What’s the purpose of life? If you ask a hundred introverts, you’ll get a hundred different answers (although it’s a safe bet that none of them will say “to party!”). And there are just as many ways to start to question that purpose, or to feel like you’ve gone adrift. Enter everyone’s favorite freakout: the existential crisis.
Not everyone goes through an existential crisis, and it’s possible to have them many times in one life. But, as unique as each person is, there are some types of crises that are more common than others — especially for certain kinds of people.
So, here’s a lighthearted take on what existential crisis each introverted Myers-Briggs personality type is likely to have, and why they might go through it.
(What’s your personality type? We recommend this free personality assessment.)
The Existential Crisis Each Introvert Is Having
Do people really like me?
ISFJs are among the most social introverts — and yet, also among the quietest. They tend to be deeply attuned to the people, emotions, and conversations around them, but are often slow to join in. (Some would even call them shy, and for some ISFJs, that may be true.) That means they may feel like a “third wheel” even among their friend group.
That’s not fun, because nothing is more important to an ISFJ than loved ones and a sense of belonging. Sure, they can get along with almost anyone (the ISFJ’s ability to put on a friendly face, even when annoyed, is legendary). But often, they’re left doubting how deep those connections really are — and whether people really want them around.
There’s no easy fix for this feeling, but it can make a dramatic difference for ISFJs to practice being radically honest with themselves and others. That doesn’t necessarily mean taking the friendly face off, but it does mean speaking up for your preferences and needs. Besides being happier, you’ll find that authenticity automatically deepens your relationships with everyone you value — and weeds out the people who didn’t value you in the first place.
Ooh! Look what I found!
Existential crisis, huh? Sounds pretty rough. You know, Matisse had an existential crisis once. He was about to sleep with one of his models but he didn’t want to cheat on his wife. Ended up closing his whole art school. Ran away to a village. Maybe try that? Oh, check it out, I wired all these Christmas lights into the coffee maker. Want some coffee?
Everyone has their doubts from time to time, and ISTPs are no exception. And make no mistake: They’re greatly interested in the big questions in life. But, for them, that’s reading material. Their sense of purpose is something they find with their hands — by trying, doing, and exploring new things. As long as they’re free to do that, life has plenty of meaning.
That doesn’t mean it’s a cakewalk. The world isn’t always friendly to people who want to set their own schedule, try things their own way, and skip any procedures that slow them down. That means ISTPs can have a sort of existential crisis, if they feel like the whole world is holding them back — or trying to pigeonhole them. But, they experience this very differently than other types do, because they see the solution as pretty obvious: just gotta stop playing by everybody else’s rules.
Doing that, of course, is the most fulfilling adventure of all.
Will I ever find peace?
ISFPs can seem like a natural at everything. They’re at ease in their bodies, and they can often pull off new skills just by watching someone else. When they feel comfortable with you, they can be very performative, lighting up with the most expressive face you’ll ever see and charming people with equal parts humor, warmth, and dazzle. And, even if they mess something up, they’re so jokingly self-deprecating about it that you might think they did it on purpose.
Hidden under that ease is a profound sense of being a misfit. They worry that the world is always judging them — because, let’s face it, they stand out; it is — and they want a place where they can truly feel safe and at peace.
ISFPs turn to their talents to create this place for themselves: They make a home, nest, cave, or studio. They decorate and alter and change it. To them, it’s not just a place to live or perhaps work. It’s a sanctuary.
That sanctuary can give them the peace they want — but not if they hide in it. Its secret power is not that it will give them peace itself, but that it will recharge them and give them the energy to find peace even standing out from others, even when they are out in the often-harsh world.
Peace, ultimately, is something you must carry with you.
Will I ever be accepted?
For the unswervingly individualistic INFP, the very idea that they would crave acceptance might sound off. INFPs are the ultimate non-conformists, not because they’re intentionally rebelling, but because they never seem to fit in. And they refuse to fake who they are to change that.
So, no, it’s not that INFPs wish they could be like everyone else. Eww.
Remember why INFPs are so individualistic: They follow their ideals without compromise. And, truthfully, they wouldn’t mind if they found others who shared those ideals. People who feel like “home,” not because anyone is trying to be like anyone else, but because they just sort of, you know, fit.
Many INFPs spend a lifetime dreaming of a world, or a place, or even just one person who would truly, truly understand them. They can find this to varying degrees in an artistic community, a scene, or in one or a few precious friends — even in a romantic partner. But it’s also elusive, because even with the closest soul-mate, there will be areas of friction — areas where they may not be accepted or validated after all. So, INFPs also dream up such worlds and put them in their artwork, fiction, music, or poems.
The solution really is external. For an INFP, the process of compromise and self-improvement that defines a truly enduring relationship can feel uncomfortable, because it strikes a passable resistance to being untrue to themselves. But that same process is also exactly how INFPs get through the crisis. True acceptance is mutual, and it is to be made, not found.
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Will I ever make a difference?
Any INFJ can tell you that, on one level, they have all the same fears as everybody else: worries about love, career, family, and health. But INFJs are also a very unique personality, and the biggest question they struggle with isn’t about themselves at all. It’s about making a difference for others.
To an INFJ, the entire purpose of life is to change the world for the better. That’s true in little ways — caring for an abandoned animal or comforting a friend — but to them, it’s even more important in big ways. INFJs spend a lot of time thinking about the ways in which humans are bad to each other, and even more about how we could be better.
That doesn’t mean every INFJ is an activist. But it does mean they all want the sum total of their life to better those around them in some way, and to have the biggest ripple effect possible. This is what drives them; they really only feel satisfied if their job or role in life is having that effect everyday. They want to know their talents are being spent where it counts.
That can be very hard to find — especially in our highly transactional, sometimes cruel world.
What the INFJ needs to remember is they, too, are part of the world, and they, too, deserve to be healed. The desire to care and protect and help must be turned not just outward, but also inward. Because, when an INFJ starts to meet their own needs, they won’t just feel better about the direction of their life; they’ll also find they are stronger, and more capable, of making the difference they long for.
Will I ever achieve enough?
Having a meaningful life matters. But to the INTJ, meaning isn’t derived from some inner sense of contentment alone. It comes from accomplishing something you can see and measure — you prove your value to the world by the results you get.
This comes out in radically different ways. For some INTJs, it’s the obvious: wealth, career success, maybe respect in their field (but that last one is optional). For others it means concrete achievements: winning an award, making partner at the firm, or even pushing through a major innovation — something that can be patented or that changes society. Perhaps the most important achievements to many INTJs are breakthroughs in science or academia.
But it’s not always this material. INTJs may have artistic goals (yes, creative INTJs exist!). Some become theologians and spiritual leaders (if you’ve ever been corrected on your interpretation of a Bible passage based on the original Greek or Hebrew, it may have been an INTJ). And many even turn their achievement-oriented eye to their own families: an INTJ stay-at-home-parent will mastermind their child’s ambitions, working to get them the tutoring and experience they need to eventually reach their dreams. Pretty cool, Mom/Dad!
All that is on a good day. Other days, the ultimate purpose of the universe might just be to read every last book in the world.
Will I be held down?
Similar to ISTPs, INTPs are often described by the norms they break. They aren’t willing to be bored. They aren’t willing to do things that don’t make sense. And they aren’t willing to follow rules — or authority figures — if there isn’t a good reason for it.
Yet they’re also highly intelligent, creative, and capable people, which means they’re often courted into careers or school programs that value those traits. Almost always, the places those paths lead are extremely conventional, normal lives.
That doesn’t sit well with INTPs. Even if they find success — which they sometimes don’t at first, facing the grind of a job that doesn’t challenge them — it feels less like a reward and more like a gilded cage. What they want to be doing is putting their brains to use unbridled on fascinating new questions.
And when those questions get boring, totally new questions after that.
That means that the existential crisis facing many INTPs isn’t about the meaning of their own lives, but about how to escape.
Often, the answer involves making a very real departure, such as moving, switching careers, or throwing themselves wholly into a side project. Any of these changes can give them the life they crave, but only if they are willing to be their own birdcage for a while — corralling their energy long enough to make their new project a success before their motivation peters out.
Who has time for an existential crisis?
What do you mean, what’s the point of it all? It just is. You go to work, you get good at something, you build a family. If you have time for all that namby-pamby philosophy, maybe you need some chores to do!
It’s not that ISTJs never think about the deeper questions in life — they do — it’s just that the answers seem pretty obvious to them. Do your best for yourself and your family, live a good life, and try to enjoy it when you can. For an ISTJ, too much questioning or doubting means you ought to find something practical to do.
And if you’re really unhappy with your life? Jeez, start looking for a new job, it’s not that hard. Any change you want to see if just a giant to-do list waiting for you to get on it.
Now, leave me alone. I got oil to change.
You might like:
- Why Each Introverted Myers-Briggs Type Is Awake at 3 a.m.
- How Each Introverted Myers-Briggs Type Is Surviving the Coronapocalypse
- What Each Introverted Myers-Briggs Type Was Like in School
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