Being an INFP personality type has a lot of upsides: we see the best in people, we’re thoughtful and creative, and as idealists, we see what could be instead of what is. But it has its downsides, too, not the least of which is that we’re often misunderstood. And often we’re either too polite or too self-conscious to tell you the truth about ourselves.
So here are a few things that I, an INFP, wish people knew about me. If any of these things don’t apply to the INFPs you know, or if you’re an INFP and disagree with these things, I apologize. I’m not trying to speak for all INFPs—we’re a diverse bunch, and I love that about us. But I think most of these apply to most INFPs, and I hope that you learn something from them:
1. Don’t make us question our sanity.
My brother once pretended he couldn’t see a soccer field as we drove by it. Of course, he later told me he was joking, but here’s the thing about INFPs—we spend a lot of time seriously wondering if we have a mental illness. We can know we’re completely sane, have doctors tell us we’re completely sane, have family assure us we’re completely sane, but still, we just…wonder. Sometimes a part of our brain is pretty sure that all of life is a vivid hallucination and we’re severely schizophrenic. Other times we’re pretty sure that we don’t experience emotions the same way others do so we must be sociopathic. And for INFPs who really do have a mental illness, it’s worse. So please don’t joke about insanity with us. For us, it’s no laughing matter.
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2. We can become absorbed in our own world.
But that doesn’t mean we think we’re better than others or more interesting. In fact, we have a deep respect for all humans, and are intensely curious about people. But because we’re introverts, it can be hard for us to get to know other people. Consequently, we’re curious about ourselves and we spend a lot of time studying ourselves. And the more we know, the more we want to know—and we end up losing ourselves in our inner world.
3. We want to know everything about you.
Speaking of relationships, please talk to us about everything. We want to know all about you: your deepest secrets and hidden fears and what makes you tick. We don’t want to talk about the weather. We want to know how you slipped in a puddle when you were 10 years old and broke your knee, and ever since, you deliberately splash in puddles because you want to show that nothing can beat you. We want to know how you once got stuck inside a bookstore when it was raining and ended up finding a wonderful new author and making friends with the bookstore cat. We want to know that when it starts raining at night, you always panic for a few seconds because it sounds like footsteps outside.
4. We feel like we don’t fit in.
INFPs are an odd mixture of curiosity, introversion, and quirkiness, so we often feel like we don’t fit in. Hence we either withdraw from the world completely and do our own thing or we try to change ourselves to fit in better. But the hermit will always have a part that wants to be accepted, and the people-pleaser will always have a rebellious streak. When we’re young, we INFPs may mask our true nature in an attempt to fit in. It may take us a long time to learn to act “normal.” Once we’ve learned that, it may take us even longer to realize that we don’t have to act normal. So bear with us as we find our place in the world.
5. Our emotions can confuse us.
Just because we know all about your emotions doesn’t mean we have the slightest idea what our feelings are. We know that emotions can be tricky, and when something bad happens—like a breakup or the death of a relative who has been ill for a long time—a person can feel so many things, including anger and helplessness but also relief (along with enormous guilt because of the relief). But if you ask us something like, “Do you feel sad about your dad dying?” there’s a very good chance we won’t be able to answer because we have no idea how we feel, or if we feel anything at all. I went through a period of depression after my father died, but while it was going on, I hadn’t the faintest clue that I was depressed. In fact, I thought I didn’t feel any grief at all. Only years later did I realize that I had been grieving, and even now I’m still not sure how I currently feel about my father’s death. I think I’m at a point of acceptance, but who knows? A year from now I might realize that I’m in denial. If we seem confusing to you, it’s nothing to how confusing we are to ourselves.
6. We have a dark side.
A lot of people think that INFPs are bundles of sweetness and light, but that’s not always true. Like any other human being, we can be caring at times but we can also be harsh. We can be the nicest and most tender person you know, or we can be judgmental and downright cruel. That’s because we have bad days too. But you can bet that when we lash out at someone with harsh words, we feel guilty about it later.
In the end, being an INFP personality type is not “good” or “bad.” INFPs are complex, contradictory people who know the world can be a dark place—but we choose to see the light.
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Read this: 10 Contradicting Things About INFPs