12 Secrets of the INFP Personality Type

An INFP reflects on the secrets of her personality.

Anyone with the INFP or “Mediator” personality cares deeply about other people. INFPs are unique individuals with a rare set of abilities — including the power to masterfully understand emotion and the human experience. At their best, INFPs bring emotional healing to others and inspire incredible change in the world. INFPs are also rare, making up about 4 to 5 percent of the population.

Are you an INFP? You might be if you identify with these 12 less obvious INFP personality traits.

(What’s your personality type? Take a free personality assessment.)

Secrets of the INFP Personality Type

1. An INFP needs to feel inspired.

This is one of the core INFP personality traits. INFPs live in a world of emotion and meaning. They need a certain level of emotional intensity in their life in order to feel like they are truly living. So INFPs may unconsciously seek out relationships that evoke strong feelings. Or they may turn to books, poetry, music, travel, or charity work that inspires them. However, if the passion or intrigue fades, INFPs may find themselves feeling restless. Dissatisfied, they may move on to another relationship or project that once again infuses their life with emotion.

2. INFPs are deeply in touch with their values.

Perhaps more than any other personality type, INFPs are deeply in touch with their personal values, because their dominant mental function is Introverted Feeling. This means INFPs make decisions by asking themselves, “What feels right for me?” INFPs are generally nonjudgmental and gentle, but they may find themselves reacting with anger or defensiveness when someone violates their values. This may happen when other personality types, such as “Thinking” types like the ENTJ, INTJ, or ESTJ, demand to know the rationale behind the INFP’s decision. But INFPs may not be able to offer logical reasons. They made a decision simply because they felt a certain way. When others criticize them for “not having a good reason,” the INFP may be left feeling invalidated. If this happens too much, sadly, the INFP may begin to doubt themselves and their most natural way of thinking.

3. INFPs want to connect with the essence of life.

Often, INFPs are lovers of nature who spend time outside or in the wilderness. They do this in an effort to passionately connect with what they see as the basic essence of life. Especially early in life, INFPs may become lone wanderers, as they travel and explore one place after another. They’re usually content with rather simple or Bohemian living arrangements, perhaps furnishing their homes with second-hand furniture and decor. Extravagant vacations, designer clothes, and fine meals aren’t a priority for the INFP, who values a simple life of meaning over a life of material goods.

4. Creative expression is the life blood of an INFP.

INFPs tend to excel at writing, music, or other forms of creative expression. This is true for many introverts, but for INFPs it’s because art allows them to express their deep feelings in an authentic way, explains personality profiler Antonia Dodge, co-owner of Personality Hacker, in a podcast about INFPs. INFPs may not be able to articulate their deep, personal feelings to friends and family in passing conversation, but they can create a painting or write a novel to immerse others in their emotional experience. It may be an emotional experience related to their own feelings, the feelings of another person they’ve come in contact with, or on a much wider scale, the feelings of the human experience in general.

 5. INFPs are healers of emotional wounds.

In the Keirsey Temperament system, the INFP personality is nicknamed the “Healer.” And the nickname fits, because INFPs care deeply about the inner emotional lives of other people. According to the Keirsey web site, “Their great passion is to heal the conflicts that trouble individuals, or that divide groups, and thus to bring wholeness, or health, to themselves, their loved ones, and their community.” The INFP’s ability to heal springs from their deep understanding of emotions, their caring nature, and their ability to see things from a unique perspective.

6. Other people dump their problems on them.

Unfortunately, there can be a downside to being so gentle and outwardly receptive: other people dump their problems on you. Many INFPs end up in one-sided conversations in which the other person vents their feelings and complains, while the INFP listens patiently. Being the dumping ground for other people’s problems can give INFPs a sense of emotional heaviness, and in fact, many INFPs do have an air of melancholy about them. Spending time alone, immersed in a creative project or in nature, can help clear the INFP’s head. And, INFPs can learn to set boundaries to avoid getting “dumped on” in the future.

7. When INFPs feel passionate about something, watch out!

INFPs may see themselves as reluctant heroes. One minute they’re strolling through life, the next minute their passion has been awakened because they’ve stumbled across a person who needs their help. With their idealism driving them on, INFPs can be truly unstoppable.

That should be no surprise, given how many famous INFPs there are. INFPs have accomplished great things—think Joan of Arc, who, as a teenager with no military training, led the French army to victory over the British during the Hundred Years’ War.

According to Dodge, other famous INFPs include:

  • Princess Diana
  • Audrey Hepburn
  • Fred Rogers (a.k.a. “Mister Rogers,” possibly the most INFP person ever)
  • John Lennon
  • Kurt Cobain
  • Tori Amos
  • William Shakespeare
  • Helen Keller
  • Isabel Briggs Myers (creator of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator — the original source of the Myers-Briggs INFP personality profile!)

Likewise, INFPs are often found helping people who are sick, disabled, or in need, writes Dr. A.J. Drenth of Personality Junkie. INFPs love rescuing the helpless; for example, they might adopt abandoned pets from an animal shelter or take up special causes that have affected them personally, such as raising money for research for a rare disease.

On the other hand, if INFPs don’t feel a sense of conviction, they tend to shut themselves off from the world. For INFPs, “when it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter. But when it matters…it matters big,” Joel Mark Witt, co-owner of Personality Hacker, told me.

8. INFPs don’t want just any job.

INFPs are not particularly driven by money or career status. What they really care about is doing work that aligns with their personal values and allows them to help others. Because INFPs are highly individualistic, they may feel dissatisfied working for a company or organization that they don’t personally believe in. INFPs are motivated by vision and inspiration, so they may become restless and unhappy if they have to do routine work often.

The ideal career match for an INFP will:

  • Allow them to express their individuality
  • Takes advantage of their ability to see unique solutions
  • Gives them independence in how they do their job — including how and when they complete projects

As they experiment in life, try new things, and find themselves, INFPs will inevitably narrow their interests and be better equipped to find work that truly resonates with them.

9. The people in their lives must share their values.

INFPs make wonderful partners and friends. They’re loyal, nurturing, and understanding. Self-aware and often spiritual, INFPs tend to be open-minded and accepting of other people’s preferences and behavior—as long as their own core values are not violated. They strongly support their friends’ and partners’ individuality, encouraging them to explore their own ideas and interests. However, they choose romantic partners and friends carefully—not just anyone will do. INFPs look for people whose values are similar to theirs. And they need someone with whom they can create deep emotional intimacy.

10. They shy away from conflict.

INFPs tend to be sensitive and have a strong need for harmonious relationships. Because of their open, accepting nature, they’re always looking for ways to compromise and accommodate other people. They are generally quite skilled at finding creative solutions to interpersonal problems. However, confronting someone can be difficult for them, so they may ignore problems or keep negative reactions to themselves.

11. INFPs can lead through inspiration.

INFPs are true introverts who prefer to stay out of the spotlight. They often spend time alone, immersed in their daydreams or creative projects. They tend to live quiet, simple lives. But this doesn’t mean that INFPs are not leaders. In fact, INFPs can be powerful leaders, because they have the ability to profoundly inspire others. When they tap into their passion, sense of meaning, and natural abilities of creative expression, they can get others excited about causes they believe in.

12. INFPs can grow by having new experiences.

The INFP’s secondary function, Extroverted Intuition, is a learning process that “sees behind the curtain,” so to speak. It perceives patterns in the INFP’s experiences and makes connections that aren’t necessarily obvious or inherent by definition. It asks, “What if?” and sees possibilities.

The way INFPs can grow on a personal level is by using this process to explore, make connections, and learn new things. For INFPs, this may mean traveling to new places, taking classes to learn new skills, joining groups or clubs to meet new people, or feeding their appetite for new information by reading or exploring the arts. The more INFPs have new experiences, the more they will add to their deep understanding of emotions and the human condition.

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