What it’s Like to be an INFJ Empath and 5 Tips for Staying Strong
By Shahida Arabi
You are never more alone than when you are in a crowd filled with disingenuous people. You are never more at peace than when you’re connected with another highly empathic being. You seek comfort in the words of people who understand complex and abstract ideas. Your energy is often drained by those who lack empathy and compassion. It is revived by those in your tribe who truly get you. You are often the first to “know” and “sense” when there is something off about someone or a situation – an alienating experience when no one else is there to validate it with you. You long to be “normal” but belonging in any group usually means sacrificing a part of yourself, and while sacrificing yourself for others is your forte, it’s not one you can risk when it comes to your integrity.
You get a natural high from communicating from the deep center of your highest truth. You drag yourself low when you are placed off-center by those who try to feed you falsehoods about yourself and others. You can get derailed easily by the toxic vibes of others and put back on track when absorbed in your inner voice and guidance – or perhaps by an uplifting message from a friend who genuinely cares. True friends and partners are hard to come by but when they do come along, they are cherished and thoughtfully tended to – mindfully and graciously, each and every time. Your interactions with other empathic beings are sacred ones and you honor them with a loyalty that might surprise others.
Relationships with others can result in spiritual transcendence or spiritual blockages. You’re overwhelmed by the hatred in the world; bullies, predators and naysayers can make a meal out of your emotions. They feast on your sensitivity and your perceived gentleness. Yet these people tend to be your greatest teachers and incentives for personal growth and transformation. Beneath the gentleness, there is a fiery, complex, multifaceted being, waiting to set the world on fire with his or her truth. But you reveal yourself by layers – one by one – and it can take a lifetime for someone to really know you. Some never do. Sometimes, you’re not even sure you fully know yourself.
You try to find the meaning in everything, and your soul feels most fulfilled when you are giving back with what you’ve learned through your experiences and the endless dialogues you have with yourself. Pondering the world, pondering the intentions and motives of others, and your place in the universe. You feel the sacred connectedness of every action, every reaction, and every person that comes into your path, because you intuitively understand that they are part of your life’s journey. In your world, synchronicities are miracles and you are hungry for deep connections with others. No matter how weak or overwhelmed or helpless you’ve felt, you move through the world with a quiet resolve, an inner strength that is unparalleled for the adversity you may have faced.
This is what it’s like to be an INFJ (the Myers-Brigg Personality type indicating a person who is introverted, intuitive, feeling and judging) who is also an empath. Being an empath doesn’t mean you are necessarily an INFJ as empaths can be from a variety of personality types, but INFJs tend to be natural empaths. Due to our high sensitivity, eerily on point intuition and rich inner worlds, we have a lot to give to the world as the rarest personality type. We find unconventional and conventional ways to share our gifts in ways that can change the lives of others, including our own. We tend to be the healers of the world. Yet the world takes a lot from us, quite easily, and we usually need a great deal of solitude to recharge.
Empaths soak up the emotions of others. They tend to become enmeshed with other people’s identities. They get tangled up in the energy of other beings very easily. They are also very attractive to a wide variety of people because they’re authentic, sensitive and good listeners – so they attract both good people as well as toxic ones who tend to take advantage of their compassion.
While being an empath can be exhausting, it is also a gift to be able to connect and heal others. It is a gift to be immensely intuitive, to connect to the pain of others because we tend to have the most nourishing relationships with people who are also empathic. Many empaths who are also INFJ’s benefit from using their gifts in professions that heal, care for or counsel others.
Being an INFJ empath means we have to protect ourselves very carefully and wisely. Because empaths have such porous boundaries in terms of how they’re enmeshed energetically and emotionally with others, it’s important to filter out negative, toxic people as well as negative energy by giving ourselves some sacred vows to live by in terms of what we will and won’t tolerate in our relationships.
There are five tips that I’ve learned from being an INFJ empath that may help in resolving a notorious inner conflict we experience: save the world or save ourselves? The answer lies in both – saving the world while creating very strong boundaries that will ultimately save ourselves.
- Boundaries. As both introverts and empaths, we may have difficulty asserting our rights with others, but learning to communicate our boundaries in a healthy way is vital for us to stay grounded in our integrity. I always advise others to make a non-negotiable contract of boundaries. These are at least 10 sacred vows you make with yourself about what you won’t tolerate in any relationship of any kind. These can be very basic or specific and customized to your needs and standards (i.e. I won’t tolerate any form of abuse vs. I won’t tolerate anyone who speaks condescendingly to me.) Then, make sure you follow through with ending a toxic interaction even before it’s had time to build by recognizing when your boundary is being crossed, asserting your boundary and reinforcing it by taking yourself out of the toxic interaction altogether if it is not addressed appropriately.
- Extreme self-care. Extreme self-care is asking yourself every day, “What do I need in this moment?” This practice acknowledges how self-care is selfless, rather than selfish – because the more energy you have within yourself, the more energy you have to give to the world. It means addressing your needs almost as attentively as you would the needs of a child, being in tune with how your energy feels and nurturing yourself without apologies or excuses. If your need is to get some sleep, it may be better for you to finish up that project tomorrow. If the need is having fun, perhaps you need to schedule a night every week where you can go out with friends or get some downtime. If your need is for solitude, maybe it’s time for some quiet meditation and reflection. Whatever it is that you need in order to replenish your reserves, do it. The world needs you and your gorgeous energy.
- Energy work. Empaths can pick up on residual energy and be deeply affected by the energetic vibrations of others. Cleansing your energy means clearing your sacred spaces – physically, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually and sexually. Engage in forms of exercise that you love to cleanse your body of trapped energy, do yoga, meditate, clear the clutter in your physical spaces. Don’t be intimate with those who are toxic. Connect with the power of nature as a sacred space of healing. Energy clearing can take any form you feel is right for you – whether it be a chakra healing meditation or a session on the treadmill, do whatever you can to keep yourself as cleansed as possible of toxic energies so that you can reconnect with your natural, uplifting energy.
- Visualization. Imagining a barrier around you that separates you from others can help remind you that you are an independent entity. This can be any barrier you feel represents you; imagine yourself bathed in white light or surrounded by a brick wall that deflects any negative energies coming your way. Visualization is all about reinforcing this idea that you don’t have to take on the feeling states and projections of others. You have a right to your own energy, your own viewpoint and your own perspective about yourself. You can stay grounded in your own truth and not have to take on the pain of others.
- Selective community. Surround yourself with only those who respect your boundaries and those who appreciate you and see your worth. INFJ empaths may have a hard time connecting with superficial people but may be pressured by society to conform and go with the crowd. Please don’t sacrifice your uniqueness to fit in. The world needs your gentle guidance, your beautiful spirit and your creative mind. Don’t chase after toxic people who undermine you, belittle you and demean your dreams or your insights. The people who will really see you for the treasure you are the keepers. You deserve to be just as respected, honored and cherished as any other personality type in this world. As an INFJ, you have a right to honor and love yourself.
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