[INFJ] - INFJs and the Conflict Between Social Anxiety and Fe | INFJ Forum

[INFJ] INFJs and the Conflict Between Social Anxiety and Fe


Nov 16, 2015
There have been plenty of posts about social anxiety, but I specifically want to address what I think is the main problem about being an INFJ with social anxiety. The problem is this:

1. As an Fe secondary, I need social interaction; I need to feel like I am a part of something with people who are likeminded or with whom I share goals; and I need to have one or two trusted friends with whom I can be myself, care for, and relax without having to put on a show.​
2. As someone with social anxiety, social situations can be agonizing. I fear that I am excluded from groups and can have difficulty trying to form connections based on that possibility of rejection.​

Obviously, there’s a bit of a paradox here. In my personal situation, social anxiety is conflicting because I’m not normally shy. I have moments where the anxiety isn’t strong, and then I have no problem communicating and connecting. I don’t mind asserting myself, I can move fluidly with a group dynamic, and have good, fun, in-depth conversations. In other words, my Fe’s natural ability takes over.

That’s why, when the anxiety hits, it is accompanied by shame and a sense of failure — I know I can be different, but true anxiety, unlike mere shyness or introversion, is paralyzing. It’s a far cry from my love of solitude and introspection. Instead I am intensely aware that I am being starved of something I need, yet I find myself unable to overcome the situation. To keep myself from openly panicking, I withdraw, appearing uninterested and cold and blank.

Lately it’s gotten so bad that I feel unable to connect to anyone, even my husband (he’s an INTJ). I’m a college graduate still living in the city I my university was in, but most of my friends have moved, and my family lives a couple states away. I’m attending graduate school at a different university, and though I have an assistantship and a position as an editor in a local literary journal, I still feel disconnected from the people at work and in my classes. I only have a couple of good friends left from college and my old retail job, and I feel incapable of making new ones.

Also, for some reason, almost all of the people I consider my friends are male — I almost feel like this is because they don’t notice and aren’t bothered by my sense of separateness the way most of the females I know, who tend to be much more tuned into that sort of thing, are (I’m sorry if that sounds sexist, but I am referring to specific people I’ve interacted with recently, not males vs. females in general. I've known plenty of perceptive males and oblivious females as well).

I’m sure I’m not the only INFJ to experience something like this. Assuming that’s true, what are your experiences in trying to cope with social anxiety as a Fe secondary? Have you found any strategies that actually help? Do you have suggestions for initiating friendships despite the fear of rejection?

Any insight is appreciated, and I’d loved to hear your stories.
Perhaps you can use this as a starting point- why are you afraid of being rejected?

Fear of rejection can stem from self rejection. That sense of shame and failure you feel, and the fear of feeling it again...that may be projected outward to create the social anxiety.

Are you criticising your self too much? Are you criticising yourself unfairly? Judging the self too much? Are you under a lot of stress? Are you happy with the direction of your life? Is there something that needs to be resolved, any past emotion or experience?
Try to be more compassionate towards yourself. Try imagining your 'self' as your best friend, or like your innocent child, and treat yourself accordingly. Give yourself that love and support that you would give to another.
Work on choosing to accept and love yourself unconditionally. That is easier said than done...but the choice to do so is the most significant part. Remember that you have worth and value that is inherent to you, and that can never be changed or taken away. You, as a person are deserving of respect, and you are capable of directing your future. Whatever anyone else may or may not think of you, whatever another's opinion of you might be....only your opinion is important, because that is the opinion that you have to live with. You are worthy of friendship and connection. Create/re-establish that sense of connection and friendship to your 'self, and when you are feeling that security and acceptance of the self....this will be mirrored to others

Meditation and breathing techniques can be very useful in managing anxiety. Through meditation, you could establish a psychological/emotion trigger- like a word, a phrase, a lyric, a visual image, or even a physical object that you carry around that reminds you that everything is ok, you are ok....just breathe...everything will be alright, just flow.

There are also some essential oils that you could try....lavendar, rose, patchouli are particulary calming

Something i do when i feel anxious or uncertain is to focus my energy entirely on the other person/people. Be genuinely curious and open to learning about the other person. I try to practice 'active listening' (carl rogers counselling- google this for techniques), which is basically listening to someone without any type of judgement, and then clarifying that you have understood their communication. This is actually much harder to do than it sounds! When i first studied this method, i found it mentally taxing and annoying, but after a while i was able to listen to someone and really tune into what that person was saying, while still remaining connected to my sense of self. This created a connection to that person, and because of that that connection, the right thing to say to that person becomes natural. This is much easier to do in person, but also possible by phone. Bascially, what you are saying to that person....on a psychological, emotional, physical, and psychic level is- i am open to you, i am receptive to you, you are important to me, i care about what you say, i am listening to you, i am interested in you....and this inevitably creates that genuine and natural connection. Active listening also makes it extremely difficult to feel anxiety, because there is simply no mental space to do so, as active listening requires to give your full attention to the person, and to not judge- youself or anyone else.
You can also practice this form of active listening, internally, with your self. Listen to your thoughts mindfully, without judgement. Then clarify them with yourself. You could also write them out. This allows your thoughts and emotions to flow naturally, without having to be blocked or repressed, which helps you get to the core of any situation.

Some other things i do....i'm not sure how to explain this but i guess it is simply body language...if i am feeling anxious or uncertain i make sure the palms of my hands are in the open position. I flex my fingers and concentrate on my hands. I feel an amazing energy when i do this at times, and it always calms me
There is also a yoga pose i do called the 'mountain pose'. It is a good stance to feel grounded.
And putting your hands behind your back, one hand in the other palm can help too.
And you know that jittery butterfly feeling in the belly, when that happens i try to focus on it strongly, completely. I breathe in deeply from the belly and suck my stomach all the way in, imagining my stomach as my centre, as my ballast. It is hard for me to focus on any body sensation strongly for a long time, and trying to distracts me from the feeling itself. Sounds stupid, but thats actually what happens when i try

In regards to fe, it seems that fe may be both the cause and the solution for your problem in some ways. Being hyperaware of group dymanics and other people's emotional experience and thoughts can be overwhelming, draining, and confusing. Trying to navigate that tangle can make one want to simply withdraw.

Developing a strong sense of self, and healthy, clear boundaries between your emotional experience and others emotional experience is very important. This way the fe onslaught is less overwhelming and you arent just soaking it all in like a helpless sponge.

After a while of being mindful of the way you feel about your self, you may notice that this same feeling or energy is mirrored by people and situations around you, and vice versa. If you are feeling anxious, it is possible the other person is too. When you feel calm, the other person probably is too. Emotional energy isnt something that is just felt privately in the body, it is expressed in some way, and normally has a physical affect of some form. When you are feeling calm, you can project this calm outwards.

Also, know that peoples opinions are irelevant unless you make them relevant to you. Admittedly, i am a bit arrogant, but i am very mindful of what and how information effects me. To put it bluntly, if its bad or rude, then i dont care anyway. If someone has an unpleasant or rude opinion to offer, i try not to judge the person, but feel uninterested in engaging with them. Everyone has a right to an opinion, but all opinons are not valued equally....if someone is going to reject you, or judge you....then that isnt the person/energy you want in your life anyway.

Try going to places where it is likely you will connect with people with similar interests. I know that i cant stand talking about many of the popular topics- celebrities, tv, sports, fashion, medical history, what someone's primary school was like lol...that sort of shit. Having that common ground of similar interests may help you build up your confidence and learn to address your anxiety in a safe place.

And this might be the toughest thing to do- but the most helpful by far....trying to be excited about the future, about new opportunities. Try to start expecting things to go well. Really build that confidence that things will progress in a positive way. Imagine that the next person you meet is the most significant person for you to meet in that moment, that they have something unique to give you, to share with you, as you have for them. It could very well be true!

All the best to you, thinking of you and wishing you well
Interesting thread. I've struggled with this forever. It's a basic need of humans, no matter the personality type, to connect with others on some sort of deep level. And for us INFJ's it's especially important. It is one of the best feelings ever to feel truly connected with someone else. To feel understood/accepted/appreciated/loved for being who you are - everyone needs this. Many times I just randomly remember/relive moments of connecting deeply with a family member/friend/ex etc. I remember the conversation and how good I felt about myself, it's like a happy glow feeling deep within to know that someone else gets you. I feel like this is a major key to having a happy life when you're INFJ. To have friends/family/loved one who shows acceptance/love/appreciation/connection with you on a regular basis, hell even daily basis sounds like bliss doesn't it?

I have social anxiety too so I really connect with your thoughts in this thread. I regularly go through long droughts of that kind of connection you are looking for. Long periods of isolation....ruminating on why am I alone? I feel lonely, what is wrong with me that I don't have/lost those deep connections or can't obtain them? It's an endless cycle of negative thinking that only crushes my self esteem even more. When you have social anxiety, your opportunities for deep connections with people are slim, almost non existent, depending how bad it is. A. you don't have much, if any of a social life. And B. when you do socialize with people it's short, surface level due to fear. No chance for something deeper.

I feel the shame and guilt you talk about too. I can't have what I need and it's my fault because I'm letting fear hold me back. Social anxiety is a bitch, people misunderstand it. It seems simple, why can't I just let my guard down and be free? But it is a deeply ingrained thing in our minds. So much that we don't even realize how much is controls us/holds us back. I feel bad for you because I empathize 100% Have you ever tried treating your social anxiety with meds/therapy/self help, etc.? I started taking a med called Gabapentin 5 months ago for my anxiety. It has helped me to relax more and "not care" so much around people. But I'm on a really low dose and am considering upping it to see if I can reach a place where I can really feel free to just let go and be myself. So it's a combination of the med helping me halfway, and my own will power, pushing me to be more open and social with people the other half of the way. Another thing - have you heard of binaural beats? There's tons of binaural beats videos online for all kinds of things. You have to use headphones, listen to the beats and relax and if you do it regularly it can help your brain to actualize whatever you're trying to achieve, there's videos for social anxiety. I haven't tried those yet but I've tried others for different things and it does work!

You should try to reach out to your existing friends, that's what I've been doing. I went bowling with some old college friends last weekend and I haven't had so much fun in idk how long. In terms of the making female friends thing I have that same problem. But I'm trying and learning. For instance my coworkers, 3 women they are pretty close, they have like little pow-wow meetings and share their daily experiences and interject their feelings/emotions into that. They all give their emotional input. This is pretty foreign/uneasy for me because I feel emotions deeply but I don't share them, not even with family. So it is interesting for me to overhear them and see how they interact, you can kind of learn from it. They are all good at eye contact and they give each other small touch on the arm or you know normal female bonding type stuff lol I just am not good with affection and expressing myself emotionally. But since I've been working there 2 years they've warmed up to me/accepted me but are hesitant around me since I am so guarded. Ultimately it's all about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. I'm sure you know all this but it's so hard to do!

I guess at the end of the day it's all a learning process and taking slow steps and making progress. I've analyzed and struggled with this topic to death but I won't ever get out of it if I isolate and close myself off instead of pushing myself.
I think that a lot of the INFJs insecurities come from us knowing ourselves and others really well. We feel like we can tell what the outcome of a situation is going to be before it has occurred - which makes us less likely to try new things if we think we already know what the result is going to be. We also have a strong confidence in our thoughts and often see them as absolute and undisputably true, even though we also see that this is what our mind tells us. In an anxiety situation our (over)confidence in our judging abilities often limits our ability to see the different perspectives and we run into the "scared mode" despite knowing the consequences.

I think a way to prevent this would be
a) to seek help from another type who can give us confidence and also shelter in this situation
b) to try not to feel bad for being "victim" of our feelings for once but let ourselves breathe for a moment
c) practice to trust other people and expect the unexpected even if you think it is unlikely, this can prevent the fear of being excluded. Even though we often analyze situations accurately, a little bit of optimism shouldn't always be seen as lying to yourself! Surprises happen and seeing the good in people can actually change their motivations: trusting them despite "knowing" they aren't worthy might actually make them worthy.