5 Secrets That Explain What Makes an INFP Tick

IntrovertDear.com INFP secrets tick

My mom could never work the same job more than a year or two before she needed a change. While she always stayed in the field of education during her 30-plus-year teaching career, she tried a host of different positions, including fourth and fifth grade teacher, preschool teacher, itinerant teacher, teacher of preschoolers with autism, and behavior analyst.

She needed to learn new skills and strategies and put her highly developed problem-solving skills to the test, and “job hopping” was one of the best ways she could satisfy her needs. My dad often said that Mom was restless without “a mountain to climb.”

My mom is an INFP personality type. Although she doesn’t represent every person of her type on the planet, she gives us a glimpse of INFP desires and motivations. What really makes her and other INFPs tick when you dig below the surface?

Here are five secrets of this wonderful introverted personality type.

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1. INFPs hate being controlled.

At first glance, INFPs appear to be flexible, often putting aside their own needs to preserve relational peace. They don’t readily voice their real opinions. Rather, they hint at what they want, saying something like, “Anyone want to try the new Mexican restaurant tonight?” And most of the time, they’re fine accommodating other people’s preferences.

What gets on an INFP’s last nerve, however, is when a supervisor, spouse, or anyone else attempts to confine her to a box and force her to work or live the same way every day. Deep down inside, INFPs desire personal autonomy. Unlike extroverted judging types (ESTJs, ESFJs, ENTJs, and ENFJs), they want little to do with organizing people, institutions, or projects. They need very little outer control.

But they must have inner control. Though you won’t find a judging preference in their four-letter type, INFPs are technically dominant judgers. They lead with a judging function known as Introverted Feeling (Fi), and their Fi is directed inwardly toward the self. As Dr. A.J. Drenth puts it, INFPs are control freaks — of themselves.

2. They honor their inner voice.

Another byproduct of their dominant Introverted Feeling is a strong desire for personal authenticity. INFPs resonate with the words of Shakespeare’s character Polonius: “To thine own self be true.” Watch an INFP for just a spell, and you’ll start to notice his unique outfits. While they may or may not be blatantly countercultural, they will be comfortable and unique. For an example of what I’m talking about, check out Darren Rowse’s portrait on the front page of ProBlogger.com. He’s wearing a navy suit jacket over a Captain America t-shirt.

INFP originality shows up in their art, too. Some INFPs love to write original music, novels, and screenplays. Others sketch, paint, or sculpt. And I’ve met INFP knitters, quilters, and crafters of all kinds. What all of them have in common is a longing to express their unique personal visions and personalities through their art. When they can create something that helps people, they’re especially happy.

3. INFPs might just enjoy feeling blue.

Believe it or not, INFPs may actually like feeling blue. At least, their Fi puts them in touch with a wide range of emotions. For the most part, INFPs are excellent friends when you’re feeling down. They’re quick to commiserate and empathize with you because they know what it’s like to feel discouraged, depressed, and disappointed.

Unlike INFJs, who seem to directly absorb other people’s moods, INFPs tend to tap their own emotional experiences and use those memories to put themselves in other people’s shoes. But INFPs aren’t just good at feeling what you feel. They see beauty in the valleys, rain, and cloudy days of life.

INFPs gravitate toward deep, heartfelt emotions that make them feel alive. They love what’s personal, real, and sincere, and these kinds of feelings are often purest in the raw moments of life. My INFP college roommate was a film major. Most of his movies shared a theme of loss and heartbreak, but they also showed how sorrowful moments can be beautiful, hopeful, and redemptive, too.

4. They like to mix it up.

INFPs need variety in their lives. Mom, for example, didn’t just change her job. She changed her appearance almost every year or two of her life. From time to time, my family will get together and look at slideshows from twenty years ago. Every time we do, we get a kick out of how much Mom’s hair, glasses, and outfits morph. It’s especially comical to see her standing beside my ISTJ father from year to year because his appearance hardly ever changed.

Because they enjoy variety, INFPs are happiest when they have opportunities to try new things. Their second strongest mindset, Extroverted Intuition (Ne), seeks novelty and innovation and multiple ideas. Choosing a job can be a challenge for INFPs because their Ne tends to want to explore every avenue before making a decision. Even after they make up their minds, INFPs sometimes wrestle with the fear that they’re missing out.

5. They are sentimental.

Spend a while with an INFP, and you’ll find out that they’re a bit sentimental. They hold onto antiques and family heirlooms that remind them of deceased loved ones and fond memories. When my family and I cleaned out my grandfather’s attic, I noticed this trait in my mom. As my brother-in-law and I dredged up old military awards, toys from the fifties, and decaying clothes from the bowels of grandpa’s attic, each piece brought laughter, tears, and a flood of memories from my mom. It was hard to get the task done because every five minutes we had to stop to hear about another old treasure.

INFPs are sentimental thanks to their third mindset, Introverted Sensing (Si). Si excels at storing and recalling rich memories. ISTJs and ISFJs, who are dominant Introverted Sensors, can virtually relive an experience as if they there just by thinking about it. When trinkets and old collectibles fire up an INFP’s Si and Fi, they also relive the past and experience rich feelings from days gone by. retina_favicon1

What’s your personality type? Knowing your personality type can help you leverage your natural strengths — and grow. Take a free personality assessment here.

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Read this: 12 Things INFPs Absolutely Need to Be Happy

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  • M.

    Oh this is just what I needed to hear. It’s such a wonderful aspect of the INFP personality and I relate so much to these things. Being sentimental, wanting new experiences often, enjoying the big range of feelings there exists. I keep wanting to put myself in a box where I think I should have the same job for years and years and the same look and the same interests, but truth is I guess that I’m just too much an INFP to ever feel comfortable with that.

    • You have a lot of wonderful strengths. Glad you were encouraged!

  • Lisa Zahn

    Thank you for this! As an INFP, I could relate to all 5 of these SO much, except that I don’t get sentimental about things at all, just people and memories.. My friends know I need to switch things up job and hairstyle-wise often–about every 3 years for jobs, for sure. Now they can know it’s wired into my personality. 🙂

    • That’s awesome, Lisa! You are very welcome.

  • Carson Hall

    Bo, you hit the nail on the head. This describes me so well. I do have a question though, when you write “INFPs tend to tap their own emotional experiences and use those memories to put themselves in other people’s shoes.”, this fits me, so does that mean that I’m an empath or not? I can’t figure out if I am or not, because I do tap into my own experiences, or perceived emotions.

    Also, I wonder, in general, if it’s empathy or just that I am upset at the unfairness of the world. I cry at so many things, especially when animals are involved. I don’t know if it’s that I’m empathetic towards the animals or if it is just that it’s so wrong and unfair to treat animals poorly.

    I am a very strong INFP, one of the tests I took gave percentages, and the only one I remember was that my ‘I’ was 97 percent. The N, F, and P also were very high, and I can say that I am truly a stereotypical INFP. It’s really funny though, when Kurt Cobain was alive, I really didn’t like him, I guess because I saw so much of myself in him, and the funny thing was that my first husband was A LOT like Courtney Love. I can only imagine the emotional pain he went through being with someone who was so cruel to him. Now I really love him and appreciate him as a fellow INFP, except for the heroin use and the guns, he is so much like me. The reason I am even saying this is I get very upset when so many people judge him. I know people are judgemental, but I don’t think anyone can really figure out an INFP unless they are one themselves. At least that is what I have seen in my life.

    Thanks again Bo, for this great article. I have shown my family articles on INFPs so they can understand me, instead of telling me that I need a psychiatrist or a therapist and to “get over it”, but they aren’t very open to reading it, or if they do, they say it’s not true. Very frustrating.

    • Hi, Carson. I’m not an expert on empaths, but my understanding is that if you’re sensitive to other people’s emotions and moods – and just generally sensitive to external stimuli more than the average person – you’re an empath.

      I’m sorry that your family isn’t open to learning more about you. You’re an awesome person. Keep honing your unique gifts! And thanks for your kind words. 🙂

      • Carson Hall

        Thank you Bo. Looking forward to more of your articles.

  • psychopath

    man, this is one of the best articles i have read about infps. good job.

    • Bo Miller

      Thanks, psychopath! Glad you enjoyed it. 🙂