ISFJ personal growth

Personal Growth for an ISFJ

by Robert G. Heyward

What does Success mean to an ISFJ?

ISFJs are the homemakers, carers and facilitators of the world. Their strong sense of duty, hard-working tendencies and ability to respond quickly to what is suitable to a particular situation are great assets. With a dominant function that quickly grasps the qualities inherent within the external world, and a secondary function that weighs such perceptions against their value within this world, the ISFJ has a great talent for discovering the aesthetic and essential qualities compatible with and relevant to a particular real world situation. This means that, not only within the world of objects, but also in their relationships with people, ISFJs are gifted with the ability to recognize and understand the comfort and surroundings suitable to a secure and pleasing existence. And they can do this with a decisiveness which might make others wonder if the ISFJ was not in fact getting their answers from some form of intuitive understanding rather than what is really a vast library of carefully related memory images and value judgments. An ISFJ will always feel best when their world a place of quality and reassurance, both for themselves and others. Success for an ISFJ means being able to fulfill a role providing value for others and ordering their world in a way in which safety and security is balanced against a genuine respect for the aesthetic and positive qualities of life.

Allowing your ISFJ strengths to flourish

As an ISFJ, you have gifts that are specific to your personality type that aren't natural strengths for other types. By recognizing your special gifts and encouraging their growth and development, you will more readily see your place in the world, and be more content with your role.

Nearly all ISFJs will recognize the following characteristics in themselves. They should embrace and nourish these strengths:

You are adept at seeing the right balance, the best way to make the world look and feel good. This talent enables you to make your world reflect your inner self and become a place of security and growth in which others can feel at ease too. You have a gift for knowing what will make another person feel better about the world and themselves. Your valuable input to their world comes back to you in ways which aid your own personal development. You see clearly what is right and wrong, what grates on yourself and others, what works for harmony and what does not. Your clear recognition of these things gains you the confidence and respect of others. You have a great memory for things, places and events, their curious details and the relationships between them. More than this, you also remember what was both good and bad about these things. These skills show in your ability to give no nonsense advice and aid to others. Within yourself you know, even if others do not realise it, that for as long as they are trying to do their best, you will hold the line with them to the very end. You see this as simply doing the right thing, but in fact it is a special virtue and makes you one of the most worthy of partners and friends when the chips are down. You work hard to get the job done, and you can be counted on the stay with it till it is finished.

ISFJs who have a strongly expressed Extraverted Feeling function will find they also enjoy these special gifts:

Work is never a chore to you, but a gift you offer to the world. In your relationships you are able to clearly show others how you feel about them. Others will always feel at ease in your home and presence. Your efforts always seem to be appreciated by those around you. You will try to find pleasing ways to settle differences and to find the most satisfying solutions to both your own and others' difficulties. More often than not, you will know exactly the right thing to do, say, buy or create to make things better or move things toward a valid human solution to a problem. You will clearly see the conditions underlying a situation and their effects on the persons within it, enabling you to see ways of changing things for the better. In this sense, you may be a powerful agent for social justice.

Potential problem areas

With any gift of strength, there is an associated weakness. Without "bad", there would be no "good". Without "difficult", there would be no "easy". We value our strengths, but we often curse and ignore our weaknesses. To grow as a person and get what we want out of life, we must not only capitalize upon our strengths, but also face our weaknesses and deal with them. That means taking a hard look at our personality type's potential problem areas.

ISFJs are kind, steady and responsible beings with many special gifts. I would like for the ISFJ to keep in mind some of the many positive things associated with being an ISFJ as they read some of this more negative material. Also remember that the weaknesses associated with being an ISFJ are natural to your type. Although it may be depressing to read about your type's weaknesses, please remember that we offer this information to enact positive change. We want people to grow into their own potential, and to live happy and successful lives.

Many of the weaker characteristics that are found in ISFJs are due to their dominant and Introverted Sensing function overshadowing the rest of their personality. This generally results in two notable effects: their Extraverted Feeling function is unable to balance their sharply rendered inner perceptions with a sense of human value, whilst at the same time these very perceptions often hint at strange associations and consequences which seem always to hover darkly in the background of the world.

In such cases, an ISFJ may show some or all of the following weaknesses in varying degrees:

  • May find difficulty expressing their feelings without fear or anger.
  • May be unable to correctly judge what really is for the best
  • May wrongly suspect others of having hidden motives or agendas
  • May be unable to shrug off feelings impending disaster
  • May be unable to acknowledge or hear anything that goes against their certainty about the "correct" or "right" way to do things
  • May have a tendency to blame particular persons for disturbing or upsetting "their world" by simply being who they are
  • May come across to others as cold and insensitive to anything but another's ability to fit in with and support their own judgments
  • May be unnecessarily harsh or strict about appropriate social behaviour
  • May be oblivious to what others think about them
  • May come across as rigid, inflexible or even cold and uncaring to others, without being aware of it
  • May be unable to understand verbal logic, and quickly cut off other's explanations
  • May value their own certainties about the world and its problems far above others
  • May be quite falsely certain of their influence upon, and understandingof others
  • May be extremely vulnerable to tricks, con men, false hopes, religious cults and conspiracy theories
  • May react with anger or distress when someone expresses disagreement with their view of the world, or disapproval of their judgements
  • May favour their judgements to the degree that they are unable to notice the pain or difficulty such judgements might cause others
  • Under great stress, are likely to make outrageously harsh and uncaringly selfish survival oriented decisions

Explanation of problems

Nearly all of the problematic characteristics described above can be attributed in various degrees to the ISFJs internally mapped and abstract view of the world not being successfully coupled to an appropriate level of Extroverted feeling. Without this rational external balance, the ISFJs opposing unconscious functions can wreak havoc upon the order and sense of the ISFJs perceptions and ideas. ISFJs are usually stable, certain, reliable and deft in their approach to life. But if unbalanced, they are likely to treat any point of view other than their own with a kind of cold dismay, and if pressed hard will tend to shut out the existence of problems caused by others differing attitudes and opinions. If the ISFJ does not learn how to deal with the wide range of differing world views they come into contact with, they can find themselves closed into a lonely little corner of the world in which only their own feelings of safety and certainty are maintained. This is a natural survival technique for the extreme ISFJ personality.

The main driver to the ISFJ personality is Introverted Sensing, whose function is to define the properties of and locate and recognise the sometimes abstract and innate qualities of and between the objects of the outer world. If an ISFJ's picture of the world is threatened by external influences, the ISFJ generally tries to shut such new information out of their lives. This is totally natural, and works well to protect the individual psyche from getting hurt. However, the ISFJ who exercises this type of self-protection regularly will become closed within a small and ever decreasing circle of those family and friends who do not actively disturb their increasingly narrow and rigid world view. They will always find justification for their own inappropriate behaviours, and will always find fault with the outside world for problems that they have in their lives. It will be difficult for them to maintain close personal relationships because they will have a negatively polarised and therefore limited ability to communicate outside of the box of their own security needs.

It is not an uncommon tendency for the ISFJ to support their ideas and values by using only the value judgements they make about the world and other peoples behaviour. However, if this tendency is given free reign, the resulting ISFJ personality is too self-centred to be happy or successful. Since the ISFJ's dominant function is Introverted Sensing, they must balance this with an auxiliary Extraverted Feeling function. If the ISFJ uses Extraverted Feeling only to serve the purposes of Introverted Sensing, then the ISFJ is not using Extraversion effectively at all. As a result, the ISFJ does not sufficiently recognise and sympathise with the way feelings effect the behaviour of others in the world to have a good sense of why things happen as they do. They see nothing but their own perspective, and deal with the world only so far as they need to in order to support their perspective. These individuals usually come across as somewhat judgemental and full of fixed and often rather ambiguously polarised ideas about the world. Other people are often surprised by the vehemence of their ideas and are usually unable to understand how they came by them.


To grow as an individual, the ISFJ needs to focus on opening their perspective to include a more accurate picture of the feelings and value judgements of others. In order to be in a position in which the ISFJ is able to perceive and consider data that is foreign to their internal value system, the ISFJ needs to recognise that their world view is not threatened by the new information. The ISFJ must consciously tell himself/herself that emotional affects in others are not unrelated to reality; that the feelings of others are also just and valid within a wider and less rigorous vision of the world.

The ISFJ who is concerned with personal growth will pay close attention to their motivation for deciding what is good and bad, right and wrong. Do they try to find the feeling values of others in a situation? Or, do they value only those feelings which support a personal idea or cause? At the moment when something is felt, is the ISFJ only concerned with whether that feeling supports something they recognise as correct? Or is she/he concerned with becoming truly empathetic? To achieve a better understanding of others and the world in which they live, the ISFJ should try to put themselves into the minds of others, to locate and recognise how they have come to feel the way they do, before making judgements. They should consciously be aware of their tendency to discard anything that doesn't agree with their carefully ordered concepts, and work towards lessening this tendency. They should try to feel the way others would feel in situations, without making personal judgments about the actual situations. In general, they should work on exercising their Feeling in a truly extraverted sense. In other words, they should use Feeling to locate the their true connections to and relationship with others for the sake of gaining a wider perspective, rather than only allowing such feeling values to support their own conclusions. The ISFJ who successfully feels things objectively may be quite a powerful force for positive change.

Living happily in our world as an ISFJ

Some ISFJs have difficulty fitting into our society. Their problems are often a result of an inability to flow with what is, a too negative or correcting attitude which dismays others, or unrealistic ideals and ideas about the world. These issues mostly stem from using Extraverted Feeling in a diminished manner: the lack of a strong externally focused value system allowing an often ambiguous and yet strongly defended world view which has little relation to concrete reality to control the personality. An ISFJ who attempts to feel and value the feelings of others for the sake of understanding the world around them, rather than quickly deciding how they and they alone feel, will have a clearer, more objective understanding of how society is dependant not only upon structure and correct behaviour, but also how human values make it just what it is and not something else perhaps more desirable. He or she will also be more comfortable and less likely to demand that the world and the behaviour of others conform to some abstract code of being. Such well-adjusted ISFJs will fit happily into our society. Unless you really understand Psychological Type and the nuances of the various personality functions, it's a difficult task to suddenly start to use Feeling in an unambiguous and totally extraverted direction. It's difficult to even understand what that means, much less to incorporate that directive into your life. With that in mind, I am providing some specific suggestions that may help you to begin exercising your Extraverted Feeling more fully:

Ten rules to live by to achieve ISFJ success

  1. Feed your strengths! Let your talent for recognising harmony and balance spill out into the world around you, show your gifts to the world. Allow yourself to take opportunities to design, reorganise and rebalance things to make your home and work environments better for yourself and others. Find work or a hobby which allows you to realise these strengths.
  2. Face your weaknesses! Realize and accept that some things are never going to be how you would like them to be. Understand that other peoples feelings are sometimes more important than whether they are right or wrong. Facing and dealing with discord or differences in others doesn't mean that you have to change who you are; it means that you are giving yourself opportunities to grow. By facing your weaknesses, you honour your true self and that of others.
  3. Discover the world of others. Don't let yourself fall into the trap of thinking you always know what is right for others. Open your heart to the possibility of understanding that their true needs are something that must be discovered through relationship, and recognition that their world might be very different, yet just as valid as your own.
  4. Don't be too hasty. Try to let things settle before you make a judgement, allowing others to discover the best for themselves while you feel your way into their way of seeing things.
  5. Look carefully at the world. Remember, things are not always what they seem on the surface. You might need to look deeper to discover the truth, particularly when it seems you are sure of your first quick judgement. There are layers of meaning and truth beneath everything.
  6. Let others take some of the load. By letting others help, you are not letting things get out of control, but are validating their own need to be a part of your life. Remember, it is better to guide another to see your point of view than keeping them out of the picture.
  7. Be accountable to others. Remember that they need to understand you and your needs too. Express your feelings and reasons and let them become partners to your goals.
  8. Don't hem yourself in. Staying in your comfort zone is self defeating in the end. Try to make every day one where you get out and discover a little something different about the world and others. This will broaden your horizons and bring new ideas and opportunities into focus.
  9. Assume the best and seek for it. Don't wait for others to live up to your expectations. Every person has a goldmine of worth in them, just as every situation can be turned to some good. If you let yourself believe this, you will find yourself discovering ways to make it true for you.
  10. When in doubt, ask for help! Don't let your sense of self sufficiency leave you on the horns of a dilemma or lead you into disaster. If you are uncertain of something or someone then get input from others you trust.

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