ESFJ Personal Growth

Written by contributing author Robert G. Heyward

What does Success mean to an ESFJ?

The ESFJ is called the "caregiver", and for good reason. Caring is the very nature of their personality; a personality driven by feeling judgements and supported by a strong sense of the world around them. The ESFJ not only sees how situations affect themselves and others, they are concerned about it. Everything that makes them feel valued and successful is bound inextricably to the value and concern they need to exchange with others. "Give and ye shall receive" is the motto of the ESFJ, whose gifts serve the most important function in all communal human processes, from the family to the wider world of care giving such as hospitality, primary teaching, nursing, aged care, social services, human resources and so on. Whilst their judgements might be bound by a somewhat conventional moral code, the ESFJ always stands up for what they are certain is the best for others. In some situations this trait can lead them into disaster, particularly if they are thrust into an unsuitable role. The ESFJ thrives best where they can make the decisions and organise things to suit their own way of seeing the world. Regardless however of their particular station in life, the ESFJ is at their best when it involves caring for and about others, measuring their success by the happiness and gratitude which is reflected back to them from the people in whose lives they play a part.

Allowing Your ESFJ Strengths to Flourish

As an ESFJ, you have gifts that are specific to your personality type that aren't natural strengths for other types. By recognizing your special gifts and encouraging their growth and development, you will more readily see your place in the world, and how you can better use your talents to achieve your dreams.

Nearly all ESFJs will recognize the following characteristics in themselves. They should embrace and nourish these strengths:
 
  • A strong sense of what is right and wrong
  • Easily empathises with another person
  • Able to share feelings with other people
  • Cares greatly about the welfare of others
  • Open, honest and forthright about the way they see things
  • Sensitive to the needs of others, particularly those judged to be less fortunate
  • Strongly upholds traditional and safe ways of living
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    ESFJs who have a strongly expressed Introverted Sensing function will find they also enjoy these very special gifts:
     
  • Very sensitive to how any situation might be inwardly affecting another person
  • Able to see the potential in any human environment for enabling the comfort and safety of others
  • A flair for dramatic illustration and story telling which makes them excellent teachers of the young
  • Able to make strong, people oriented administrative decisions
  • A skill with fashion and decoration which makes people feel good about themselves
  • Able to see outside the "square" and adjust their values to the facts of a situation
  •    

    Potential Problem Areas

    With any gift of strength, there is an associated weakness. The strong expression of any function can overshadow others, whilst at the same time its own associated and unexpressed inferior function can mine the unconscious mind and throw up annoying resistances and unsettling emotions. We value our strengths, but we often curse and - even more limiting to our potential development - ignore our weaknesses. To grow as a person and get what we want out of life, we must not only capitalize upon our strengths, but also face our weaknesses and deal with them. That means taking a hard look at our personality type's potential problem areas.

    ESFJs are kind, steady and responsible beings with many special gifts. I would like the ESFJ to keep in mind their many positive traits as they read on, and remember that the weaknesses associated with being an ESFJ are natural to your type. Although it can be depressing to read about your type's weaknesses, please remember that we offer this information to enact positive change. We want people to grow into their own potential, and to live happy and successful lives.

    Many of the ESFJ's weaker characteristics arise because their dominant and Extraverted Feeling function can overshadow the rest of their personality. This generally results in two notable effects. With their Introverted Sensing function unable to provide sufficient balance to their sharply defined feeling judgements, they often miss the relativities and contingencies of the real world. This very often leads them into conflict with those who believe a situation needs to be properly analysed before its realities can be seen and acted upon. Secondly, with their sense of the world controlled by feelings alone, the narrowly defined ESFJ will nearly always find themselves at odds with any view of the world that does not see their own clearly held judgements to be primary, or which does not accord them the "feeling toned" responses they expect. This can produce a range of effects, every one of which ends in conflict for the ESFJ, either with others or with their own feelings.

    Without a sound appreciation of the concrete world, an ESFJ may show some or all of the following weaknesses in varying degrees:
     
  • May be unable to correctly judge what really is for the best
  • May become spiteful and extremely intractable in the face of clear, logical reasoning
  • May be unable to shrug off feelings that others are not "good people"
  • May be unable to acknowledge anything that goes against their certainty about the "correct" or "right" way to do things
  • May attribute their own problems to arbitrary and unprovable notions about the way people "ought" to behave
  • May be at a loss when confronted with situations that require basic technical expertise or clear thinking
  • May be oblivious to all but their own viewpoint, valuing their own viewpoint, valuing their own certainties to the exclusion of others
  • May be unable to understand verbal logic, and quickly cut off other's explanations
  • May be falsely certain of the true needs and feeling of others
  • May be extremely vulnerable to superstitions, religious cults, and media manipulation
  • May react too quickly and too emotionally in a situation better dealt with in a more pragmatic fashion
  •     

    Explanation of Problems

    Nearly all of the problematic characteristics described above can be attributed in various degrees to the ESFJs externally mapped, feeling based view of the world not being successfully coupled to an appropriate level of Introverted Sensation. Without this internal balance, the ESFJs perceptions and ideas are determined by feeling judgements which are not in always a valid basis for understanding.

    ESFJs are usually stable, certain, reliable and caring in their approach to life, but if unbalanced they are likely to treat any point of view other than their own with a kind of amused indifference or a tendency to keep those with differing attitudes and opinions at a distance. Whilst this is natural survival behaviour for the strongly expressed ESFJ personality, if they do not learn how to deal with the wide range of differing viewpoints they come into contact with, ESFJs can find themselves waging a self created war against all that opposes their own. This conflict often expresses itself in various unambiguous and simplistic "Us verses Them" generalities, or a penchant for smugly and narrowly defining other people by arbitrary or superstitious belief systems, which often actually symbolise and define their own conflict. At its worst, this conflict with the obstinate and unfeeling contingent realities of the world creates a situation where the ESFJ retreats to a kind of psychological castle where, not only none but those who have the "right" or "nice" approach can enter, but also where the ESFJs feeling based and often tortured logic, attitudes and judgments reign supreme and cannot be questioned; a place where: "give and you shall receive" can ironically twist quickly into: "off with his head!"

    The main driver to the ESFJ personality is Extraverted Feeling, whose function is to judge the relative human value of the ideas, behaviours, situations and objects they perceive. The resulting world view is tidy, and ordered according to its worth to the ESFJ's own particular character: "Everything has its place and everything in its place". If this picture of the world is threatened by external influences, the ESFJ generally tries to shut such new information out of their lives. This is totally natural, and works well to protect the individual psyche from getting hurt. However, the ESFJ who exercises this type of self-protection regularly will find they can only connect and relate with those who do not actively disturb their increasingly narrow and rigid world view. They will always find justification for their own inappropriate behaviours, and will always find fault with the outside world for problems that they have in their lives. It will be difficult for them to maintain the flexibility needed for a healthy relationship with the messy world outside because the differing ways others value things is a constant affront to their personal judgements.

    It is not an uncommon tendency for the ESFJ to support their feeling judgements by selectively using only their immediate perceptions of a situation and how it appears to them. However, if this tendency is given free reign, the resulting ESFJ personality is too self-centred to be happy or successful. The ESFJ's auxiliary function of Introverted Sensing must be allowed to grow beyond this limit, where it is used only to support Extraverted Feeling judgements. If the ESFJ uses Introverted Sensing only to serve this purpose, then the ESFJ is not using Introversion effectively at all. As a result, the ESFJ does not sufficiently recognise and understand the vast number of contingent and differing ways in which the world is perceived by others. They see nothing but their own perspective, and deal with the world only so far as they need to in order to support their perspective. These individuals usually come across as somewhat illogical and full of fixed and often rather staid or conventional ideas about the world. Other people are often surprised by the simplicity, ambiguity and often unrelenting vehemence of their ideas.

    Solutions

    To grow as an individual, the ESFJ needs to focus on opening their perspective to include a more accurate picture of the world and its ways. In order to be in a position in which the ESFJ is able to perceive and consider data that is foreign to their value system, the ESFJ needs to recognise that their world view is not threatened by the new information. The ESFJ must consciously tell himself/herself that the judgements of others are not unrelated to reality; that the ideas of others are also just and valid within a wider and less rigorous vision of the world.

    The ESFJ who is concerned with personal growth will pay close attention to the way things appear to them. Do they try to find the basic connections between the elements of a situation? Or, do they appreciate only those elements which accord them a feeling of worth? At the moment when some connection or relationship between things is perceived, is the ESFJ only concerned with whether that perception supports something they value? Or is she/he concerned with becoming truly appraised of how things fit together in the world? To achieve a better understanding of others and the world in which they live, the ESFJ should try to put themselves into the minds of others, to locate and recognise how others see things, before making judgements. They should consciously be aware of their tendency to discard anything that doesn't agree with their carefully adjudicated system of relative worth, and work towards lessening this tendency. They should try to see the way others might see situations, without making personal judgments about how others ought to feel. In general, they should work on exercising their Sensation in a truly introverted sense. In other words, they should use Sensation to recognise that all parts of a situation are necessary for its functionality and that valuing one function or objective connection over another narrows their ability to deal with the real world as it truly is. The ESFJ who can successfully envision the world as a realm of functioning and connected parts which are all necessary to its balance can be quite a powerful force for positive change.

    Living Happily in our World as an ESFJ

    Some ESFJs have difficulty fitting into our society. Their problems are often a result of an inability understand the connections and relationships necessary to each situation, a too conventional and dogmatic set of values which limits the way others can relate to them, or an unrealistic and illogical view of the world. These issues mostly stem from using Introverted Sensation in a diminished manner: the lack of a strong internally focused viewpoint allowing an often ambiguous and yet strongly defended set of values to control the personality. An ESFJ who attempts to envision a more accurate and impartial view of the world for the sake of understanding the ways of others, rather than quickly deciding how things alone affect them, will have a clearer, more objective understanding of how society is dependant not only upon adherence to values and care for others, but also how the world relies upon structure and laws which function regardless of their human value. He or she will also be more comfortable and less likely to demand that the world and the behaviour of others conform to values of right and wrong, good and bad, worthy and worthless etc. Such well-adjusted ESFJs will fit happily into our society.

    Unless you really understand Psychological Type and the nuances of the various personality functions, it's a difficult task to suddenly start to use Sensation in an unambiguous and totally introverted direction. It's difficult to even understand what that means, much less to incorporate that directive into your life. With that in mind, I am providing some specific suggestions that may help you to begin exercising your Introverted Sensation more fully:

    Ten Rules to Live By to Achieve ESFJ Success

    1.     Feed Your Strengths! Let your talent for caring and giving spill out into the world around you, show your gifts to the world. Allow yourself to take opportunities to nurture and develop situations in your home and work environments which bring value for yourself and others. Find work or a hobby which allows you to realise these strengths.

    2.     Face Your Weaknesses! Realize and accept that some things are never going to be how you would like them to be. Understand that other peoples need to deal with the world regardless of how it seems. Facing and dealing with discord or differences in others doesn't mean that you have to change who you are; it means that you are giving yourself opportunities to grow. By facing your weaknesses, you honour your true self and that of others.

    3.     Discover the World of Others. Don't let yourself fall into the trap of thinking you always know what is right for others. Open your heart to the possibility of understanding that their true needs are something that must be discovered through a recognition that their view of the world might be very different, yet just as valid as your own.

    4.     Don't be too hasty. Try to let things settle before you make a judgement, allowing others to discover the best for themselves while you try to see all the variables and contingencies in a situation.

    5.     Look Carefully at the World. Remember, things are not always what they seem on the surface. You might need to look deeper to discover the truth, particularly when it seems you are sure of your first quick judgement. There are layers of meaning and truth beneath everything.

    6.     Try to Let Others Take Some of the Load. By letting others make their own judgements, you are not letting things get out of control, but are validating their own need to be a part of your life. Remember, it is better to guide another to see your point of view than keeping them out of the picture.

    7.     Be Accountable to Others. Remember that they need to understand you and your needs too. Express your doubts and difficulties as well as your reasons and let them become partners to your goals.

    8.     Don't Hem Yourself in. Staying in your comfort zone is self defeating in the end. Try to make every day one where you get out and discover a little something different about the world and others. This will broaden your horizons and bring new ideas and opportunities into focus.

    9.     Assume the Best and Seek for it. Don't wait for others to live up to your expectations. Every person has a goldmine of worth in them, just as every situation can be turned to some good. If you let yourself believe this, you will find yourself discovering ways to make it true for you.

    10. When in Doubt, Ask For Help! Don't let your fears leave you on the horns of a dilemma or lead you into disaster. If you are uncertain of something or someone then get input from others who have greater experience in dealing with this difficulty.

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