ISFJs are deeply compassionate, sensitive and self-sacrificing individuals for whom the normal "give-and-take" of the every-day world is a threatening, anxiety-producing affair. That means that life as their counterparts, the ESFJs and the ESTJs live it - zestfully, enthusiastically and enjoying of its manifold resources - is a greatly desired but unknown experience for the ISFJ.
Fearing the spontaneous side of life makes them attempt to control the events surrounding their lives. And this is an enterprise destined to fail - for life is itself characterized by unknown dynamics. The ISFJ, like the INFJ, longs to learn to ride the crests of the changing winds of life - learning to "go-with-the-flow".
Their strongly sacrificial, sensitive, compassionate natures, however, lead them to go forth quietly but relentlessly to seek to meet needs of those who are less fortunate than themselves.
The helping professions, the healing professions, social work, nursing and other medical professions are replete with ISFJs who often will sacrifice salary for service. They will labor long, faithfully and dependably because... they care. Institutions, too, are beneficiaries of the ISFJs' abundantly given sacrificial service. These are faithful, unassuming hard workers!
ISFJs are not socially adept and, like Is, do not make nor desire to have many friends, preferring few but close friends instead. They are ever ready to "be there" for a friend if that friend is in need of moral and emotional support but shy away - indeed, hide - from confrontations.
Their feelings are easily hurt and they - being also introverted and socially insecure - do not know how to verbalize their displeasure without "making a federal case" out of minor occurrences.
They are, nonetheless, valuable friends so long as the friend does not remain in a state of emotional need which may make the ISFJ tire of the "treadmill" of negativity - although any friend of theirs will tell you that they are not the most optimistic of persons themselves.
They have a propensity to jump to conclusions and, being hesitant to broach any subject that may lead to psychological or emotional discomfort - follow their own conclusions about others without testing them independently to see if they have or have not erred in judgment.
Their inability to willingly confront issues of disturbance - generally being taken advantage of - leads them to "take it home" where they expect their mates to uphold and support them.
They are not, however, willing listeners to criticism or advice that is not supportive of their positions, particularly if told they invite much of the "abuse" of their strong sense of duty. The tender heart that extends so readily to others extends also to themselves. As compassionate, self-sacrificing and kind-hearted as they are most of the time, ISFJs can also exhibit a propensity to see one side of an issue - the side they agree with. For this reason, they can become difficult to interact with on a personal level and their martyrdom can become tiresome. Their need to control - in an attempt to subvert "bad things happening" - can also create and transmit tension to all around them.
However, if they are able to forge good relationships with spouse and friends, they are characterized by unselfish devotion, being fiercely protective of family and children. They are generally humble, unassuming, hardworking, caring and giving. If they are not able to resolve internal conflicts and anxieties, they - because of their inability to give voice to their inner turmoil - "utilize" psychosomatic illnesses to draw attention or to extricate them from the give-and-take dynamics of life.
Although they are generally sweet and attractive personalities, their mood swings make it difficult for people to be comfortable with them on a continuing basis and make them difficult to understand since they do not give voice to inner and outer struggles. They are generally able to be demonstratively affectionate only with family members within the shelter of their own homes - although there is a tendency to "own" the home, the spouse, the children, etc.
Gentle, compassionate, giving quietly and unobtrusively, they often go unappreciated because of what they do best: give quietly and unobtrusively. Those who know them well know that they are worthy of befriending for they themselves are such good friends while the relationships last. Most times, their self-imposed isolation leaves little room for those who desire to know them better and to become a good friend to them as well.
Nonetheless, while martyrdom is difficult to withstand or to live with, ISFJs are so self-undervaluing and so needy AND worthy of the support of those who do recognize their unspoken devotion and unstinting will to serve.
This concludes our description of the ISFJ personality type.
* Personality Type Description used with permission from the author, Fannie R. Linder, Psy.D.