Being yourself should be easy, shouldn’t it? You just let go and be whatever you imagine yourself to be with no masks or labels.
That’s not how the world works, though. Societal expectations, parental pressure, even a boss with an explosive temper — these and other external forces can influence our actions and make us act in an inauthentic way, presenting variations of ourselves in order to fit in.
For INFPs in particular, authenticity is tricky to pin down. You tend to see yourself as an abstract entity, quite separate from your physical actions. When you find yourself doing exactly what you want to do in a situation, it’s more often the result of a happy accident than any conscious decision to act out your values. You are far more likely to hide your gifts than express them. In doing this, you risk creating a huge disconnect between the person you present to the world and the person you believe yourself to be.
No one is suggesting that you express yourself without filters. Everyone fakes it to some extent; it’s how we rub along nicely without terrifying each other. But it is important to confidently know who you are and what you value. Otherwise, you risk feeling conflicted between the various facets of your life and a sense of being out of control.
If a different you shows up in every situation, it’s time to reconnect with yourself. Here are some tips for discovering the authentic you.
1. Give in to your craving for solitude
Solitude lets you separate what you want from what you think others want. It gives you the freedom to step outside everyday influences and really hear yourself think.
We all carry so many opinions and routines that have been handed down to us over the years. It can be hard to separate those acquired beliefs from our own true nature. Taking some time alone — whether it’s a walk in the park, focused meditation or just sitting quietly — can really help you pay attention to your own thinking and make contact with who you are.
2. Figure out your motivations
INFPs want to be liked. You have a tendency to do things simply to gain the approval of others, often spending far too much time trying to fulfill someone else’s needs at the expense of your own. But every time you seek that acknowledgement, you move further away from your own internal motivations for acting. You become less true to yourself.
Figuring out the real motivations behind your actions gives you the opportunity to replace actions that feel wrong with actions that feel right. Suppose, for example, that you’re the last one in the office again when you really want to go home and spend time with your family. Ask yourself, are you staying late because it will help your career, or because you think others will think better of you, or because you don’t have the courage to say “no?” How would you act in that moment if no one else could witness your actions?
Understanding your motivations is like a compass that points due north. It opens your perspective to different actions that align better with your values.
3. Accept your flaws
INFPs want perfection in everything and may become disheartened when they realize that their motivations are not as noble or enlightened as they might wish. When you look deep into yourself, it’s common to find that your true self is not reflected in the way you’re living your life. But the most uncomfortable part is realizing that the authentic you is flawed in some way; that you don’t live up to your own lofty expectations.
Before you grow discouraged, consider that authenticity is a process. It is having the courage to explore within, regardless of what you might find. An essential part of the process is getting comfy in your own skin. If you’re not as nice as you aspire to be, then that’s OK because you’re only human. And there’s bound to be more right with you than wrong.
4. Write a personal manifesto
For INFPs, your inner world is your inner strength. You live in a world of possibilities, not facts. If something sparks your imagination, then you’re off, connecting one random dot to the next and the next...until suddenly you wind up in a different place to where you started. It’s exciting for sure. But there’s a risk that you’ll end up chasing an urge or fleeting emotion, only to find out later that it wasn’t what you really wanted.
Writing a personal manifesto minimizes these false starts.
A manifesto is simply a written declaration of the things that are important to you — your beliefs, motivations, opinions and intentions. To write it, ask a few simple questions:
“What, in life, is most important to me?”
“What do I believe in?”
“What kind of world do I want to live in?”
“What do I intend to do with my life?”
With these questions in mind, write whatever you want, however you want, no matter how strange, amusing or unlikely. Your primary goal is to figure out what you stand for, and remind yourself of those values every time you start following those rabbit holes.
5. Take action in the real world
As you get a firm grasp on who you are, you’ll need to apply those values to the real world. For many INFPs, this means navigating a job or a relationship that doesn’t mesh with your value system. Faced with a discomfiting situation, it’s easy to slip back into old habits and offer up the less-than-real version of yourself.
It’s tough to be authentic all the time. But what you can do is stop being inauthentic. Notice when you’re pretending to be something you’re not. If something feels wrong, trust your intuition. Stop giving feigned responses. Keep your manifesto close by, and use it to help you make small, but significant, adjustments to your everyday behavior.
When you strip away the inauthenticity with the small things, it will make it easier to stand your ground on the big things. You’ll finally be yourself, and that’s when you can truly start living with purpose.