Why Self-Doubt Cripples INFPs, Plus 5 Tips to Overcome It

An INFP personality struggles with self-doubt.

As INFPs, we are exceptionally insightful, sensitive, loving creatures. We instinctively see the good in everyone, often looking at others through rose-colored glasses.

But when it comes to ourselves, we often fail to extend the same level of kindness. It’s as though we reserve all our acceptance for others, leaving none for ourselves.

As a classic INFP personality, I constantly struggle with self-doubt. And although self-doubt may rear its ugly head in other personality types, it can be particularly crippling for the INFP.

Why INFPs Struggle with Self-Doubt

Not every INFP will struggle with self-doubt, but here are three reasons why many INFPs do.

1. We think differently than others.

INFPs make up only 4-5 percent of the population, so we’re relatively rare. One way that we’re different from others is we find it nearly impossible to work in a rigid, highly structured, methodical way. Instead, we see the big picture, diving deep into ideas and exploring them from every angle.

Unfortunately, our society values what INFPs do not: hard logic, structure, and deadlines. We’re often not allowed to operate the way we naturally do and are instead forced into the box society has deemed “the best way.” We can end up feeling a great deal of shame around the way that we process information and complete tasks. We’re left feeling unsure of ourselves and everything we do — and that we’re just not good enough.

2. We’re extremely idealistic.

The INFP’s dominant cognitive function is Introverted Feeling. This mental process causes us to look inward, as well as develop a deep sense of self-awareness. It is through this function that we develop fiercely strong values, which we base all our decisions upon, and through which we filter the world.

For example, even though we might be incredibly good at something — say, online marketing — we’re still constantly asking ourselves if it fits into our system of values. Is it true to our morals and who we are?

Once we do find causes and activities that are worthy of our truest selves, we often add a new layer that further complicates things: perfectionism. INFPs tend to be unrelenting perfectionists when it comes to the things we care deeply about. As highly creative types, these are often things that are very personal to us — writing, photography, painting, and the like. We hold ourselves to impossible standards, believing that our work is never good enough.

3. We see possibilities everywhere.

Our auxiliary function, Extraverted Intuition, may also trigger self-doubt in the INFP. This “secondary” function is what enables us to see what could be, not just what is. Extraverted Intuition is constantly searching for ideas and possibilities in order to make sense of the world around us and our place in it. Although this makes us incredibly creative and inventive, it leaves us constantly searching for something more.

We may decide that we’ve finally found our place in the world — our calling — and then our Extraverted Intuition fills us with a foreboding sense of doubt. What about x, y, and z options? What could you discover about yourself and the world if you explored those? This constant searching can fill us with a sense of dread that we may never actually find what we’re looking for.

5 Steps to Stop Giving Self-Doubt Control Over You

If you’re an INFP who struggles with self-doubt, here’s how you can stop giving it control over you.

1. Trust your process.

Accept that, as an INFP, you work differently than most other people. We don’t think in the same linear, rigid way that many others do, we don’t hold the same values, and we work on different schedules. This is all okay!

Our differences give us our creative gifts and the ability to see things from perspectives that others haven’t even thought of. Accept and celebrate the way you think. It’s unique. Just as we accept the uniqueness of others, we need to learn to be just as gentle and accepting with ourselves.

2. Thank your self-doubt.

Yes, really. We can fight against our self-doubt as much as we’d like, but in reality, it’s there for a good reason. It’s a self-defense mechanism, designed to protect our sensitive INFP heart from hurt and conflict — or from living a life that’s not true to us.

Believe it or not, our doubt has good intentions. Problems only arise when we give it too much control.

Recognize what doubt is trying to protect you from — hurt feelings as a result of criticism, a career misstep, or a path that doesn’t reflect your values. Then, rather than allowing doubt to take over, simply appreciate it and move on. When we see doubt for what it is, it’s easier to stop giving it control over our lives.

3. Use positive affirmations.

Layer yourself with positive affirmations, like a protective wall against self-doubt. Use whatever works for you, and use words that target the specific reason you’re struggling. You might try:

  • “I am on the right path.”
  • “I am creating change.”
  • “I believe in my skills and abilities.”
  • “I am a good writer, musician, etc.”

When we’re stuck in a pit of self-doubt, we often get so bogged down by negative thoughts that it can be hard to see past them. Using affirmations brings positivity back to your mind.

4. Be brave, even if you don’t feel like it.

In essence, our self-doubt is our fear manifesting. Our doubt is just trying to shield us from the things that we think are going to hurt us.

The thing is, overcoming fear often requires nothing more than simply facing our fears and being brave. So, when doubt sneaks up, take a deep breath, remind yourself why you’re doing whatever it is you’re doing, then tell yourself you’ve got this.

Every time you work through doubt and face your fears, you’ll flex your fear-fighting muscles and become stronger.

5. Picture the worst thing that could happen.

Ask yourself, What’s the worst thing that could happen if I just go for it? I’m betting that whatever it is, it’s not that bad. It helps to recognize this, voice your concerns, and then take a step back. When you realize that the stakes aren’t that high, the mountain you created in your mind becomes a molehill.

And you know what? In most cases, the worst that could happen is probably living in a constant vortex of self-doubt and overthinking. The worst that could happen is never giving yourself what you give others — the chance to be your full, authentic, wonderful self.

INFPs, let’s overcome our self-doubt together — one mental step at a time. 

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Rebekah is a highly sensitive INFP trying to find her way in this noisy world. After completing a Speech Pathology degree and feeling unsatisfied with this career, she decided to take the road less traveled and spread her creative wings. She now pursues many different creative endeavors — she loves to cook and create recipes for her blog, The Floured Kitchen, and dream up cakes for her home-based bakery. When she's not in the kitchen, she loves stretching it out on the yoga mat, gulping down huge mugs of coffee, flexing her photography muscles, writing until her fingers cramp, and reading until her eyes hurt. Words have always been her dearest friend.