In a few days I’m heading to the airport to pick up my ex-husband-in-law (aka Antonia’s ex-husband) for a visit. He’s an INFP personality type and over the past few years we’ve become friends.
Our personalities (ENFP and INFP) complement each other in many ways and I’ve learned a lot more about my own personal development journey by spending time around him.
We’ve had long conversations about the challenges he faces as an INFP. I’ve also been observing INFPs “in the wild” for a while now and the feedback we are getting from our INFP survey shows a few of the recurring challenges I’d like to tackle in this article.
As an INFP (Authenticity/Exploration in the Genius system) your mind is fundamentally wired differently from other personalities.
You’ve probably already heard that you are an introvert, intuitive, feeler, perceiver. And a lot of articles and resources focus on the behaviors you show the world as an INFP.
Behavior can be helpful – but it isn’t the complete picture when figuring out your personality.
I want to give you a peek inside your mind to expose the mental wiring that makes you an INFP.
Let’s get started.
INFP | The Mental Wiring Of Your Mind
Your four letter code INFP gives us insight into how your mind is learning information and making decisions.
The primary way your mind makes decisions is a mental process we’ve nicknamed “Authenticity.” It’s technical name is Introverted Feeling.
When evaluating any decision – Authenticity asks the question “Does this feel right?” It’s a feeling process concerned with core values, motivation and conviction.
Imagine a four passenger car.
If one of your mental processes could drive – it would be Authenticity. Using this mental process puts you in flow. You’ve been using it your whole life. It’s how you decide what to do each day.
If Authenticity is how you make decisions as an INFP, then the mental process we’ve nicknamed “Exploration” is how you learn new information. The technical name for Exploration is Extraverted Intuition.
When looking at the world – Exploration asks the question “What if?”
- “What if time is relative?”
- “What if everyone was forced to hug each other instead of handshakes?”
- “What if numbers had gender assignment – what gender would you assign to the number eight?”
Think about that four passenger car again… if Authenticity is the Driver seat – then Exploration is in the front passenger seat. It is your Co-pilot mental process and what we call your growth state.
Sitting right behind the Co-pilot is a mental process we call “Memory.”
Memory is all about precedent, safety, doing the reliable thing. It’s about realizing who you are based on your past and your ties to the past.
This mental process has the development of about a 10 Year Old child.
Finally, behind the Driver of Authenticity sits a mental process called “Effectiveness.” We call this your blind spot or 3 Year Old mental process. Effectiveness is a thinking process and asks the question, “What works?” or “What gets the job done?” without regard to personal feelings.
Notice – we haven’t talked about INFP behaviors.
Instead, I’ve been talking about the mental wiring of your mind.
Behaviors can only give us clues to how your mind is wired. It’s far more interesting to dive into WHAT CAUSES our behaviors as people.
Here at Personality Hacker – We don’t talk about personality types for their own sake. We think understanding your personality is one of the best ways to frame your personal growth journey.
And we attract INFPs who are interested in personal growth.
Next, I’d like to address some of the most common INFP challenges.
INFP Challenge | Motivation
Okay, so motivation might be the single biggest challenge for INFPs. Remember that you make your best decisions using the feeling process of Authenticity.
So it’s easy to get into action when you feel like it. And when you don’t “feel like it?”
Well… good luck.
If you are another personality type and you’ve ever tried to motivate an INFP who didn’t feel inspired to action, then you know what I’m talking about. It’s all but impossible to encourage an INFP to take an action when they don’t want to.
On the other hand, if an INFP is inspired to take action nothing but death can stop them.
There is immense power in the Authenticity process in creating motivation for INFPs.
How do you as an INFP activate this Authenticity process, the very seat of your motivation?
Conviction is the INFP secret weapon to change the world.
Show me an INFP with conviction and I’ll show you an INFP getting. Shit. Done.
Conviction comes from knowing your inner wisdom and what matters to you in this life.
Not all conviction is created equal. You may have conviction around tipping servers at restaurants. You may also have conviction around not cheating on your spouse. One may be easier to over-ride than the other. So there are degrees of conviction.
“My feelings make me indecisive”
Conviction isn’t difficult for INFPs to develop. It actually feels right for you as an INFP to develop strong feelings about how things should be. Like I said, it sits with your Driver process of Authenticity.
The challenge is having a myopic view of what to be convicted about.
As an example, let’s suppose an INFP grew up in a home with an alcoholic parent. They may develop an understandable conviction against the use of alcohol. They decided early in life that they would completely abstain from any substance they have deemed dangerous. Alcohol in their mind has become public enemy number one and can never be used without causing harm. They have decided that they won’t even allow themselves to be around someone who is drinking.
Imagine this INFP, as they reach adulthood, petitioning local jurisdictions to temper the availability of alcohol. They may even extend their conviction to include other drugs like caffeine, tobacco, cannabis, etc.
The INFP in this hypothetical situation is absolutely CONVICTED (despite their very limited personal experience with substance) that alcohol is a great evil in the world.
And this INFP may be over valuing their own experience. The reality is, not everyone who uses alcohol abuses it.
So how would this INFP broaden their perspective on alcohol?
They could drink a beer. They could actually get buzzed a little. They could try alcohol for themselves and see if it always leads to abuse. Or at least hang out with people who are drinking to see for themselves if it always leads to abuse of the substance.
If you are an INFP with this exact conviction, what I just suggested is going to sound like heresy. You may even be turning off your ability to take in the rest of this article. But that’s the point – one can generate convictions based on singular experiences (as painful as they may be) and then close themselves off to new information.
Though understandable, “closed circuit” convictions are no longer about reality or even right verses wrong, they’re about self-protection. These ethics are no longer thoughtful and they become armor. And then we project our trauma onto the world turning it into a right versus wrong stance.
If you as an INFP unconsciously create a ‘one size fits all’ morality, you turn into the type of person you would normally rail against. The goal is not to compromise your convictions. The goal is to be thoughtful and open to new experiences.
The solution is activating your Co-pilot process of Exploration.
Remember that Exploration asks “what if?” questions. Exploration wants to see patterns in the external world. Exploration helps an INFP take in more information and craft better and better convictions over time.
So that’s my recommendation for staying on track with your convictions.
Now let’s get back to this idea of motivation.
There are two primary ways you can motivate yourself.
Conviction is the internal motivation we’ve already talked about. It’s the first piece of the puzzle for you as an INFP. Without a deep sense of conviction about the “right thing to do” you will flounder without direction.
The second part to motivation is external. This comes from already knowing what you want to do and enlisting the help of outside people and systems to help you get there.
I love the movie The Sandlot. The plot centers around a group of preteen boys in the 1960s who bond over backyard baseball, girls and living the “Tom Sawyer” style childhood. In one iconic scene they hit their only baseball over a neighbor’s fence. On the other side of the fence is a fierce creature they call “The Beast” who has now made it his personal business to prevent the boys from getting their ball back.
With no money to buy a new ball, it is inevitable that they find a way to get over that fence to retrieve their baseball. These boys want to play baseball – so they have the motivation to be creative and conquer all odds to get their ball back.
This is a great example of how you will create motivation for yourself as an INFP.
Let me explain. After you have sparked an internal motivation to do something how do you ensure you follow through with your decision? How do you follow through on what you know is right?
Create a circumstance that makes the outcome you desire an inevitable emergent.
A mentor of mine calls this “throwing your hat over the fence.” It basically works like The Sandlot movie example.
Figure out a way to make your desired outcome inevitable by setting up external systems to force yourself to completion.
My father is an Authenticity driver. He used this technique to motivate himself when I was growing up.
About a week or two before major holidays (when he knew my mother had invited guests to our house) he would start a major home improvement project. It wasn’t uncommon in early/mid December to come downstairs on a Saturday morning and see our kitchen floor tile ripped up, or a huge hole in the wall to the living room.
My mother would nervously bite her nails hoping that my dad would lay the new tile or finish the new walkway BEFORE family and friends came over for the Christmas events she had planned. He always finished (sometimes hours before guests arrived). He had no choice not to. My dad “threw his hat over the fence” and ensured sustained motivation long after his initial inspiration started to wane.
An example of this for you might be scheduling a seminar that you want to teach. You announce the date and time to your friends and family and post all over social media about your new seminar topics. You have committed to showing up at a certain time and place to deliver content that you must now create and refine. Talk about motivation!
This is how you as an INFP can create external motivation for yourself.
How will you “throw your hat over the fence?”
Leave me your personal ideas below in the comments.
INFP Challenge | Unrealistic Expectations
It’s common for INFPs to daydream and allow their heads to float in the clouds of imagination. An INFP’s imagination is super-charged, rich in color, texture and detail. The dreamland of the mind is amazing to an INFP and feels just as real as a walk along a sunny beach.
And yet when an INFP interacts with the “real world” of things and stuff, it never seems to match up. The fantasy is often way better than the reality.
“I’m disappointed in reality when it doesn’t match my ideals”
It feels to many INFPs that this world just isn’t made for them. If it was, people would be interested in individual expression, causes and improving how we honor each other as people instead of the cyclical financial reports of Wall Street, major corporations and governments.
As an INFP you may find yourself thinking…
- People SHOULD be more loving.
- People SHOULD be more honest.
- People SHOULD live their individual expression.
- People SHOULD live life to the fullest.
- People SHOULD affirm the very essence of life and why we are human.
The above statements point to a deep sense of idealism that you as an INFP carry around in your daily life.
Idealism is good for INFPs. Idealism is what helps you know what is humane. Idealism helps us see the humanity in everything we do. Idealism helps cast a vision for what the world SHOULD look like.
The trouble starts when an attitude sets in. As an INFP steeped in idealism, you are tempted down one of two extreme routes.
First, you can develop a deep sense of helplessness and simply become disillusioned. Disillusionment feels awful and a lot of INFPs struggle with this emotion.
Second, you can try to make your idealism a reality and get frustrated at the lack of progress. This can lead to righteous indignation.
But Idealism can be good for an INFP if harnessed well.
As an INFP you CAN effect change and become a transformational leader.
It’s not your fault if transformational leadership seems to be out of your reach. Most businesses and governments reward “command and control” style leadership. That’s just not your style.
My guess is that nothing turns you off faster than hierarchies and rigid organizational structures that cripple individual expression.
So your INFP leadership style is going to be much different than a fortune 500 CEO or military leader. Remember your 3 Year Old process of Effectiveness we talked about above? That’s the Driver mental process of many of the “traditional” leaders you see propped up in popular culture.
Effectiveness is your blind spot.
So your leadership will become something different. Your best leadership comes from using your Authenticity to INSPIRE others to greatness.
I’m going to be straight with you here. As an INFP, projects will probably take longer for you than most people. However, you can accomplish a great deal if you can empower and inspire others to work along side you.
Start small and build up. You may not be able to inspire others to completely change the political system in the next five years. But you may be able to inspire your school board to change the curriculum in the local high school.
And once you have an example of inspiring change, you can start to scale up from there. Start small and build.
Your idealism wants to do it all RIGHT NOW.
Patience is needed. Keep at it and develop your inspiring passion. You will get there if you stay with it.
If the challenge for you as an INFP is unrealistic expectations, then start by bringing a new reality into the world one small step at a time.
When you acknowledge the world as it really is, you gain tremendous power for shaping a vision for what could be.
INFP Challenge | Validation
The frustrating thing is… no one will ever fully understand you as an INFP. In fact I believe that INFPs don’t fully understand themselves.
The reality is INFPs don’t actually want to be completely understood as individuals. If that statement causes you to pause, hang in there with me. I’m going to explain what I mean.
As an INFP you know it’s impossible to truly understand yourself. You can experience yourself. You can feel your emotions and motivations deeply. You can get very close to full understanding – but you can never fully understand why you feel the way you do.
If you know this about yourself, how in the world can anyone else understand you?
If you are another type… Imagine that the criteria you use to make all of your decisions is perpetually questioned by nearly every person you encounter. And now add to that the phenomenon that you usually don’t know the best decision to make until after you’ve already made it. To put a cherry on top, it’s based on something you can’t possibly explain to another person (because it has no language) AND once you know the right decision, you know it with such certainty that you would die for it.
But you still can’t quite explain it beyond, “It just FEELS right.”
This is the Authenticity process. The criteria Authenticity uses is something so personal and subjective it can’t be fully explained to others. Authenticity users ‘know’ something is ‘right’ because they ‘feel it inside of themselves’. To anyone else other than an Authenticity user the usual response is, “Why do I care how you feel? Do the thing that [fill in the blank whatever is the other person’s criteria].”
As an INFP you have so many nuanced and unexplained emotions that feel absolutely real. And when you articulate them – it feels like no one understands what you are actually feeling or expressing. It gets worse when other people start to project ill intent onto your expressions that are absolutely authentic and good natured.
It’s my opinion that it’s much better to seek VALIDATION rather than understanding.
Validation is about acceptance. Validation says “In spite of not fully understanding what you are trying to say – I know you. I KNOW you are a good person with good intent.”
It’s this lack of feeling validated that leads you to avoid conflict. When you disagree with someone they want to know your reasons. Stats are demanded from you. External proof and measurements are tossed around as the only real evidence for a viewpoint in an argument.
The INFP knows that the human spirit, core values, inner wisdom and authenticity need to have a voice in any debate. You as an INFP are hoping for validation on your viewpoints without data. But no one seems to care unless you have data to back up your claims.
The worst thing you can do as an INFP is let this isolate you. A lot of INFPs feel lonely for this very reason. No one seems to understand that just because an INFP doesn’t have a spreadsheet filled with numbers that their points are still valid.
Validation is huge for you as an INFP. And guess what?
You can’t expect ANYONE in the outer world to give you validation. Some may. But you can’t expect it.
So you can turn to internal validation. And many INFPs do this. The challenge again comes from not taking in enough actual experience to “validate” your internal validation.
In other words… if you as an INFP know that you are responsible for giving yourself the validation you need, you better be sure that you are experiencing enough of reality to test out your inner knowledge.
Your inner wisdom is only as good as the experiences you feed it. Get more experiences and you can trust and validate your own inner wisdom more and more.
How do you as an INFP get enough experience to help you validate your own conclusions and convictions?
Your mental process of Exploration of course. (Are you starting to see a theme emerge here?)
INFP Challenge | Communicating Ideas Clearly
Maybe you’ve had this experience as an INFP.
You’ve been sitting in a business meeting at work listening to your marketing team talk about how to integrate a new strategy into the business. Everyone is having a difficult time coming up with solution for the marketing challenges facing the company.
You’ve been quietly listening and letting your creative intuition do its magic. All of a sudden a clear deep impression strikes you about what to do. The solution is brilliant. It will completely solve the challenge and help meet your marketing goals for the year.
You wait your turn, raise your hand and begin to speak about your brilliant idea.
And everyone looks at you like you just uttered something in Pig Latin. You sense that people are confused about your idea. So you take another stab at explaining it. Your boss develops a very twisted and confused expression. People shift uncomfortably in their seats. Blank stares. Awkward coughs. Someone excuses themselves to the restroom.
You start to panic that you look silly in front of your co-workers. So you try again to explain your idea. Finally, halfway through your third attempt your boss cuts you off and says, “Thanks. That’s an interesting take. Why don’t you and I talk about this offline,” and moves onto the next person.
You feel marginalized. You feel foolish for even speaking up and trying. As an INFP, you hate feeling like this.
Why can’t your words seem to make sense to anyone else in the room? The ideas are clear in your own mind. Why do people act like you are speaking gibberish?
Later that day you write down your thoughts in a well crafted email to your boss. She writes back a few hours later praising your idea. She asks you to present these ideas at the next marketing meeting.
“I can’t verbalize my thoughts, but I’m excellent at writing them out.”
We hear all the time from INFPs who complain about expressing themselves. The crazy thing is that INFPs can make some of the best communicators. Some call INFPs wordsmiths.
And yet, when put on the spot, it can be a challenge for an INFP to verbally articulate all the ideas in their head.
Writing ideas down allows you to organize your thoughts before putting them into the world. And if you hone the skill of writing you can probably become very good at expressing yourself through that medium.
But how can you express yourself verbally?
Stop explaining things.
Instead, embody your communication. This can be obvious and easier for INFPs who are in the arts. It is fairly straightforward for an INFP to express themselves through their art, photography, painting, performance, poetry or music. Some of the great artistic visionaries of the world have been INFPs.
The challenge comes when you as an INFP need to interact in the business world or school or government. How do you embody communication in non-art type contexts?
Show me an INFP who has developed the skill of storytelling and I’ll show you an INFP who can communicate their ideas verbally.
Your INFP mind already thinks in terms of narratives and stories. So use your natural talents.
It may seem weird at first to tell a story in the middle of a marketing meeting, and yet think about how humans work. We all LOVE narratives. Netflix has over 65 million subscribers at the time of this writing who prove this. Tell stories to illustrate your ideas.
Learn to work with metaphor. Learn the art of spinning a great tale that inspires people to listen to what you say. It’s my belief that most INFPs identify themselves as artists. Fine artists. Performance artists. Business or marketing artists.
Live your art. Life is a stage after all.
Your voice and storytelling ability is part of how you “live your art.”
Try this out and leave me a comment below.
INFP Challenge | Trusting Yourself
Self-doubt plagues many INFPs. I think this is due to “seeing” the dark parts of your heart.
Human beings are emotionally complex. We don’t always have altruistic emotions and motivations. Sometimes our motivations and desires are downright frightening and dark.
Authenticity can see these dark parts of the human heart. It feels the darkness. It has the potential to resonate with truly evil and life terminating attitudes.
It is my belief that we all possess this ability in our hearts. We all have good and evil inside us. It’s just that Authenticity has a closer connection and the ability to find and feel these motivations directly.
As an INFP feels this internal darkness and begins to express it outwardly to other personality types, they can often feel invalidated. Other types don’t resonate with seeing this in themselves like the INFP.
And now the INFP begins to wonder if they are truly evil at the core. And again the loneliness sets in.
As an INFP you might say something like, “I know I’m not a bad person, but I look around and I seem to be the only one who is in touch with this heart darkness. Maybe I really am bad or wrong at the core of my identity.”
But deep in their heart an INFP could find reason for a bad motive or intent if they need to. So there’s an underlying insecurity that they aren’t truly acting in the best interest of others. You deeply fear that you are as flawed as others might suggest and your own heart seems to show you.
If you add this “heart darkness” element to an INFP who is already insecure about their ability to stay motivated to accomplish tasks, vocalize their ideas in a clear manner and feeling a lack of external validation from others, it can cripple the self-esteem.
You are the only one who can give it. It’s job number one to grow yourself as a person.
Embedded in your personality description is a prescription for growth and I recommend you start with your Exploration mental process.
If you as an INFP begin expanding your experiences, you will see patterns in the world that bring new ideas, insight and understanding about how the world works.
It will help you gain a new sense of self-confidence. Your ideals about the world will be tested with feedback.
In your heart, you already know that you are unique and have deep wisdom. But you will always feel a nagging sense of insecurity unless you test your deep wisdom against the feedback of the “real world.”
At first it will be disheartening that the “real world” doesn’t match up to your ideals.
You may even be tempted to shrink back into daydreams, fantasies and feeling comfortable. And yet as you read these words you sense a deep intuition screaming from the depths of your soul that I’m right.
As an INFP it feels truly authentic to stand up and grab life by the throat. You get one ride on this planet. Why waste it in a fantasy land of wondering “what if?”
Instead, use your natural “What if?” Exploration process to live out an authentic and fully expressed life.
Your future self will thank you.
Your turn. I’m handing you the microphone.
Love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
~ Joel Mark Witt
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