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  1. #1
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    Default INFJ-ESFJ misunderstandings

    I'm an INFJ. My older sister is an ESFJ. For years our relationship has been a source of frustration for me, even though I love her, and I would like to settle it once and for all. The problem is that no matter how I try to explain myself to her, she disregards anything that would make her initial judgment of me wrong, and glosses over it with Fe advice. It's driving me crazy. How does one get through to a sort of know-it-all ESFJ who doesn't seem willing to reevaluate her judgments?

    I really want to be closer with her. But every interaction with her that gives me more insight into her personality and makes me appreciate her more, also leaves me feeling kind of shitty about myself. Because I know how she sees me, and I'm pretty sure the rest of our family sees me the same way (especially since she's voiced her concerns about me to them, I'm sure).

    What she doesn't get is that every weakness she sees in me could be turned back on her. She thinks I'm not independent because for years I went along with our crazy mother to avoid outer conflict. But I have always been very independent mentally; questioning norms, creating my own personal measures of success, generally being very individualistic (Ni). On the contrary, she always butted heads with our mom (and suffered worse abuse for it). But she has always had a strong need for validation; was always obsessed with fitting in with the popular crowd, having nice material possessions and keeping up with the trends, etc. She was a perfectionist in school in the sense that she had to have straight A's; I had good grades, but took a more intellectual approach to learning and didn't focus on grades as much. She's pragmatic, I'm theoretical. When I was younger I thought she was a bit shallow but now I realize her way of thinking is valid, and we're just different.

    She thinks I'm weak minded because I'm not always assertive (I certainly can be, but she's never witnessed it), but that's only because Ni allows me to see everyone's point of view at once and renders all of them subjective and inaccurate. Ni makes it seem futile to take sides in interpersonal conflicts where no one understands each other. I'm sick of everyone thinking I'm dumb just because I don't have a single perspective that I blindly bludgeon others with.

    To me she exemplifies the idea that people (in general; obviously not everyone) will always respect someone who can package their ideas in charisma and confidence over a person whose ideas are more complex and logical, but lacking in presentation. She commands respect just from her demeanor; people tend to agree with whatever she says not necessarily because it's right, but because she persuades them with Fe (that's not to say she lacks substance or that she's never right, though). I attempt to share my Ni thoughts with the same people, and they're immediately bored or just assume I'm stupid because I'm a bit awkward. Then years later, at a family gathering, my sister can paraphrase something her professor said. And she says it with such conviction, explaining how it opened her eyes because she had never thought of it before. Everyone seems impressed this revelation. All the while, I'm in the background thinking, "I had that same thought on my own when I was 15 and everyone brushed me off when I shared it." Maybe that sounds bitter, but this scenario has played out many times.

    I recognize that my sister has her own strengths and weaknesses and we're merely different. MBTI helped me realize this. I've come to accept that sticking to social norms and seeking a lot of external validation is natural for her, even if it grates against my personal preferences; and I shouldn't resent her for the fact that people like her more than me. Even with her temperament, she's just as intelligent, if not more so, than me (simply in a more practical way).

    However, I don't think she has had the same realization about me. She still thinks that I'm dumb, that I don't know what's best for myself, that my non-conformity is nothing more than social ineptitude... No matter how many times I try to explain to her that I don't CARE if other people think I dress weird or that I'm too quiet or eccentric, that I could never be happy emulating something I'm not to gain false "acceptance" from others, she can't wrap her mind around it. She can't see that as a strength. To her, I'm just failing at fitting in; I'm not succeeding at being creative or independent. Somehow she thinks it's a sign of low self esteem rather than a sign of having enough confidence to go against the grain. She says well-meaning but ultimately deeply insulting things like, "You should let me take you clothes shopping! If I dressed you, people would like you so much more." She sometimes makes judgments about other people that are offensive to me. "That guy was wearing eyeliner. That's so weird." We have very different ideologies. She brushes off anyone who strays from the norm as "weird," so from my point of view she's callous when it comes to LGBTQ issues, mental ilness, etc.

    Maybe I'm biased, but I feel like I'm more mature than her (how she would balk if she read that) in this area, because I'm more willing to see things from her perspective and just accept our differences. To realize she's just trying to help me in her own way and we have different needs and values. But she doesn't do that for me; she projects an image of maturity and irrefutable "rightness" over others. It has always seemed fake and immature to me, to put on such an outward show of maturity, and even worse how people reward it while refusing to take me seriously because I don't play the game. This seems to be the culture in my family: I will never be taken seriously or treated as an adult until I "initiate" myself via marriage or parenting (neither of which I desire) and make an elaborate show of being a mature adult with important adult-like opinions and grievances.

    I just want to be recognized and respected for who I really am. I don't feel the need to don the cliche outer trappings of adulthood to prove I'm mature. I get the impression my family thinks it's funny that I'm an adult and I'm still obsessed with cartoons and other "childish" things. To me that attitude is akin to a macho man who recoils at anything not "manly" because he's insecure. I have nothing to prove.

    Has anyone else had this problem with ESFJs or other types? Is there ANY way to get them outside of their function-based biases to at least respect your differences, if not understand them? Beyond my relationship with my sister, this is an issue I have with my whole family to some extent. There are a lot of SJs and some SPs, and certainly no other INFJs. I fear that I'll have to estrange myself from my family to stop wanting their approval and be myself unapologetically.
    Last edited by Seraphim; 01-01-2014 at 10:15 PM.

  2. #2
    Sheep pill, broster asynartetic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Seraphim View Post
    I'm an INFJ. My older sister is an ESFJ. For years our relationship has been a source of frustration for me, even though I love her, and I would like to settle it once and for all. The problem is that no matter how I try to explain myself to her, she disregards anything that would make her initial judgment of me wrong, and glosses over it with Fe advice. It's driving me crazy. How does one get through to a sort of know-it-all ESFJ who doesn't seem willing to reevaluate her judgments?

    I really want to be closer with her. But every interaction with her that gives me more insight into her personality and makes me appreciate her more, also leaves me feeling kind of shitty about myself. Because I know how she sees me, and I'm pretty sure the rest of our family sees me the same way (especially since she's voiced her concerns about me to them, I'm sure).

    What she doesn't get is that every weakness she sees in me could be turned back on her. She thinks I'm not independent because for years I went along with our crazy mother to avoid outer conflict. But I have always been very independent mentally; questioning norms, creating my own personal measures of success, generally being very individualistic (Ni). On the contrary, she always butted heads with our mom (and suffered worse abuse for it). But she has always had a strong need for validation; was always obsessed with fitting in with the popular crowd, having nice material possessions and keeping up with the trends, etc. She was a perfectionist in school in the sense that she had to have straight A's; I had good grades, but took a more intellectual approach to learning and didn't focus on grades as much. She's pragmatic, I'm theoretical. When I was younger I thought she was a bit shallow but now I realize her way of thinking is valid, and we're just different.

    She thinks I'm weak minded because I'm not always assertive (I certainly can be, but she's never witnessed it), but that's only because Ni allows me to see everyone's point of view at once and renders all of them subjective and inaccurate. Ni makes it seem futile to take sides in interpersonal conflicts where no one understands each other. I'm sick of everyone thinking I'm dumb just because I don't have a single perspective that I blindly bludgeon others with.

    To me she exemplifies the idea that people (in general; obviously not everyone) will always respect someone who can package their ideas in charisma and confidence over a person whose ideas are more complex and logical, but lacking in presentation. She commands respect just from her demeanor; people tend to agree with whatever she says not necessarily because it's right, but because she persuades them with Fe (that's not to say she lacks substance or that she's never right, though). I attempt to share my Ni thoughts with the same people, and they're immediately bored or just assume I'm stupid because I'm a bit awkward. Then years later, at a family gathering, my sister can paraphrase something her professor said. And she says it with such conviction, explaining how it opened her eyes because she had never thought of it before. Everyone seems impressed this revelation. All the while, I'm in the background thinking, "I had that same thought on my own when I was 15 and everyone brushed me off when I shared it." Maybe that sounds bitter, but this scenario has played out many times.

    I recognize that my sister has her own strengths and weaknesses and we're merely different. MBTI helped me realize this. I've come to accept that sticking to social norms and seeking a lot of external validation is natural for her, even if it grates against my personal preferences; and I shouldn't resent her for the fact that people like her more than me. Even with her temperament, she's just as intelligent, if not more so, than me (simply in a more practical way).

    However, I don't think she has had the same realization about me. She still thinks that I'm dumb, that I don't know what's best for myself, that my non-conformity is nothing more than social ineptitude... No matter how many times I try to explain to her that I don't CARE if other people think I dress weird or that I'm too quiet or eccentric, that I could never be happy emulating something I'm not to gain false "acceptance" from others, she can't wrap her mind around it. She can't see that as a strength. To her, I'm just failing at fitting in; I'm not succeeding at being creative or independent. Somehow she thinks it's a sign of low self esteem rather than a sign of having enough confidence to go against the grain. She says well-meaning but ultimately deeply insulting things like, "You should let me take you clothes shopping! If I dressed you, people would like you so much more." She sometimes makes judgments about other people that are offensive to me. "That guy was wearing eyeliner. That's so weird." We have very different ideologies. She brushes off anyone who strays from the norm as "weird," so from my point of view she's callous when it comes to LGBTQ issues, mental ilness, etc.

    Maybe I'm biased, but I feel like I'm more mature than her (how she would balk if she read that) in this area, because I'm more willing to see things from her perspective and just accept our differences. To realize she's just trying to help me in her own way and we have different needs and values. But she doesn't do that for me; she projects an image of maturity and irrefutable "rightness" over others. It has always seemed fake and immature to me, to put on such an outward show of maturity, and even worse how people reward it while refusing to take me seriously because I don't play the game. This seems to be the culture in my family: I will never be taken seriously or treated as an adult until I "initiate" myself via marriage or parenting (neither of which I desire) and make an elaborate show of being a mature adult with important adult-like opinions and grievances.

    I just want to be recognized and respected for who I really am. I don't feel the need to don the cliche outer trappings of adulthood to prove I'm mature. I get the impression my family thinks it's funny that I'm an adult and I'm still obsessed with cartoons and other "childish" things. To me that attitude is akin to a macho man who recoils at anything not "manly" because he's insecure. I have nothing to prove.

    Has anyone else had this problem with ESFJs or other types? Is there ANY way to get them outside of their function-based biases to at least respect your differences, if not understand them? Beyond my relationship with my sister, this is an issue I have with my whole family to some extent. There are a lot of SJs and some SPs, and certainly no other INFJs. I fear that I'll have to estrange myself from my family to stop wanting their approval and be myself unapologetically.
    My father is ESFJ. He is also a classic case of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I have no real relationship with him, beyond the cordial smalltalk and pretending to give a shit about whatever interest or topic he is presently insisting on telling everyone about, whether or not they actually asked. He was incredibly controlling of my sister and I growing up, to the point that neither of us has any real interest in getting to know him now. I was a fiercely independent child who preferred to be challenged, do things myself, and plan my future in a very specific sequence, which of course was not in line with what my father felt and "knew" was best for me.

    I can relate to your experience of being brushed off after sharing an insight, only to see someone else share it and have it received with great enthusiasm by everyone else. This used to happen a lot with my father (still does, but he's gotten slightly better)--I would share an insight or a factoid and he would either laugh it off and tell me I need to stop with "all that Eastern guru bullshit" or simply ignore me altogether; then, days, months, even years later, he'd share the exact same bit of info or insight and everyone would say, "wow, Dad, that's amazing!" The worst thing about this is that he often disregards anything I (and others) say that isn't backed up with what he considers solid evidence. If I told him it could be bad to eat too much Soy, he'd tell me I didn't know what I was talking about, but as soon as he saw a bit about it on a talk show, he'd accept it as wisdom and gospel. It hurts to have your own relative treat so much of what you say as childish or stupid, yet they will blindly accept it just because some "official" source suddenly decrees it.

    I'm sorry I can't give you something more to work with, but I wanted you to know you're not alone in your experience. Don't give up on building a healthy relationship with your sister just yet.

    I would recommend cutting her off for a little while. I know this might sound mean, but sometimes it takes cutting people off to make them realize there is something at fault in their own behavior.

  3. #3
    failed poetry slam career chubber's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lyedecker View Post
    My father is ESFJ. He is also a classic case of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I have no real relationship with him, beyond the cordial smalltalk and pretending to give a shit about whatever interest or topic he is presently insisting on telling everyone about, whether or not they actually asked. He was incredibly controlling of my sister and I growing up, to the point that neither of us has any real interest in getting to know him now. I was a fiercely independent child who preferred to be challenged, do things myself, and plan my future in a very specific sequence, which of course was not in line with what my father felt and "knew" was best for me.

    I can relate to your experience of being brushed off after sharing an insight, only to see someone else share it and have it received with great enthusiasm by everyone else. This used to happen a lot with my father (still does, but he's gotten slightly better)--I would share an insight or a factoid and he would either laugh it off and tell me I need to stop with "all that Eastern guru bullshit" or simply ignore me altogether; then, days, months, even years later, he'd share the exact same bit of info or insight and everyone would say, "wow, Dad, that's amazing!" The worst thing about this is that he often disregards anything I (and others) say that isn't backed up with what he considers solid evidence. If I told him it could be bad to eat too much Soy, he'd tell me I didn't know what I was talking about, but as soon as he saw a bit about it on a talk show, he'd accept it as wisdom and gospel. It hurts to have your own relative treat so much of what you say as childish or stupid, yet they will blindly accept it just because some "official" source suddenly decrees it.

    I'm sorry I can't give you something more to work with, but I wanted you to know you're not alone in your experience. Don't give up on building a healthy relationship with your sister just yet.

    I would recommend cutting her off for a little while. I know this might sound mean, but sometimes it takes cutting people off to make them realize there is something at fault in their own behavior.
    it hurts reading this, because I too feel shitty about myself when they apply their "corrective thinking".

  4. #4
    Sheep pill, broster asynartetic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chubber View Post
    it hurts reading this, because I too feel shitty about myself when they apply their "corrective thinking".
    It can be extremely damaging to a person, particularly someone in adolescence. It's taken me a long time to get over it but as long as I'm still in communication with him, I imagine the wounds will still be there underneath the surface, to some extent.

  5. #5
    Senior Member sulfit's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lyedecker View Post
    I would recommend cutting her off for a little while. I know this might sound mean, but sometimes it takes cutting people off to make them realize there is something at fault in their own behavior.
    INFJ-ESFJ relationship is predicted to be that of supervision in socionics. Perhaps once you understand the relationship dynamics of this relations type you'll be able to improve your relations with your sister.

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