Embracing Your INFP Personality Type

“That can’t be right.”

I had just completed an Online Myers-Briggs inventory, and the result initially registered as disbelief. I was an Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceiver (INFP) and I didn’t want to identify with the references to deep sensitivities, daydreaming, and the arts. The individual described was intensely interested in things like feelings, bringing healing to the world, and was idealistic as a rule. To my disdain, the result was replete with pictures of carefree young women and men dancing in the middle of Woodstock-like settings.

“That is NOT me.”

In a sense it wasn’t me or, at the very least, it wasn’t a me I wanted to acknowledge. I had spent the last several years trying to become sensible, strategic, and facts-driven. Though I’d had some success, the success never came with the sense that I was living authentically. Eventually, a bout of significant anxiety led me to explore why I felt so out of sync. That’s when I discovered the four letters that would change my life…INFP.

INFP Insecurities

If you’re an INFP, you may be able to identify with some of what I’ve written. Many INFP’s, especially males in my experience, initially resist embracing their type. The reasons may be numerous, but at the heart of the resistance is the sense that INFPs are soft, meek, and incapable of action. In a results oriented world, it’s difficult to embrace the sometimes overwhelmingly emotional core that characterizes our type. As such, we often end up betraying our personality by trying to become what we are not.

My quest to change type culminated on the day I entered training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego. I was two years out of high school, and I felt that I was somehow incomplete; that I needed to develop a “get it done” mindset that I did not already possess. The military seemed like a natural option. I grew up the son of a career military officer, and my dad was my hero. A true ENTJ, he woke up each morning wearing a flight suit, ready to take on whatever threats may come our nation’s way, and he was literally the finger on the bomb-dropping trigger. His world was data, hard decisions, and tough mindedness.

My world was considerably less concrete. When I made decisions, they were open-ended, and I couldn’t help but take in more data. I was surrounded by Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) types. I daydreamed about starring for the Los Angeles Dodgers, saving the damsel in distress, and being the lead actor in a never-ending series of dramatic and romantic roles.

Unfortunately, my fantasies didn’t seem practical. I barely graduated high school and when asked why I wouldn’t assert myself, the answer was usually something equivalent to, “Because I have better things to do with my time.”

Perhaps I could have been doing great things, but I wasn’t doing many of the things of which I daydreamed. I did play baseball, but I was more in love with the fantasy of baseball than the reality. I wanted Field of Dreams, not hours of endless grinding practices, calloused hands, and competition. I dreamed about being the lead actor in the latest Romantic Comedy, but I was too terrified to take the chance of putting myself in front of people artistically. I wanted to write love songs but didn’t want to interact with people to learn the craft. I noticed that what I was doing with my time was imagining all the things I could be doing without putting my dreams to action.

Fantasy To Reality

Fast forward to age 41, and I have happily embraced being an INFP. I’ve enjoyed experiences that prove life as an INFP can be imminently action-oriented, results producing, and fulfilling.

If you’re familiar with the Personality Hacker Car Model, you may have already recognized that in younger years I was quite naturally living out of the INFP Driver process, “Authenticity.” Referred to as Introverted Feeling (Fi) in Myers-Briggs terminology, people who lead with Authenticity experience the world through deep emotional conviction, and we enjoy internally focused worlds that are consistent with our value system. We experience our inner fantasies with intensity and clarity, even as we don’t necessarily project those realities to the external world.

As any undeveloped INFP will admit, however, a world of inner fantasies with no outer accomplishments begins to feel empty. As an Air Force chaplain, I counsel INFPs more than any other type, and I have found two patterns that are consistent with both my personal experiences and the experiences of other INFPs.

First, most of the unhealthy INFPs I counsel have not tapped into their extraverted growth function; a function referred to in the Personality Hacker model as “Exploration.” Exploration, or Extraverted Intuition (Ne), is the Co-Pilot that allows a healthy INFP to bring Authenticity into the outer world. It leads to the exploration of possibilities in any and every setting. It plays in the surrounding environment. Authenticity experiments take chances on new experiences and, for INFPs specifically, can be a great source of fun for social experimentation!

Stated simply, Exploration is how Authenticity meets the outer world. Sadly, when Exploration is not married to Authenticity, the Introverted Feeling that we associate with our personality becomes a source of pain rather than peace and happiness. If internal convictions and visions are never shared with other people, life becomes lonely. I believe many INFPs have had experiences at early ages that led to a lifelong repression of the Exploration function. A friend once conveyed that as a child he would daydream about being in the shows he would watch and that he did poorly in school because his fantasy world was so much more interesting than the classroom.

“What was the result?” I asked.

“I was put on medication for Attention Deficit Disorder.”

That’s heartbreaking.

INFPs, it’s possible that you carry inner wounds from childhood as a result of the world rejecting what comes so naturally to you. You stopped exploring and sharing your inner world because every time you would try, it would be derided as daydreaming, fantastic, and not based in reality.

Even so, you will be healthiest and happiest bringing Authenticity to the world through Exploration, not by living as a caricature of someone else’s type or expectations. You must be the one who shows the world all the beauty that is inside while accepting that some may not appreciate your openness.

The Difficult Alternative

If you decide not to exercise your Exploration process, there is an ugly habit of which I’ve seen scores of INFP’s succumb, which is how I found myself at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego. If you go to the INFP Car Model, you’ll note an Extraverted Three Year Old in the backseat called “Effectiveness.” In simple terms, Effectiveness knows how to get stuff done. People who have Effectiveness as a Driver or Co-Pilot are masters at identifying objectives and accomplishing goals. They deal with facts, data, and concrete realities.

I believe many INFPs feel an unconscious pressure to develop Effectiveness because it is so practical. When you don’t have confidence in your internal visions, and when other people perhaps call your fantasies into question, there might be just enough of a pull toward the “practical” that you seek a career that is purely data and results- oriented. In psychological theory, this is a misguided attempt to find wholeness in a process that you will never be able to develop maturely. Trying to force Effectiveness for an INFP is like giving that 3 Year Old the wheel to your personality car and expecting it to behave maturely. The 3 Year Old will drive poorly, and it will also become exhausted because, well, it’s a 3-Year-Old.

Note, however, that there are two extraverted functions in the INFP Car Model! Very often, INFP’s choose the immature 3-Year-Old process instead of the healthier Co-Pilot, Exploration. Both are extraverted processes, but many INFP’s never test Exploration because they don’t think it can be practical. When an INFP has given up on, or never tested Exploration, her natural tendency will be to find a practical action that gets something, anything, done. Enter the screaming 3 Year Old in the backseat. If you’ve given up on your dreams, or never even attempted to live out your dreams, that 3 Year Old will eventually want you to “do what works,” even if it doesn’t work for you.

I’ve spoken with too many exhausted INFPs to reach any other conclusion; an INFP will never be happy living out of Effectiveness. Exploration is where growth is at for the INFP, and it’s where you will find your happiness.

Practical Exploration Development Steps

When I first decided to develop Exploration, I had some difficulty knowing what to do. Some of what I recommend may seem overwhelming at first, but let this serve as a means for brainstorming ways you can show up in the world:

  1. Pursue low-threat social settings. I’m writing this article from the veranda of my favorite coffee shop in Alamogordo, New Mexico. The view is breathtaking. I see high-desert vistas and cacti. I have also spoken with three friends and enjoyed short conversations with two people I didn’t know before today. I even spoke with someone about this article, which led to insights that I hadn’t previously possessed. Interestingly, though, when I woke up this morning I had to force myself to leave the house.
    Going back to the Car Model, when Authenticity marries itself to our 10-Year-Old Process, “Memory,” we may become reclusive, and perhaps even a bit maudlin. Referred to as Introverted Sensing in Myers-Briggs, Memory for INFP’s shows up as happy memories at best, and angst at worst. Because Authenticity is an introverted process, our temptation is to remain in Introversion and go straight to Memory.
    Despite the temptation to jump to Memory, we will always be at our best in Exploration. Memory isn’t bad, but it becomes bad if it’s your default. A good rule of thumb… Make sure you are living in Exploration at least 50-percent of the time. Get out, experience new things, meet new people. This doesn’t mean you have to become a social animal, but put yourself in settings that will expand your horizons.
  2. Experiment with your surroundings. When I first started exploring the external world, a thought occurred to me that our more extraverted and sensory-minded friends probably just naturally understand: We have the ability to create the reality we want through words, phrases, colors, and even where we place ourselves among other people. I started asking questions like, “How might people respond to me differently if I wear a red shirt rather than my typical gray?” On another occasion, I overheard people talking about a 12-step recovery program and asked, “How could I offer insight that may be of help in their conversation?” Another time I met a biker and asked what it’s like to be him.
    These experiences gave me a perspective I didn’t previously have, and they have collectively allowed me to become much more well-rounded in my observations about life and the world around me. Did wearing the red shirt change anything? I don’t know, but it was a fun experiment that got me into my surroundings and led to interactions that I would never have had otherwise. Have fun, play, experiment, and ask questions. The world is fun if you’ll explore!
  3. Find a way to make your inner world reality. This was the most difficult step for me. As mentioned earlier in the article, I had often imagined myself in various acting roles, but I had never thrown myself into any real acting role. That changed one day, and not by choice.When I was in Officer Training School for the Air Force, my commander took me aside and said, “Lt Roe, I need you to be a little zanier at hall call this week.” Hall call was an end of week ceremony where awards were given out. Think of it as the military version of a pep rally.
    I was literally shaking before going “on.” I had received an alter-ego, “Death Roe,” and I sensed that I was going to fail miserably. Then an amazing thing happened. I got into character. At the time, it felt like I shut off Adam, and simply became Death Roe. In truth, though, Death Roe was in some small part a culmination of all that had remained hidden. By the last hall call, I walked out with a boa, cane, and fedora, led my squadron in song and chant and then performed a mic drop in front of a competing squadron.
    I share this story to illustrate the power of Exploration for an INFP. My squadron commander saw the actor in me, and he forced me into a role that was extremely uncomfortable but rewarding both personally, and in my career! Since then I have acted in Vacation Bible School roles, and I am making plans to begin acting lessons. I’ve never been a lead, and I’ll probably never be in Hollywood, but I am learning to share what’s inside with the rest of the world. Every time I act it’s a little scary because the world is seeing a part of me that I’m most comfortable keeping hidden. There’s no joy in hiding, though; not for me, and not for you.

INFP Strength

After spending time with my personality type, I now believe that there is a tremendous strength and productive possibility within the INFP type. We are people who value ethics, aesthetic beauty, purpose, and deep meaning. Part of the strength of the INFP type, in my opinion, is our conviction of that the world could be. There is a bravery implied in such pursuits, though, and the INFP will only be happy if she is exploring ways to bring those internal convictions and visions to the external world.

I wonder, who gets to tell you what’s “real” and “practical?” While the world of data is most assuredly real, so are the visions, the feelings, and the inner worlds that the INFP naturally experiences through Authenticity. As an INFP, you bring a gift to the world. Develop your Exploration, and the world will benefit as you share creativity, sincerity, and an amazing depth of emotion that truly makes the world more beautiful and compassionate.

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Showing 39 comments
  • Amy Byrne

    Hi Adam! This is the 2nd time I have come across your article from a Google search on INFP.
    I too was drawn to the yellow footprints! I believe it makes sense with the psychology of the Corps to have many Marines (active/veteran) who may led with “Authenticity/Exploration.” Maybe this is skewed because I identify so much with other Marines. However, Marines are trained to adhere or gauge themselves by a set of values; even if they do not always follow them. The psychology of USMC bootcamp is covered in a document over 600 pages long! Also, Marines thrive when adapting (sometimes in very creative and unheard of ways) in the face of challenges. I believe using “exploration” is key!
    While I cannot disregard the obvious need for “effectiveness” in any military branch…I believe the strengths of an INFP honestly make sense for the Corps.
    That being said:
    I myself continue to struggle with evaluating myself based on “effectiveness.” Being that this is not my strong suit, it can be quite a vicious cycle of seeking perfectionism that clearly does not exist!
    However, like you I have used my experience in the Marine Corps to further my personal journey. I earned my MSW and now work in mental health with DOD and veterans! Sometimes the detours end up being the very thing that bring us to ourselves!
    Your article was very insightful. Thank you for sharing your experience! It has been awesome to read your journey to finding yourself! Semper Fi!

    • Joey

      It’s nice to know that a fellow INFP was able to have a successful career in the military. Were you ever infantry or in active duty combat? If so did you find yourself sharply focused or slightly deterred by the INFP mind wandering tendencies?


    Thank you, thank you, thank you. It’s so good to see that some of us are overcoming the stereotype and become such great lead roles for the community. I truly believe that’s our best strength and that the world really needs us! I’m sorry if I missed where you mentioned your partner, we usually need a great partner to support us through the deep IS ( introverted sensing) moments and push us to EI ( extroverted intuition) thanks again, great article!

  • Payton Bynum

    Hey, so I have the same problem your friend did with school, I can’t ever focus on the class unless it’s more interesting than what’s on my head, and it barely ever is, I barely pass my classes, Im only missing one and a half credits, and my parents act like it’s all of them, they don’t understand me, all I think about is the horrors of my past, and the future I want but, how I. Want to be a rapper like Nf, I free style all of the time, with my emotions, I act in secret all of the time, I dream about a commited relationship, I’m going into my junior year, so my parents keeps saying that I’m not ready for that and that if I find someone it’s not gonna last, they just crush my dreams, unintentionally, my dad keeps telling me that this military school will get me structured and in order but I just don’t feel comfortable if I’m not a hot mess tbh, and that’s what I am a hot mess, I act in random burst of energy, I spend most of my day thinking, school is starting, and I have until September to decide whether I want to go to this military school or not, and while it sounds awesome, I just don’t think it’s for me, , I just got.a counselor and she told me to take this personality test, and it was like spit on, it just called out all of my problems,and told me why I feel alone, I’m like four percent of the population , that’s is dope, I feel special, and I care more about people than I do myself, as a kid my dad abandoned us, and I was out on pills because I went crazy after he left, and I started hallucinating, and my mom took me to a behavioral center, and then my brother started taking his anger out on me because of it when my mom wasn’t home, and my dad just blames us and everyone else, so I just blame myself for it all at the end of the day, or try to understand what they might have bee going through to out me through that type of abuse, my mom would come home and I’d have the biggest knots, and she did nothing about it, now I live with my dad, because I was doing bad in school, barely passed, caught up easily, I was just focused on the wrong things, according to my parents, I’ve learned to just agree with them, but I never feel like I can be myself, and my dad wants me to go military school to change me, it’s only six months, I think ipl be fine, 1800$ for six months, I’m good, im to screwed up emotional and mentally for that stuff, I’d still not be able to focus, that’s for people who have a hard time with school or can’t handle it, I can’t even handle my own head, I’m not gonna be able to handle military school, and order and doing things on other peoples time, my dad’s like well you just have to live with it, it’s like he just has this one sided veiw because he bases everything off of what he went through, and has no ability to understand that I’m not him, I’m a different person with different opportunities, and abilities , and I love my girlfriend and I look forward to making it work in my church and my future, but I don’t want to confide to the world’s expectations, I just say I’m doing me and God’s got my back as long I’m doing what I do in his name and living for him

  • Chris Kee

    I get a kick out of using my Authenticity/Exploration to drive my effectiveness. It’s not uncommon for me to be deep in thought around a new and creative way to restructure my workflow and productivity. And maybe even the exploration takes the wheel more and says let’s try something new today. I hardly ever stick with a routine way of doing things, instead, I’m intrigued by trying something new and I think I feel authentic and creative by doing so.

  • Tim

    Hi Adam,

    This is the first INFP article that I have read that says “I understand you” as opposed to merely discussing and generalising the INFP type. It gives me a huge sigh of relief. Balanced, grounded and practical; I feel understood, comforted and hopeful.

    Being a male INFP myself, growing up I felt “different”, a misfit and an “outsider”. I was labelled “wet drip” at school. Trying and failing miserably to live up to the stereotypical male image pushed me further and further into my inner world of unhealthy thoughts and feelings. The conflict between my personality and what I perceived to be “manly” – the extroverted, macho, competitive, conflict-comfortable, go-getter image, coupled with others’ reminders of the unacceptability of the way my lack of aggression and my shyness manifested itself caused pain, anger and resentment. I could never manage it and ended up feeling angry and bitter.

    It is only in recent years that I have started to accept and embrace my INFP strengths rather than focusing on and feeling deeply ashamed of my perceived weaknesses. What you wrote about exploration is a huge help and allows me to be authentic whilst “exploring” new possibilities rather than just dreaming about them. I intend to put this into practice! Thank you so much!

  • Catherin Caywood

    This article is intriguing. I am an INFP as well. My father is an ENTJ and he was also in the military while I was growing up. I looked up to him as my hero, always comparing my life (and my partner’s life) to his. It took me until I hit my 40’s to realize that I was doing myself a disservice. We are obviously vastly different people. It has only been recently that I have begun to understand how I can make an impact on this world. I struggled most of my young life, denying who I was to myself and everyone around me.

    I believe that it was something Antonia said on an ISFP (which also has Authenticity as a driver) podcast that resonated so deeply with me. She said something to the effect of: Te or Effectiveness (which is ENTJ’s driver) is concerned with creating processes that can be replicated and reused across the board. As an Authenticity driver, I felt myself physically repel from the notion that anything can be so easily categorized and reused without thoughtful consideration and accommodations. It lacks the nuances and depth of understanding. Being aware of this has been crucial in my desire to grow and find what I was meant to do.

    This website has been an incredible source of inspiration and understanding. Thank you so much for the work that you all are doing! Thank you Mr. Roe for putting yourself out into the world and in being an inspiration to us all. <3

  • Rima

    A really positive INFP article, self revealing and full of useful wisdom

  • sevillas

    Thank you, Adam. This has come at a great time for me. I’ve been working for 16+ years in sales. I enjoy the helping people aspect, but I don’t feel valued and appreciated. Closing in on burnout. I’ve been praying about next steps, but it’s causing stress and anxiety.

  • Bassel

    I can relate to every single word in this article, like a mirror image. Is it a coincidence that your words found me at this very moment in my life? I think not.

    Genuine thanks from the other side of the world.

  • KJ

    Forgive me if this has already been addressed, but I’m new to PersonalityHacker (loving what I’m reading so far!), and wanted to comment before I forgot what I wanted to say 😉 I am a Personality Dimensions (similar to True Colors in the US) facilitator and am also an Authentic Blue personality. I see so many Authentic Blue traits in the INFP descriptions. I’m sure there must be some research somewhere INFP’s and Authentic Blue personalities? .. especially since Personality Dimensions builds on Myers Briggs as well as other personality theory. Just so interesting now that I’ve dug a bit deeper into my INFP to see just SO many similarities to my Blue-ness!

  • I'm Not Fond of People jobs

    This article was interesting and positive, but I’ve read some things in the comments that confuse me – I’m an INFP, have always tested as such, and people-oriented work is my total nightmare! People can be awful and cruel and mean in a service setting and I would much rather do something that, while the end result helps people, the actual work does not involve being at the whims of people who are morally wrong yet in some position of power.

    This, unfortunately, has made traditional employment basically inaccessible to me. Either my bosses or customers I deal with at any traditional, terrible entry level job have always been someone impossible to deal with and I spend my traditionally employed working hours unappreciated and terrified and come home and cry at night. I have figured out that I can only be self employed, where I can handle things according to my own moral compass and be able to stop people from emotionally trampling me on a daily basis. I need to be in charge and have the final say in things. I genuinely love working for myself… when I have work, and can stop myself from procrastinating, that is…

    I don’t know how you INFPs with people-oriented jobs do it! Are there even employers out there who genuinely care about their employees? How did you find them? Witchcraft?

    • Bennett

      Hello! As a fellow INFP, I understand that feeling 100% and have been struggling with that very thing for a while. I worked for several years as a high-energy barista, slinging coffee drinks and wearing that hat, and I am now a bartender at a wine bar where I don a bowtie and pretend to be a fancy wine guy. Needless to say, I keep attracting fun pretentious jobs, but they are truly socially demanding.
      The solution I’ve found, though, is to throw myself into that character as if it’s an acting role. In my day-to-day, I honestly don’t care about single origin coffee beans or the tannens in red wine, but when I’m on the job I completely convince myself that they are all that I care about. When I’m just ol’ me on the job, I get exhausted and overwhelmed, but when I’m in full method acting Barista, or Bartender, I go home satisfied and have some gas left in the tank.
      It’s very strange, but I find that learning how to separate myself from my job, and insert my highly INFP developed
      alter-egos, I can take it all in stride and have a good time.

      (I also rely on strong coffee in times of dire struggle, as it’s concentrated Extravert juice. Cheap and easy.)

  • Lisa

    This was a great article! Thank you for sharing it!!! Im an older INFP. I found my type about 6 months ago. I was working in a factory for 4 years and suffered burnout. It was a really bad experience. Since then I have been in and out of jobs. I am at crossroads I think because I don’t know what to do. I feel like Im stuck in a state of indecision. Im trying to decide whether to move to TX. Ive been living in Mi for 6 miserable years. I am sure Im stuck in my SI. I dont want to work in another soul sucking job that is boring or so hard on my body that I cant do the the things I enjoy. About 3 moths ago I started drawing from my feelings and I really enjoy it. In fact I plan on translating it to painting my feelings. Is it wrong to want to have a job thats fun? Sorry if this sounds whiny its not my intention. I do agree with going with our NE…

  • Barbara Schütte

    Thank you for your insights and experience. I have still difficulties accepting my type as an infp. My first try of MBTI Test said INFJ. I resonated with the description. Out of curiosity I made another test, and I got INFP as result. The moment I read the word “dreamer” I stoped reading and I decided, that I am an INFJ. I thought it is the right kind of Feeler. I was under the impression that they get things done and are more in touch with reality. In some honest moments, I knew, that the description of INFP better suited me. In my childhood I was often described as dreamy and easy distracted. So dreamer became a curse word for me. If I read something about INFPs I have Luna Lovegood in mind. If I read something about INFJs they sound like mystic beeings. And I rather be that. I am aware that I am heavily biased. And that the life of an INFJ isn’t always easy. It’s more about accepting myself than my type. I am constantly trying to be better, to be more, what I think people are expecting of me. Your article is really encouraging. I hope I can reach a state of consent like you. I choose a safe and promising job in public administration with a lot of law. But I will try to nurture my growth function and do some safe exploration. Your advice with the coffee shop sounds like a good start. Thank you again for this article. I needed to hear that.

  • janine

    This is profound! Thank you. I just had an aha moment and understanding of myself from reading your article. Thank you so much!

  • Merja

    What a wonderful article, Adam! I love how you, so strongly, give your fellow INFPs a “permission” to embrace themselves and to live the authentic life they were meant to live! Thank you for your work!

  • Adam Roe


    May you find peace with who you are in life and relationships! I think NF types tend to struggle a lot in both, because what they value isn’t objectively measurable. I was speaking with someone recently who stated that her gift is making the workplace happier and lighter. That’s a wonderful gift, but a gift that is unfortunately not measured in results-driven industries.

    It’s not much easier in relationships, either. The NF/ST relationships I counsel tend to be toughies, not because either is a bad person, but because they see the world in such fundamentally different way. All is not lost in such relationships, but they do require a great deal of perspective shifting, compromise, and in my worldview, grace.

    I hope that you can find the place inside of you that is real and authentic, and that you can trust it. Do that, and you can find your peace in all areas of life.

    Peace to you!

  • Jordan

    Thank you for sharing and encouraging fellow INFPs like myself who feel misunderstood or even invaluable to society. It is so tempting to compare myself to others and see the inefficiency in business, socializing, and even day-to-day activities and feel less worthy. It was a breakthrough when I realized that I was viewing my success based on how the majority of society measures it- in quantitative data (efficiency).

    All of my life, I have surrounded myself with INFPs or INFJs. It’s actually kind of funny how I’ve been able to find them in groups of people…. it’s like I have a radar for them. 🙂 They are naturally similar to me in mindset and empathetic to my needs. It has kept me safe from feeling invalid.

    About a year ago, I started seeing an ESTJ and it was a new whirlwind experience for me! Lots of smiles and laughter.

    However, in time some situations I found myself in with him started to take a huge toll on my self-value. I saw that I didn’t have as many friends as my ESTJ partner and wasn’t able to sustain small talk as easily as him. He tried to teach me how. I am a teacher with a small circle of friends, and he works in management with a large circle. He tried to bring me in to a larger social group (not so easy). When we go out, he takes the lead and I sometimes have trouble finding my way into the conversation. His family are all prominent members of the community and have trouble relating to me sometimes in their conversations about football, politics, or church activities.

    It has driven me to do some inner soul-searching and find out- are INFPs just as valuable with all their inefficiency? From the perspective of quantifiable output- we won’t measure up to STJs. They’re going to produce more and fulfill more duties in society. Some personalities are more easily understood too so they’re going to be able to make friends more easily.

    But you posed the idea that an INFP’s value is not in quantity- but in quality. Our strength lies in the quality (not quantity) of our friendships, the quality of our conversation, and the quality of our work. It may not look like much. However, INFPs develop a depth of emotional and ethical insight that is truly able to change people’s hearts. Thank you for helping heal some of the broken thought patterns that have pervaded my perspective for a long time.

  • Ty Johnson Anderson

    I’m an INFP and was an intelligence analyst for 15 years. I hated it, although good at it. It may be our ability to play roles that helped. But eventually reached burnout and started having unexplained seizures.

    People never understood why I was so unhappy. High paying career etc, but I couldn’t get them to understand that my ideals weren’t being met. I was forsaking my daughter to brief the general at 530 AM

    It was simply a means to an end.

    I’m now trying to start life outside of “the only thing I knew” and crafting a life more in alignment.

    Thanks for the insight.

    • Adam Roe


      Thank you for sharing. I too wanted to be an Intelligence Analyst, but lack of sufficient color vision kept me out. I wonder if that’s an attractive career field on surface because it seems very introspective and analytical. On the whole, however, I don’t suppose it would do much in regards to our people-centric nature.

      Increasingly, I see an important dichotomy between people-centric and process-centric work. The sweet spot for the NF is usually people-centric work that pays sufficiently well enough for us to remain in alignment with our priorities.

      I wonder, what might you do if money were not a concern? That might be a place to begin exploring options.

      All the best to you!


  • Johild Justinussen

    This article hit me like a tonne of bricks, and I’ve read it three times now! I always knew that it’s healthy to develop our co-pilot, but never before have I thought about the exploration process as a way to bring our authenticity into the outer world, almost like a tool for the driver process. That is so cool! I’ve always thought of the processes as separate, that you’re either in one or the other, but seeing them as being “married” and used in conjunction with one another changes everything. I’ve always thought that we INFPs need to develop our co-pilots just for the sake of developing it on its own, but knowing that it is a way for us to share our inner world with the outside world gives the co-pilot an extremely important purpose and I see now how crucial it is to our own health and happiness that we use our co-pilot alonside with the driver. The two cognitive functions aren’t completely separate, they’re a well-balanced intraverted-extraverted team when the co-pilot is well-developed! Thank you so much for writing this article, Adam! I had a lot of aha-moments and love it when that happens 🙂

    • Adam Roe

      Thank you for your response, Johild! It’s my hope that you can find those places of inner passion, and that you will be able to use your Exploration to make them reality. 🙂

  • Christina

    When I started reading your article I thought I wouldn’t find it too relatable, as I react strongly against the routine and indescriminately applied rules I imagine military life is full of. But here I am thinking, hm, perhaps this does apply to me too?

    As a doctor in a highly technical society (England), I have the advantage of being able to work in socialised medicine. But within that, my work life has been all about effectiveness. How to get all these people treated in so little time. My openness to the individual people I treat has been something I have naturally tried to fit into my punishing schedule, with some success. (Its not that you can either be efficient, or humane, it’s in the way you do it, as I’m sure you have found too)

    But this has taken its toll on me physically and emotionally as you imply. I have a very unusual CV in that I have never been able to sustain full time work for more than 3 months in a stretch. I have had multiple breaks enforced by a collapse of one sort or another. I was the first person ever to get specialist mental health licence from a part time temp job. The up side of this checkered career is that I have had plenty of opportunity to see that I take change better than most. In fact I enjoy it. And I now have a great deal of experience in differing levels of psychological help for individuals and groups. I tend to prefer drawing out people’s dreams and help them take steps towards it, rather than using some templated method that is supposed to work for everyone.

    When I haven’t been working, I have been drawn to making high quality unique clothing upcycling thrift shop clothes. Rather than practical, they are definitely on the wearable art side of the scale. This is something that expresses myself better than anything else I do, but I am quite far from putting it out there, only wearing these clothes myself among old friends.

    So, I am left with the question of what I could do that will allow me to use my ethical vision of how things could be better, naturally open hearted support for people, and creativity to earn a living, without just plugging me back into the, to me, unrealistic expectations of medical work.

    Not a lot to ask!

    • Adam Roe


      Thank you for the response! Your words reminded me of a quote by J. Robert Clinton that I recently read:

      “Plan your life as you want it…Go up the steps of fame. But-pause now and then to make sure you are accompanied by happiness. Stop and ask yourself, ‘Does it sing inside me today?’ If that is gone, look around and don’t take another step till you are certain that life is as you will and want it.”

      It sounds very much like you know how you will and want it. I will hope for you that you find ways to live that purpose out.


  • Elliotte

    This was way too close to home.
    I’ve always wanted to write but found the pathway so unpractical even though it soothes my soul.
    I’m now very much struggling through an officer course in the army. I’m 27 and feel like I’m at a crossroad.
    How do you even figure out what sits right? I like bits and pieces of both worlds, but they don’t mix.
    Army bases aren’t in the most cultural of areas so i go long periods of time without being around my type of people. But I have enjoyed being the go-to whilst in charge and the structure has been an ease of a lot of anxiety.

    • Adam Roe

      Elliotte, thank you for writing!

      You may have more options for writing than you think. In my experience, artistic work is only as impractical as the limitations we place on ourselves. Perhaps we could look at a few options:

      1. Find an MOS in the Army that better suits your desire to write. Perhaps you could move toward cross-training as a Public Affairs Officer.
      2. Get your time in the Army completed, use your educational benefits, and then apply to some Master of Fine Arts programs and begin networking with people who actually work in writing. This is what my brother did. He now has an MFA in screenwriting. and he has had scripts considered by a few major companies.
      3. Find an audience and write for them. What do you know? What are you passionate about? Write about that, and then perhaps learn the skills necessary to monetize.

      Here’s what I have found with creative types. We have to be willing to take chance on what we are, and trust that what is inside of us is marketable, even as we may need to have supports in our life that provide financial stability while we pursue our passions. So, perhaps you remain in the Guard or Reserve while you develop your network of writing friends. Whatever you do, trust it! You were wired to write, so write, my friend. 🙂

  • April Blizzard

    Lovely! I have a info son going to try help him through this so very glad I read this!

    • Adam Roe

      Thank you for writing, April! I hope you’re son finds this helpful.

  • Shanon

    Wow! I feel like this was me when I joined the Air Force for Security Forces and then as an MTL. I thought success meant choosing effectiveness as the driver and I did succeed in times I had to act or play a role but it wasn’t me all the time. I’m not familiar with the driver model but it relates to me a lot. I love exploring I do a lot with improv acting, singing, and basically different creative pursuits but I never realized it as a way of being just a means to an end. I’ve been an esthetician, counselor and now a traveling nurse and it’s hard not to want to apologize for being flaky. I have to get myself in an effective state of mind in order to explore and I can overthink in order to get started. I can see where memory and effectiveness are tripping me up. Glad to have come across this article. Thank you 🙂

    • Adam Roe

      Shannon, thank you for writing! To become more familiar with the Car Model, and the Driver, Co-Pilot, 10-Year-Old, and 3-Year-Old functions, consider giving the INFP resources a look at the following link. It describes the Car Model well:


      Thank you for serving in Security Forces. It probably won’t surprise you to know that I work with a lot of people in that career field. 🙂

      Keep exploring, and thanks again for writing!

  • Miriam

    I needed to hear this. My story is very similiar to yours- I was in the Army for 14 years, so I became very effective at things I didn’t really care about. I’m in my early 40’s and still trying to find a way to be who I really am. Thank you.

    • Adam Roe

      Thank you for writing, Miriam! Most of the counseling I do is with NF types who are trying to find their purpose. I don’t think there’s anything less satisfying than trying to make yourself fit into someone else’s mold. I wonder if you would be willing to share how the search for self has gone for you. Thanks again!

  • Nick

    What a fantastic article – it’s like you’re reading my mind in the best possible way. As an INFP that loves the Car Model, I’ve recently realized how often I let my co-pilot (or even driver!) be Memory or Effectiveness. Thank you for giving some advice on how I let Exploration get back in the front seat! 🙂

    • Adam Roe

      I hope that it is of help to you, Nick! One thing I have found helpful is to spend time with ENFP friends. I have one particular friend who is a natural explorer, and my Explorations is just naturally drawn out when I’m around that type. All the best to you!

  • Hilde Vesaas

    Wonderful! My profound gratitude as INFP. What can be more important than self-value, only thus can we contribute to the world in a true way

    • Adam Roe

      Absolutely, Hilde! It’s so easy to think of value as quantitative output, but I think the value INFP’s bring to the world is ethical, aesthetic, and emotional beauty. The world NEEDS that! Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  • Sharyn Earl

    Fascinating ideas for using our INFP STRENGTHS. Exploration is one of my favorite things. I too grew up as the child of a career military officer. My exploratory nature was well served as we moved to different communities every two years and I was exposed to many kinds of culture, people, arts and landscapes. I’m an artist and have always explored that side of myself. My father was the child of an artist, so he tolerated my artistic interests while he worked as an EOD officer. He lives with us now, and he still walks two miles a day and has introduced me to trail walking in the Pacific Northwest.

    • Adam Roe

      That is wonderful, Sharyn, and it’s an excellent example of how military life can work really well for an INFP. In another article I reference how INFP’s can be very happy in the military if they find a career field that fits their type (nurses, social workers, mental health providers, chaplains, etc…). I am so glad to hear that you were able to let your Exploration function have fun as a dependent! Thank you for sharing.

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