ENFPs and the Art of Self-Destruction—Stupid Things ENFPs Do to Sabotage Themselves

Anyone who is or knows an ENFP personality type is aware of all the things that make them wonderful. They’re bold and adventurous, happy to share ideas and chase wild passions, and always up for meeting new people and learning new things. 

But for every wonderful trait that draws people to ENFPs, there’s a pitfall. ENFPs are notorious for getting in their own way and are often their own worst enemy. Here are just some of the ways ENFPs sabotage themselves, plus some tips for steering yourself back towards your true goals.  

Not Following Through

ENFP personality types are always chasing the next big thing. They love art, language, travel, food, and new relationships, and there are upsides and downsides to that. With an ENFP in your life, you’ll never be bored. But moving from passion to passion can come across as flighty to those with different ways of processing information.

While there’s nothing wrong with dropping a project if it no longer interests you, it’s a good idea for ENFPs to take a moment before they move onto the next exciting idea to see if maybe it’s worth it to follow through with this particular interest or hobby. Your passion and excitement for life is contagious and enviable, but you don’t want to leave a trail of uncompleted projects in your wake. If you pause for a moment before chasing your next interest, you might find yourself pleasantly surprised by what happens when you see something through to the end.

Not Giving Yourself Time to Process

ENFP personality types are a specific kind of Extravert in that they need social interaction and engagement but can also become overwhelmed by all that their friends—and the world—have to offer. As an ENFP, it’s essential that you give yourself time to process the emotions, stories and discussions that you have gleaned from friends, family, and work, rather than internalize all of them.

Because ENFPs are such sensitive and emotional people, they tend to absorb all emotions, including everyone else's. They have a hard time compartmentalizing. Give yourself space to explore and truly feel after engagements or events. Otherwise, your head might explode. 

Always Believing That There’s Something Better (and Never Being Satisfied)

This goes along with finishing projects, but at a much larger scale. Perhaps one of the biggest ways in which ENFP personality types self-sabotage is rooted in their belief that something better is always out there. That might be a better job, a better home, city, or a better relationship.

While there’s something to be said for being aspirational and having goals and plans, it’s really important to find balance and learn to appreciate the things you do have. If you’re too quick to run out the door on a new partner or a job you just started, you might end up missing out on something really wonderful.

Take time to ask yourself what about this current experience isn’t working for you or providing enough excitement and stimulation. This will give you the opportunity to think more critically about why you want to go racing off and to see if there’s anything within your power to make your current circumstances fill that perceived sense of emptiness. The feeling of needing to run away will pass, but you may not get the opportunity to go back to your job or partner, so be very sure that it’s the right decision to leave.

Taking on Too Many Projects

For ENFPs, there just aren’t enough hours in the day to meet everyone, learn everything, and try all the new hobbies and experiences they want to try. Of course, this doesn’t stop them. ENFPs are notorious for taking on way too many projects at once and, even when they realize they’re in over their heads, trying to finish everything anyway.

It’s a good idea to be a little honest with yourself before you say yes to the next big creative project, dinner party or weekend trip. Will agreeing to something new mean you can’t put the appropriate amount of time and effort into your existing projects? Is there a current responsibility that you can remove from your docket before adding something else? 

When you have too much on your mind, work isn’t completed or isn’t completed correctly, and you end up worrying more than having a fun, interesting experience. Try to find balance between wanting to try everything, and actually managing a responsible workload.

Not Sticking to Plans

It’s one thing to not finish your own projects—though you might want to consider finding a way to see them through to the end—but sometimes an ENFP’s need to run off into the sunset means they leave other people high and dry.

Of course, there’s no malintent involved. You want to see what the next path holds. But in doing so, you can end up canceling or flaking out on people one too many times. This might mean you don’t get assigned the same amount of responsibility in work or that you frustrate friends and family. Strive to keep a good balance of doing the things that make you happy and also remembering that others have lives and responsibilities as well. They want to spend time with you and make it fit to their schedule. It’s important to afford them the same respect.

Getting Too Involved

ENFPs are natural empaths. They’re sensitive and emotional people and excellent at communicating. If you’re going through something and want someone to talk to, they’re a good friend to have.

However, they can sometimes struggle with walking away from other people’s emotions. They tend to internalize emotional experiences, which takes up real estate in their mind and can be overwhelming and frustrating. To that end, ENFPs might become unduly involved in personal matters because they feel a deep connection to you and your experiences and want to help.

Every situation is different, but it’s important for ENFPs to find a good way to help friends and use their easy access to emotions for good without taking on too much. You can care for someone and love them dearly, but you have emotions and feelings of your own and absorbing everything they’re going through isn’t helpful. Learn when to take a step back for their sake and your own.

Wanting to be Liked

It’s the curse of the Extravert, and ENFPs are no exception. They want people to like them because, by and large, they’re very likeable. They’re fun and interesting people who can engage in conversation naturally and put others at ease.

In this, like in many facets of an ENFP’s life, balance is very important. It’s not necessary to agree to favors and responsibilities for people just to get them to like you. Sometimes your bold and passionate nature can make you intimidating and overwhelming to more reserved personality types. You have a natural instinct when it comes to people, so use it to try to meet them on their terms. 

Some friends are great for a cup of coffee in a quiet cafe and others for unplanned road trips. Some want to go to parties and others are more into watching movies and ordering pizza. You like it all, and this is one great place where that can be useful. That said, not everyone is going to fall in love with you from the first meeting (most people will though, so don’t worry!) And that’s okay. You don’t need to bend over backwards to get everyone interested in what you have to offer. Your true friends will make themselves known.

Being Optimistic to the Point of Naivety

ENFP personality types are dreamers—and you should be proud of that. You have a sense of hope for what the world and the future might hold and you are often inspiring to those who struggle with a little too much reality.

That said, you’ll want to try to touch your feet down on the ground every once in a while. Not only will too much optimism lead to disappointment, but unless you have some grounding for your goals and dreams, you’ll have a very hard time creating concrete plans to actually get you there. Don’t ever give up on your dreams or your hopes but add in some reliable foundation and blueprints so you can realistically achieve them.

Being Independent for the Sake of Independence

ENFPs don’t always do super well with direction, whether that’s at home, work, or school. They’re fans of making their own rules and sometimes following the path of independence for no other reason than because they can. That’s great. It’s a special kind of skill to be comfortable and happy on your own and freedom is an admirable goal.

That said, you will, at points in your life, need to operate within the system. If you work for a company, you’ll have to follow their directions. If you’re in a partnership, there will be moments of compromise and discussion. It’s not reasonable to expect you can be completely without tether at all times, and so developing the skills to take direction, while still leaning into your passions and strengths, is important. 

Not only will you find that it makes your life easier but working for a great company or being with a supportive partner might not actually be as scary as it seems.

Final Words 

The things that make ENFP personality types so wonderful can sometimes cause them trouble. The trick is simply to find balance and grounding so that you don’t become so consumed with the next great thing that you lose sight of wonderful people and projects you already have. An ENFP with their head in the clouds and their feet on the ground can expect to live a happy, fulfilled, and exciting life. And that’s a dream worth following.


Ruby Scalera recently graduated Emerson College and has since reported on a wide variety of topics from the Equal Rights Amendment to the history of the romance novel. In her free time, she loves to travel, and spent several months living in a 14th-century castle in the Netherlands. She currently resides in Nashville.


Lynn Hinderaker (not verified) says...

One challenge I (a  classic, upbeat ENFP) face is disappointment in myself. I've been told that I am amazing and have unusual skill (for instance, I am a business consultant, talk show host, writer and group facilitator), so I should be a massive achiever and earn lots of money. In fact, I have difficulty attracting clients, earn very little money and my family and I struggle with basic needs. I can't figure out this pattern, but I am a mysterious disappointment to family and close friends. It causes enormous psychic pain and guilt that I endure privately (and emotionally). Thoughts?

Jeff Hanson (not verified) says...

This is based on my personal experience that led from moderate success to addiction to success coaching addicts-

We're motivated by acknlowdement and excitement of our ideas and cool shit we do, so it can be very painful to always get the "You're great, but...", especially by loved ones.  Then the kick in the shin is this prevalent thought by others that "Look at what this person can do without structure or discipline...I'll be the one to help!"  We tend to attract people who want to save us, because it's what we believe.  "If only I had the discipline of Joe Millionaire... I'd take over the world".  It's what we are told from day one of our lives.  We frustrate people, while also effortlessly being likable and creative... talk show, writer, and group facilitator!  

Rehab changed my life the second I walked in and that personality people tried to fix, was now free to be me.  People flocked to me and were in aww.  Each day a new talent would show up and people just wanted to be around me.  There was this freedom I'll never forget, but also structure and support.  The ONE thing you need IS support.  Someone that says "you're crushing it!  The money part, we'll figure it out.  What'd YOU think you need?" - Let's say you answer "a business coach" - "Okay, I'm willing to loan you $5k.  The only stipulation is for you to hire the coach YOU believe will best for you."

For me, I had to cut all business ties with my Dad, get a loan from mom at 32, then get a business coach that knew how to motivate me, but also hold me accountable as per my personal worth.  Same with the therapist I have.  Challenges me, but also says "that's who you are, now roll with it..."

Look forward to your thoughts.  I know that feeling and tbh taking a few personality tests (now I do it to test em out), has made me realize...I'm not crazy nor is anything wrong with me.  I was just meant to be the roller coast of the family ha.  Only an ENFP turns rehab into a career path.  Yet, noone from rehab is surprised one bit ha.  The irony ahh..   

Lynn Hinderaker (not verified) says...

I am a classic ENFP who has a broad skill set (consulting, speaking, writing), but cannot seem to earn significant money. This is a mysterious pattern that causes great guilt and confusion. Any thoughts that can help me live with these disappointments?

Mamf (not verified) says...

This article is me through and through. I am an ENFP-A which is becoming a -T.  In my 20s I thrived. I initially studied computer science so I could travel with all the money I was earning but never worked in it. I worked in different industries in design (magazine, newspaper, games) for a year each. I became a personal trainer for about 6 months. Dance teacher for less time. Was a travel consultant for a year which was fun but stressful (management). Retrained in animation and design and loved it but allowed the micromanaging boss and a bad relationship get to me so I travled the world and tried freelance but lacked direction, motivation and without collaboration I dwindled and so did my skills. When I tried to pick up freelance graphic gigs online I would give up because I couldnt remember how to do things and so an ego arose and I havent recovered since and so the past decade I have been trying to figure out what I want to do. In my 20s I just did what I wanted. Now, I am 40 and still feel I can do anything I want.. but cant make that one decision. Teacher and physchologist are appealing to me lately or perhaps UX designer although I know organizing and informtion flow isnt a strength. Elearning developer might be considerable. But I go round and round because what if I make the wrong decision and halfaway through an expensive course I dont like it. I used to be very social like a normal enfp but now I live in the woods with one friend nearby which I am totally fine with. If I can be a remote designer or video editor... or maybe psychologist in the future or art therapist... I could be satisfied. If I can follow through. But living in the woods means I cannot one day be an archaeologist, or work on a boat in greece teaching history, or a painter in france, or a marine biologist. I feel I have gone from all to nothing.

Violet (not verified) says...

This is what's it's like in my head. All--the--time. I'm an ENFP-T.

Juan M (not verified) says...

It sounds like you might be in the middle of an Si grip. I would suggest you look up the function stacks of an ENFP and see how that plays into what you are going through. 


Another Violet (not verified) says...

Same here. Studied med tech, currently working in Neurology but specialised in Cardiology. Let a bad relationship derail me from my goals for 10 years. Used my anger, loneliness and insomnia after the break-up to start a practice, but thanks to Covid-19 and medical aid billing changes, the practice hasn't been doing very well. Studied computer science, but am not doing anything with my second degree. I intend on getting back into Cardiology, however I need to work my way up from the bottom again and that isn't appealing to me. Dabbled in digital art, found it interesting but didn't finish the qualification. So I've decided to focus on achieving smaller, personal goals first, such as losing weight, as well as facing and addressing my childhood trauma and anxiety.  I live on my own, away from my family and friends and it has been pure hell at times but I am focusing on adhering to a single goal at a time, instead of several, simultaneously. It seems to be working for now. I feel alot more confident. I will have to grit my teeth and  bear it, as I have to get back into Cardiology, because the personal and professional outcomes far outweigh any losses to my ego and quality of life. Try attacking a single goal/several short term goals at a time. Seems to be working for me. Good luck guys.

Also Violet (not verified) says...

Hi, I was reading your comment and it felt like reading my own words :) My name is Violet and my type is ENFP, I also was going through a lot of similar things, living on my own far away from my family and friends. I just want to send you my best wishes and let you know that you are not alone. Sometimes we can't even imagine how similar our lives and experiences are and thank you for sharing something I needed to see today :)

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