By Tiffani Warren
INFPs at their best are empathetic and authentic individuals who explore various possibilities and interpretations of the world in an effort to fully develop their own personal identity and value system. They attempt to construct a fundamental understanding of the nature of humanity and what it means to be good or bad, valuable or worthless, and right or wrong. They then interpret events and information and make decisions based on their strong internal desire to live in harmony with their chosen value system, to be true to themselves and stand up for what they believe in. That said, they sometimes struggle to define or explain their beliefs or choices in terms of objective standards, and may feel hurt or overwhelmed when faced with ruthless intellectual criticism. Their primary interest is in discovering what feels right to them, personally, in the hope of constructing an internally consistent and complex framework of moral understanding and identity.
INFPs believe that the best way to fully realize and develop their inner value system is to explore and evaluate the myriad perspectives of human existence. They search for opportunities to discover as much about the world as possible in order to avoid missing anything. In this way they can often be perceived as open-minded and curious, as they seek to explore and understand all of the different ways in which people live and interact in the world. When exposed to a new situation, their minds will fill with imagination about what it could mean and all of the things that could happen. It is important, however, for INFPs to balance this thirst for new opportunities and ideas with a grounded reflection on how similar situations or events have played out in the past. INFPs who allow themselves to draw on personal experience and empirical evidence without immediately resisting the limitations they impose on unfettered imagination will discover, with pleasure, that doing so allows them to focus their choices and efforts in the directions that are most likely to bear the fruit of personally meaningful and beneficial insights.
A young or immature INFP will struggle with objective logic and facts, feeling that what society deems to be true is less relevant than what they personally believe to be important. They may seem too emotional or subjective in their decision-making and often fail to fully consider all of the relevant information when coming to conclusions. This disinterest in the facts can cause them to fall prey to external manipulation, or alternatively, to become too dogmatic in promoting the information they do accept and failing to acknowledge facts and evidence that contradict it.
However, as the INFP grows and matures, they will begin to find a balance between the personal ‘truth’ they derive from their own sense of morality and the objective ‘truth’ derived from science and fact. They will develop a healthy attitude toward new information, accepting that which comes from valued and trustworthy sources and making decisions and judgments based not only on what feels right to them, but also on what is considered practical and logical to society. They will learn that objectively evaluating all of the information available to them allows them to see the world through clearer eyes, less clouded by personal biases and sentimental attachments. That said, INFPs will always be more genuine and individualistic than most other types, refusing to deny or change themselves to fit into the molds of society, and always seeking to stand for the values and beliefs they hold dear.
Mature INFPs are very good at developing hunches about which interpretation of a situation is most valid and which possibility is most likely to come true. They are also quite good at inferring the true meaning or symbolism behind various events and concepts. That said, due to their desire to seek out as many options as possible and personalize their perspective to suit them as individuals, they often do not find much pleasure of gratification in attempting to choose the most common or most objectively correct interpretation unless it’s in service of some larger goal or in order to help someone they care about.
Because they are so focused on personal analysis of identity, morals, and relationships, INFPs resist efforts to interpret or adapt to social roles, cultural norms, and interpersonal expectations. They tend not to see the point, for example, in judging what their peers or professional colleagues would deem to be important or valuable, preferring instead to develop their own individual interpretation, using societal perspectives merely as jumping off points. However, when they are sufficiently motivated, they are very skilled at coming to objective and socially accepted conclusions about morality or beneficial social behavior, regardless of whether or not they feel personally compelled by them, and those who allow themselves to practice this skill set will find it to be very useful when they are faced with professional or interpersonal situations that require taking other people’s needs and expectations into account.
INFPs do not enjoy being forced to live in the moment and observe all the detail-laden events of the present environment, finding extremely chaotic surroundings to be distracting and overstimulating. They often prefer to navigate new experiences and forays into the world with the assistance of those they trust to competently react to the uncertainty. That said, they are capable of doing it – begrudgingly – when no help is available. INFPs find it very difficult to evaluate situations independently using solely rational criteria. That is to say that for issues which have no human or moral element, and for which there is little external data or evaluation to draw from, INFPs will find it very challenging to analyze the issue using internal logic to determine which decision or interpretation makes the most sense. Although they may, with much determination, be able to develop a deep, internal analysis of factual systems, it is not an exercise at which they thrive. They prefer to remain focused on developing a deep and complex analysis ofhuman systems and relationships, and to interpret facts and events according to information they discover through research and other external sources.
To summarize, INFPs are curious, individualistic people who evaluate concepts related to morality and human nature in order to develop a complex, internally consistent model of their personal identity and beliefs. They do so by seeking out a grand variety of possibilities and perspectives, always searching for new ways to look at things. When they balance these capabilities and skills with an eye on their own personal experience and empirical evidence as well as the information and interpretations of fact that their society perceives to be objectively true, they have the potential to realize their fundamental values in the world around them, inspiring others to cast off the shackles of harmful traditions and apathy and instead fight to create a new world that rewards those who follow their hearts and do what they believe to be right.