I am an INFP and was aware I was different my entire life. I grew up. I have not changed although I must say I do use my non-preferences more easily, which is quite common. It comes with knowledge, growth and confidence. My inner INFP developed, but I always wondered how other INFPs felt and what their fears, motivations and experiences were.
I created a questionnaire and posted it on INFP and other Personality Type groups on Facebook. Each question required long answers, thoughtfulness, reflection and time. I received 11 responses. I also included the responses from my husband, Bob Epstein, an INXP who possesses many typical INFP characteristics.
I quite realize that just because people have the same personality type, it does not mean that they are the same; of course there are variations within the 16 MBTI Personality Types. Each person is unique, yet herein usually lie certain common motivations, attitudes, values, and feelings associated with a particular set of preferences. Of course, the strength of each PCI-Preference Clarity Index (Strength of each individual preference – Slight, Moderate, Clear, Very Clear) will affect the aforementioned.
I asked questions about themselves, their parents, friendships, romantic relationships, what gives them happiness and joy, socializing and validation from others. I was surprised to see that the majority of the volunteers were more than happy to go into great depth and explanation. They made themselves vulnerable to me with their hearts and openly discussed often strained relationships with their parents. They did this willingly and did not hold back. I cannot express how much I appreciated their participation and honesty.
When did you realize that you were different from most of society?
A few discussed their imaginations. They played games inside their heads and loved and had a sense of fantasy to which others could not relate. Many were called daydreamers and loved to live inside their heads.
Several responded that they were under the age of ten. A few of them were as young as three and four years old. Some first felt it in their teens and twenties. They had trouble connecting to people who didn’t see things in the same way.
Some discussed their sensitivities.
“I was more sensitive and caring than anyone else. No one understood why I was so shy or got sensitive. People think I am too sensitive and do not understand why I care so deeply for others. It’s hard for me to say no and not make others happy.”
One respondent poignantly described her experiences in school. “My classmates and my physical education teacher used to make fun of me because I was a really sensitive child and I cried too much. I never understood why crying is seen as something wrong. I still don’t think it’s wrong. But I know it’s something different. People said that I was too sensitive; I should be more happy etc., but I never stopped crying. Maybe because they didn’t actually try to change me for the better, they just wanted to make me feel like a weirdo.”
What does friendship and socializing mean to you?
The strong thread under this category was the fact that the majority of people treasured the close friends they had. Deep connections were meaningful and considered platonic soulmates. They needed softness, kindness and to be understood and fully accepted.
One respondent stated, “Friends don’t make fun of each other. A friend is someone who will laugh WITH you, not AT you.”
Another stated, “A friend is NOT someone you are scared of, who doesn’t respect you, who won’t give you the benefit of the doubt. Friendship provides people who support you during hard times and celebrate your successes.” Another said, “I have three good friends. I like a friend who is kind and who I can confide in and act myself in front of. I like to have small gatherings and not go to parties often. I like a friend I can confide in and who won’t judge me and will love me for who I am no matter what.”
When asked about socializing there was another strong common thread. They didn’t need to be around many people and preferred a few close friends to large gatherings or parties. “I don’t go to parties because they make me feel uncomfortable. I’ve been to some and sometimes just locked myself in the bathroom to escape.”
Another said, “I usually socialize with small groups or one on one interaction. A more mature INFP developed her non-preferences over the years (which is expected) but clearly felt drained after more intensive social interactions. “I’ve worked on my socializing for years. Now I can walk into a room with complete strangers and chat. I do need lots of recovery time after socializing though because I’m a natural introvert and empath so it drains me.”
Another respondent said, “I usually hang out with my friends for coffee or a mini night out. I do attend parties and they are fun while I am there, but I feel the energy drain over the next days or weeks so it takes me a while to get out again.
Another more extroverted introvert said, “I know lots of people and have many friends for partying/laughing/ having fun with but NOT for heart to heart discussions, sharing secrets/inner workings of my mind etc. I do enjoy deep and meaningful conversations with the right people as long as it’s not about me. I don’t attend many parties now, but when I did, I found them quite stressful.”
Another INFP was more specific in how she socializes. “I love intimate gatherings with other NF (Intuitive Feelers) types I know well. Large loud parties with strangers or lots of ST (Sensor Thinker) types make me hide in the bathroom or in the corner with the cat lol.”
I do want to stress here, that there are no good or bad types. However, not everyone is comfortable in the company of certain types due to the differences in motivations and values as an extension of their preferences.
What are your interests?
The respondents cited a myriad of activities which made them happy. They included art, music, singing, personal growth, daydreaming, games of fantasy, drawing, playing house/dolls, dancing, performing amongst various other activities.
My husband Bob, an INXP, recalled a memory from his childhood that impacted his choices in adulthood. He was probably about eleven or twelve. Although he was an all around athlete, there was a very complex and internal side to him that very few people knew.
“It seems that my parents were collectors of records, which were comprised mainly of Broadway musicals. They had a fantastic library of the current shows of the time. My Fair Lady, Oklahoma, South Pacific, West Side Story, Carousel, The Music Man and on and on! I listened to those albums for hours on end, and for months and months until I memorized the lyrics of the many show tunes. I sang along and performed with my faux microphone in hand-while the music enveloped my cells. Right there in my living room I was Broadway bound! I sang, danced and acted my way into a world of fantasy and fame. And I even mustered up the courage to perform at family gatherings.
Yes, unbeknownst to my parents, they laid the groundwork for my love of theater. Later on in high school, I worked it out around my sports schedule – so I could perform in “Sing,” a musical review and class competition.
In college I studied English and speech and theater; and at the high school where I taught, I was able to apply my love of theater when teaching my Drama Workshop classes, where I directed many scenes from classical and modern plays. I even performed in a teachers only play called The Odd Couple!”
Many INFPs have the aforementioned interests and tendencies which carry through to adulthood, as in all the other types.
What were your parents’ or guardians’ personality types and did they validate you?
I had stated in my previous blog, that I was fortunate enough to have two parents who also happened to be Intuitive Feelers. My mother is an INFP and my father an XNFP. My qualities were appreciated and nurtured. Unfortunately, if one’s true gifts are not viewed in a positive light, a person’s view of his/herself may be skewed resulting in a lack of confidence and self-esteem. A conflicted life may result in not being able to live an authentic life.
One respondent stated that her parents were ESTJ and ESTP. She was fully aware of their love for her but expressed that they have very different views of the world and that she has trouble relating to their qualities.
Another respondent said that her parents were ENFP and ESTP. She received a great deal of validation for being sensitive, but they didn’t understand why she was shy and sometimes had no desire to socialize. She was fascinated that they both had strong inclinations to be social and had no trouble doing so. In contrast, she always had a hard time speaking to people. Although they had her try sports and camp, which they quickly learned she didn’t care for, they were and continue to be supportive of her passions.
An INFP male had issues with his INTJ father. “My dad was very rough to grow up with as a kid. Our T and F differences caused many fights where we both left completely not understanding what’s going on with the other person’s mind. I also don’t think he enjoyed how feminine my personality was by societal standards.”
A female INFP had issues with her father. “My dad is ENTJ and his constant criticisms and high expectations when growing up completely destroyed my confidence and shattered my self-belief. I rebelled massively and he never understood me. Mum is ISFJ and never backed me.” This respondent went on to explain that her parents made her feel unloved as they never said “I love you” to her. Although she does have a better relationship now in her more mature years and has forgiven them, she said that feeling unloved was not great for an INFP and that it still hurts.
Another respondent’s parents are ISFJ and INTJ. She stated that she always feels supported and loved, yet there is not a strong bond or relationship. “We’re just a simple family.”
One respondent has an ISFP mother and an ISTP father. “He made much of my life a living hell. He constantly told me my feelings didn’t exist, or that I was making things up.” She felt that she had to parent her ISFP mother.
There were others who felt deeply supported and validated by their parents. One INFP states, “My mom is an ISFJ and dad is an ISTJ. They always encouraged me to go for what I wanted and to stop something if I no longer wanted it. They supported my friendships and romantic partners and never tried to control what I wanted to study in school. They had a great deal of trust in me in those regards. I supposed in general I was validated. The one arena where I didn’t feel this way was my mom’s misunderstanding of Fi (introverted feeling).
Bob’s Perspective on growing up as an INXP Male
“I grew up in a world where men were taught, point-by-point, not to feel, not to cry, and not to find words to express themselves. But for me, the truth is that I feel and feel deeply. Not only that, but I can express my feelings given the appropriate situation. Most men convert their articulation of emotions into feelings of anger and pride-rather than the female utterances of vulnerability or sadness.
In this regard, I deviate from the typical male. However, when I show my true emotions to other men, I believe that I am judged as being poorly adjusted. Part of the problem is that I have silenced my feelings for so long that when I share them it is most likely overwhelming.
Most men have no trouble sharing their feelings in times which are germane to macho activities. How often do we see men exclaim at sporting events-even hugging, kissing or slapping each other playfully on the behind? In any other context, the men would not openly show such an outpouring of feelings.
For me, I can share my emotions with women whose hearts and minds are connected to mine. With other women I can listen to their emotions and give them feedback, but I may not divulge my own sensibilities.
It is only when there is a firm connection that I can truly impart. There has to be a trust, respect, understanding and love for the exchange of concerns to work in a mutual and clinical sense.
I really don’t mean to sound as if I have a gender bias against men when it comes to sharing their sensitivities. It’s just that I rarely meet men who are not guarded about their inner psyche. Most men are so tightly wound and defensive to the point of not showing their perceived weaknesses. It’s rare to meet one who has the female openness.
I think the first time my children, for example, saw me cry, was at my mother’s funeral. I began to speak at the graveside and completely broke down; I was crying uncontrollably. That was twenty years ago when my daughters were teenagers.
It’s so interesting to me that for the first time I witnessed my father crying at my grandmother’s funeral. It made me feel so uneasy and defenseless. I wonder if my girls felt that way too?
I am a person who prides himself on being able to help people and can empathize with their situations; I want to fix their problem. When I can’t, it’s usually because it’s beyond my grasp or I am distracted; it’s more than likely something that I’m going through, too-something which pulls me down. My own personal privacy makes it extremely difficult for me to share my own dilemma with others. I suffer from letting down the person regardless.
At this stage of life, I often think about my mortality or the mortality of other dear ones. I want part of my legacy to be remembered for having been there for people in their time of need-to be trusted with their personal emotions and to help however I can. I need to be understanding of others who reach out to me and I must also try my best to seek the emotional support I need. I’m still working on it…”
What fulfills you in life?
Two respondents explained their answers in especially thoughtful ways.
The first INFP – “Being alive in each moment and open to whatever comes my way. I feel fulfilled when I take opportunities and follow what I want, and this teaches ultimate fulfillment if I can share in these opportunities with others. This may be as simple as noticing it’s a wonderful day for a picnic and deciding to go and do it with your partner. Bring a book and take turns reading to each other and seeing where conversation goes from there. Perhaps you are walking back to your car to go home but pass by a cute shop and decide to go inside. When you get home, the sun is setting, so you lay in the driveway and appreciate the evolution of colors and shifting of clouds. Fulfillment comes with immense gratitude.”
The second INFP both listed and explained-
Connections with people and myself
Knowing that there’s so many unique and kind people on the planet fills me with hope
I want to meet as many as possible to learn their story and learn who they are
“Knowing who I am is also fulfilling. I like to learn who I am and improve upon weaknesses I have. That’s one of the reasons I love the MBTI as a whole.”
Although I found that all the respondents were clearly unique and from varying countries and backgrounds, most responses had a common theme. They wanted to meaningfully connect with others, they wanted soulmates in both friends and life partners, they wanted to make a difference in the world and to be loved and accepted for who they are..