8 Clues to the Identity of the ESFJ

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The ESFJ is known as the Supporter in the world of typology. They are of the Guardian (SJ) archetype, generally preferring the concrete world of the present rather than the abstract world of possibility. They are affiliative and systematic. As such, they are well suited to preserve the traditions, rules, and standards passed on through time. They satisfy their desire for stability and security by adhering to established rules, processes and systems.

ESFJs also possess a style of interaction belonging to the Starter archetype. They are initiating, informing, and spontaneous.  Their energy is directed toward initiating conversations and starting new activities; they tend to keep a lot of plates in the air.  Unfortunately, they can run out of energy long before anything is finished.

An understanding of the ESFJ personality type requires an analysis of the dynamics of their cognition. To that end, the ESFJ Ego consists of Extraverted Feeling (Fe) Hero, Introverted Sensing (Si) Parent, Extraverted Intuition (Ne) Child, and Introverted Thinking (Ti) Inferior. With this unique combination of cognitive functions and attitudes, ESFJs give us clues to their identity, which can be found if we look closely enough, in the manifestation of their passions and personas, such as:

Altruism

ESFJs are the epitome of self-sacrifice.  They have a genuine mindfulness of the emotional wellbeing of others, making them some of the most empathic individuals in society. They lead their lives based on a foundation of ethics, justice, and empathetic understanding—placing the needs of others above their own.  The motivations for their altruism come from a strong sense of personal duty as well as a desire that others see them as good and worthy. 

Caregiving

ESFJs are naturally protective and responsible when it comes to traditions, convictions, and faith. A highly detailed memory of people, places and events provides them with great storytelling ability. Duty-bound to provide for the needs of others, they find purpose and meaning in the sensible orthodoxy of maintaining stability and preserving the status quo.  They are selective with whom they give their loyalty and are responsibly adherent to commitments they make.  They are naturally suspicious of anything that questions their worldview or puts their personal wellbeing at risk. In fact, in the face of an outright challenge to their beliefs, safety, or comfort, they likely will want to withdraw their care and concern. Change does not always come easily for them, but once they are convinced, they are committed.  

Facilitating

ESFJs have an authentic desire to help others get what they need or want in life.  They have a simple yet sincere understanding of the intentions and desires of others but have a real need to be wanted by them as well.  In this, they risk the possibility that others will take advantage of them and exploit their generosity for impure and selfish ends.  The desire to help can be so strong that they feel personal hurt when others don’t share with them in advance their intentions, needs, or wants. This effectively denies the ESFJ the ability to meet those needs and thereby thwarts their own life’s purpose.  As they grow in experience and maturity, ESFJs more responsibly provide for others’ needs. They learn to accurately discern the intentions of others for good or ill and respond accordingly. 

Contemplating

ESFJs aspire to be intellectual. They contemplate the information that comes to them to ensure their reasoning is sound and their conclusions accurate. At times, they may even fear they lack the ability to distinguish the truth from the myriad sources of information and opinion existing in the world around them. These fears diminish when others take the time to listen to them and provide them with the chance to make mistakes in a non-judgmental environment. They seek to allay uncertainty by insisting on 100% accuracy and accomplish this through continual testing and verification of source data, thought processes, and resulting conclusions. In this, ESFJs develop knowledge and experience which drives exceptional intelligence and unmatched skills in debate.  

Caretaking

In contrast to the generosity the show others, ESFJs can be apprehensive about their own self-worth.  Worried about their own moral integrity, they can be skeptical of themselves as being truly good.  This concern can give rise to covert contracts even with people they love. They sacrifice and suffer for others, in part, with the hope that such self-denial will cause, even require, others to view them as good, valuable, and wanted. Unfortunately, others may not be aware of this dynamic and unknowingly violate the terms of the unspoken deal. In this, they engage the ESFJ’s ire and stand in bewilderment as the ESFJ takes away their care and concern. Believing that if they do enough good, if they can just prove themselves worthy, life will bestow its rewards to the ESFJ, putting salvation within grasp. Fortunately, ESFJs ultimately find confidence in their self-worth by learning sympathy, working for others’ benefit, and volunteering for personally meaningful causes. The purity of their motivation in these activities becomes key to alleviating their worry, removing their insecurity, and tearing up their contracts.

Prideful

ESFJs hold themselves to the highest standards of propriety and etiquette. They may also tend to criticize the behavior, manner, and dress of others who do not meet these standards going so far as to even challenge others’ vocational skills. Essentially, they have little tolerance for poor performance or low standards in any respect until they begin to understand underlying reasons. This mindset, at times unyielding, leads to judging the worth of others based on how they measure up to an ideal standard of appearance or presentation. Unfortunately, accusations of elitism may result. With time and experience, ESFJs become more tolerant of those they once looked down upon, and they find new opportunities for sharing life advice to help others. 

Wandering

ESFJs are clear and focused relative to life’s possibilities for others, but they wander in darkness searching for their own destination. Clouds obscure possibilities for themselves. Their own wants and desires are subjective and thus subservient to those of others. Lacking a clear path forward for themselves, the paths of others effectively become their own and drive their motivations. This is their weakness. ESFJs have difficulty making wise and prudent decisions independently. They rely on others to help them see where they are blind and to choose carefully and responsibly.

Defensive

Although ESFJs are the most self-sacrificing, they also have the potential to be defensive. A challenge to their intelligence, ridicule of their conclusions, or an unwillingness to simply listen to them is equivalent to a direct attack on their sense of self-worth. In self-defense, ESFJs may seek to demean the intellect or logic of their critics or, in immaturity, even act to destroy their social status and reputation. They can find satisfaction in proving someone else wrong. ESFJs only seek a listening ear and a validating voice to keep the defensiveness at bay. Their growth is assured with a respectful ear, and their anger assuaged with a day in court.

Clues such as these will help us identify the ESFJs in our midst. They will help us to recognize and appreciate their motivation, compassion, and vulnerability. In this knowledge, we will come to love and respect them for who they are, and in return, they will open their souls and warmly welcome us.

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For a more in-depth look at the ESFJ personality type, check out the Who are the ESFJs Post, or all of the ESFJ posts.

Are you an ESFJ and want some guidance on how to overcome your struggles? Or, do you know an ESFJ and want some more tips to deal with them?

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Throughout my nearly 30-year career in corporate finance and sales leadership, my goal – no, my purpose – has been to help people develop and find their best path forward. Our individual strengths are constrained by our weaknesses, and the advancement of society suffers as a result. Cultural enlightenment, therefore, relies on individual development. It’s a life-long journey and represents a commitment to others. My commitment is to you.

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