…At least, that is what I have been told – and believe it or not, it was one of my best friends who first accused me of sometimes being “cold” and “distant”.
Though this happened many months ago, I would be lying if I said that it doesn’t still sting a little. Because for the most part, I was just horrifyingly shocked by this admission when it happened. So much so that I can remember not knowing what to say. In my state of unease I even made a joke along the line of “what did you expect with this resting bitch face of mine?”. But on the inside, I was having a hard time staying composed. In fact, I was on the verge of tears. Here’s one thing people need to get into their heads: INFJs don’t have thick skin, we just have thick costumes. And that night, it was definitely penetrated – painfully so – leaving a wound that is still healing to this very day.
I went home that night feeling devastated and above all, guilty. I felt sad that my friend felt that way… it made me feel like I was a terrible friend and in general, just a horrible person. Weeks later I was still beating myself up over this. I questioned who I was and for the first time in ages – and for someone who has always had a strong sense of self, doubting myself felt terrifying. It was only after I conferred with a fellow INFJ friend who reminded me (or rather drilled into me) that I wasn’t a bad person – more likely simply misunderstood – that the gut-wrenching guilt within me started to ease.
“Solitude matters, and for some people, it’s the air they breathe”Susan Cain
Here’s the thing about being an introvert in general: we need time to recharge our social battery… alone. This has always been a concept that my non-introverted friends have had trouble understanding fully. They will say they do but in reality they have no idea of the extent of this…of how necessary this truly is to an introvert. Alone time to introverts is like being under water for a long time and finally being able to come up and breathe again.
What differentiates INFJ personality types from other introverts is the fact that we tend to let our battery go down so low, it is in danger of dying. We can go weeks with a low battery but at some point, we will start to feel burnt out. And yet we still keep going, drawing that battery out until it is down to zero because we have a nagging sense of obligation that we find hard to turn off. The problem with this is that the lower we let that percentage drop, the longer we will need to recuperate.
Yet the real world doesn’t let us isolate ourselves for weeks at a time – we have commitments, we have school, we have uni, we have our jobs. So we shut everyone else out, as a way to cope. In fact, it is the only way we can cope. We temporarily withdraw from our relationships because we are exhausted and need time to take care of ourselves. We might seem “cold” or distant – but we are simply protecting ourselves from a world that has become too much for us to deal with at the moment. And that, the shutting of an emotional door, is often referred to as the INFJ door slam; Though I wouldn’t necessarily call it a slam – at least not, when our boundaries are being respected.
However, some people – my friend included – have a hard time granting that space sometimes. This isn’t necessarily their fault, they just fail to grasp how serious and needed it truly is. Sadly, that misunderstanding can lead to their response being highly irritating for the INFJ type: they start to become clingy, making INFJs feel as though they are slowly suffocating. This is when the shutting of a door becomes a slam. If we need to force you out in order to recharge then we will. It’s nothing personal, it’s just how we function as human beings.
So, in a way, my friend was right: I can be a cold person. As an INFJ, I can seem cold, distant and withdrawn when my social battery is dying down. It’s nothing personal, simply something I have to go through in order to feel like myself again. It may be the only time I put my needs before those of others and I am done trying to justify that or feeling guilty for taking care of myself. Never apologise for who you are, how you function or for putting your needs first.
“If you have the ability to love, love yourself first.”CHARLES BUKOWSKI