Why exactly do INFJs feel so weird and lonely?

According to my blog stats, the search term/phrase that most frequently brought readers to this blog in 2015 was “INFJ lonely”. This is not surprising at all. It seems extremely common for INFJs to report issues with finding like-minded people who really “get” them. I have experienced the same challenge throughout my entire life and recently have been wondering what exactly could account for the fact that so many of us INFJs rarely experience a deep sense of connection with other human beings.

anaisninTo be honest, the conversations I have with the majority of people leave me longing for so much more, and I often feel like there are several layers of my personality that I must keep tucked away or else I will end up feeling extremely misunderstood. It is rare that I find someone who understands and appreciates my full authentic self. And as bad as this may sound, what seems even rarer than finding someone who understands me is finding someone who I consider intriguing and interesting enough to want a friendship with them. Growing up, I frequently wondered what was wrong with me for having such feelings, but over the years I’ve met a few people who’ve validated that I am not the only one who would rather spend all my free time alone than to settle for the company of people whom I don’t truly like. So again, the question is why do so many INFJs feel isolated and lonely?

First of all, I’ll touch on one of the most basic and obvious reasons why we don’t connect with as many people as we would like, but this reason still does not adequately explain why we struggle to connect on a deeper level. Due to our introversion and sensitive nature, INFJs are naturally reserved and guarded when venturing out into the world. This tendency to hold back isn’t all that helpful if we are lonely and want to make connections with more people. Many of you have probably realized at some point that it’s necessary to come out of hiding and to take risks if you sincerely want to make more friends. A huge INFJ weakness is that we don’t usually initiate conversations and make plans with people we don’t know well. So yeah, we don’t exactly increase the odds of finding like-minded people by waiting for them to come to us and show an interest in being our friend.

So, I wish the solution was as simple as learning to be more proactive at initiating conversations with more people. Unfortunately, I believe the situation is much more complex than that for an INFJ. Here’s the problem that many INFJs encounter: Whether they initiated the conversation or not, many INFJs say that they have felt misunderstood by people when they tried to open up and expose who they really are. If they stay on the surface and force themselves to engage in small talk, it’s possible to maintain a conversation with some people. But the more that an INFJ opens up and tries to venture deeper into the ideas and topics that interest them, it often becomes apparent to the INFJ that there is a sudden disconnect. It may feel like the other person is beginning to lose interest or is clueless about what the INFJ is discussing because the conversation begins to trail off. At this point, the INFJ probably thinks, “Ok, maybe I’m too weird for this person. I’ll just be quiet now or go back to the small talk.”

I am not suggesting that INFJs have the most obscure interests ever, that they possess super strange opinions, or that it’s even necessary for people to have the same exact interests and opinions in order to be friends. The issue here is that by simply expressing their true thoughts, feelings, and opinions, INFJs can intuitively pick up on the fact that many people don’t feel comfortable, interested, or familiar with what they are saying. It’s not that INFJs are speaking a foreign language from another planet (though it may feel that way sometimes), but I think a major part of the issue lies in the fact that INFJs are intuitive thinkers who would rather avoid small talk.

jung2I don’t know how accurate the statistics are, but it’s been suggested that sensors are a lot more common than intuitives. About 70-75% are sensors, and 25-30% are intuitives. Of the four pairs of preferences in the MBTI, I find that sensing vs. intuition is the one that has the greatest effect on the depth of conversation I am able to have with another person. INFJs prefer intuitive thinking, and it only makes sense that other intuitive types would be more likely to understand us. We may not see friendship potential in every intuitive thinker we come across, but INFJs might find it easier to dive into the topics that truly interest them when they are in the presence of another intuitive. What poses a challenge for the INFJ is finding other intuitives. Though they are not considered rare, intuitives are not common.

Now I’m going to create a simplified description/stereotype of each type of thinker in order to illustrate why it could be difficult for an intuitive and a sensor to understand and communicate with one another. Sensors are reality-based, more focused on the here-and-now. They are more likely to trust and focus on what can be experienced directly through the five senses (what they taste, touch, see, hear, and smell). Intuitives are the imaginative, big picture thinkers who prefer to notice patterns, to connect dots, and to think about possibilities, rather than focusing so much on details and on what is currently happening. They often rely on their sixth sense or a gut feeling to pick up information. The sensor is the down-to-earth, practical one who often enjoys a good amount of small talk. The intuitive is the head-stuck-in-the-clouds dreamer who prefers discussions about theories, the future, and the possible deeper meaning behind things. In the eyes of a sensor, intuitives might seem boring, weird, irrational, scattered, and out of touch with reality. To intuitives, sensors might seem boring, close-minded, simple-minded, and stuck in very limited ways of thinking.

sensingintuitionI don’t know if it’s a fair or accurate assumption to make, but I see sensors as realistic reductionist thinkers and intuitives as idealistic holistic thinkers. The reductionist prefers to break things down to smaller parts, to study facts, and to hone in on the current situation. The holistic quickly sees a wider perspective of the situation and how various parts interact and affect one another while missing a lot of the details. If you didn’t already understand the general difference between sensors and intuitives, you probably have a better idea by now. And again, these are just stereotypes. Not all sensors and intuitives are exactly the same. Also, I think it’s worth mentioning that there are strengths and weaknesses for each way of thinking. If you want to go a little further into that, here’s a blog post titled Why Your Type is Awesome: S vs. N that highlights the advantages and disadvantages of each type.

In my experience as an INFJ, the few people who I have felt understood me best prefer using intuition over sensing. These are the kind of people who I can have long and meaningful conversations with on an extremely wide range of topics. We may engage in a little small talk for a couple of minutes, but our conversations usually shift rather quickly into the interesting ideas and theories we have been pondering lately. It often feels like we never run out of topics to discuss. With sensors, though, I often feel like there are topics that aren’t worth discussing because they don’t seem as interested in exploring certain ideas and subjects that appeal to me. I pick up on what feels comfortable and interesting to them and what doesn’t. Staying in five-sense reality usually keeps them more engaged, but I can become bored and dissatisfied if I have to stick with surface reality talk for too long.

What I am proposing is that in order to feel better understood by others, an INFJ will probably have better luck engaging in conversations with other intuitive types, such as the INFP, INTJ, or ENFJ. Does this mean that INFJs cannot have fulfilling relationships with sensors and should avoid them all? Absolutely not! Although it is possible that INFJs will struggle to feel understood by some sensing types, there could be certain things gained through friendships with sensors that they might lack in their friendships with other intuitives.

Something I have come to realize as an INFJ is just how ungrounded I am prone to becoming when I get so stuck in thoughts and theories that I start to ignore my physical surroundings. Spending time alone and thinking deeply are both wonderful activities, but sometimes INFJs forget that there’s a physical world out there to explore and enjoy. An extroverted sensor who is all about living in the moment and enjoys getting out to have experiences that feed the five senses could help bring more balance to an INFJ who is heavy on introversion and future-oriented thinking. Differences in personalities among friends are not necessarily bad. Although similarities can foster deeper mutual understanding, I don’t think it is always wise or necessary for someone to seek people who have personality traits that are identical to his or her own.

oppositesBut here’s the truth of it: if you crave those deep and meaningful conversations that stimulate your mind and soul, you’re probably better off talking with another intuitive. Intuitives, statistically speaking, are not as easy to find, though, which might explain why it feels like you can’t find many people who seem to understand you. When you find a good one, cherish that friendship and connection because if you’re like most of us other INFJs, trying to find the right people might feel like searching for a needle in a haystack. If most of your friends are sensors or if sensors are the type of people you encounter most frequently, and you feel that they don’t seem to understand you too well, just know that there are pros and cons to every personality. Sensors can teach you other ways of being, or, at the very least, maybe they can help you stay a little more grounded.

For an INFJ, it is extremely tempting to want the ideal friendship to the point of being closed-off to anyone who doesn’t seem like a perfect match. Not only is it hard to find our kind of people, we seem to be really picky on top of it because we know exactly what we want and expect from others. Settling or faking an interest in others so we can have more friends is not something that comes easy to us. Although I am not encouraging anyone to settle, I will remind you that sometimes those people who behave and think a bit differently can still be good friends who break up the monotony and help us avoid getting too stuck in our familiar habits and patterns because they help us see things from another perspective.

I will be completely honest with you, though, and admit that I find it very hard, almost impossible at times, to readjust my expectations. If I feel like I have to hold back too much of myself, that I can’t talk about my interests for more than a minute or so, and that a lot of effort is constantly required from either me or the other person to keep the conversation flowing, I cannot help but eventually lose all interest and decide that it would be preferable to be lonely alone than it would be to feel lonely talking to another person. While others might be able to remain open-minded and search for a common interest with that person, I usually prefer to move on in the search to find someone else whose company I truly enjoy.infj friendsIf you want to read about other INFJs who are socially bored and isolated because of it, check out this forum thread. As you will see, you are definitely not the only lonely INFJ who struggles to find the right people. Considering that one of our main complaints is that we don’t feel intellectually stimulated enough by most people we talk to, I’m slightly concerned about what that might say about modern society. Is it becoming less common to think deeply and have thought-provoking conversations about the future? Are INFJs and other intuitive types at risk of becoming less and less common? It seems like it might be preferable to have a fairly even balance of all the personality types and preferences, so perhaps a question to investigate another time is what the implications might be of having such uneven distributions of certain personality types.

I’d love to hear from other INFJs on this topic. Do you think your preference for intuitive thinking affects how well you are able to communicate and connect with others? Are your closest friends intuitives or sensors? How do you view sensors and friendships with them? And most importantly, what do you think explains INFJ loneliness?

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19 thoughts on “Why exactly do INFJs feel so weird and lonely?

  1. Your articles are always so relatable and well written!! Why do we feel weird and lonely? .. I think a big part of it is the fact that we spent TOO much time on our own, in our fantasy worlds overthinking about situations, facts, possibilities etc.. It is what you said, we are introverted and become detached from our surroundings forgetting about the outside world. But it is not only that. As a person who really enjoys books, movies, serials and anything fantasy-conspiracy like oriented I find my reality and generally speaking everyday life extremely dull.. Thus the high expectations not only friendship but relationship wise as well.(why be with someone just to be with someone?) And to top that off people don’t seem to care about that ,so it is harder to connect with them. They don’t really try to make life more interesting and exciting.. Maybe you will make a suggestion about starting something new or a trip or whatever and they are just fine staying home all day and going for coffee making small talk. Now don’t get me wrong I am a huge ”homebody”, but this just makes me mad coming from 20 year old people.. Perhaps I am overreacting and maybe it is just my permanent existential crisis telling I only have one life and I should fulfill all my dreams ,hopes, aspirations and life experiences while I am still young and the fact that my surroundings don’t realise the fact that we are expendable disappoints me. I wish I had more inspiring,trustworthy friends to do these things with. Furthermore,going out more… well sometimes it is for the worst. Like how you mentioned you accept some invitations and after a while you are like ”I don’t belong here”, ”this was a mistake”, ”why can’t I be normaaaaal?”.(part of you realizes their relationships are fake af but another is jealous.) On the other hand though, about intuitives and sensors I think it depends. It is not something I considered before reading your article. Sometimes I am surprised at what you can bring out from some people that at first you wouldn’t even consider befriending. And other times I end up acting along the other person’s interests because I don’t want to be considered ”lightheaded?” and quick to judge, which is bad since (”sixth sense,intuitive”) most of the times a person can be figured out at glance. I am going to stop here cause this will turn into an essay…sorry for the super long rant and I really enjoyed your post!

    • Thank you for your kind words, Maria 🙂 I’m glad you found this relatable (and I hope others do, too!) since it’s common to feel like people don’t quite understand our friendship dilemmas.
      I’ve come across other INFJs who have that typical INFJ quality of experiencing an incredibly rich inner world of thoughts, ideas, opinions, and possibilities, but on the surface, many of us appear to have a really boring life since we stay in our own little world so much. While some people possess a restless nature that prioritizes going out and doing things, I am perfectly content to stay inside and read for hours. Obtaining more and more knowledge and being able to discuss some of it with an intelligent person who also has opinions on the subject matter is extremely fulfilling to me.
      The thing you mentioned about trying to avoid making judgments about people too quickly is something I struggle with. I feel like I can pick up rather quickly on whether or not someone has friendship potential. It’s like my soul has a radar that immediately detects energy it does and doesn’t like. I feel indifferent towards most people, completely repelled by a few, but there are a small number of individuals whom I feel drawn toward like a magnet. Without any decent explanation, I feel like my judgment is pretty accurate. Sometimes I force myself to be open-minded if someone seems nice and has things in common with me, but if that magnetic vibe is missing at the beginning, things always end up getting stale really quickly. Part of me feels like I should trust that gut instinct I have about people so I don’t waste my time, but then I feel guilty for not giving people a chance when they seem like a genuinely decent human being. Sad thing is, though, sometimes decent just ends up being mediocre, and that absolutely does not cut it for me. I want something more, something special, something that makes me feel alive with excitement. I guess I’ll blame it on perfectionism. We only want the best, and that’s not such a bad thing. But then it makes me wonder if I have much right to complain about loneliness when I’m aware of how picky I am.
      Thank you for commenting and getting me thinking even more about this challenge of ours….One last thing I forgot to mention, I can relate to the jealous feeling you described when you see other people and all the friendships they have, even if a lot of them are kind of superficial. I definitely don’t want superficial friendships. I’m more envious of people’s ability to accept those kinds of friendships into their life. It’s much too difficult for me to settle, so I sometimes get annoyed with myself for not knowing how to lower my standards.

  2. Thanks for this and the reply posts. It’s very a very interesting read as I’m struggling with my own INFJ inner dynamics and cognitive dissonance. Yes, I feel alone, but at the same time I push people away. Why do we push people away? I do it because somehow they don’t stimulate me enough, or I can’t connect, I get bored of people easily or feel asphyxiated and need my space. I am always looking for some sort of excitement from a person, or for that person to transport me somewhere else; to a world that is familiar or new and exhilarating to me as an INFJ. I am currently with an ENFP as a partner and it’s a struggle. He’s fabulous from practical point of view and I am in awe of his organisation abilities – but we hit brick walls in conversation. I am envious of ENTJs for their easy ability to be the person I would like to be, but I can’t because I am stuck in this introverted INFJ hole, which is fabulous when I am in a sense of alignment, but awful when I am feeling trapped, or can’t connect with others, or when a creative project is not being fully realised. I strive for an idealistic vision of myself – the tough part is making that vision an actuality. I am rarely ever fully satisfied or content with my life, and that’s the rub.

    • Hi SamE,

      Thank you for leaving a comment, and I apologize for taking a while to get over here to respond to it. All the reasons you mentioned for pushing people away seem pretty typical for an INFJ. To add to your list, I think a lot of INFJs are slightly scared to trust others out of fear of being letdown or rejected. When we’re being our authentic selves, we probably seem too weird, serious, or depressing to most people. Most INFJs have experienced enough rejection that it’s understandable that we’d be hesitant to open up and let others in completely. We know most people don’t “get us” or value our perspective on life. Sometimes I think we’re on an entirely different level from most people. Maybe on a subconscious level, sometimes when we push people away, we’re assuming they won’t really like us or understand us as we are. And yes, as you said, I think many times we simply decide that most people aren’t stimulating enough for our company. It seems to me the majority of people have their feet firmly attached to the ground and are obsessed with the material world, while INFJs spend a lot of time analyzing thoughts in their head and can get lost in those huge, mysterious “what is the meaning of life” type questions. It is hard to be such a dreamer/thinker type in a world that is so obsessed with doing and experiencing the physical world all the time. Instead of feeling envious of any other personality type, I encourage you to recognize the strengths and unique gifts you possess. Of course being an INFJ is challenging, but we each have something very special to offer that is directly related to our personality, natural talents, and interests. There is nothing wrong with striving for more balance, but I think envy is a wasted emotion. When it comes to communication issues in your relationship, I can understand why you’re feeling frustrated. Connecting on a deep level mentally and emotionally is typically very important to an INFJ. Sometimes seeking the ideal isn’t such a crazy idea, especially when it comes to relationships. I think an important but difficult lesson for INFJs to learn is how to avoid seeking perfection all the time but not settling for someone/something out of the fear that what they want is too much to expect. That is very tricky, isn’t it? Expressing gratitude for what we have helps when we worry that what we have isn’t perfect/adequate, but we should also learn how to listen to that inner voice when it tells us that something in our life is not quite right. I struggle with feeling completely content, as well, but practicing mindfulness meditation often helps with that.

  3. OMG…………it is such a relief to read these comments and understand that I am not completely crazy……I certainly identify with the remarks about being alone, high standards, intuitive knowledge about others….there are so many things I just “know” with no logical explanation but I am always correct…I push people away because they just become such a huge energy draw…..I am often misunderstood, don’t connect easily with others, feel that I am always on the outside looking in…so to speak, have a difficult time making myself understood so often withdraw….at the same time, I am highly accomplished in my career attributing my success to conducting myself with an extremely high level of integrity…..I could go on and on;however, I often have difficulty articulating the thoughts that whirl around in my head…..

    • Hi Reba, I hear you! It’s not easy feeling like a misunderstood outsider, is it? :/ I think a lot of us INFJs wish we had more social support, but we tend to isolate during difficult times instead so we don’t have to feel the additional pain and frustration of trying to articulate our feelings and being misunderstood. I think we are also seen as other people’s emotional outlet because we are good at empathizing, validating, and showing our concern, but when we need that kind of help in return, we don’t often receive it on the same level. Many people are so quick to take but forget to give. Sometimes I feel like everyone’s therapist, and it can make me feel slightly resentful to the point that I withdraw from nearly everyone. It’s pretty unfortunate that INFJs withdraw during difficult times because it actually helps us to talk out our feelings with someone so we can get a clue of what’s really bothering us. I think this is why writing/journaling is beneficial for INFJs. It helps us sort through those tangled webs of thoughts we’ve created in our heads from all that analyzing and overthinking. And at least there are no misunderstandings when it’s just us spilling everything onto paper!

      • Thank you! I had no idea in my wildest dreams that I was no outsider. Spilling everything onto my journal is the one outlet of relief that saves my day!

      • Part of the issue is that while being a typical INFJ, I am also very independent, extremely successful; therefore, show no outward signs of needing anyone…….perhaps even a little intimidating (but not intentional) A

  4. Until very recently I did not know why I had experiences such different from other people, I have had friends, but never a best friend, I always feel I am misunderstood and I love deep meaningful one on one conversations on life more than anything. I even come up with my own theories. But I always tend to feel lonely. Then I took the mbti test, and understood that I am an INFJ.
    A beautifully written article. But it would help if you advice on how to initiate conversations with people I like, I might be skeptical about always finding the right people to talk with, but I don’t want to lose on talking to intuitives and missing out on life experiences.

    • Thanks for the comment, titasnandi! It’s so easy to feel lonely and misunderstood as an introverted intuitive type since we make up a small percentage of the population. We have to work harder to find the right kind of people to befriend, but then our introversion can work against that, causing us to settle for loneliness at times. My advice on initiating conversations is to find the other people who seem like intellectuals or loners. Are you familiar with websites like meetup.com? You could consider joining some kind of group that has a common interest that you find appealing. Sometimes you’ll just pick up on someone’s vibes and feel like they might have potential to be a really interesting person to talk to. Force yourself to engage in a little bit of small talk to gain familiarity with each other. Then mention a couple of topics you’ve been pondering lately. Like “Hey, I read a really interesting book/article recently about….Are you familiar with that?” If they get excited about the topic or show an interest in talking with you, then perhaps you’ve gotten lucky and found another intuitive type who enjoys discussing thought-provoking topics and ideas. Ask them about their hobbies and interests to find out if you have enough in common to connect on an intellectual level. Let them know you’ve enjoyed the conversation and ask if they would like to continue discussing such topics sometime over coffee or wherever you enjoy spending your free time. I know it can be discouraging when it feels like there aren’t many people on our wavelength, but there are interesting people to be found if we look hard enough. I think one thing some INFJs need to work on is being warmer and more open to people we don’t know well. I’m reserved and avoid small talk most of the time, so I’m sure I’ve missed opportunities to connect with interesting folks. Just do your best to be proactive and show an interest in getting to know people. The right ones will respond positively to your efforts.

  5. I am an INFJ and now after reading this I don’t feel so crazy anymore as I just Thought I was just slightly mad!
    Never understood how I can be such a perfectionist an yet it’s still never perfect enough. Continue to isolate myself at times, but funny enough I find myself extremely good at not showing people my true self and I seem to be able to easily bend and adapt to the environment around me just to please other people as I don’t like the light on me but, by being this way the light then shines on me…I find I need personal space a lot of the time otherwise I get highly frustrated and feel like I’m being smothered when I’m in large groups for to long. I am dating an ISTJ which funny enough, just like me he tends to pick when he wants to open up then hides in his head at times (well a lot of the time) We tend to do a lot of talking without talking find out relationship is not a very demanding unit, but in saying that at times with his ST being so logical and realistic I feel some of our conversations only go so deep because then his realistic thinking ends the conversation. We never fight which I find quite fascinating considering our personalities differences.

    One big thing I have also noticed being an INFJ is sometimes I can get a little stuck between fantasy and reality. Highly imaginative and creative at times and tend to find myself consistently digging deeper into understanding things and get a sense of “need to know” and don’t see a lot of people are like this? Weirdly enough and not sure if other INFJ’s have this issue but I sometimes find myself getting confused when I am “feeling” (as I am constantly listening to my gut) at times because sometimes I’m not sure if it’s my emotions or me picking up on the people around me.

    • Oh wow, I hadn’t thought about the issue you mentioned where trying to blend in and adapt can eventually cause people to focus on you more. It reminds me of group situations where I wanted to maintain as much privacy and anonymity as possible, but then it seems to trigger even stronger curiosity in others, leading me to feel quite uncomfortable since I prefer being selective about who sees the real me. Is that what you were referring to, or something a bit different? I can relate to the struggle of feeling like I need to understand the meaning behind things and also losing touch with reality by pondering things so much. It is definitely hard to find others who go into the depths that we do. Even my boyfriend, who is likely an INFP, does not always like digging as far as I like to go. It can feel kind of lonely sometimes when you know people will only go so far with you, and then you’re on your own. The issue of not knowing if your emotions are your own is very typical for INFJs. It is very common for INFJs to be empaths (people who are sensitive to the energy around them). I can tell I am having an empath moment if my mood has been consistent, and then it suddenly shifts for no apparent reason. I’ll feel like I am suddenly going crazy or am too moody for my own good, but then I later realize I was absorbing someone else’s chaotic energy that disturbed my inner peace. It happened to me just a few days ago. If someone is feeling impatient or restless, it sometimes causes so much tension inside me that I feel the need to be away from everyone. It’s not easy being an INFJ! Thank you for commenting, Bee.

  6. I really enjoyed the read! Thank you for that! I am actually just now realizing my true personality type. For too long, all through college even, I was so confused about who I really was because no one around me was like me. I stood out, I was too “weird” or confusing to my friends, and as a result I sort of “became” someone else to compensate. I didn’t want to “ruin” my college experience by being different, lonely, and not having any friends who “got” me. So eventually I forced myself to settle, even though it was painful and depressing. Also, I really have it bad sometimes with the head-in-the-clouds thing. Even as a child I wondered why I was constantly thinking and asking “why” and wondering how to help the homeless while my friends were busy texting and planning sleepovers. I often get so caught up in imagination that I forget what reality is asking of me. I procrastinate not because I’m lazy but because I’m too busy thinking about something else. It’s a crazy world I’m in.

    • Hi Shea,

      I know all your struggles a little too well! Sometimes being an INFJ can feel like a dreadful curse because of the isolation and loneliness it causes. My college years were lonely because I couldn’t make myself settle like I had done for a couple of years in high school. I don’t blame you for your decision, though. It’s tough. Be ourselves completely and have people think we’re so weird that we’re basically left alone or force ourselves to fit into an accepted mold so we can attract a small group of friends who think we’re semi-normal. I can’t go with the second approach anymore, but loneliness doesn’t feel healthy, either….I think it’s beautiful that you’re often asking questions and wonder more about how to help others instead of ways to have a good time. I imagine you have a much stronger connection to humanity and its suffering than the average person, and that automatically makes people like you and I outsiders because we’ve been taught to look out for ourselves, step on others to get ahead, and become desensitized to the world’s suffering. It’s difficult for us to be so sensitive in this modern world. Thank you for commenting.

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