ISFPs make up about 9 percent of the population and are the fourth most common personality type. They are known for being gentle caretakers who live in the moment and enjoy their surroundings; they’re generally cheerful and like to go with the flow. However, life isn’t always easy for ISFPs. Here are six experiences almost every ISFP has probably had but wished they hadn’t.
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Experiences Every ISFP Has Had
1. Being stuck in a rigid environment.
ISFPs have a tough time in tense, rigid environments. We want to take care of things in our own way and on our own schedule, so being locked in a micromanaged corporate office or classroom can feel like an oppressive grind.
In my case, when I worked as a Certified Public Accountant, just knowing one of the middle managers could pop their head into my office at any moment to bug me about something was enough to make my skin crawl. There were also group lunches about three times a week that everyone expected me to attend and countless meetings. All of it forced me to constantly follow someone else’s schedule and agenda. But the most frustrating part was knowing how much more effective and efficient I would have been if I’d had the space and flexibility to take care of things in accordance with my own flow of things.
2. Being denied alone time.
ISFPs love solitude. It gives us the opportunity to evaluate our thoughts and feelings and reflect. We get a sense of peace when we’re alone. So it gets tough when you’re forced to be around other people and listen to them babble about superficial stuff you find boring or irrelevant.
When the ability to be by ourselves is taken away from us, we get stressed and frustrated. I first realized my need for alone time when I was a freshman in college and I lived in a dorm. Between my roommate being an extremely social guy who always wanted to leave the door open, the small rooms, and people constantly coming in and out, I had a sort of claustrophobic feeling I’d never experienced before. Combine that with dinners in the dorm’s cafeteria where I was always surrounded by people, and I found myself wandering off on long walks through campus just to get some space. In fact, the more I did on my own, the better I felt, and by midterm, I was spending most of my time just doing my own thing.
3. Becoming excessively critical of yourself.
When things get stressful, ISFPs tend to become extremely hard on themselves. For example, if you’re a college student writing a difficult paper, you might start to obsess over any imperfections you perceive in your writing or beat yourself up due to an irrational, self-perceived lack of competence. These moments of stress can lead us to lash out at others, which is highly uncharacteristic of us, because we are generally very good-natured and easygoing. Our lashing out is often then turned inward, where we take out our frustrations on ourselves. At times like these, it’s a good idea to break out of your introvert comfort zone and reach out to someone else who can help.
4. Deferring to others.
The ISFP’s pleasant, quiet nature can lead to them taking a back seat to other people’s agendas. For a long time, I had a tough time disagreeing with anyone or saying no. It just seemed to be against my nature—which, as an ISFP, it was. I was placing too much emphasis on the idea of harmony while placing myself in situations where I was being seriously inconvenienced. Or, I had to put up with people who I knew didn’t know what they were talking about or what they were doing.
Eventually, I started focusing on my deeper values, like the need to live a life without catering to everyone’s needs and my desire to succeed in situations as opposed to just going along with what others wanted me to do. I was able to mentally frame things in a way where I’d see a positive outcome when I refused to defer to someone else. With practice, I became better at getting my ideas heard and taking control of my time and life.
5. Being criticized by those close to us.
ISFPs value harmony in their relationships, so they’ll often refrain from sharing intimate feelings unless they think they won’t be met with criticism. But it can be tricky to gauge if someone will criticize you or not, and sometimes ISFPs end up getting a response that is not what they wanted to hear. At that point, being an ISFP, you retreat rather than get into any sort of conflict. And believe me, having to pull back from a relationship is not a great feeling.
For example, once I told a girl I was dating my thoughts on a political issue, and she responded in a surprisingly nasty way. It was the first time I’d seen her act like that, and my natural reaction was to back down and say, “Maybe you’re right.” After that, I avoided sharing my values or really anything that I took seriously with her.
However, the feelings of vulnerability and being controlled by others that come with strict conflict avoidance is a lousy price to pay. After I overcame the impulse to defer to others, I challenged myself to place my values and sense of well-being over someone else’s opinions. Gradually I began to stand up for myself rather than shrink away. And while doing this led to the aforementioned relationship ending within a few weeks, my attitude was “good riddance.” My new willingness to engage in conflict (while still being civil, of course) has now greatly helped me maintain my relationships.
6. Being rushed to learn abstract concepts in a group setting.
When it comes to learning new concepts, ISFPs excel when they are first presented with practical explanations, tangible examples, facts, details, and expectations. Forcing them to try to absorb abstractions right off the bat or deal with changing expectations throughout the learning process make it difficult for the material to sink in. Additionally, we like a loose structure and the ability to learn individually and at our own pace.
A perfect example of a poor learning environment for an ISFP is the physics class I took in high school. Physics is all about applying real word examples to theory. As an ISFP, I needed to understand the practical example first, then have the instructor apply it to the abstract theory. But that’s not how my teacher operated. Instead, the teacher went on and on about the abstract principles without connecting them to real life. This made it virtually impossible for me to grasp any of the basic concepts, whereas other students had very little trouble understanding the material. To make things even more unpleasant, we broke into groups often, and while everyone else in my group was getting things done quickly, I had the extra stress of trying to keep up.
As a happy side note, I did manage to sneak out of that class with a B-.
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