As an INFP, I know that the good and the bad things about our personalities are often just different sides of the same coin. Even the good traits we have can be hard to live with at times, and the parts that may seem negative can be turned into positives when we put our ability to see things differently to good use.
Hopefully after reading this, you’ll have more empathy for the downsides and a new appreciation for what we INFPs have to offer. If you’re an INFP yourself, you’ll likely relate, and maybe even find satisfaction in some of your less-understood abilities.
1. We see multiple possibilities
The good: INFPs like to have personal choices and often don’t feel satisfied with the obvious way of doing things. This means we can see multiple possibilities in everything and we can come up with novel solutions. Innovations usually come about when someone refuses to believe that something can’t be done better or differently – or at all – just because it isn’t usually done that way.
So, our insistence on choice and improvement can bring about good changes. When the status quo brings us down, we can usually find a better way – at least in theory. We also tend to be creative in our quest for solutions, which can lead to works of art, inventions and options that have not been thought of before.
The bad: It's hard for us to narrow down the possibilities and make a decision. Sometimes we get halfway through doing something (like writing this article) and decide there might be a different, and possibly better, way of doing it.
When you’re good at generating ideas and seeing alternate options, it can be hard to choose among them and go forward with one. Deciding can feel like throwing away all the other great possibilities. This makes work, daily life, and decisions more daunting for us.
2. We’re idealists
The good: INFPs automatically try to make things better. If something doesn’t work well for us, or for others, we believe something can and should be done to make it better. We don’t believe what “is” is necessarily what “should be” or what’s the “most real.” (Ever notice that when someone says something about the “real world” they’re generally excusing themselves for being more pragmatic than kind, or expecting you to sacrifice your dreams and talents for the sake of simply surviving?)
Another part of our idealism is that we always look for the good in others. We instinctively work hard to see their best qualities and believe in their ability to live up to our view of them.
The bad: Our focus on the ideal means we’re often disappointed with the way things actually are. And all that dissatisfaction – and trying to remedy it – can drain a lot of our time and energy. It also means we expect a lot from ourselves, from other people, and from the world around us. That doesn’t always make us popular or happy with life as it is.
3. We don’t sweat the small stuff
The good: INFPs tend to focus on the big picture. We lack patience and energy for the smaller steps it takes along the way. This is good. If everyone was too mired in the mundane routines, doing all those repetitive tasks that daily life requires, who would be available to focus on big ideas and create new solutions?
Let’s face it, INFPs will always find things like housework, admin or watering the plants boring, tedious, overwhelming, or even painful. Many of us are just not good at them. And that forces us to find creative solutions that make it easier. Or, we develop a talent for bringing in people who are good at the things we’re not to help us out. Delegating is sometimes the better part of genius!
Also, sometimes we’re just good at distinguishing what really is and isn’t important, at any given time.
The bad: Since some of this ‘small stuff’ must be done, we spend a lot of time dreading these tasks and feeling overwhelmed and underqualified. So it makes life harder for us. And not getting them done isn’t great either. There’s only so much dust and undone paperwork even someone who lives mostly in their own head can comfortably overlook.
It’s also not great for our spouse or roommate, who may have to pick up the slack (or pick up the papers off the floor if the INFP they’re living with is a writer).
4. We really can’t fit in ‘the box’
The good: It gets pretty crowded in the box anyway, so it’s probably better that we have to create our own space. Sometimes we get such good ideas that others want to follow our lead. So we’ve actually created more “usable space” for those that need it.
At our best, INFPs don’t just reject the beaten path. We make innovations along the way. We search out not just a different way, but a better way, or at least one that's a better fit for some.
At the risk of cramming in one too many cliches, we could say that some of the best art starts with coloring outside the lines.
The bad: Even though we don’t mind being different, or care all that much about what others think, it does get tiring to always have to deal with negative comments, or having to explain ourselves.
Although we may be perfectly at peace that we are different, not everyone else is. We’re often misunderstood or even maligned for not just doing things like everyone else does them, or because our strengths – such as being quiet, thoughtful, and honest – are not always valued.
And occasionally, being able to easily fit into the norm does make life easier. Sometimes we can do this when necessary, but it’s a struggle for us.
5. We care a great deal
The good: Above all, INFPs are values-based. We’re committed to living according to our values, even when others wish we’d be more “flexible.” But that means we’re more trustworthy than most, and that we aren’t easily shaken by peer pressure. We care very much about the causes and values we deem important.
We also have a highly developed sense of empathy, so we tend to be good listeners, be kind, and try to help however we can, often in our unique way. These qualities give us great satisfaction, and others benefit from our passionate compassion.
The bad: All that caring can be exhausting. For us, everything is about values, and being our best selves, and trying to make things better. We can feel like we're constantly fighting either to stand our ground or to help fill perceived needs.
INFPs who accept and value themselves as they are tend to be happier when doing what they think is right. But it does take a lot of effort, as does always trying to be empathetic and kind.
Living out our values, caring, making the world a better place – it’s a lot to ask of ourselves all the time. We can so easily burn out or get discouraged by the limits of what we’re able to do.