Being an INFJ guy can be hard. It can also be amazing. Especially once you learn about your personality type and can adjust your lifestyle accordingly. In my previous article, What You Should Know About the INFJ and HSP Man, I shared advice for friends and family of INFJ men. In this article, I’ll share some of my experiences, a little cultural critique, and a couple of suggestions for INFJ men who want to thrive without the pressure of conforming to traditional male stereotypes.
My Experiences Growing Up as an INFJ and HSP Man
Imagine this scene: a Boy Scout meeting. The troop is doing some sort of bonding exercise that involves throwing things at each other. Suddenly one of the boys takes a ball to the face. He starts to cry because rubber moving at 90 mph hurts when it hits your nose. The troop leader looks at him and declares, “toughen up buttercup”. The boy continues to cry, but now it’s because of the chiding from an adult who’s supposed to be a role model.
Now imagine this one: a group of teenage summer camp counselors is meeting for coffee on a night off. They decide on a spot in a trendy neighborhood that also hosts live local bands on the weekend and is open until 2:00 AM. One guy in the group mentions that he likes a different spot that plays mellow acoustic music and serves great sandwiches along with a good tea selection. He explains that the quieter venue is great for conversation. The group universally derides this option as too tame and quiet. One person says, “only losers go there”. Head hung in shame, the guy agrees to the group consensus and attends the event, leaving after less than an hour because he has “somewhere else to be.”
And finally, this one: Friend #1 suggests spending the day at the Folklife Festival, a huge outdoor craft, music, and art fair in Seattle. Friend #2 defers deciding for a day or two so they can see if they’re “available”. Friend #2 goes home and moves some other events and appointments around to clear the next day. That way they can go to Folklife on Saturday and have all day Sunday at home to recover.
You’re all smart folks, so you probably figured out that these are snapshots from various times in my life. This is what life is like when you’re a highly sensitive guy. As a kid, cultural assumptions are made that boys are rough and tumble. Something such as crying when a ball smashes into your face is worthy of disdain. As teens, we’re supposed to be constantly “on”. The cool guys bring the beer even before they’re legal, and wants nothing more than to be the life of the party.
Dealing With Societal Expectations
Hopefully, you also noticed a progression in the above scenarios. Starting with a young child who doesn’t understand why he is the way he is, or why others can’t just be nice; to a teen who is starting to know things about himself and the assumptions being made by those around him; and finally to an adult who has developed ways to ‘make it work’ for himself.
The author Daniel Quinn defined the term mother culture, the voice forever whispering in our ear. This is the voice that instills in us all of those assumptions I mentioned above. The context is different, but the premise holds true. This is where we learn the narrative of our culture. (I highly recommend Quinn’s books: Ishmael and Beyond Civilization: Humanity’s Next Great Adventure.)
The problem is, most of us don’t realize something crucially important — the narrative is not fact. It’s a story. What’s more, it’s only one of multiple versions of the story that exist at any given time.
This is the single most helpful realization I’ve come to over the course of my journey: You don’t have to conform to a societal expectation in order to thrive. You just have to be you.
The most important thing I want INFJ and HSP guys reading this to take away — that means pay attention, both of you! — is this: who’s to say which narrative we should be paying attention to?
Thriving As an INFJ and HSP Man
Society, especially work culture in the U.S., tells us that we have to be extroverted to succeed. Prove them wrong. Be your strong, confident, introverted self and rock that meeting. Then go walk around the block to find your peace again. Use your intense listening ability to impress your boss with your recommendations for the upcoming project. This may mean you need to request to email them the next morning after you have time to process. That’s ok!
If you don’t want to go out every Friday night, don’t go out. Be the stalwart friend you know you are. Watch as your small circle of close friends tightens up around you.
I want to close with a quote from this article on Introvert, Dear: “Personality type should help you understand yourself and others better, not become an excuse for self-destructive behavior.”
I would also add “or to keep you from doing what you want or need to do.” Use what you know about being an INFJ and HSP dude to understand why you react the way you do, adjust accordingly, and to help you explain that behavior to those around you.