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ISFJ - Introverted Sensing Feeling Judging
ISFJs like to work behind the scenes. Quick, easygoing, neat, orderly,
and given to a higher sense of duty and obedience, they find their
source of energy within (Introversion) and their reality in those things
they can see, hear, feel, taste, and smell (Sensing). That energy is
then focused outwardly in the service of others (Feeling), always in an
orderly and timely fashion (Judging). As a result, ISFJs find meaning in
life by serving human needs and making others happy.
A High Sense of Duty
One appropriate image of the ISFJ is that of the dependable bulwark who
will always be there when needed, waiting silently. As Judgers, they
might complain about being intruded upon, but ultimately their high
sense of duty compels them to do what needs to be done, without
Mates and friends of ISFJs often criticize them for letting others
continually take advantage of their goodness, even though these same
mates and friends may be guilty of doing so themselves. Indeed, ISFJs
take commitments and obligations very seriously and often do allow
others to take advantage of them. Possibly more than other types, they
allow themselves to become the doormats of a marraige, family, job, or
whatever situation in which they find themselves. More often than not,
this is a result of their high sense of obligation and allegiance,
coupled with their strong values and commitment to serve humanity.
Gender issues for ISFJs are complex for the male and almost too simple
for the female. ISFJ characteristics are almost stereotypically female
-- quiet, reserved, gentle, steady, dependable, caring, dutiful,
obedient, neat, and tidy. In fact, ISFJ females may be quietly critical
when females of other types don't behave "like the other
girls." For the ISFJ female, her feminine "script" may be
so tightly written that if, later in life, she exerts her individuality,
the action may both surprise those around her and result in negative
reactions from others.
If the ISFJ profile is a female stereotype, it's to be expected that the
male ISFJ will face special problems. The gentle, caring, quiet, and
dutiful attributes are the opposite of typical "male"
behavior. As a result, male ISFJs may be pressured to suppress their
natural behavior in order to act more typically male. In such cases,
ISFJs may go overboard, becoming supermacho, drinking or smoking to
excess, or becoming highly competitive to "prove" themselves.
In relationships, as with most everything else, the ISFJ's strong sense
of duty and commitment dominates. They are typically careful and exact
in the words they use, words that represent bonds and contracts to be
taken very seriously. Relationships may develop slowly but surely for
an ISFJ and when a declaration comes, it may -- at least by the ISFJ --
be considered permanent. ISFJs, more than other types, may remain in
relationships that long ago went bad, simply because of their sense of
duty and obligation.
Their sense of loyalty may make them appear quite serious. It may take
another type individual to mitigate the seriousness of life's demands on
an ISFJ. Some ISFJs are quietly tantalized by the bizarre and extreme.
However, they give in to such longings only on special occasions or
vicariously -- by way of a movie, perhaps, or a friend's tale of
intrigue. Beyond those exceptions, it is generally "work first,
play later" -- and then only if the work is completed. For the
ISFJ, there is almost always some work somewhere yet to be completed.
Parenting for an ISFJ is another serious responsibility, one that ISFJs
more than other types may recognize as a lifetime commitment. As a
consequence, they often assume a quiet, guardian-like role. Generally,
as parents, they are diligent, protective, and extremely patient with
the many facets of the job. While each of these characteristics is
admirable, when maximized in ISFJ parents it often means subjugation
of the parents' needs in favor of the childrens'. Though ISFJs never
really feel like saints, that is probably the way most children of ISFJs
would describe their parents.
Because duty, obedience, and responsibility permeate all that the ISFJ
does, the entire living style is marked by caring and concern for
others, expressed in an orderly, well-regulated way. Relaxation can come
only when all work is completed and, as stated earlier, it rarely is.
ISFJs generally schedule their leisure activities; indeed, such leisure
may become part of the ISFJ's repertoire of duties.
Complaining for the fun of it
It is ISFJs, more than other types, who will complain about all the
work, responsibilities, or demands placed upon them, and yet be dismayed
and disappointed if someone tries to spare them such agonies. Cooking a
big, festive family meal, for example, or taking care of an aged parent
or arranging a class reunion, may all engender a variety of protests or
complaints from the ISFJ. In fact, there is nothing that ISFJs would
rather be doing. Should someone try to rescue them, they would be hurt
and consumed with guilt.
As children, ISFJs are a treat that every parent should be allowed to
experience. Content to play by themselves, they are relatively
undemanding, neat, and obedient -- in general, model children and
hardworking students. As both child and adult, ISFJs may be given to
streaks of stubbornness that seem entirely out of character. But even
that stubbornness will give way if authority, role definition ("I'm
the teacher and I want it done this way"), or some other sense of
responsibility can be appealed to. ISFJs respect authority and respond
As students, ISFJs prefer teachers and courses that are organized and
practical. They like following outlines and doing homework and
assignments that are highly defined. For them, learning, like most other
aspects of life, is best when nobody makes waves and everything happens
as it should -- according to schedule.
Family events for ISFJs are very meaningful occasions, a chance to
gather and observe tradition and ritual, to express in action and deed
the family's importance. For the ISFJ, the meaningfulness of the event
is directly related to the extent he or she contributes to it -- by
cooking, cleaning, whatever; such efforts are a direct expression of
love. No matter how reserved the behavior, the ISFJ has depths of
loyalty that should not be underestimated; to do so is to seriously miss
the inner quality and strength unique to this type.
Work, for the ISFJ, is fun, rewarding, satisfying, and ultimately
fulfilling. If it is not, the ISFJ will likely work harder in the hopes
that things will improve. It must have been an ISFJ who said of heaven,
"Whatever else is there, it must involve work or it wouldn't be
heaven." In general, a happy ISFJ is one who has most of the hours
in the day filled in some sort of service to family, friends, or
employer. For ISFJs, work builds character; it brings growth, maturity,
satisfaction, and fulfillment. In fact, parenting, relating, mating,
teaching, and managing are all forms of work through which ISFJs express
their sense of duty and service.
Later in life
As an older person, the ISFJ employs tried and true methods in every
activity. Later years may allow some relaxing of the schedule and more
extraverted expressions of the self's needs. Though such expressions
are still tempered by a larger sense of social responsibility, this is
still a refreshingly liberating opportunity for the ISFJ to pursue his
or her own needs with a bit more zeal. ISFJs may enjoy some risk-taking
as they grow older; by some other types' standards, however, they may
still appear to be overly cautious. Retirement, is there is such a thing
in ISFJ terms, is yet another thing to be filled with meaningful
Famous likely ISFJs include Bess Truman and Nancy Reagan (whose loyalty
to and defense of their respective husbands made them seem the real
powers behind the presidential thrones); and "Radar" on
M*A*S*H (who would spend endless hours dutifully waiting at the
ham radio for an important message, despite whatever chaos might be
going on around him).
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