INFJs have problems with setting boundaries. We have this incessant desire to help other people, sometimes at the expense of our own health.
Part of being an INFJ is thinking about other people before we think about ourselves. We are constantly feeling the emotions of those around us, reading their energy, calculating how to act around them and what is acceptable and what is not. We go out of our way to make those around us comfortable. This is such a norm for us that we don’t even realize the problems that it creates.
The first time I realized I had a problem with boundaries was when I was 22. I was a part of a very conservative church that had very strict beliefs. I gave everything I had to the church, all of my energy and time. I had worked there for about 6 years at that point. If there was a service or event or function of any kind I was there. The people in the church made comments about what I did in my free time, where I went shopping, what kind of music I listened to, what food I ate, etc. So I changed. Little by little I gave up everything that I loved and everything that made me happy to conform to what these people thought that I should be.
I developed an eating disorder and lost 30lbs. I was overweight at the time, so I was excited to have lost the weight. Everyone complimented me all of the time on how good I looked and how much better I must feel. But the truth is I felt terrible. Every time I looked in the mirror I didn’t even know who I was anymore. I realized that my only option was to walk away.
Why do we have problems setting boundaries?
As INFJ we have something called Extroverted Feeling. That means that we are more concerned with other people’s feelings than our own. We make decisions based on how they will affect other people, rather than how they will affect us. We have a strong desire to create harmony among those around us, even at our own expense. It gets unhealthy when we do this to our detriment, when we avoid conflict at all costs and avoid everything that we want and need.
Oh, the guilt!
When we finally realize that we need to set more boundaries there is something that inevitably creeps in: guilt. We worry about how people will feel when we say no to something or when we ask them for something. But this worry is caused because somewhere deep inside we don’t really feel like we deserve these things. We feel like it’s selfish to ask for things that we would give to our loved ones in a heartbeat.
But the benefits though…
I know it’s a scary thing to think about standing up for yourself and asking for more. Believe me, I know. So let’s set that aside for a moment. Instead, let’s think about what we get out of this. What happens when we do set boundaries?
The first benefit you will see is your energy. INFJs expend a lot of energy being out in the world around people. Whether it’s family, kids, friends or work, it’s exhausting, physically and emotionally (more so emotionally most of the time).
We need time to recharge our energy, alone time to sort out all of our thoughts and feelings for the day. Ignoring that need consistently will eventually lead to burn out. Setting boundaries to protect our energy will put you in a place where you can be even more helpful to your loved ones. What’s that saying? You can’t pour from an empty cup.
You will also find a benefit in increased self-worth. By setting aside time for yourself and protecting it you are telling yourself and those around you that you deserve it. You deserve as much as you give to those around you. You are just as important as your loved ones.
This extra time will help you to hone your skills of intuition as well. When you have time to take care of yourself and be still and reflect you will notice your intuition more. You have that time to develop that skill even more. And the more you are aware of it and trust it, the better it works.
Lastly, setting boundaries will help make sure that people are not taking advantage of you. People who truly care about you will be happy that you are taking care of yourself and will understand if you are not always available. Those who may not be healthy relationships will have a problem that you are no longer constantly available. It will help you sort through these people pretty quickly.
How do you set boundaries?
Look at your priorities
Make a list of the priorities in your life. Make sure that you include yourself in there. Think about the things that you really, really like to do and really need to do. These are the things to focus on.
Then think about the things that you do out of obligation or fear of judgment. Those are the things to get rid of.
Learn how to say no
I’m not gonna lie, I have a lot of trouble saying no. I usually calculate whether it’s more trouble to say no or to just do the thing I’m saying no to. Clearly I’m still working on this boundary!
You can say no without is sounding harsh or blunt. An effective way to say no is to start with a statement of regret or acknowledgment, then say no and then end with a positive follow up. Like this:
“I’d love to go to the lake with you this weekend, but no. I can’t. Thank you for the offer though!”
“Those cookies you made look amazing, but I brought my own lunch. Maybe Joe would like some. I know he loves cookies.”
You can include a reason if you want to, but the last thing you want to do is start an argument. If they push back just smile and politely walk away. You’ve already said no.
Be prepared to be uncomfortable
Any time you change something like boundaries you are going to have to face some awkward and uncomfortable situations. There are going to be people who don’t understand your new desire for time and space. There are even people who are going to be upset about it. Those aren’t your people.
This is so hard for us as INFJs to bear. It can be really painful at times. It’s important to go back to your list of priorities at these times and remember why you need to go through this.
Setting boundaries is so important for us as INFJs. We need to make sure that we are taking time for ourselves to protect our energy. It’s our vital life force that we need to prioritize. It’s not an easy thing to set boundaries and enforce them. It will take some real changes in the way that you think about your life and the way you approach people who don’t respect your space, but it is so worth so when you make these changes. You will be able to give so much more when you are feeling taken care of as well.