A lot of angst tends to come up between the sometimes-conflicting styles of Extraverted Feeling or “Harmony” and Introverted Feeling or “Authenticity.” This conflict is unfortunate because, as an INFJ Harmony user myself, some of the most important lessons of my life were inspired by the positive example of Authenticity users at their best. Although, maybe the conflict is not unfortunate because, as uncomfortable as it is, conflict spurs growth, understanding, and more profound harmony, which is the perfect description of my flow state.

In this article, I’d like to share an insight I came to recently about Authenticity and Harmony styles of boundaries and generosity. This lesson has been impactful in my own life as a psychiatrist and might be of interest to others trying to make peace with the world of the Feeling functions.

INFJ Boundaries vs. INFP Boundaries

During my psychiatry residency, I cringed as I observed how some of my mentors would go beyond the standard of care for their patients. They gave some patients their cell phone numbers and returned frivolous or manipulative calls after the end of an already long and draining workday. Not wanting to get too friendly with these practices, I watched from a distance and didn’t ask many questions about how it worked out for such mentors and their patients in the long run. Expecting eventual validation of the boundaries I held dear, I was waiting to see the giving of inches turn into an expectation of miles. Sometimes it did, and sometimes it didn’t. Either way, these Authenticity users seemed mostly unperturbed.

Still, observing their type of practice always pained me because, though I respected these mentors, I knew it wouldn’t be psychologically feasible for me to follow their example. Partly because it would set a precedent that wouldn’t be reasonable to follow consistently, and it wouldn’t feel fair to patients who might feel rebuffed for similar requests of me. But mostly because I need confidence in firm boundaries so I can delineate my self-care and avoid a meteoric descent into becoming a resentful, burnt-out wreck – no good to any patient, to anyone I care about in my life, or to myself.

I realized that most of my colleagues who went out of their way consistently in select facets of patient care, or sporadically on a case-by-case basis, were Authenticity users (INFP, ISFP, ENFP, ESFP). As an aside, the ones who tended to go out of their way for patients in almost every way asked of them, often at the expense of their well-being, tended to be Harmony users (INFJ, ISFJ, ENFJ, ESFJ) who had poorly developed boundaries and tended to burn out intensely.

This selective self-sacrifice made sense to me in terms of the subjective nature of Introverted Feeling, which gives the Authenticity user an easier time of taking individual circumstances as they come. If the happy place for Authenticity is detecting the nuances of subjective feelings and values, then it is hardly troublesome for them to take up that magnifying glass to each facet of patient care. It would be practically imperative to their nature to determine what kind of action each unique case warranted, regardless of blurring the lines of policies and standards.

My priority, on the other hand, is to find an objective standard that I can rely on confidently. Come Hell or high water (both of which come up in patients’ lives), each tragic case is treated fairly in my practice, just like every other tragic case, without exception. That prevents hard feelings, right? At least none I can’t cope with by resting into my objective standards of care – and sitting with intense discomfort. Somehow the Authenticity users don’t seem to experience the torturous feelings I do of having my objective professional values wrenched around by each outside-the-norm expectation leveled at me by a patient.

Choosing Generosity to Offset Misunderstandings

My next level of insight into this tango of Harmony and Authenticity boundaries came after listening to a recent Personality Hacker Podcast episode #298: Which is More Selfish – Harmony or Authenticity? This podcast helped me see further into the murkiness of why it isn’t sustainable for me as an INFJ to weigh individual patient circumstances as potential instances for bending the rules like my Authenticity mentors. And, why they never seemed to come to the point of exhaustion and regret I would have expected from going all those miles that started as inches.

It comes down to another imperative for Harmony users in my experience. Where Authenticity weighs circumstances for what level or type of action is required to satisfy their value system, Harmony weighs situations to prioritize what action will best serve the social construct as a whole. This often comes down to pretty much every decision I make as a Harmony user. I am actively weighing my self-interests against others’. Unless there is a strong justification to put mine first, or I have a need so great that it would harm me (and by extension the others who rely on me) not to, then I put others’ interests first. Everything from where I stand in a crowded room, to the temperature I keep the office, to which seat I choose in a lecture hall, to whether I speak up at a meeting. I am always weighing whether or not I should assert my self-interest and how that might impact everyone, even when I remind myself that “I am part of everyone.”

Just as an example of how this draining thought process infiltrates everything that I do, take the mental gymnastics I did earlier this week: I was having some insurance documents drawn up by an advisor. The final contract they gave me wasn’t the same as we had discussed and would cost me over a hundred dollars a month more. It crossed my mind to consider whether I should sign this more costly contract – because I’m sure the person worked hard on preparing it, I didn’t want to go through the hassle for both me and her of contacting her again, and I didn’t want to be a nuisance. Even though it was her mistake, which could have cost me thousands of dollars! Now, mind you, this never came to the point of me signing this document that wasn’t what I wanted. But, I did think about it. I did put some of my mental and emotional energy into weighing the cost to her vs. me.

Every single decision passes through this process of weighing the impact on my own experience vs. others, and the result is that it decreases my capacity to be flexible with other things that feel justified. Even the justified ones (which the insurance contract was) get weighed, they just get concluded more quickly and confidently than more ambiguous situations.

To use the example from the PH Podcast episode mentioned above: Society sanctions that couples getting married set some expectations of their guests in terms of things like dress code. In the podcast, Antonia observes that a Harmony user might feel distressed and resentful if a guest were to let their freak flag fly at the wedding (paraphrasing here), drawing attention away from the couple and the intended atmosphere, standing out like a sore thumb in photos, etc. The Harmony user has likely put many of their preferences aside to accommodate others for this occasion, not to mention deferring their desires in the ways I described above. So, when someone can’t let them have this one day as they would like, it is incredibly angst-inducing.

Professional boundaries are like my “wedding day.” In that sphere, I count on defined standards that protect not just the patients’ rights and safety but also my own. And when a patient asks me to go beyond the standards of care, they are expressing entitlement to more than their fair share, like the extra slice of pizza referred to several times in the podcast. They don’t realize they are “asking too much of me.” After all, a philosophy I try to live by is that people have a right to ask for anything; they just won’t always get it. As a professional, it is my responsibility to know and communicate the professional limits. However, I still feel resentful having to continually put energy into enforcing these boundaries, especially when other professionals are undermining objective standards.

It seems that Authenticity people can more readily go “out of their way” with patients in the situations I described because they don’t regularly weigh the calculation of me vs. others, or me vs. the collective. They are more inclined to permit themselves to go their own way, even in ways that might inconvenience others, without second-guessing. So, when they do go out of their way for someone, it is on their terms, because they didn’t go out of their way the rest of the time. Or, if they did, it fed their sense of self by honoring a value intrinsic to them. They do seem to come out ahead energetically when it comes to saying “yes,” or “no,” to demands on their time, effort, and sympathies. When they do say “no,” they don’t carry with them the pain of everyone who didn’t get their needs or expectations met.

What Can INFPs & INFJs Learn From Each Other?

Let me bring this back around to the lessons the two feeling functions can glean from each other, or at least what I have learned from Authenticity users in my life. With the help of positive examples of healthy Introverted Feeling, I am always working on integrating the lesson not to take on full responsibility for the feelings of others. Realizing that they will feel whatever they need to feel and manage it okay in the end, I don’t put as much energy into second-guessing and de-prioritizing myself. So, I can free up some energy for self-care. Perhaps Authenticity users can appreciate that if they make choices that serve a social standard at times, they can bolster a positive sense of self more significant than a single interaction that might be perceived by their tribe as crossing a line.

I realize a lot of this narrative I’ve laid out is influenced by my Harmony Copilot, which is an energy-draining function for me. Unfortunately, weighing the dozens of decisions a day to minimize the cost of disharmony doesn’t energetically feed me. I suspect a Harmony Driver might not be as tortured as I am.

Authenticity has its own cost to ExFPs who have it in that challenging Copilot position. I don’t doubt that their ability to take a stand by drawing a line in the sand one minute and make a difference in someone’s life by crossing it the next, comes with a cacophony of inner voices that are not always pleasant to hear. Maybe at some point, it does cause them to question how they see themselves based on the moral choices they’ve made. That would be the part I don’t see as I peer around at my mentors who are Authenticity people.

I’d love to hear from people with Harmony and Authenticity in other positions or other Harmony Copilots with different experiences than mine. Please share and keep this conversation going!

A lot of angst tends to come up between the sometimes-conflicting styles of feeling for INFJs and INFPs. This article explains why that is and how we can bridge the gap. #INFJ #INFP #boundaries


  • Maya
    • Maya
    • April 22, 2022 at 11:35 am

    This type of article confuses me. I am very certain I am an infp but I relate to all the examples you give of how you weigh things in your mind and the real life examples of situations you’ve been in (like the not fixing a contract that was to your detriment because you didn’t want to cause another person the problem of having to fix it). I am always weighing things between the interests of others and the interests of myself, and unless it is going to harm me or deplete me (which in turn will hurt the people that depend on me), I put the interests of others first. It’s just that I’m oblivious to social protocol or the idea that there is some sort of collective set of values that can be applied over and over again on a regular basis. Every situation is unique to me and I have to ask – can I afford to choose self sacrifice in this situation?

    When I was younger, I couldn’t say no. I could see what people needed and I felt I had to give them what they needed. Even if it was at my own expense. It’s taken me 30+ years to learn boundaries and the only way I got there was by realizing that if I sacrifice my own interests too much and deplete myself, I will have nothing left to give, and ultimately that will cause harm to others around me as they depend on me.

    One thing from the article that stood out to me was this:
    “With the help of positive examples of healthy Introverted Feeling, I am always working on integrating the lesson not to take on full responsibility for the feelings of others. Realizing that they will feel whatever they need to feel and manage it okay in the end, I don’t put as much energy into second-guessing and de-prioritizing myself. So, I can free up some energy for self-care.”
    I don’t think it is the positive example of Fi, but rather, the positive example of people Fi/Fe users who have arrived at a place where they are able to set boundaries. This paragraph exactly describes my experience in life too, using Fi. I have always felt responsible for other people’s feelings – but it happens more on a case by case, individual level, I would say. There is no “social standard” that I consider – I just consider the individual – “This person is going to feel x if I do y, so I can’t do y, I don’t want them to feel a negative feeling.” But I have no idea what the social protocol would say about how to treat a person at any given time. The wedding thing is a mistake I could make because it would not even enter my head that there is a social rule or expectation for how to dress. I would think about it like a case by case thing. Instead of considering – “I am going to a wedding, this is what you are expected to wear to a wedding” – I would think, “X invited me to a wedding. If I wear something that sticks out too much, she probably won’t like it. She usually likes things to be in x way. I’ll dress in x way because that will make x happy.”

    So, I’m not convinced the process is very different for Fi/Fe. I think it’s the same process. The difference is just are we judging each case individually, or are we creating like a streamlined judgment system where there is a particular judgment for each particular situation. In general, I’m confused when Fe users mention seeing Fi as a judgment process that basically does things on its own terms whereas Fe gets “pulled into” doing what is best for others. I very much perceive my Fi to work in the same way – I get pulled into doing what is best for others and deprioritizing my own needs, because that is what feels right to me. And unfortunately I have felt as “unwillingly” pulled into it as Fe users describe feeling. Like you don’t want to self sacrifice and its not on your terms, but you just do. But with Fi it happens on a case by case level and I have no perception of social rules or expectations. I just see the person in front of me and what they need.

  • Michie
    • Michie
    • March 21, 2022 at 4:22 pm

    Thank you so much for this article. I am an INFJ who grew up with half my family as xNFP’s. I was constantly asked to look at my motivation, address my own needs, and not to take on other people’s baggage. The interplay between Authenticity and Harmony has fascinated me since I first dove into Personality Hacker. I love learning boundaries from Authenticity users. I believed myself dumb as a child because it was a grind and full of second guessing to say no while my brother could gracefully and quickly say no and show no signs of regret. Over the years, I trained myself to picture myself as my own best friend. When I look at decisions, I step out of myself and ask “Can you really take this on without putting your own needs aside?” Today I am married to an INFP and I can count on his steady sense of self. We engage in intuitive conversation that covers both breath and depth of the human psyche and society at large. And we occasionally don’t understand what the other is babbling about until someone else “translates”. I could not ask for a more fulfilling life thanks to learning how personality traits interplay.

  • Julie
    • Julie
    • August 12, 2021 at 2:23 pm

    I would like more examples of Harmony. I am an Fi user, Infp. I am having a hard time understanding what FE is. What is the “others” in a situation where there is only a doctor and a patient? Would it mean, in this context, to take care of the administrative clerks and medical assistants needs instead of focusing on the patent’s needs?

  • Julie
    • Julie
    • August 12, 2021 at 1:44 pm

    Authenticity is an introverted process, which means there is no “tribe” to consider, there is only 1 person, the Self and its ethics, its standards are and it’s rules are all built on top of its values- NOT “the tribe’s” values and standards and ethics. That is why Authenticity can more easily ‘take the wheel’ on the go while driving on the job, and make decisions based on her INTERNAL locus of decision-making based on her own standards. Which should lead into trouble, as one would suspect, and lead into being over-drained- but these co-workers must be well-practiced and ‘mature’ and already know through their experience how much they can handle and that is why they are able to navigate without becoming drained- otherwise, they would be just like you.

  • Anna
    • Anna
    • June 11, 2021 at 4:49 pm

    As a fellow INFP, I resonate with all of what you said so much. Especially the occasional being taken advantage of. It’s gotten to the point where I will need to make a decision and I will even have the inkling that I’m probably going to be taken advantage of (because that inevitably happens in most cases) but, at the end of weighing wether I nip it in the bud or take the chance because it relates to a core value, I make the decision to do it anyway. Somehow I know I will deal better with recovering from being taken advantage of than the guilt of feeling like I didn’t follow through with my core value.

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