My name is Megan, and I’m an INFJ perfectionist. As self-aware as I consider myself to be, this is something I’ve learned only recently. I’m not the type of perfectionist that alphabetizes her book case or has to make sure every crease in the bedspread is perfectly flat. I am a perfectionist in the sense that I’m never ok with life as it is. I’m constantly speeding up the treadmill, trying to get the perfect mile time. Once I reach one goal, I set even higher standards for the next.
I didn’t realize how bad my perfectionism was until I started going to therapy. I didn’t go to therapy to overcome my perfectionism. In fact, I actually went thinking there wasn’t really much wrong with me, but improving my mental health was a necessary step to becoming my “best self.” (If that doesn’t scream perfectionist, I don’t know what does.) Not surprisingly, this constant need to one-up the person I was yesterday is something my therapist likes to talk about a lot.
Signs You’re an INFJ Perfectionist
Perfectionism isn’t rare in INFJ personality types. In fact, this topic was something that I touched on in my first article for INFJ Blog. I know INFJ perfectionism is real because you guys have told me that you struggle with it, too. If you’re not convinced, here are 15 signs you may be an INFJ perfectionist:
- You have unrealistically high standards for yourself and others.
- You feel personally at fault when you receive criticism or fail to achieve a goal.
- You’re always thinking about the next big thing and struggle to enjoy the moment.
- You’re extremely competitive.
- While you may feel fleeting moments of gratitude for your accomplishments, you still find a way to beat yourself up about something.
- You’re obsessive about goals and planning for the future.
- You let judgment from others weigh extremely heavily on you. This often influences your decisions and ability to act.
- You will put something off if you feel like you can’t do it perfectly.
- The biggest challenge you face when tackling something big is just getting started.
- Your perfectionist tendencies are mentally and physically draining.
- You struggle in relationships because you have such high expectations for your partner, friend, or family member. Rather than voicing them, you may allow them to lead to quiet resentment and disappointment.
- While you generally support people who are successful, you sometimes feel a bit of relief when someone else fails.
- The end goal is more important to you than the hard work and intention that got you there.
- You’re an incredibly hard worker. You often feel like you “hit a wall” — you experience so much exhaustion from pushing yourself that you need days, even weeks, to recover.
- You often feel like you don’t “deserve” the good things you get in life. Especially when they come from too little effort.
If you found yourself nodding along to any of these questions, you may be a bit of an INFJ perfectionist. If you’re like me, you may be skeptical to admit that this is a problem. It took a trained counselor probing me with direct questions about my perfectionist tendencies to make me realize how much this affects my life. When something is so ingrained into your personality that you can’t even imagine who you would be without it, it’s tough to realize it’s an issue.
My Perfectionism Story
Since many INFJs have opened up to me about perfectionist tendencies, I believe INFJs are prone to perfectionism. However, this is not because perfectionism is an innate quality of being an INFJ. I know plenty of INFJs who wouldn’t consider themselves perfectionists, or at least experience perfectionism at a less severe level.
Rather, perfectionism is a learned behavior. It’s often the result of past experience. High parental standards or rigorous academic environments can lead to perfectionism. I didn’t necessarily have either growing up. Instead, my perfectionism is rooted in a deep need to please. I definitely put pressure on myself to be a positive role model for my younger brother and make my parents proud.
As I started to rely more heavily on my auxiliary function, Extraverted Feeling, in my teens, my anxiety and perfectionism got worse. As a child, I had the bliss of not caring what anyone thought of me until suddenly I did. Once I realized that I could easily read people and know how to please them, that became the ultimate goal. I was perfect in the eyes of my parents and teachers. As a quiet kid, I was liked well enough at school by people who actually knew who I was, but I made a few enemies, too. Some people thought I was fake and in a sense I was. I wasn’t hiding a mean personality or being intentionally deceptive. I was just extremely focused on being the person I thought I was “supposed” to be.
It’s probably no surprise that vulnerability has always been hard for me. I mostly avoided romantic relationships growing up, or had relationships with people who were so complicated I never had to get to a place of pure emotional vulnerability. I attract people who desperately need someone to listen to them. This works great for me, because I can form a close bond with someone without having to actually expose too much of myself. I have so much fear of judgment that I accepted one-sided and toxic relationships for years before realizing it was a problem.
Learning about personality type has helped with many of the struggles I dealt with due to my perfectionism. I now accept myself as an introvert. I know that I need to set boundaries in relationships. And I understand that sometimes I need help when it comes to getting started on something or expressing a vulnerable part of myself.
Personality Hacker recently mentioned on a podcast that this last need is something common in most IJ types. This is due to a lack of confidence in our extraverted auxiliary functions. We see people with dominant Thinking and Feeling functions operate the world with what seems to be such ease. So we start to compare ourselves to what we could be, if we just tried hard enough, rather than appreciate who we are. We construct an identity based on who we want to be that’s not entirely authentic. We drive so far away from our own emotions that we become uncomfortable in moments that attempt to bring us back to vulnerability. Brene Brown, who I believe is an IJ type, often discusses her own struggles with vulnerability. It’s the topic of her popular TED talk, which I highly recommend.
Dealing With INFJ Perfectionism
I wish I could tell you exactly how to overcome perfectionism. Obviously, this is still something I’m working on myself. I think the first and most important step is not to look at “overcoming perfectionism” as another goal to achieve or challenge to accomplish. Rather it is something that should be managed healthily. Use it when it serves you, but learn to ignore it when it doesn’t. There is certainly value in having high expectations and big dreams. Managing your perfectionism doesn’t mean that you have to stop striving for something greater. It means that while on the journey to reach a goal you enjoy the experience getting there as much as the end result.
Since learning about my own struggles with perfectionism, I’m trying to take more actions that push me outside of the zone my perfectionism is comfortable in. I recently released an eBook (you can get it here). While I hope my readers find value in it, in my eyes, it’s far from perfect. But I released it anyways, and I’m struggling. I’m struggling with not deleting the product and apologizing to everyone who bought it. I’m struggling with the voice in my head that says it’s not good enough and neither am I. I am trying to get through this by writing about it, taking a lot of deep breaths, and planning plenty of time to relax and just be.
Actually, I was supposed to relax this weekend, but here I am writing a blog post… As you can tell, I’m clearly a work in progress.
If this post resonates with you or you have advice for overcoming INFJ perfectionism, feel free to share your experiences in the comments. You can also connect with me directly on Twitter @meganmbti.