The INFP is one of sixteen personality types in the Meyer-Briggs Type Inventory, which is one of the most widely-used psychological personality tests. The four letters in your type come from four dichotomies:
- Introversion vs. Extroversion: Whether you feel drained by a lot of social interaction, or if social interaction motivates and energizes you even more.
- INtuition vs. Sensing: If you prefer abstract thinking or concrete details.
- Feeling vs. Thinking: If you make decisions based on gut instincts and moral values, or by logic alone.
- Judging vs. Perceiving: If you make plans in detail in advance and organize everything tightly, or if you like to make it up as you go along.
So, you answer a bunch of questions, and your type is based on where your answers land you in each of the four dichotomies. So an INFP is an Introvert, Intuitive, Feeler, and Perceiver. Meaning, you're introverted, like abstract thinking, make decisions based on your values, and like to be open-minded, spontaneous, and not overly weighed down by strict schedules and rules.
As I read about the type online and in books about the MBTI, I kind of think being an INFP is awesome. It's like being a magical being, full of enlightenment, wisdom, and creativity. It's like being Pinkie Pie from My Little Pony, able to use our artistic vision to liven up even the dullest environments (although she is no doubt an extrovert).
But, no type is without its weaknesses. And no, INFP friends, not all of our problems relate to "the man" or "the corporations" not understanding us or "society judging us unfairly", as tempting as those familiar hippie scapegoats may be at times. So, here's my list of 5 main struggles faced by most INFPs, and some tips for overcoming them.
Not sure how many times we've had to hear "but that won't work in the real world". And, let's face it, sometimes we need to hear that. The INFP indulges in flights of fancy. We like to think, what if llamas had polka dots, what if the Grand Canyon filled up with melted chocolate, what if I time traveled and saw my current wife as a little girl, what if, what if, what if... But wild speculation, while it can be fun for storytelling and art, is not always productive. I think we tend to be drawn to the bizarre and fantastical, but we can overlook mundane necessities like dishes and rent.
How do we get better?
You probably have lots of ideas. That's good. Make them into a physical list. Pick your favorites and make them into a thing (painting, drawing, song, novel, haiku, whatever it is you do). Don't move forward with other ideas until you've made your first ideas into something other than ideas. We're good at brainstorming. But we have to realize that what happens next is work.
Maybe it's because we live so much in our own heads, but rarely does the INFP see the need for human interaction. They may wonder if they have some kind of mental disorder. Is it fear of criticism? Fear of being misunderstood?
I think it is our passions that isolate us. I mean, most INFPs have a strong passion for something outside the mainstream. That means that the typical bloke or lady you meet on the street will most likely not know a gosh darn thing about your passion. That makes you feel like you're better off not sharing it with anyone. I think internet communities and meetup groups and clubs are a great way for INFPs to make friends so that they can connect with other people who share their passion. Interested in Roman and Greek poetry? No one in your small town in Iowa gives a hoot, but online, you can find blogs and groups devoted to that very thing, and meet people all over the world who are also interested in it. Suddenly, your opinions will become validated and your interests no longer marginalized by the society immediately proximal to you.
In addition to internet communities, you have to remember that solitude is natural and healthy for an introvert. You cannot hold yourself to the social expectations of extroverts, or beat yourself up for not being bigger into networking and selling yourself. You're a human being, and human beings are not to be bought and sold. So don't worry about selling yourself. Just make friends, and be happy cultivating depth and emotional quality in the friendships you have. And be that INFP listener/unpaid therapist/nanny they all seem to look to you to be. But if you find that to be draining, don't worry about asserting boundaries you deem appropriate and necessary.
The INFP can be prone to stagnation and inactivity, and man oh man, can we have a hard time making decisions and sticking with them. We like to be flexible and keep our options open. We like the idea that we can "escape" from everything, so we're always eyeballing the exits and considering alternative options. Plus, our minds fart out endless clouds of possibilities, so every time we choose a career, college, field of study, hobby, or partner, we're always thinking about what we could have done or could be doing instead. Is archaeology right for me or are there no real jobs at the end of it? Should I work with pastel or charcoal? Can I really say I'm committed to him, or do I just keep him around until something better comes along? What if I commit to him and fall in love with someone else?
Overcoming this is tough. It goes with practicality, how we always think about imagined possibilities and have a weird tendency to fall in love with the idea of something, only to not like it or grow tired of it quickly when we encounter it in reality. Often, we don't like to specialize, but you have to realize that very few people succeed in everything, most people who become very successful need to specialize in one thing. Excellence is about doing one thing and doing it well, hence the quote, "I don't care if someone tells me he has practiced a hundred kicks. I care if he tells me he has practiced the same kick 100 times.".
So, with career stuff, you have to pick one thing you're good at and enjoy doing, and stick with it. It's harder than it sounds, but the rewards are great.
The main reason we're indecisive a lot of times is because I think, on a fundamental level, we don't know who we are. Since like I said, our passions isolate us, we learn early in life that hiding them, and by extension hiding who we truly are, is sometimes a necessity. So to hide who we are at that early age, to blend in socially, we often get accustomed to pretending to be someone we're not. It's second nature to us by adulthood, like putting on clothing. We put on our "morning person cheery extrovert" and go serve coffee at 7am. We put on our "person who is good at numbers and self-confident" and go to the office. We pretend to be just like everyone else around us by mirroring them.
But then we come home and wipe the mask off and chillax with our cat and our favorite novel, and wonder, who are we, really? Who is the woman/man under all these characters we act out? No wonder we have trouble deciding on a career or a spouse or even on what to eat for breakfast, we don't even have any strong, grounded sense of self-identity.
So what to do about it? Try out everything that interests you. Try being assertive, until you reach a point where you feel like you're just being an asshole, and then stop. Try being nicer, until you reach a point where you feel like you're letting people walk all over you. Try living in a cave. Try painting. Try riding your bike in Italy. Try imagining what it's like to be a caterpillar going through metamorphosis. Try what you can think of trying, and don't stop trying until something feels good, feels right, feels like you're in the groove. You're a puzzle piece, you're unique, and you won't fit in everywhere. Life is an experiment where you have to find out where you fit. You do that by going out and doing things. Yes, actual things, not just reading a book and thinking about doing things some day.
Discovering who you are and where you fit in has to be your life's mission and goal, don't rest until you've done it.
INFPs are creative people who want to pursue the epitome of beauty in everything they do. They don't just have hobbies, they have passions, passions that run deep like a river. They're driven to create, but everything they do has to meet their challenging, rigorous internal set of standards of perfection.
Otherwise, we get down on ourselves. Way too much. We make one typo and think "oh, I can never be a novelist". We make a wrong pen swipe and think "oh, I can never be an artist". We let the worst criticisms of other people haunt us, and we brush off compliments from others, thinking the people who gave them to us are stupid for overlooking our obvious flaws, which are to us, glaring.
I've dealt with this in my blog writing. I hate looking at my older articles and seeing all the mistakes. But the good thing is, that can motivate me to try to do better in current articles and to revise my old ones. I want my blog to be interesting, informative, accurate, and grammatically correct. My self-doubt and self-criticism are good for me because they push me to strive for excellence. But, they can become negative when we let our inner voice stop us from doing something before we start.
You know the voices.
"You can't make money doing that."
"People don't want to buy paintings like that."
"Your voice sounds like crap."
"You can't write lyrics worth shit."
"Everything worth writing about has already been done."
"Nobody even reads books anymore."
"Fantasy and Sci-Fi don't sell."
Etc. But think how dreary the world would have been if everyone listened to those voices and let them stop them. Don't bully yourself. It's good to use your critical eye on yourself to become better at what you do, but try not to hold yourself to impossible standards and then harshly abuse yourself for failure to reach that height of perfection. Don't stop yourself before you start.
So there you have 5 common struggles people with INFP disorder er, the INFP personality type, tend to face a lot in life. And since I have my own experiences as an INFP, I can tell you how to escape this hell you're trapped in, or at least, make it suck a little less. Don't be so hard on yourself. Everyone has weaknesses and faults. Make the most of your gifts. Don't dwell on setbacks, ridicule, and social judgment. Be yourself, and if you don't know who yourself is, find out. And stop thinking about an imaginary fantasy land where pandas are sentient and clean your room already, sheesh! You said you were going to clean it 5 days ago.
Isaac on December 19, 2018:
Woohoo! INFP rules! Okay, seriously now, thank you for this article. This describes how I actually feel, not the characters that I act out. This tells me that I don't have to play their super-smart extrovert genius or smart-remark guy, that I can be who I am. I learned to wear a mask when I was a little kid, and I wear many masks today. I struggle with that nagging voice that tells me that no-one will read my books, no-one will see my paintings, no-one will see the real me, that I am no-one. I have hidden my deepest passions thinking that those around me would never accept me for who I am (and that is true, my Mom would tell me to put down the paintbrush and start studying for algaebra), and I continuw to look forward to a stronger future of wonder. I've always been what people need me to be, especially for those closest to me, I become their shoulder to cry on or unpaid therapist, I've helped so many peoe that it has drowned me in the worst of the world. Although, I'm usually not indecisive, I guess thats not one of my issues, even though I'm a congirmed INFP. I am, however, lazy to an extent and possibly a brilliant writer and artist. I strughle with who I am because of whatnothers need me to be and who I want to be, but this tells me to be who I want. Thank you.
Konstantin on November 05, 2018:
I felt I was looking at my own reflection when I read this article! I loved it!
Albi on May 18, 2018:
Wow, I had a doubt on my type roaming around the np's, but now with your article I think I have seen myself at the mirror. Thank you.
TShell05 on May 09, 2018:
This is such a great post! INFP here, obsessed with the MBTI since I first learned about it approx. 10 years ago. It has changed my life. I've read a lot of INFP blogs and books out there, I really like how well you've captured some of our most core challenges and given some great solutions. I'm definitely going to use this as a reference as I get mired in the mud from time to time (or minute to minute). Thanks so much, looking forward to reading more from you!
sandy gardner on January 09, 2018:
I have used #2 all my life. Tried everything until I finally fit into place.
Yiota on September 10, 2017:
This was so helpful, I was wondering what was wrong with me, and more importantly what to do about it, but this article really helped. Thanks!
email@example.com from upstate, NY on April 19, 2017:
Good insights! I think #5 is crucial
"Don't move forward with other ideas until you've made your first ideas into something other than ideas."
From a spiritual perspective, faith requires putting to action what we believe!
#3 " Often, we don't like to specialize, but you have to realize that very few people succeed in everything, most people who become very successful need to specialize in one thing. Excellence is about doing one thing and doing it well"
This is another crucial truth, one that I need to stick to!
Naomi Starlight (author) from Illinois on February 08, 2017:
Thanks for reading :)
anotherinfp on February 08, 2017:
What do you mean I'm not a flamingo? heeeh. Great article, thanks!