We’re obsessed with testing ourselves. From IQ tests to career placement quizzes, we test virtually every aspect of humanity, and our personalities are no different. Like many people, you’ve probably taken a Myers-Briggs personality test to figure out what your personality type says about you. But only about 1% of people score the least common Myers-Briggs personality type, and they’re in some pretty sweet company.
Of the 16 personality types, INFJ, aka introversion, intuition, feeling, and judging, is the rarest Myers-Briggs type, accounting for roughly 1.5% of people who take the test, according to data from the Myers & Briggs Foundation. Also according to the foundation, the next rarest types are ENTJ (1.8%), INTJ (2.1%), and ENFJ (2.5%), while the most common personality types are ISFJ (13.8%), ESFJ (12.3%), and ISTJ (11.6%).
The website 16Personalities dubs INFJ "the Advocate personality," and says people with this rare personality type "have an inborn sense of idealism and morality, but what sets them apart is that they are not idle dreamers, but people capable of taking concrete steps to realize their goals and make a lasting positive impact." The rarest personality type, turns out, is also one of the most conscientious.
It’s not surprising, then, that if you’re an INFJ, you’re quite possibly in the company of several notable historical and current political leaders, including Martin Luther King, Jr., Hillary Clinton, Nelson Mandela, Woodrow Wilson, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Al Gore, and Susan B. Anthony, according to the Personality Club.
But figuring out the nuances and small details of what exactly makes INFJs so dang rare can be tough. Here’s a quick look at how the INFJ combo is different from other types.
Ann C. Holm, a life coach with a degree in psychology from the University of Michigan, asserts on her site that INFJs have complex personalities and are often mistaken for extroverts because of how deeply interested in people they are. But unlike true extroverts or other extrovert-appearing types, INFJs "will suddenly withdraw into themselves, sometimes shutting out those closest to them."
Holm adds that this abrupt change is necessary because INFJs need time to recharge and keep themselves from being emotionally overwhelmed by others, because they’re so empathetically sensitive. "This is perhaps the most confusing aspect of the enigmatic INFJ character," Holm says.
Another INFJ idiosyncrasy is what Holm calls "dynamic tension," or the warring of different parts of the INFJ personality. This results in things like the desire for "closure and timelines battling with an even stronger preference to keep generating more options and perspectives." And the internal struggle can make INFJs feel disorganized because "even as an INFJ is trying to complete something on time, new ideas keep appearing which try to displace that which has already been decided," Holm writes.
So there’s definite oomph behind an INFJ meme that says, "I’m indecisive because I see eight sides to everything."
One side INFJs can always see, though, is the point of helping others and humanity at large. At the core of INFJs is a desire to ease people’s suffering. As 16Personalities notes, "Advocates tend to see helping others as their purpose in life, but while this personality type can be found engaging rescue efforts and doing charity work, their real passion is to get to the heart of the issue so that people need not be rescued at all."
But as Holm pointed out, all that crusading and needing to change the world can cause INFJs to be overwhelmed with other people’s feelings and needs, so if you’re one of these rare folks, you should engage in a little self-care when you need to, and to not feel bad about indulging the multifaceted aspects of your type by withdrawing and recharging.
INFJs can become especially worn down when they’re confronted with conflict, 16 Personalities points out, and they’re prone to "[fighting] back in highly irrational, unhelpful ways."
So if things are getting rough for you, INFJs, remember: You’re just as important as all the people you want to help.
This post was originally published on October 24, 2017. It was updated on September 3, 2019.
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