A recent discussion I had about Myers-Briggs personality types (I’m definitely an INTP) got me really interested in learning more about them. Of course, with my fascination with people I just HAD to look up all of them and see if I could pinpoint the personality types of people I knew.
I won’t bore you guys with the ones that resemble my friends and family, but I did come across one that was REALLY interesting. I hope I don’t come off as some kind of obsessed freak here (oh who am I kidding?) but there were many times when I would read about this personality type, a quote made by or about Benedict Cumberbatch came to mind. I should tell you that analyzing celebrities isn’t uncommon- here’s a forum thread about Johnny Depp, for example.
Now, there’s already a lovely essay analyzing Benedict’s enigmatic, almost alien face. Many of his external qualities are striking, such as his marked cupid’s bow and sectoral heterochromia. But… It turns out that his personality type is also quite unusual. The rarest of them all, apparently!
I N F J
(Introvert iNtuitive Feeling Judging)
I know what you’re thinking… Introvert, why introvert? He talks non-stop during interviews! He seems to have a lot of friends! I’ll get to that, I promise.
First thing’s first though- A general description:
INFJs are sensitive, quiet leaders with a great depth of personality. They are intricately and deeply woven, mysterious, and highly complex, sometimes puzzling even to themselves. They have an orderly view toward the world, but are internally arranged in a complex way that only they can understand. Abstract in communicating, they live in a world of hidden meanings and possibilities. With a natural affinity for art, INFJs tend to be creative and easily inspired. Less than two percent of the population has an INFJ Personality Type, making it the most rare of all the types.
“I’m not confident in social situations. Just going up to someone in a bar and saying ‘hi’ is going to be even more difficult because they won’t know the real me. They will just know me as a fictional person I play on the screen.” [x]
-INFJs can also find it difficult to directly engage or act on the world (Se). While difficult for other types to fathom, some INFJs feel themselves so foreign to the world that action seems hopelessly strange and unnatural. Some INFJs report feeling so detached from their bodies that action feels like an awkward, out-of-body experience.
“I’m like every character I’ve ever played. There is an awful lot of me that’s not like Sherlock but that’s the me to share with those I know and love.” [x]
-Most INFJs are protective of their inner selves, sharing only what they choose to share when they choose to share it. They are deep, complex individuals, who are quite private and typically difficult to understand. INFJs hold back part of themselves, and can be secretive. But the INFJ is as genuinely warm as they are complex. INFJs hold a special place in the heart of people who they are close to, who are able to see their special gifts and depth of caring. INFJs are concerned for people’s feelings, and try to be gentle to avoid hurting anyone.
-They are sometimes mistaken for extroverts because they appear so outgoing and are so genuinely interested in people - a product of the Feeling function they most readily show to the world. On the contrary, INFJs are true introverts, who can only be emotionally intimate and fulfilled with a chosen few from among their long-term friends, family, or obvious “soul mates.”
“After the show the actor had showered, danced around to Skeleton Boy by Friendly Fires to “shake off” the interwar years, and dived into the National’s Green Room to have a drink with his friends, but then escaped to the fresh air of a balcony, alone. “I just felt, ‘This is too much.’ I was hot. So I walked away from everyone.” [x]
-While instinctively courting the personal and organizational demands continually made upon them by others, at intervals INFJs will suddenly withdraw into themselves, sometimes shutting out even their intimates. This apparent paradox is a necessary escape valve for them, providing both time to rebuild their depleted resources and a filter to prevent the emotional overload to which they are so susceptible as inherent “givers.” As a pattern of behavior, it is perhaps the most confusing aspect of the enigmatic INFJ character to outsiders, and hence the most often misunderstood — particularly by those who have little experience with this rare type.
Update: This post about a fan’s encounter with him further prooves his introversion.
“He’s old before his time, and very bad-tempered, all of which are attributes which I’m very much aware of myself, so that was easy to play.” [x]
-They are very sensitive to conflict, and cannot tolerate it very well. Situations which are charged with conflict may drive the normally peaceful INFJ into a state of agitation or charged anger.
“Cumberbatch might be accused of lacking edge, but he seems to have frailties, susceptibilities, a vulnerability from pushing himself hard. “It’s not that I get ill when I’m under stress,” he promises. “If that was the case I’d be on a drip in hospital right now.” But I’m not sure I believe him. At Manchester he had the overworker’s disease glandular fever.” [x]
-They may tend to internalize conflict into their bodies, and experience health problems when under a lot of stress.
”Having your adolescence at an all-male boarding school is just crap,” Cumberbatch says, though he also seems to have been a model pupil and threw himself into extramural activities. He had an arts scholarship and painted huge oil canvases in a disused squash court.” [x]
-In the workplace, the INFJ usually shows up in areas where they can be creative and somewhat independent. They have a natural affinity for art, and many excel in the sciences, where they make use of their intuition.
“I wish people would take more notice of each other. Metaphorically speaking, it’s easy to bump into one another on the journey from A to B and not even notice. People should take time to notice, enjoy and help each other.” [x]
-An INFJ who has gone the route of becoming meticulous about details may be highly critical of other individuals who are not.
“Some of the people on that list of nominees have done fantastic things with their lives. Some of the people that aren’t on that list, but should be, like teachers in the U.K, like doctors, like soldiers in f—-ing wars, in combat situations which we can’t possibly imagine, thousands of miles away; yeah, even some of the politicians — some of them do very good things, all of them do very good things some of the time — brain surgeons, midwives, parents. I’m not even a parent. Parents go through more than I do.” [x]
-Beneath the quiet exterior, INFJs hold deep convictions about the weightier matters of life. Those who are activists — INFJs gravitate toward such a role — are there for the cause, not for personal glory or political power.
-INFJs are champions of the oppressed and downtrodden. They often are found in the wake of an emergency, rescuing those who are in acute distress. INFJs may fantasize about getting revenge on those who victimize the defenseless. The concept of ‘poetic justice’ is appealing to the INFJ.
-INFJs have a knack for fluency in language and facility in communication. In addition, nonverbal sensitivity enables the INFJ to know and be known by others intimately.
“There are lots of people I’d put ahead of myself, and that’s not me being humble. Come on, you know what it’s about. It’s flavor-of-the-month stuff, and that scares me as much as it thrills me. I’m 35, and I’ve been doing this for 10 years. The point is, I thought, maybe I should start to do something with this moment.” [x]
-Usually self-expression comes more easily to INFJs on paper, as they tend to have strong writing skills. Since in addition they often possess a strong personal charisma, INFJs are generally well-suited to the “inspirational” professions such as teaching (especially in higher education) and religious leadership. Psychology and counseling are other obvious choices, but overall, INFJs can be exceptionally difficult to pigeonhole by their career paths.
“I know I ought to say my ambition is to take over the world and be the lead in everything, but I’m really happy with the way it is going. One interviewer asked me if I was worried about being trapped in the theatre. I said, ‘It’s the best place to be.’ I know it sounds wanky, but as an actor the more I do it the more I need to do it. It’s very painful, but you have to do it. It’s very nourishing to be onstage, I get a hell of a kick. I’m just ambitious for the work to be good; I don’t strategise.” [x]
-INFJs do not want just any job or career. They want to do something they love, something they are passionate about. They want to use their creative gifts and abilities in ways that bring personal fulfillment and contribute to the greater good; settling for a mediocre or mundane career seems unacceptable to this Myers-Briggs personality type.
And, to drive this point home…
-I also stumbled upon a forum discussing different types of INFJs. Any drop of uncertainty that I might have had before blew out the window once I read this one…
The Method Actor
This one right here, my friends, might just be the reason you INFJs have been documented as the rarest of types. Oh the power of the persona, when you project and image, people will create your identity based on that image, regardless of what is actually going on in your head. This marks an extremely uncanny ability that you INFJ folk have. The INFJ can invent an character within their Ni-Fe (internal intuition-external feeling). They can write an entire story of their life, their family, their experience, their fears, their motivations, their quirks and mannerisms all within their Ni. Then when the time comes, then can channel that character into their Fe and Se (external sensing) to perfectly embody that role, in ways that can be so nuanced that you might not even know you are looking at the same person. Even if acting isn’t your thing, every INFJ still has this in them, and it often comes out in other ways. An INFJ could enter a completely foreign country, and within weeks, or even days, completely master their culture, and maybe even accent.
And, I’ll leave you with this wonderful quote by somebody who worked with him on Third Star:
“Benedict is rare even amongst the acting breed. If the character description says handsome: he is. If it says Nasty: he is. Older: he is… Younger: he is. For this reason I just can’t wait to see what he will become.”
Truer words have never been spoken!
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