[Note: It is difficult for me to remember a lot of my childhood, so I do rely on quite a bit of outside information from my family members and friends. I’m not sure why, but I only remember short clips here and there from my early years, even from when I was in my early teens.]
As early as two or three years old, I was quiet, introspective… “But not shy,” my parents have always said, “You would go to anyone, let anyone hold you.” I was content to play alone in my room with my toys or watch a movie alone over and over and over again. I loved anything to do with mystical creatures, talking animals, or imaginary/made-up characters, places, or things (still do to this day). I loved books, movies, roller-blading, and pretending.
I had a next door neighbor named Sarah who was a couple years older than me and always invited me over to play. It was Sarah’s mom who first noticed that I was a little odd and pointed it out to my mother.
“Taylor’s version of ‘playing together’ is ‘you play in that corner and I’ll play in this corner’.” Thinking back on it, I do remember preferring to play by myself because other people would absolutely ruin my story-line to whatever I was playing with. I wanted things to play out the way that I wanted them to, but I never would’ve told the other person that for fear of hurting their feelings.
As I got older, I tended to only have one or two friends at a time. Sleepovers seemed to tire me out and I remember fading into the background at birthday parties. The other girls would scream and talk loudly and laugh, but it was overwhelming for me to even be around. I much preferred focusing on one friend. When we would travel for soccer tournaments and my teammates would be riding up and down the elevators, splashing around in the swimming pool, and exploring the hallways of the hotel, I would watch movies and go out to eat with my dad. I liked hanging out with my dad. He understood me, he wasn’t loud, and I could be silent around him without him asking what was wrong or thinking I was weird. The other girls just didn’t get it. As kids, they thought I was weird. As early teens, they thought I was stuck up.
Phrases I heard quite often throughout my adolescence were things like:
“Don’t you think you’re being a little overly sensitive?”
“All the other girls are doing that. Why don’t you join them?”
“You need to grow thicker skin.”
“Please read something that doesn’t have a dragon in it.”
My entire life, I felt like I was too sensitive, not tough enough, too tomboyish, not girly enough.. always either too much or not enough. When all the other little girls wanted to be Belle from Beauty and the Beast, I wanted to be the Beast… much to the chagrin of my parents. When most kids played together in groups, I could only tolerate one to two other people. I always felt like there was something wrong with me.
I was always very in-tune with the the emotions of others around me, especially toward me. I could almost feel the emotions of my father even when I was on the field playing soccer. I knew by the time the game had ended that he was angry with me and I would get an ear-full in the car, or that he was so proud of me and we’d be going out for ice cream on the way home. I hated disappointing or displeasing anyone: my family, my teachers, my friends, and sometimes even strangers. Because of this, I was probably the most obedient child on planet Earth. I did what I was told the first time, without hesitation or question. It’s been hard for me to break out of this habit even as an adult.
Elementary school and middle school were unbearably easy for me. I would finish my work well before anyone else in the class and, therefore, never had homework and never had to study. This may seem like a really good thing, but when I began high school, it wasn’t as easy to get by without studying, but I did it anyway and my grades suffered a little. My first year in college was a nightmare and I escaped with a 2.0 GPA, the worst I’d ever had. I had no clue how to study, how to take notes, or how to have the discipline to do my homework in a timely manner. To be fair to myself, I was playing soccer for both my high school and a competitive club team throughout high school, and I played college soccer. Juggling all of that while going to school full time is no easy feat, but it would have been much more manageable had I gained the necessary skills earlier on.
If I could tell everyone just a few things about INFJ children, it would be this:
- They are highly sensitive to your moods and emotions, and they experience them with you. It’s exhausting and provokes intense anxiety. The best thing you can do for an INFJ child is to remain as emotionally neutral as possible, especially toward them.
- Which brings me to my next point: they internalize everything. Even if they don’t realize they’re doing it, they are. Your attitudes, beliefs, and moods toward them are all being soaked up like a sponge and held inside.
- It is very difficult for them to confide in you unless they fully trust you not to: a) tell anyone else, b) judge them for what they tell you, and/or c) understand where they are coming from. They have to have a safe place to feel safe, understood, and private. If they don’t have all of those things, they will either lie or remain silent.
- Don’t force them to be social. It’s exhausting and sometimes disheartening. They expect others to care as much as they do, to be as kind as they are, and to be as understanding as they try to be. This is almost never the case and it’s difficult not to lose faith in humanity. They can feel even more alone around people who don’t understand them. They are choosey about who they spend their time with, and that’s okay.
- Encourage their imagination! So what if they spend most of their time reading about dragons and fairies, playing “pretend”, and watching nonsense movies? These are their escape methods from this boring world and they fuel their minds to think outside the box and to think/dream big. They understand that none of these things are actually real, trust me, but being allowed this time to be creative is essential to their development.
As with anything I write on this topic, I can only give you my perspective and my experiences. Every INFJ is different and is different even as a child.
Thanks for reading! Happy Hump Day!