INFP – Do You Identify?

Nancy, I really appreciated your article about the intensity of INFs. I admit, as I began reading the article I was a little skeptical of your classifying INFPs as having the same degree of intensity as INFJs. My sister is an INFJ and growing up I always saw her as the most individual, opinionated, and intense person I knew. Me, I wasn’t intense, I was ‘helpful.’’

Being an INFP, my existence has always been based making those around me happy. Growing up I was always the peace-maker/mediator/interpreter in the family. My sister used to jokingly refer to me as the ‘multi-continent plug adapter’ (as well as calling me ‘mother’ in the most spiteful voice she could). I couldn’t help it, I was the happiest and most comfortable when the waters were still and everyone around me was happy. But growing up I retained a convoluted view ‘normal.’

Though neither of my parents intended to give me such an idea, I somehow came under the impression that being an introvert was not a good thing. Based on too little information, and the tone and connotations of the words they would use I somehow believed that every person was extroverted and that introversion was a voluntary-and quite selfish-form of behavior. Though my mother (who somehow seems to be on the borderline of extrovert and introvert) tried very hard to understand each of us and our individuality, I can remember being admonished to ‘go make some friends.’ I often heard things like ‘hang out with people your own age’ and ‘don’t be afraid to speak up.’ Instead I resisted initiating contact, avoided confrontation, and stayed in corners with my library book while the noisy kids I was supposed to get along with (we were the same age after all, why not?) ran around and played stupid games where someone won and someone lost. The conclusion drawn from my behavior was that I was ‘anti-social,’ possible because I was very fearful. And of course knowing that people thought such a thing -to them an unhappy and concerning thing- I further withdrew my true self inside and, without even realizing it, slowly became everything to everyone.

To make a long story short, after several years of striving to keep peace, being the perfect kid who did everything right, and working a very extroverted job in a highly energetic atmosphere (I can actually make myself a very good extrovert, provided I feel I have the upper hand) full-time in the beginning of college, I crashed-big time. The past couple of years I have been struggling with health issues, mainly muscle weakness and a lack of energy, and possibly have an autoimmune disease (all the signs point to Addison’s). After reading most of your articles about introverts I am not surprised. I have never been the kid who shut the door or asked to be left alone. And I had terrible self-esteem.

But in a way this illness has been a gift. I have had a good deal of alone-time in the past couple of years, something I never sought out before. The effect has been amazing. I’m discovering that there is a lot about me that I never acknowledged, explored, or even knew about. And more than that, I’m coming to a place where I actually like it all. I’m fascinated and enthralled by who I am. And believe me, that has never happened before. But back to your assertions about intensity.

I’ve never thought of myself as being intense because I was always the calm, quiet one. My sister, the INFJ, never pretended to be anything but herself (despite much opposition), which made her intensity visible. And I was always under the impression that the only ‘you’ that counted was the visible ‘you.’ But suddenly I’m discovering that the inside of me is deep -very, very deep. And that it is a good thing, even an amazing thing. My intensity is there; I think, I see, I imagine, I feel -god, how I feel- it’s just way down, deep inside. It isn’t flashy or colorful or eye-catching. It is quiet, it is profound, it carefully slips in the back door, latches on, and never lets go. Yes, I am very intense.

I hadn’t fully formulated my thoughts when I decided to write this so I had no idea I’d end up spilling quite so much. I apologize for the length. It seems that once I find someone who at least semi-understands me (and of course views it all in a positive light) I tend to forget when to stop. 😛 Thanks so much for your website, it has been invaluable.

-J (female, age 22)

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~ by nancyfenn on July 10, 2008.

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