Creative idealist personality types INFJ, ENFP, INFP, and ENFJ are vulnerable to life’s disappointments like any other person. Highly idealistic and with strongly developed Intuitive and Feeling traits, it’s natural for us to resolve those disappointments by using our mental and emotional resources. There are an infinite number of ways to solve problems while maintaining a strong connection to our cherished values. When we can resolve situations authentically, we get over disappointments quickly and problem-solving is a breeze.
But when we fail to navigate problems in a way that’s true to us, we see it as an individual shortcoming. A disappointment like a souring friendship—something that is enmeshed in our identity—feels very personal and a loss can really be taken to heart. In frustration, we can lose our way with feelings of regret and disappointment, and even feel a sense of disillusionment as we question what’s within our influence to fix.
So how can NF personality types deal with disappointment in a constructive and productive way? How can we grow and learn from the setbacks life throws at us and get back on track towards our creative ideals?
Yearning for authenticity means you’re vulnerable to disappointment
Creative idealists are the Intuitive-Feelers of the 16-type personality system. As Intuitives, we think in terms of potential and it’s in our nature to build upon that. As Feelers, we focus on the needs of people. The aim is usually to make things better for ourselves and the world around us. The result is a person with strong, future-focused values who tries to see the good in others. I’ve often been accused of wearing rose colored glasses like it was a bad thing.
Pure idealism sways our decision making and we tend to live by the double-edged sword of authenticity. I feel harmony when my decisions align with my authentic self. But every once in a while, the compulsion to follow “my truth” hurts my opportunities in say, social situations. I’m challenged with the urge to put my idealism aside for the benefit of others.
Here’s an example.
A few months ago, my husband and I met a married couple. Getting to know them was wonderful. We spent several weekends eating at each other’s homes and having great conversations. Our families were well matched and we all shared similar artistic interests. You can bet the lenses in my glasses were magenta with possibilities! That is, a few shades more enthusiastic than my everyday rose-colored pair.
Soon though, my intuition howled in alarm. To me, it felt like something was incredibly inauthentic about those relationships. It took me a while to puzzle just what it could be that so strongly affected everything from my heart rate to my sleep quality. It’s been years since my mind shook me awake that roughly. Yet, I lacked the language to explain the problem to myself or my confused husband, an ENTJ. What my situation boiled down to was that the couple’s marriage was ending and she was no friend to mine.
With the desire to be good people, it was tempting to maintain the status quo and not to be a fair weather friend. In a Herculean effort to stave off my intense disappointment with the crumbling relationship, and what that meant for the future I’d imagined, I tried to be cool. Yet my idealism refused to let it go. I was so disappointed that reality did not match up to the possibilities I’d created in my head. In the end, I had no choice but to remove myself from my relationship with the couple like a ghost.
Move on from disappointment by accepting lost potential
I wanted to believe in the potential of our new friendships and to ignore those intuitive warning signals. It would have made my husband happier. Yet, as NFs, we must accept that some problems are irreconcilable—sometimes, the potential we see in a situation is lost.
In Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type, Isabel Briggs Myers and her son, Peter Myers, write about solving problems while giving each dimension of our personalities a voice. They use the metaphor of household family dynamics to show how different traits can work together to approach a problem. Your strongest trait acts as the head of house and is the loudest voice. But, you should still listen to the second in command and the other less developed traits.
They go on to write that new clarity may be found if we heed the voice of each trait even if the traits are less developed. Ask yourself these questions when you feel you are at an impasse:
Sensing - What is the reality?
Intuition - What are the possibilities?
Thinking - What are the consequences?
Feeling - How would you and others feel about it?
Tips to Navigate Disappointment
There can be no more avoidance when we, as NFs, finally must conclude that there is nothing left to try, at least for the time being. Avid problem solving, bending circumstances to your will, or imagining things as they aren’t can only lead to intense frustration and damaging relationships.
Her are some tips to help you navigate a sense of disappointment.
Keep up with personal care
At this stage, even though our minds will continue to work through the problem, it’s important to refocus our energies towards personal care. Mindfulness, and connecting with the pragmatic Sensing side of our natures, can drive us towards accepting a situation just as it stands so we can live more fully in the moment. It’s important to be kind to yourself. Clarity often comes with rest.
Fend off anxiety
Journaling helps to check anxiety and gives perspective. Writing is a constructive practice and one we creative idealists are likely already accustomed to doing. When I reread my writing after a day or so, I look at the character I see on the page. I am kind and compassionate to myself but also critical. Where can I do or be better? That is within my control and empowering.
Give it space
When you take a walk or exercise it removes you from the situation. Creative idealists need to give our Intuition and Feelings the distance they need to realign the deeply felt emotions. Only then are they a useful guiding tool.
It’s not personal
Separate what you should take personally from what you shouldn’t. This one gets me into trouble all of the time. It touches on our cherished ideas and values that form our identities. That’s what makes it challenging to understand that our disappointments are not at the core of who we are. They happen to you but they aren’t you.
Set a limited time and place to express your feelings
Creative idealists should express their emotions of disappointment. Set aside time and a safe private place to write or paint or sing your heart out but please set a timer. I allow myself the space to cry but I keep it within limits. Expression is important but we must return our minds to finding solutions and being well.
I’m disappointed about my lost potential friendships. I’ve cried and wallowed in my hurt feelings but only up to a certain point. It takes discipline but there’s a line that creative idealists and many other personality types can cross. That line is between helping your psyche recover and damaging your emotional well-being.
After all, we have a world to rebuild. A world that is accurate to what is real and includes the newfound self-knowledge that we gain from overcoming a disappointment. We acknowledge our undeniable gifts for seeing the wonderful possibilities available to us. We find the joy in sharing ideas with others. From where I stand now, my disappointment is a blip on the page because I’ve found other authentic friendships to nurture.