The ISFJ dark side: What’s it like? Are those sweet, innocent, dutiful ISFJ types even capable of having a dark side? Yes, of course they have a dark side. In this article and video, I’ll tell you a little about the ISFJ dark side traits that I’ve observed.
First, I’d just like to say how much I love ISFJs. Being an INTJ, I don’t get out much, and I trust very few people. However, out of all of the people I’ve ever met, the person I love, trust, and admire most is an ISFJ personality type (my wife).
Healthy ISFJs are some of the most loyal, kind, hard-working, and amazing human beings that you will ever meet, period. They make some of the most amazing “super” moms. They will volunteer at church or help heal the sick. The will be by your side when you need them. Everyone needs an ISFJ in their life.
ISFJ Dark Side
Below are some of the dark side traits, unhealthy patterns, or random quirks of the ISFJ personality type.
ISFJ Struggles with Past Memories, Grudges
ISFJs lead with Introverted Sensing (Si) as their dominant function. This function takes in concrete sensory details from the environment (among other things), forms strong visual memories, and compares the sensory experiences to the past.
The upside of this function is that Introverted Sensing-dominant types (ISFJ and ISTJ) often have great memory recall for dates and other details. The downside, however, is that they can struggle with strong negative emotions when faced with a traumatic memory.
For example, if an ISFJ looks at a picture of a deceased loved one, he or she might be flooded with intense memories. Those memories can involve deep emotion and rich sensory information, which can lead to extreme depression and sadness for the ISFJ, who will often feel as if they are re-living the loss.
ISFJs can also form grudges based on their ability to recall past events in such detail. Recalling the memory is almost as powerful as re-living the event.
All four types from the “SJ” temperament (ISFJ, ISTJ, ESFJ, ESTJ) are known as very hard and loyal workers–a trait that I greatly admire. However, ISFJs can work themselves to the point of death. They can refuse to ask for help, assuming that they can do everything themselves. They can even avoid taking their breaks at work so that they can get things done (my wife has actually done this while working as a nurse during a 12-hour shift!).
While ISFJs might feel awkward (or burdensome) asking others for help, the truth is that most ISFJs feel as if no one can do a task better than they can do it. Therefore, they’ll go the extra mile and attempt to “do it all” so that the work will meet their high standards.
This can wear them down emotionally and physically, and they can get into a pattern where they will practically kill themselves with tasks while refusing to ask for even a little bit of help, all while secretly resenting coworkers or family members due to their “laziness.” ISFJs can even be hard on themselves and feel as if they are lazy if they don’t get enough work done.
ISFJ’s Desire to Serve
One of the driving forces behind the ISFJ type is a strong desire to serve and help others, and this is especially true for ISFJs who type as an Enneagram Type Two. ISFJs want to feel needed, and they love to serve others. That’s why many of them gravitate toward careers such as nursing, teaching, or stay-at-home parenting/housewife.
ISFJs live to serve, and they’ll make you need them. I remember seeing a meme one time that read, “ISFJ: I’ll make you need me within five minutes!” That is so true! They somehow manage to work their way into your life and make you rely on them. However, ISFJs in the “dark side” can go into extreme depression when they feel that others don’t need them. They will feel utterly worthless.
Ironically, ISFJs can be the hardest working people you’ll ever meet, yet they’ll still beat themselves up mentally and feel as if they haven’t done enough. ISFJs can be the best parents in the world, yet feel as if they are horrible parents. I’ve observed this strange paradox in the ISFJ.
Unfortunately, the ISFJ’s desire to be needed can get them into trouble. People can identify this “need to serve and please” trait in the unsuspecting ISFJ, and begin asking for more and more favors. Before long, the ISFJ has become the stereotypical “doormat.”
What most people don’t realize, however, is that ISFJs often know that they are being used. They can secretly resent people who take advantage of them, and if used for too long, ISFJs can abruptly leave a job or cut off a friendship or dating partner. Therefore, you should never take your ISFJ loved one for granted.
ISFJ Pushy, Repetitive Behavior
ISFJs can be a bit pushy when it comes to getting tasks done, and they have zero patience for procrastination. They want all tasks done five minutes ago. They are not the types to sit around daydreaming all day. They like to complete tasks, read, and so forth. Therefore, if an ISFJ has an agenda to clean house, work, or do something else, you’d better get out of his or her way.
My ISFJ wife can be very pushy when it comes to things, and I laugh at her over this. For example, if I’ve told my ISFJ wife that I plan to do something, she’ll remind me about it until I do it. I’ll often say, “Okay, Mrs. Pushy ISFJ!” They can be quite repetitive, too.
ISFJs can become frustrated if you suggest a new way of doing something. I’m always offering advice on how to do something differently, but my ISFJ wife is stubbornly trying to do things the way she has always done them. Thankfully, she’s learned that I usually find better ways of doing things, so she’s not as stubborn as she used to be.
ISFJ Relationship Dark Side
ISFJs can be a bit jealous in the sense that they will want all of your spare time. If you’re friends with an ISFJ, he or she may want to be your main (or only) friend. They can be somewhat possessive in that way, and may want to be the center of your world. They can also struggle with jealousy if they perceive that someone is better at something.
ISFJs can also be overprotective. ISFJ can become confrontational or even rude if they feel that their loved one is being insulted or threatened. My wife has often jumped into a conversation to defend me before I had the opportunity to defend myself!
ISFJs can also be clingy or “smothering.” I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, because I actually like clingy (and can be clingy myself as an INTJ). My wife and I cling all over each other! Nevertheless, I have read some people complain about this trait.
ISFJs can also have the habit of being sucked into very unhealthy relationships. They might be the type to stay with a person who abuses them mentally or physically. They can also develop a sort of “messiah complex,” wherein they feel as if they have to save a partner who has turned to drugs or self-harm.
ISFJs also hate criticism of any kind, so you have to be very gentle when you critique your ISFJ friends, loved ones, or coworkers! They are perfectionists and can become upset if you do it.
Regarding lying, most ISFJs would probably do it while in the dark side to avoid conflict with people. They’ll be likely to tell “white lies” to avoid hurting people’s feelings: “You don’t look fat in those jeans!” said the ISFJ to the 800 lbs. woman.
ISFJ Extroverted Feeling (Fe) Issues
ISFJs have Extroverted Feeling (Fe) as their auxiliary (secondary) function. Extroverted Feeling desires harmony in relationships, and individuals with a strong preference for this function will often have a certain warmth or kindness to them. Because Fe focuses more externally than internally for judgments and values, it has the effect of absorbing the emotions of others.
Long before I learned about MBTI, I would notice that my ISFJ wife would get upset after I’d vent to her about my problems. I’d pace back and forth on the floor as I voiced my list of frustrations. Then, I’d ask for her advice. She’d look so upset and say something like, “I don’t know what to tell you, babe.” It was as if my problems became her problems.
I’d be confused as to why she was bubbly and happy before I vented, yet so upset afterward. After I learned about Extroverted Feeling, it explained so much. As an INTJ, I don’t have that problem. I can remain detached when people become emotional, and I can assess their problem and provide a solution. Why? I have Introverted Feeling (Fi) as my third function, and I’m much more detached from other people’s emotions. Extroverted Feelers, however, have the tendency to absorb other people’s emotions!
Another problem that ISFJ’s will face from their Fe is that they won’t always understand their own emotions. Many times, my wife has come to me feeling very depressed and sad. She would say things like, “I feel horrible, but I don’t know what’s wrong with me!” After listing some things that I thought had made her upset, she’d say, “You’re exactly right! That’s what’s wrong with me. You’re a genius!”
ISFJs can also become very uncomfortable in the face of conflict or criticism. They like harmony, especially when it comes to their friendships or close relationships. If family members are arguing, ISFJs can cringe from the tension. They can also become overly emotional when confronted with a tragic event such as a sad news story. My wife began crying once after reading a story of a mother killing her own child.
ISFJs can struggle with disciplining their children by sending them to a “time out” or giving them a spanking. Of course, I don’t have issues with those things as an INTJ.
ISFJs are also harder to get to know than you’d think. While some ISFJs are quiet, some can come off more like a bubbly extrovert due to their Extroverted Feeling (Fe). This leads to people to assume that ISFJs are very open, friendly, and social. However, they can keep a lot of themselves back, and you won’t really get to know them until you’ve been friends (or dating them) for a while. They tend to keep conversations focused on others.
They can also become drained if they are invited to too many social outings, as they do need alone time to recharge (and cook and clean their house). People often assume my wife is a bubbly extrovert, and they invite us to all sorts of outings. She’s great with people, and everyone who meets her instantly likes her. However, I have to tell her to watch her bubbly persona, because we’ll both be drained if we are sucked into too many social invites. (We’ve faced that problem many times).
ISFJs Under Stress
As ISFJs become stressed, they might try to relax by watching movies, especially ones with a strong relationship-building focus (i.e., chick flicks). If the stress builds, ISFJs will go to their inferior function, Extroverted Intuition (Ne), as a way of coping. They can become extremely pessimistic and depressed, and their behavior will be more like an ENTP–their shadow type.
Stressed out ISFJs will feel as if everything in life is crumbling, and there is literally no way that things will ever work out in their relationships, career, etc. Their Extroverted Intuition (Ne) will run through various possibilities of how things can go wrong. They will feel as if they can never do enough for people and that they are failures.
As a result, ISFJs will become despondent. They go into total shutdown mode. Instead of buzzing around the house doing chores and acting bubbly (their normal behavior), ISFJs will probably lie around in bed all day or sit on the couch with a blank look upon their faces. They can become abrasive and argumentative in their responses. They will get lost in abstract thought, which is atypical for them.
Conclusion of the ISFJ Dark Side
There you have it! ISFJs do have a dark side, but they are so awesome. I try never to form a bias for or against an entire personality type, but my ISFJ wife makes it hard for me to do so. I’ve liked every ISFJ that I’ve ever met. I admire their kindness, their loyalty, their hard work ethic, and more. There is not a single person in this world that I know more, love more, or trust more than my ISFJ wife. Coming from an INTJ, that’s saying a lot.
What about the rest of you? I’d love to hear from other ISFJ as to what their dark side struggles are like. Have any of you other types experienced ISFJ dark side traits? Please comment on the YouTube video above!