and sense of self. What will make me feel fulfilled? What will make someone like or approve of me, thus fueling my self-worth? What will make me happy? I often struggle with the answers to these questions, but the way that I am approaching the world comes from decision-making based on staying true to my authentic self.
Extraverted intuition, or a tendency towards exploration and adventure, was one I had to reflect upon. INFPs should use Ne in a way that helps them to break out of ruts, routines, and stagnation. This resonated with me as someone who easily gets stuck in their ways and mental loops and feels a lot of anxiety when situations play out differently than I expected or wanted them to. Perhaps in order to let go of that anxiety I need to challenge those expectations and that rigidness and let myself be more spontaneous. Maybe I need to let the world happen around me and truly experience it, trust in it and enjoy it rather than feel my stomach tie up in knots when something unexpected occurs. Perhaps my routines and thought patterns are simply keeping me stuck, and challenging them is the way to grow, as the auxiliary function is a function that promotes personal development.
Before, I hadn’t thought that I really used Si, until I read a Thought Catalog article linking the cognitive functions to enneagram types and discussing about how Si can fuel the tendencies of the enneagram six type. The Si can often fuel fear of the world, because the world encourages a person to break out of their comfort zone of remaining in the past. Si can also fuel the need for safety and security, which I find myself needing desperately in order to remain calm and grounded. This is an area that I still need to further reflect upon and explore.
The inferior function of extraverted thinking didn’t make sense to me at first, because I thought of Te as simply regarding corporate structures, data, systems, concepts that aren’t even on my radar. I wondered how this function could possibly be in my stack, even as an inferior function. However, I watched a YouTube video by Joey Iacobucci in which he discussed how the inferior Te function plays out in indecision. INFPs have a very hard time moving from the interior realm of their thoughts into making actual decisions and actions in the outside world. This is something I very much struggle with. Even the simplest decisions can cause me much fear and anxiety – I have to consider all of the possible outcomes and implications in order to judge the best move to make, and this can be so exhausting that I don’t even want to take action. However, by learning to improve my decision-making, I can gain more confidence in my judgment, and therefore, in myself.
Have you tested as an INFJ? Are you wondering if you have mistyped? I’d love to read about your experience in the comments!