Why Do INFJs Tend To Have Low Self-Esteem? (6 Possible Causes)
Sep 16, 2022
Many INFJs don’t actually like what it means to be an INFJ in day to day life, irrespective of the abundant praise the INFJ personality type gets on the internet.
As an INFJ male I have struggled a lot with low self-esteem during my teens and twenties (read more in my INFJ male Bio Series).
The INFJ is one of the 16 Myers-Briggs personality types, making up roughly 1-2 percent of the population.
“INFJ” is an acronym which stands for Introversion (I), Intuition (N), Feeling (F) and Judging (J). These four core characteristics describe the cognitive functions INFJs use the most to navigate through life.
There just seems to be something about the INFJ experience that puts them at risk of developing low self-esteem.
What are some of those possible causes for the INFJ’s tendency towards having low self-esteem? Let’s take a closer look!
6 Possible Causes For the INFJ's Low Self-Esteem
1. INFJs tend to have low self-esteem, due to insufficient parenting
There’s probably a heightened risk of INFJs not getting their needs met in childhood.
Parenting is already one of the hardest practices there is. Raising an above average sensitive child like the INFJ that needs that extra tender care can make it even more challenging.
One of the complications that arise in tandem with that is the general population’s lack of understanding highly sensitive children like the INFJ.
This is no surprise, because those children make up only a small subset of the human population (the INFJ prevalence is around 1% and Highly Sensitive Children around 20%).
Nevertheless, it can lead to parents not responding adequately to their INFJ child’s needs.
Unfortunately, on a collective level, sensitivity itself is still being seen as a weakness, regardless of how it’s wielded by a person.
Parents who hold that same opinion might try to bypass that sensitivity in their INFJ child by neglecting that sensitivity or trying to alter it by shaming and discounting it.
Instead of acknowledging it and teaching the child how to harness it.
Long term this might result in the INFJ child that missed out on their need for structural acceptance, attunement, nurturance, validation and emotional safety in childhood developing low self-esteem, self-consciousness, feelings of guilt and shame instead.
Because, such an integral part of their temperament wasn’t nurtured in the way it needed to be.
Slowly withering away, due to unmet essential needs like an orchid flower that withers away when it doesn’t get enough water and sunlight.
2. INFJs tend to have low self-esteem, because they aren’t getting their needs met in society
Already at risk of having low self-esteem due to unmet childhood needs, INFJs now enter adulthood just to find themselves in a system that is not conducive to meeting their adult INFJ needs either.
A phenomenon that is embedded in a larger all pervasive structural problem most creative people in our society face.
As creative introverted beings, INFJs have a hard time meeting their needs for autonomy, creative expression, freedom, quality relationships, meaning and solitude via the prescribed conventional day to day lifestyle.
Often forced to work a random full-time 9 to 5 job just to make a living, INFJs and creative people in general frequently find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place.
For example, their need for autonomy, freedom and quality relationships aren’t met, because full-time employment forces almost everything from an employee’s life to revolve around their job on a daily basis.
From the place where you live, at what time you get out of bed, to who you interact with (colleagues, clients, partners), to how you dress, to how and on what you spend your time and the pace at which you should work.
Photo by Antoni Shkraba Productions on Pexels
An example of how the INFJ’s need for creative expression and solitude aren’t met is that the full-time day job eats up 8 of their most productive hours of the day.
As we all know, working a job isn’t actually 9 to 5 either, but realistically more like 7 to 6 which is 11 hours if you add commuting back and forth to work and unpaid lunch breaks.
This renders INFJs and creatives alike exhausted and left with a few scraps of energy and free time to pick either compromised creativity or lack of sleep over each other.
Now, this is not to say that INFJs and creatives can’t build meaningful careers inside of that 9 to 5 paradigm.
However, looking at the nature of creative people like the INFJ, it will be very hard to meet all of their creativity needs like that as they often manifest their creativity multi-dimensionally.
Meaning, that one particular job is very unlikely to be an outlet for all the different creative qualities an INFJ and creative person want to express.
Unfortunately, our school systems don’t stimulate alternative career routes like entrepreneurship and artistry.
Leaving it up to the INFJ and other brave creative souls to forge a path out of the rat race after severe disillusionment that naturally follows years of running on a hamster wheel.
Consequently, INFJs may develop low self-esteem because they might feel they’re failing at adult life by not being successful at functioning within the 9 to 5 work paradigm like everyone else.
INFJs might develop low self-esteem by being trapped in a societal work life dynamic/environment that structurally fails to meet their needs and of which their seems no escape.
3. INFJs tend to have low self-esteem, because they are often misunderstood
A natural and logical result of the INFJ usually not being able to operate in the societal default mode of “working to live for a pay-cheque”, is that most people who actually can function within such a society and perhaps even thrive in it, normally wouldn’t understand the INFJ.
If you’re an INFJ, (or in some cases just introverted) you’ve most likely experienced this at first hand.
Co-workers might be puzzled daily by the fact you don’t want to join them for their lunch breaks riddled with small talk.
Acquaintances might not understand why you’re still so private and keep them at arms length unlike your mutual friends.
Friends might not understand why you won’t just pick a romantic partner already to settle down with.
Romantic partners may be a bit frustrated by your inclination to remain reticent throughout your developing relationship.
Family members might not understand why you’re so intimidatingly stubborn in following your dreams and don’t just get a regular day job like everyone else and be grateful you can at least pay the bills.
Society at large might not understand your troublesome need for individual sovereignty, integrity, critical thinking and questioning of authority and why you don’t just conform, because it’s “good enough”.
The INFJ’s maverick spirit armor makes them fully equipped to withstand a lot of that outer criticism, lack of understanding and resistance that continuously comes their way from all angles in their social circles.
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However, long term INFJs may develop low self-esteem, because if the discounting, criticism and misunderstanding by their social environment is constant, pervasive or gradual enough, that inevitably causes fissures in the INFJ’s armor through which doubt, feelings of failure, shame, guilt and loneliness seep in.
4. INFJs tend to have low self-esteem, because they don’t understand themselves
Now, we’ve been talking about the plight of the INFJ so far as if INFJ individuals were always fully conscious and aware of who and what they are, what they need and why people and society at large tend to misunderstand them.
In reality however, a lot of INFJs are unknowingly going through life as INFJs! Actually misunderstanding themselves!
I regularly read comments or get emails from people saying how relieved they are now that they’ve FINALLY discovered there is an actual existing category for their personality!
The emotional torment of shame, confusion, depression, self-loathing and self-denial they’ve gone through for years and decades trying to figure out what is “wrong with them” for not being able to fit in somewhere, for having certain needs that just can’t seem to be met, or not being accepted can be absolutely abysmal.
Photo by Min An on Pexels
Perhaps, the greatest pain of all is when you don’t accept yourself.
Or more bluntly put, when you loathe and hate yourself.
No bloody wonder then that you have low self-esteem, because that is exactly what it is.
Sadly, everyday still a lot of INFJs go through life unaware of the fact that there are many others who share their personality traits.
Making the INFJ’s estimated prevalence statistic of around 1% of the population even less when the “unawakened INFJ” is accounted for.
5. INFJs tend to have low self-esteem, because they can’t identify with the people around them
Even though INFJs are like lone wolves who operate the best when alone, for a large part they’ve developed that ability out of necessity.
Many INFJs can attest to the absence of a tight “wolf pack” or group of friends during their youth with which they could relate, identify and grow with.
Due to the INFJ’s peculiar reservedness, abstruse demeanor and unconventional interests (philosophy, morality and integrity), and especially at that age, most likely they were kind of outcasts during puberty and adolescence.
They might have had the experience of having a few other outcast youths as separate close friends.
Or gathering with a few other lone wolves as a temporary incoherent wolf pack for a couple of isolated occasions before the group disintegrated again.
Puberty, adolescence and the emerging adulthood phase is a rough patch for everyone.
INFJs tend to have low self-esteem, because during that sensitive period of puberty and adolescence they probably had a hard time identifying with others or finding any mentors who’d understood them.
This probably made them feel alien, defected, lonely and weird on a regular basis which affected their own perception of themselves and identity in a negative way.
Unfortunately, this is logical if your personality type only is prevalent in about 1-2% of the entire population.
Nevertheless, it sets INFJs up early for a lonely journey through life with few instructions on how to best harness their peculiar personality in a world where they’ll mostly be invisible.
6. INFJs tend to have low self-esteem, because they might carry unresolved trauma
Low self-esteem can also have its roots in early trauma.
The heightened sensitivity of the INFJ might set a lower threshold for emotional trauma to develop, because by being more sensitive on average also means you feel everything more intensely.
In that sense, perhaps they would need less painful experiences and a lower intensity of that pain for trauma to occur.
Now, when you stack insufficient parenting, not getting your needs met in society, being typically misunderstood by yourself and others, not being able to identify with people on top of that heightened sensitivity, you can easily reckon that emotional trauma is more likely to start building up cumulatively at some point within that chain of pervasive experiences in an INFJ’s life.
Obviously, everybody is different and there can be huge individual variations in how events are experienced.
Trauma might not even develop during the most dire of circumstances of an INFJ.
Yet, we need to keep in mind that INFJs do tend to be susceptible to developing complex trauma over time.
It’s especially important to keep that in mind since a lot of what are regarded as core INFJ personality traits (hyper-independence, reclusiveness, people pleasing, social apprehension and hyper-vigilance) are also known symptoms of trauma and trauma coping strategies.
That might mean we mistake trauma responses/coping strategies many INFJs showcase for personality traits belonging to the proverbial INFJ.
All the while the true core personality of a healthy INFJ may paint a completely different picture.
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