5 Things Anxious INFPs Do That May Seem Offensive, but Aren’t

An anxious INFP

INFPs recharge in solitude, so please don’t take it personally when we want to be left alone.

Growing up, I used to be this kid who tried hard to blend in with other kids. I changed schools often, so I experienced little stability. Every new school felt like being trapped in a game of Jumanji, but instead of giant mosquitos and monkeys, there was a huge anxiety monster. (Peak INFP imagination, isn’t it?) 

Back then, I didn’t know what an INFP was, or that there are eight different introverted personalities, let alone understand the concept of introversion. All I knew was that whenever I tried blending in, I did not enjoy myself. 

I’m now in my 20s and realize how much I like solitude — both now and even as a kid. Things became more clear when I took the Myers-Briggs personality assessment and got INFP; we’re said to be the most idealistic introverted personality type.

Some (if not all) INFPs are also highly sensitive people (HSPs). Being a highly sensitive INFP, I’m prone to feeling anxious and being hesitant at the same time. Something as simple as choosing what to watch on Netflix or where to eat puts me on the spot. So I admit, I usually do what the other person wants, to avoid going into a guilt-ridden mindset. I’m that person in the memes who is too scared to say something when the waiter gets the order wrong, and it’s easy for me to go on a guilt trip when I try setting boundaries. 

Also, as INFPs tend to hate conflict, both in our professional and personal lives, we mostly go with the flow. When it comes to my professional life, I find ways to cope with emotional overwhelm (by taking short breaks and listening to music or watching a stand-up comedy special). But in my personal life, I take my sweet time to process my emotions till I’m ready to socialize again.            

These are five things I do as an anxious INFP that some people take personally, but I wish they wouldn’t.

5 Things I Do as an Anxious INFP That May Seem Offensive, but Aren’t Meant to Be

1. I don’t pick up or return phone calls, let alone make them. (But texting? No problem!)

As someone who has struggled with phone anxiety my entire life, I am terrified of phone calls. Not that I don’t want to talk to you, but as an INFP, my thoughts and my words are never on the same page. I’m someone who calls people and prays they don’t pick up the phone so it’s on the record that I called (but, well, they didn’t pick up). Many INFPs are naturally great at expressing themselves through writing, and that’s why we’d prefer texting over calling any day. Even as a child, it was difficult to verbalize my emotions, which eventually turned into journaling.

I avoid making calls as much as possible, unless it’s important or work-related, both of which I prepare for well in advance. Talking on the phone requires making initial small talk, which is a big NO for INFPs (and introverts in general). A perfect representation of an INFP talking is this quote by Michael Scott from The Office: “Sometimes I’ll start a sentence, and I don’t even know where it’s going. I just hope I find it along the way.” 

So when I say I’m terrified of phone calls, I’m actually terrified of suddenly going off-topic. I later find myself questioning why I couldn’t have just gotten to the point instead of telling multiple mini stories that weren’t even related to the discussion? And did I overshare? We INFPs are often used to being judged because people find us “weird” and “awkward” — and it gets overwhelming for us sometimes.

2. I look zoned out while you’re talking to me (chances are, I’m just wrapped up in my imagination).

It’s easy to spot me at a social gathering. I’m usually the one who has my nose buried inside my phone (but not to make calls!), or the one who is socializing with your pet, or just daydreaming. A lot of my friends have even caught me disassociating mid-conversation. Some joke about it, while others call me out on it. 

INFPs are good listeners and will listen to all your serious problems or things you’re excited about. But we dislike talking about the humdrums of everyday life. I prefer small gatherings with close friends and family where I can be the genuine INFP that I am and not feel anxious about making small talk.

INFPs are also rarely ever bored since we are our own best friends. The one thing I love about my personality is that I can count on my imagination to rescue me at any time. So unless you are talking to me about something that sparks my interest, I will space out. You might be the most interesting person in the room, but my inner world is just as interesting. As someone with social anxiety, it’s difficult for me to make eye contact with people, too, which is another reason people might think I’m not paying attention.   

3. I cancel plans at the last minute to stay in the comfort of my home instead.

I am selectively social and open up to very few people. So, naturally, I keep my social circle small amlong those who “get” me, but I make constant efforts to check on my friends and meet up with them. Being a value-driven INFP, I respect people’s time and expect the same in return. But, ultimately, I am a socially anxious introvert who is famous for canceling plans. People often confuse that for not wanting to be social, but in all honesty, I’m just a homebody who dislikes leaving the comfort of my home. INFPs thrive in solitude, and it’s important for us to feel recharged, which can only happen when we’re left alone.

I enjoy meeting my close friends, and sometimes I’m the one who actually makes the plans. But as an INFP, being indecisive is my biggest issue. It’s really a mixture of my instinct, self-confidence, and anxiety begging me to cancel the plan(s). I know it can frustrate other people, and I have lost a few friends because of this. I’m not proud of it, but I’m working on it. 

4. I disappear off the face of the earth (but don’t worry, I’ll return … eventually).

I can’t speak for all INFPs, but something that annoys people about me is that I go MIA for days and then text them back like nothing happened. It usually happens when I’m overwhelmed or exhausted. INFPs feel all their feelings till they’re ready to face the world again. If I hang out with my friends for too long, I need time to recharge my social battery. If I have too much on my plate and don’t know where to start, I go into hermit mode to figure things out. I also often take a break from social media and log in only to check memes (and not to reply to messages), which irritates my friends. 

Honestly, though, I’m glad I have some people who check on me when I shut down. As an INFP, it is difficult for me to ask for help, so I share little. We prefer being alone rather than talking about our feelings (as we may feel we’re being a burden). 

People often misunderstand this act of going off-radar as ghosting, which is not the case. It usually is just a phase when I’m anxious or my self-confidence is too low and has nothing to do with the other person. We INFPs do struggle to connect with people, but when we finally do, we don’t take their presence for granted.

These are trying times for each one of us in terms of mental distress, as well. People deal with emotions in their own unique ways. When they’re swamped, INFPs can get emotionally distant for a while, but they do not mean to be rude or upset or offend anyone. They appreciate their friends and family, and will eventually come around when they feel like themselves again.

5. I don’t let people in easily.

Most people I know, even those close to me, have told me I’m too secretive. They often complain that I rarely start a conversation first, and when I do, I don’t talk about myself much. The “F” in INFP is for “Feeling,” and I definitely internalize my feelings, which makes me appear distant and unemotional. However, this introverted feeling is also the reason I care about my loved ones so deeply. 

Even though we INFPs enjoy living in our little bubble, it doesn’t mean that we’re self-absorbed or uncaring. In reality, the INFP personality type values kindness and empathy a great deal.

I often ruminate and end up getting stuck in an infinite loop of unresolved feelings. And, as an instinct to protect my loved ones, I find it easier to suppress my emotions than reveal my overwhelming inner world. For the same reason, I only show what’s on the surface, which usually makes people feel I am not as invested as they are in our friendship/relationship.

Another reason people may feel neglected is that I occupy myself with different activities to distract myself. Sometimes, I enjoy getting lost in books, art, or TV shows, and end up giving little priority to socializing. So it may seem I don’t let people in easily, but I hope those closest to me know how much I care for them.

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