A Message For INFPs

moons

Sometimes, as an INFP, I am not sure certain whether I am sensitive or if other people just lack tact and kindness.

Perhaps my experiences are only a reflection of our times. In today’s age of cut-throat competition amongst people at workplaces and schools and offices and on sports grounds, where money and success are king, and efficiency prized over intuition, “nice” has become synonymous with soft, or weak, and the quiet and reflective dubbed “meek”. So it would make sense for people to start presenting a more brash and blunt face to the world – but for those of us who are gentle and soft-hearted, we often find ourselves battered left and right, with no safe place to turn to except, well, ourselves. And perhaps the Internet.

More likely it is simply because I am more soft and sensitive compared to the average person, and thus, as a natural consequence, find myself hurt more often. The “feminist” wave, which upholds the ideal of a bold extroverted woman who sallies forth in the world and goes for what they want with as much aggression as men, has not done people like me any favors.

Compared to my soft-hearted and gentle male counterparts, however, I am lucky: at least I can still play relatively socially-accepted the “shy girl” card, while INFP men find themselves up against centuries of masculine ideals favoring the strong and stoic and aggressive, disadvantaging them when it comes to every sphere of life, from work to dating. Stereotypes, especially those gender-based, are powerful, and harmful (suicide statistics amongst young men are a sobering consequence of such preconceived beliefs). If any INFP men are reading this, I hope you remind yourself of your own self-worth in a world that does not find you worthy, keeping in mind that this INFP female at least finds all of you quieter and sensitive and contemplative creatures far more attractive than the “macho” ideals society crams in our faces. At this stage in time, for a long-term relationship, I would only consider pairing up with an INFP male, someone kind-hearted and caring, philosophical and melancholy. Unfortunately you are a rare breed, and I have yet to come across one of you yet.

Now where was I? In life as in writing, I have a tendency to digress. Right. Sensitivity. Yes. To put it simply, being sensitive has withered my happiness, as it probably has for you. From cold teachers and students to boys I idealised, one of whom even ended up playing a practical joke on me in front of the school, to cruel customer service representatives, dealing with the consequences of being too sensitive – namely, having to nurse hurt feelings – has been the single running them in my life, perhaps more so than even reading and writing.

And sometimes I feel hurt even when the person is not being particularly mean, only very distant and impersonal, as if you were an object rather than a person, which tends to make me feel like all the light has been sucked from the world. I have a deep-seated craving for kindness and tenderness, one I expect, idealistically, to be fulfilled whenever I encounter people. An absence of it turns me into an ingratiating and obliging slave, just short of frothing at the mouth, in the hope of obtaining just a little bit of niceness from the opposite party – or, at the opposite of the end of the spectrum, depending on my mood, makes me withdraw, and turn cold and unfeeling myself.

Much as I loathe those who bemoan “I’m just not good enough” without doing anything to get better at whatever it is they find themselves inadequate or “that’s just who I am” when it comes prejudiced views which they can easily change by educating themselves, the fact is, I am just too sensitive. And, to be frank, it’s not something I can control. I have tried, countless times. It would be hard for most people to imagine the agony I put myself through by maintaining a tough, devil-may-care persona for several years. When that led to a mental breakdown and nights spent crying into my pillow from repressed pain, I tried to use reason, wagging a big, fat finger in my mind as I scolded myself.

Now, now, you know very well you can’t make everyone like you, which frankly is a mystery, I know, because who wouldn’t like someone so kind and caring and sweet? Remember that time a girl was crying and you tried to give her a hug and she pushed you away? Right. Where was I, again? Reason. Right. People are selfish creatures, darling, you can’t expect them to accommodate for your feelings every time they talk to you, busy as they are with their own thoughts and lives. What’s more, you don’t need people to be kind and sweet to you all the time. It’s not necessary. All that matters is that you are kind yourself. The tenderness you provide yourself will be enough to make up for the deficit lurking deep in your heart. The world is an angry and cold place, no-one cares if anyone dies, it’s all just a sun rising and a sun setting. Got it?

Yes, I got it – theoretically, that is. Putting it into practice proved far more challenging. In fact, it was downright impossible. No matter what I told myself, I was still getting wounded by the slightest remarks, remarks others more thick-skinned than I might have brushed off without a backward glance. Worst of all, one woman, who is no longer my friend, when I confided to her some of my problems, began using herself as an example of how one should be. At every opportunity she would point out how she wasn’t as easily hurt as I was, how strong and tough she was, flaunting her ability to throw off outright insults with a smile whilst patting me on the shoulder in a condescending “one day you’ll be as good as me” manner. It only made me, who suffers from low self-esteem at the best of times, and soul-plummeting self-hatred at the worst, loathe myself more deeply than I had ever before.

What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I be just as tough as everyone else? Face it, in our world, men and women are both expected to be tough and strong. Whenever I expressed my fear or sensitivity, whenever I wept openly or retreated rather than confronted, or simply left the room during a horror scene, I was denigrated. Seen as weak. I was too weak, that was the problem, not strong enough, I had to be stronger, stronger, I had to let the world roll off my back like water off a duck, too weak, too weak

No.

I say, “No.”

No.

It’s time for the quiet and sensitive and shy and soft-hearted, the ones who notice what others do not notice, feel when others do not feel, who huddle in our rooms unseen, unheard, to start embracing our sensitivity. It’s time for us INFPs, the supposed “children of the MBTI”, to take a stand. Few and far between though we may be, that does not make us anything less worthy of those who already have their groups, their people, their support network, who can easily love themselves in a world that rewards them for who they are.

Without us, the world would be a lesser place. We are the healers, the counselors, the humanitarians, the artists and writers and philosophers (though this is not to say other personality types cannot hold these occupations; we must also account for variation amongst humans, not all INFPs are the same). We may take the slow lane in life, and seem stupid and sloth-like to those speeding ahead of us, but it only means we are aware of things those in the fast line can never understand. Yes, we can be moody, petty, seem odd or eccentric, “off with the fairies”, but we are also loving, caring, kind, imaginative, playful, and creative. I can nearly say with absolute confidence that very few cruel acts throughout the history of mankind were committed intentionally by INFPs, and that if there were more of us in the top positions in the world, such as the governments and the businesses and the companies, society would be a far more considerate, harmonious and loving place. Unfortunately those very fields often reward the very qualities we lack – ruthlessness, aggressiveness, valuing efficiency before emotions, money before people – thus often relegating us to the fringes of society, often with little money and little power. Idealistic, moody and fantasy-prone loners aren’t hot on the job markets, last time I checked.

Let me tell you right now: no matter how famous or rich or insignificant you are, as an INFP, you will never feel like you fit in with the rest of society, and never gain the approval and understanding of most people. So it is up to us to approve of ourselves and band together to make each other feel less alone. But we can do more than that. Each of us, with our deep feelings and deep hearts, our intelligence and oftentimes creative talent, can be forces for great social good in the world, only sometimes we are so scared and shy, and have such low self-esteem, that we sabotage ourselves, and barely step outside the door before we scuttle back inside.

Therefore it is important for us, above all, to link our hearts with a cause. Any cause, as long as you truly care about it. This is especially important for us idealists; without something to strive for, we can only stand by, hollow and empty, horrified by the world are witnessing. To make a stand, for once, we have to take action, to get out of our heads and fight. Forget about the money. You and I both know we can survive on very little of it, and still be happy: we’re not sensualists, good food and good clothes mean nothing if our ideals are not being met. For INFPs especially, we must find something to believe in, and funnel every ounce of our energies into our chosen cause. Only then will we feel worthy, only then will we begin to appreciate our unique gifts rather than deem ourselves “defective” – only then will the world, after we have done what we have done, appreciate us – and even if the world never so much as gives you a smile, you will be able to die happy, knowing you did what you had to do.

I, personally, intend to fulfill this creed as a writer, though my goals aren’t confined merely to getting books published. There are greater goals inside my goals. In my books, I plan on featuring characters, male and female, who are cautious and sensitive and atypical and plain; literature, especially Young Adult fiction, has enough of the bold and the brash and the beautiful. In addition, my characters will be predominantly from various minority backgrounds, to help those, like myself, who grew up reading books without seeing their own ethnic background reflected in the characters, feel seen, and represented. I plan on fighting my own fights, through the best sword I have – my pen – to enrich the lives of others, and make thousands around the world feel less alone.

And I challenge you to do the same. Your sensitivity is a gift. Trust me when I say I know how powerless you feel in a world so big and cold, where you do not even have a strong personality to shield yourself against it all, to help you weather the rains and the storms, and sometimes even not a single friend, because you are strange and quiet and no-one understands you. Sometimes, it just feels easier to escape – into books, into films, into pointless philosophizing and fantasies.

But what you do and achieve during your life matters, even if it touches only one person. As the saying goes, “To the world, you are just one person – but to one person, you may be the world.” So go out there and make yourself someone’s world. Go out there, and let your heart burst open, splattering the world in the form of love and art and aid and kindness, even if you risk rejection, risk getting hurt. Dig deep inside to find out what you want to do, what you were meant to do, what feels you with burning fervor, and go do it.

Then it won’t matter whether you get hurt, or if people push you around and misunderstand you and look down at you, for you will be fighting for something bigger than yourself, and that you will lend you strength some can only dream of possessing in their lifetime.

Scattered all over the world, we may feel lonely and misunderstood and useless, but if we remember that we are together in this, that there are other Dreamers out there who can understand us more deeply than any of our family and friends might be able to, we can use that to give us more strength. Strength to make the world a better place. To improve the lives of others. Kindness and big hearts are just as useless as cruelty and cold hearts if they are not mobilized and used as engines to power action. Do what you have to do. Create what you have to create. Be who you must be. Listen to your heart, the little compass-shiver deep in your chest that tells you when something is true and good.

It’s time.

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16 thoughts on “A Message For INFPs

  1. Thank you for this. It’s very encouraging to read about someone else with high sensitivity :’)
    Society has a way of making people feel broken, especially through lack of representation in media. So your mission is a noble one! 🙂

    I tire of reading about and watching the same kinds of characters (and the same kinds of plots) to the point that I’ve pretty much stopped consuming fiction, even though I desperately yearn for it. Back in the days of my youth, I read books like popping pills. I always thought that I was someone who just didn’t care about characters, since I have never been incredibly attached to one, but nowadays I know that I have simply never found a character worth caring about. The only characters that I can ever relate to are antagonists and super nerds haha 😛

    But anyway, this line in particular rang true for me, “This is especially important for us idealists; without something to strive for, we can only stand by, hollow and empty, horrified by the world are witnessing.” Over the years, I have realized this same thing. It’s funny because it takes a bit of selfishness to pursue one’s passion, even if your passion is selflessly helping others.

    – Luna

    • You’re very welcome. Thank you for reading. Yes, it does take some selfishness, but if you think about it, it would be even more selfish not to develop the talents lying dormant within you, or do the good you can during your lifetime, as that would mean robbing the world of your meaningful contribution. Follow your passions – and you’ll be okay. 🙂

  2. As an INFP and HSP, I can relate to what you are saying. I am still (fortunately or unfortunately I don’t know) I child and live at home. My sisters tease me about being sensitive, while I hopelessly argue that I’m not because, in my head, I still feel like I am weak when they say that. I am probably a nerd because I enjoy reading books about the brain and particle physics and astrophysics and all of that stuff, something a “normal” person would prefer to confine to school. I can pore over books for hours and am trying to write one. I am so shy and nervous around people my own age that when my mom took me to another girl’s house for me to get to know her, I only said a little more than 5 sentences to her, although she was really nice and we stayed for two hours.
    I admit that in ways I wish could be like other people. I wish I could go out without feeling like I’m being sized up by all the people around me. I wish that I did not feel a sensory overload when there are too many people or too much noise. I wish I could talk without people giving me a sort of bored or confused look and saying “oh.” I mean, even what I’m writing here sounds all wrong, the words strung together in the wrong order, awkward, barely making sense.
    I am, in my opinion, exactly like what you mentioned in this post: a misfit. I feel wrong, awkward, like I wasn’t meant to be a human being. If I was given a choice, I would be far more interested in a walk in the woods rather than having a conversation.
    I want to thank you for saying that your characters will be from minority backgrounds because due to my beliefs, I dress differently than other people. I have never read any young adult novels that were meant to be nonreligious that had a protagonist or even a mention of a young person from this religion. They are often stereotyped, and although I am a native English speaker and share the culture of English speaking countries, people sometimes assume the opposite. I feel sort of like an outcast. Although it is most likely that what I am talking about will not come to your mind, I am glad that you will write about other minorities in order to fix the mistake of only non-minorities being portrayed in books.
    I wish I could go live of in the woods somewhere myself, surrounded by animals and nature. Like that boy from My Side of the Mountain. Unfortunately, this is probably not happening any time soon. So I must fight on.
    Thank you for saying “I plan on fighting my own fights, through the best sword I have – my pen – to enrich the lives of others, and make thousands around the world feel less alone. And I challenge you to do the same.” Because I’m going to try.
    Sincerely,
    AnotherINFP

    • You’re very welcome, I’m so glad you liked it. 🙂 Hang in there. You can do it. I know how you feel, I experience it everyday myself, but we can push through it, and find our happiness and our place in the world. Trust. Always trust that things will turn out well.

  3. A wonderful post and one I can relate to completely, as a fellow INFP/HSP. I think, somewhat ironically, although we appear outwardly as soft, shy and sensitive creatures, we end up developing a huge resource of inner-strength over time. We simply have to because, as you said, we often don’t fit in and feel like outsiders; we are frequently misunderstood; we may be downtrodden and silenced by the loud, brash types of human being. Sometimes, the only person we have to turn to is ourselves and we can grow inwardly stronger because of this.
    Another thing I’ve learnt is that there are certain people (not that many, but still a few) who will appreciate your sensitivity. These days, if someone makes a comment that I’m “too quiet” or “too sensitive” it doesn’t bother me as much as it used to. I just think, “well, thanks for showing me we can never be friends!” It’s definitely not easy but you’re right, we do have to embrace our sensitivity and our quiet, thoughtful natures for what they are and use our strengths (for they are strengths, even if society doesn’t view them this way) to create good and beauty in the world.

    • Yes. Exactly. And I do sincerely apologise for not replying to your comment earlier–somehow it fell through the cracks. Only we know what we know. Only we have the hearts that we do. So all we have to do, then, is to follow our heart to do what we must do.

  4. This is a great post! I am an INFP male, and yes, some of the struggles of INFP males are indeed real. As a guy, I’ve found ways of dealing with societal norms to an extent, though I’m still in the process of understanding those norms. Especially as of late, I’ve tried funneling my sensitivity into very specific things so that whenever I’m challenged by societal norms I’ll have something to fall back on. I used to struggle with depression (and sometimes I still fight bouts of it), and though it did not necessarily have much to do with battling societal insensitivity, it would have helped if I didn’t feel like I had a very limited scope of people to go to about my emotional triggers.

    I do think my sensitivity is a gift, as you said, but I try not to put myself in a box like the rest of society does. I don’t want my sensitivity to become one with my identity, which is something that I have seen a friend of mine and fellow INFP do, but I do recognize and accept sensitivity as a part of my conscious psyche, and I’m willing to utilize it. As you said about digging into ourselves and our abilities to bring about social good, I very much believe that, which is why I do very much hold to the idea that my personality, even beyond sensitivity, is a gift of which I am not ashamed, and I hope other INFPs and similarly-minded people will come to realize their gifts which have such great potential.

    Thanks for your post.

    • You are very welcome. Thank you for reading. 🙂 I agree with everything you said, and I hope you never again in your life feel as if you don’t measure up simply because you were born both male and sensitive in our society. You are wonderful, more wonderful than you can possibly imagine. Everyone is, in their own way, but us sensitive and self-critical folk have to remind ourselves of that a little more often than most. Take care. ❤

  5. These I’m not even sure if I’m kind .. I don’t feel like myself. I feel like I’ve lost myself from all the exhauasting conflicts I had last year…

  6. Your take on feminism makes me sad. It is not feminism but the society feminism struggles against that devalues sensitive qualities. Sensitivity is thought of as feminine, and we’re taught from day one that girl/feminine=bad. So it’s not just INFP males who struggle with sensitivity, it’s all INFPs. Because if you’re a woman, there’s no way to win. You’re damned if you don’t fit your role, damned if you do because feminity is used as justification for holding us back. Feminism actually promotes sensitivity by showing that such qualities have value, regardless of how society has gendered them, regardless of the message we receive that woman=bad. Also, has it occurred to you that many of your struggles with society come from sexism? It’s so deeply ingrained in our culture that we often don’t notice it.
    -staunch feminist INFP teen girl

    • I think we should never see things like empathy and sensitivity as being weaknesses–they are strengths, through and through, and the world would be a better place if more emphasis and value was placed on them.

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