Self-Expression, Boundaries, and Love: Advocates (INFJ) and the Discomfort of Speaking Up

Advocates (INFJ) are sensitive and romantic types who usually look to partner up with someone who really gets them. True love – and a healthy relationship – includes being able to let down their guard and be vulnerable as their unfiltered and authentic self.

But to be their authentic self, people with this personality type must become comfortable with one crucial aspect of relationship building – speaking up for their own interests. Sometimes it can be easier for these types to speak up for other people than it can be to voice their own needs, defend their beliefs, or communicate personal boundaries to their significant other. Unfortunately, by holding back, it’s more difficult to achieve the deep sense of intimacy that they crave in their romantic relationships.

In the article “Self-Expression, Boundaries, and Love: Speaking Up When It Matters,” we briefly review how different personality Roles might face common stumbling blocks in their self-expression. Most Diplomats (the Role to which Advocates belong) have a distinctly lopsided approach. They are among the types most likely to encourage their partner to open up but often struggle to do so themselves.

This has a lot to do with Diplomats’ shared Intuitive and Feeling traits. If we zoom in specifically on Advocates, we’ll find that these peacekeeping tendencies are uniquely shaped by the added influence of the Introverted and Judging traits.

Understanding Advocates’ Hesitancy to Speak Up

As Introverts, Advocates face particular challenges when it comes to speaking up. Doing so requires them to muster up the courage to take the reins in a conversation that they know could become uncomfortable. While most people with this personality type agree that vulnerability is essential for emotional closeness, there’s a good chance that opening up about what they need will result in heightened anxiety rather than relief.

These personalities are also known to have high standards and expectations, which they may end up projecting outward onto their partner – often without that person ever knowing it. But rather than staying focused on the disappointment that their significant other’s behaviors may cause, Advocates often try to understand their partner’s feelings or motivations. This often results in tolerating actions and attitudes that, in reality, rub them the wrong way.

Advocates are generally clear on what’s bothering them, are usually in tune with their emotions, and often know why they feel the way that they do – but their high threshold for tolerance, combined with their protective emotional reserve, may, unfortunately, manifest in a tendency to be somewhat defensive and guarded.

Getting Behind the Defenses

To understand this facet of Advocate personality types a little better, let’s explore certain personality-related characteristics that may contribute to their potentially self-limiting reserve.

The tendencies that we discuss in this section tend to be true for this personality type as a whole – however, some Advocates may experience them more intensely than others. For Assertive types, these issues may be subtle or absent altogether, while more Turbulent personalities might immediately recognize themselves in these descriptions. Like every aspect of personality, these tendencies manifest on a spectrum.

Fear of Rejection

One reason why Advocates might hold back on speaking up is because doing so opens up the possibility of rejection. In a new relationship, their significant other could react by breaking things off or giving them the cold shoulder. In a more established relationship, Advocates’ fear of rejection might manifest in the expectation that what they have to say will be brushed off, misunderstood, or questioned to the point of dismissal.

This issue with rejection can – and often does – flow both ways. It’s likely that Advocates also feel discomfort with the idea (or act) of rejecting something that their partner says or does. Chances are they would never want to risk making their partner feel as though they were being rejected, and speaking up or enforcing a boundary might feel like doing exactly that.

Aversion to Selfishness

Advocates’ emotional reserve may also be influenced, at least in some respects, by their strong aversion to selfishness – more specifically, to the fact that they generally do not want to be seen as selfish people. Unfortunately, it’s an all-too-common and limiting belief that speaking up for yourself and defining boundaries is selfish. Even if someone knows on an intellectual level that this is not true, it can still feel like a selfish act.

Advocates are among the most self-aware personalities when it comes to acting selfishly in a relationship, and consequently, they’re one of the personality types least likely to report doing so. They tend to feel pretty bad if they think they’ve made a selfish transgression against their partner by exerting their needs.

Heightened Sensitivity

The same perceptive sensitivity that makes Advocates such emotionally supportive partners can also hinder them in their self-expression. More so than many other personalities, they can become deeply affected by their partner’s mood and overall energy, possibly to the point of becoming overwhelmed. Rather than feeling the need to speak up, there’s a chance that they’ll feel the need to withdraw.

This tendency to retreat emotionally can also happen if their own emotions become too much for them to process at once. If their feelings get too intense, it can become hard for Advocates to think clearly – so speaking up in the moment may feel risky in the sense that they might not be able to fully articulate what they are thinking or might say something that they’ll regret later.

Final Thoughts

So what can Advocates do with this information?

Well, you can use it to build self-awareness. If you find yourself pulling back from or walling in your honest thoughts, feelings, and opinions, check in with yourself. What’s holding you back from authentic self-expression? Learn to recognize when your patience and understanding are stretched past the point of tolerance or when you are dancing around your fear of rejection. Tune in to those moments when you feel selfish for advocating for yourself or when your heightened sensitivity fuels your need to retreat. This self-awareness will help you notice when your defenses are up, so that you can intentionally work on lowering them.

And remember that speaking your mind is one of the best ways to be generous with your partner. It certainly saves them the chore of having to guess what you are thinking or what you need. It might be uncomfortable, but each time you discuss your needs, thoughts, or boundaries, you reveal more of yourself to the person who loves you. In doing so, you create opportunities for the vulnerability and connection that you crave.

If you’re an Advocate or if you love one, what might you add? What other personality-based tendencies do you think contribute to the emotional reserve that is so common among people with this personality type? Feel free to leave your observations in the comments section below.

Further Reading