INFPs And Earning A Living

money

Sometimes, I feel as though asking a monkey to build a Ferris Wheel using only banana peels would have a higher success rate than finding an occupation INFPs feel comfortable in – apart from, of course, the quintessential “I want to be a writer” spiel that sends parents all over the world into heart attacks at the kitchen table. Our personality perfectly predisposes us to the task – imaginative, creative, with a natural love for words, for thinking and pondering and spending great periods of time alone – and it’s been a firm belief of mine for a while that a great deal of the books in the world were written by INFPs.

When it comes to making money, however, we seem to hit a wall, against which most of us will beat our fists at for a great deal of our adulthood. I, myself, even if I did not have the anxiety and sensory issues preventing me from pursuing a traditional pathway for the time being, find it terribly difficult to slot myself into the machine. I think there a few reasons for this. One is that we are free-spirited creatures – occasionally a little too free-spirited. This not only spurs us to rebel against authority and tradition, it has other darker sides: procrastination, never committing to anything, flitting through life thinking we are free when in truth we are only sabotaging ourselves by not following a schedule and working steadily month after month in order to become an expert in whatever field we have chosen. But most of all, this means that the thought of someone – be it the government, or a teacher, or boss – monopolizing our time, forcing us to spend our days as they see fit in order to earn “money” we see all too clearly as being a sham, just paper collectively agreed to possess value, doesn’t sit right with us. In fact, it sits so very poorly that sometimes the necessity of earning a living in this world feels like a noose around our neck, tightening by the day.

Though some among us do end up making a living as writers, most of us do not have that privilege, at least not yet, and must “clock in the hours”. Thus, we end up in three possible situations. One is where we work at a tedious and usually stressful job that takes a toll on our hearts and our mind while pursuing our interests, like writing, or philosophizing, in our spare time. Another is that we end up dependent on others to keep a roof over our heads and food in our stomachs, as is the case with my life right now, living with my mother despite having reached adulthood this year and struggling with some psychological and sensory issues. The final situation is a compromise: we find something in our daily jobs to love, such as the connection or bonds formed with customers, and thus find ourselves able to bear it even if the other tasks involved in the job make us want to tear our eyes out. There is, in fact, a fourth scenario, which is that we end up homeless, extravagant little hippies living out of the back of caravans or in cars, and on the dole (if we’re lucky), despite the deep well of kindness in our hearts and our high intelligence.

However, none of these situations – and I am sure I don’t have to point out that the last is particularly unpleasant – are ideal, and sometimes not even tolerable. First, working at a job that wears away at your soul is going to have consequences, ranging from chronic fatigue syndrome, depression and panic attacks. Make no mistake: you are going to be miserable, and most likely bored out of your mind. Look, we’re quiet creatures who are energized by solitude and quiet contemplation – and most jobs either require extensive contact with people or are stressful, filled with phone calls and paperwork. Depending on someone for your livelihood can be just as miserable, and I speak this from experience. For one, you be plagued by skin-peeling guilt almost every second of the day for not financially contributing to the household and gradually see yourself as a useless, lazy excuse of a human being, even if you suffer from mental issues or have been unable to find or hold down a job due to your natural introversion or inability to tolerate workplaces. Our independence is also important to us, and it is impossible to feel independent if someone else is paying the bills for you – or, in my case, buying the groceries and even helping me borrow my library books. What’s more, INFPs need to be occupied in personally fulfilling work at all times, regardless of whether it brings in an income or not, which is why, although I do not have a job, I am taking free online courses and pretending writing is a full-time job (your imagination can do wonders for fixing your procrastination issues! A favourite of mine is to pretend I am in jail, and all I have is a laptop without internet, or a pencil and paper, in order to get myself writing). As for holding a job we acclimatise ourselves to, teasing out the good parts while tolerating the bad, well, once again, eventually, it takes a toll. Homelessness is the worst option of the lot, though living in a caravan or a car, if you do not struggle with any mental issues, can be, depending on your personal tastes, a viable method of existence.

Compounding this problem is the fact that our natural skills and abilities are not prized by the modern workforce, and are sometimes even liabilities rather than assets. We are highly empathetic, highly independent, highly scatter-brained, highly idealistic, highly imaginative, highly melancholy and highly introverted – almost the exact antithesis of the kind of person society values: extroverted, charismatic, charming, bold, a go-getter, cheerful, good social skills. All we have really going for us is our creativity and writing skills – hence why so many of us gravitate towards writing as a possible career path – but, as we all know, getting good at writing takes time, and you often need to support yourself in other ways as you build up your skills. So basically, what you have is a group of people who are creative, philosophical, sensitive and kind who find themselves without a place to call home in the world.

Granted, some INFPs do end up landing in jobs which are the right fit for them, such as roles in non-profit organisations perhaps involving writing, or as a freelance writers – but they’re rare, and those INFPs who are successful today in a field they enjoy often went through similar struggles due to their personality type before they hit their sweet spots. So what do we do? Where is this elusive home that everyone else seems to find and for which we seem to be forever seeking?

It’s different for every INFP, but I believe that our only true homes are our own minds and imaginations, the one place in the entire universe where we can be entirely free – yet another reason why writing is so natural an activity for us. What this means, however, is that anything which exists beyond the boundaries of your mind – basically, the rest of the world – will never live up to your expectations, and never satisfy you (this is true for everybody, on some level).

Thus, the only solution to living the life we want (once again, not applicable to all INFPs) is to find a way to live inside our minds as much as possible, where we are the happiest and often find the greatest fulfillment. Now, there are probably people out there who will disagree with this conclusion, because it seems to suggest that INFPs should, instead of going out there and truly “living”, retreat into their imaginations and escape reality. But they do not understand that it is only in the realms of our mind do we feel truly free and happy, nor the joy wandering through the labyrinth of our own thoughts brings us. The true reason why we find it so hard to find a place in this world is because we are internal rather than external creatures; we are organisms of the mind and the heart, rather than the body. Therefore, as dreamers, centering ourselves more in the mind and the heart, where we naturally feel the most comfortable, is the truest path to happiness.

I don’t know exactly what you would find most fulfilling – it doesn’t have to be writing, not all INFPs are natural-born writers or love writing, we’re all different – but chances are, it’s connected to the heart or the mind in some way, in that it is something that engages your creativity, imagination, and natural empathy for other living creatures. As long as you make sure whatever you are doing comes from either of those two spiritual organs, you’re on the right path.

The good thing is that your mind and your heart can be engaged no matter what task you are doing or where you are in life. If you are working at a job you dislike that burns your soul a little more with each day that passes, then use your imagination to free yourself. Escape during meetings, while waiting in line for the photocopier; it will be enjoyable, and make the time fly by much faster whilst also exercising your creativity. This will be easier if your job does not involve much higher-order thinking. Pretend you are a djinn, forced to do tasks for your unbending master, trapped by shackles made of crisp dollar notes. You can also use work time, as surreptitiously as possible, to write, or engage in whatever task that fulfill you. For example, write on used office sheets, or finish the work you do very quickly and write during the rest of the time while pretending to be doing company work. Be creative: write in office diaries, on Post-It Notes. It’s not unscrupulous – much of the workforce is set up to waste your time on meaningless, dull tasks just to spool some extra numbers into your bank account and keep you occupied, and if it’s possible for you to find a loophole, a rambling little path away from the highway, then, by all means, take it. No matter what your situation is, use your creativity to try and make life fulfilling for you, while still allowing you to keep a roof over your head.

For those of you who are unemployed and on the dole, living in caravans or cars, or dependent on another for food and shelter, the same principle applies. Just because you don’t have a proper “job” doesn’t mean you can’t keep yourself busy. It’s easy for INFPs to fall into procrastination and laziness, as we’re easily distracted by anything that flies by our way, and, with the Internet, the air is now filled with swarms of interesting flying things. Reading books is much easier than writing them; thinking about philosophy much easier than putting philosophical concepts into practice; imagining a flourishing garden easier than getting your hands dirty and planting one. Often for us, like most people, the more time we have, the more we squander it. So don’t. If you’re not in traditional employment, make sure you are still constantly engaged in productive and meaningful tasks, whether that is writing, or reading up books on Psychology, building your own freelance writing business, planting some spring onions in pots along the grimy windowsill of your caravan – anything other than being idle and wasting your time. Doing so will also help beat back the guilt that will swamp you for not working and contributing to society, because technically you are working, working very hard indeed, only you are not being paid for it yet.

Also, I would recommend you try and save your money and not purchase unnecessary items – not only will it help the environment, but the less money you spend, the more money you save, and the more money you save, the more freedom you will have. Don’t eat out, buy second-items and less-processed foods, save up for items that truly contribute to your well-being like books. This shouldn’t be particularly difficult, as most of us are quite content with very little, and have little desire for extravagances or luxuries. Pinching pennies doesn’t make you a cheapskate – it makes you smart, and environmentally aware. Consumption in the world is at an all-time high, flushing the environment with our toxins and wastes, and the consumerism model of a constant cycle of using and discarding just isn’t sustainable in the long-term. Besides, the best things in life, like friendship, literature and the imagination, are free, anyway.

What’s more, the more money people like us have, the better of a world it will be, because, being kind folks, we’re more likely than any other group of people to donate to charities and help people if we have the resources to. If more of the world’s wealth and power was concentrated in the hands of INFPs (unfortunately most of us only seem to make our fortunes through artistic fields, like writing and film-making, notorious for their low entry-rates), there would be less suffering on Earth. Take J.K Rowling, for instance, a famous INFP – she is no longer a billionaire because she gave away so much of her money. In that sense, we almost have an obligation to try and accumulate as much wealth as possible (out of all MBTI types, we tend to earn the least due to our natural skill sets – bankers earn more than psychologists – so it’s a tough call), to the best of our abilites, in order to help the people who need help, rather than let wealth pile up in the bank accounts of the greedy, selfish and less philanthropic, where it sits there, an untapped resource, doing nothing and helping no-one.

There are no easy answers, but armed with our hearts and our minds, our imagination, creativity and kindness, we can fight back, and carve out lives true to ourselves and make the world a better place in the process. We are often intelligent and discerning, able to see easily into the workings of society, the shams of the modern-day world (the crowning jewel of which is the economic system), yet powerless to change the terrible things we see, and often the most oppressed group of people by the system itself. You are not alone, however; a small percentage though we may make of the world population, we do actually number in the millions if you take the total world population into account. So, in reality, there are millions of good people, idealists and dreamers, INFPs, out there, who all feel alone, and like they are the only pure and good souls in the world, the last moral bastions of society, when it’s just that we’re a little spread-out – and it is this dispersal that reduces our power.

With the Internet, however, that no longer has to be the case. It’s cliché, I know, but it’s true: alone, we are weak; together we are strong, stronger than our wildest dreams. Can you imagine what it would be like if we formed a global network of INFPs through the internet, leveraging our combined strength to help each other and do good in the world? INFPs are, in essence, an untapped resource of kindness in humanity, and have been up, until now, being soft, shy, retiring, unseen, brushed under the carpet, our voices drowned out by louder ones. You must stay strong – for yourself, for other INFPs, and for the world (and really, when I say “INFPs”, I am in actuality referring to anyone who is extraordinarily kind and idealistic; the MBTI just allows us to find like-minded people more easily). Take heed my advice on making money so you will be able to survive in society whilst maintaining your sanity. I will do my part, continually honing my writing skills so that one day, when I am a published and established writer, I will be able to leverage my economic and social power to help you, to help any suffering people in the world, and to help and bring joy to as many human beings as I can over the course of my life. That is what making money means for INFPs: to allow us to survive so we can seek personal fulfillment and improve the world.

If you need any help or support in life, no matter what the issue is, please feel free to contact me at dreamerrambling@hotmail.com. In the past, I’ve not been the best at replying to emails on time, but these days I am making a conscious effort to check it more often, and to try and reply to every message that I receive, especially from INFPs who are struggling. Please, however, do not be disheartened if it takes a few days. You are NEVER alone; every single INFP existing in the world today, including myself, suffers along with you, and understands you. Let us support each other, and, in doing so, support the world.

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10 thoughts on “INFPs And Earning A Living

  1. Hello!

    I hope you are doing ok today, and that you and your family will soon see better times. I found your blog by chance and have been reading it for a few weeks, but not commented before. Today I decided to write a (as it turns out, rather long) comment, to try to show my support.

    I was wondering if you have considered higher education? Tuition fees is a problem, I know, but maybe you could apply for fincacial aid to get the possibility of studying for a degree. Maybe you can check this out: http://sydney.edu.au/study/finances-fees-costs/financial-assistance/student-bursaries.html

    Maybe you have known about this for a long time, and decided it is not an option for you, but just in case you didn’t already know about this, I wanted to mention it – most universities has some sort of finacial aid program for students with no money (and it is sometimes possible to start in January instead of August/September).

    It seems like your living situation is very difficult, living in a cramped space and with people that don’t understand you or approve of your goals or needs, or even belive that they are real. My family has never understood me either, and I was 24 before I learned about personality types and why I always felt so different (I’m very introverted, and highly sensitive). I think my self esteem would really be torn apart if I were financially dependent on someone that did not belive in my goals or understood me as a person at all, and I admire you for hanging in there and speaking up for highly sensitive people on this blog.

    It seems that it would be really good for you to get a place of your own, if it is practically possible at all. Student life is a good option if you want to stay anonomous – you can sit in an auditorium and just listen, not participate. You can join a student organization just to try it out, once or twice, with no committment. My student days are over (I’m in my thirties now), but I remember it as a time of great freedom, I could choose how involved I wanted to be and how to organize my days, and challenge myself just a little bit at a time.

    Since you do not write about the possibility of studying, just about trying to get a job, I was wondering if you have considered it at all? Or does it seem completely impossible? I live in Norway, and higher education is free here, so maybe I am underestimating how difficult it is for you. (I have a master’s degree inn comparative literature, by the way, so I share your love of books).

    I recognize myself in many of your descriptions of how you react to the world around you. What I personally have experienced is that my emotions have calmed down as I have grown older, but my physical sensitivity is as strong as ever. I react a lot to my physical enviroment, especially noise, lots of people coming and going (like you would experience in a customer service job, and I have had several of those!), and this draines me very quickly. It feels like it slows down my thought process, and I cannot see even the most obvious solutions to anything that needs to be done, my brain kind of freezes. And when the situation is over, I start processing and thinking about it a lot and that takes a lot of energy as well. A calm environment is paramount for me – I cannot preform well without it. Of course i cannot know if you are put togehter in the same way as me, but maybe if you could improve your physical environment – have a small place of your own to retreat to when you are tired and get the rest you need – you could start to get on top of things, and have the energy to start fulfilling your potensial. Since I first moved out (when I had just turned 17) I have always been able to live by myself (I’ve been lucky, I know), and for me this has been absolutely essential to have a good quality of life.

    Do you see moving out as a possibility at all? Maybe if you could get the rest you need when you are at home (your physical environment seem to be constantly overstimulating), it would be more bearable to go outside, go grocery shopping, go to work, or to a lecture if you where a student? For me, it works excactly that way. I have a full time job, and I need my spare time to be my own, no one elses. It is important that I can choose wether I want to be around other people or not.

    Gosh, this comment was not supposed to be all about my life and how I can use it to give you advise – that was not my intention, and I hope you don’t feel like I have forced my view of things down over your head. You are an individual, and maybe my own experiences are not relevant for you at all. I did not mean to say “why don’t you just go to the University” as if it is that simple, but it does seem to me like you need some sort of escape, before you become completely exchausted. Your descriptions of your life and emotions have a deep resconance with me, and makes me think back to my late teens, when I was trying to figure out what to to with my life. I guess that’s why I wanted to write to you about some of the things we seem to have in common – you are not alone, but we introverted HSPs do seem to be spread wery thin, sometimes, don’t we?

    I wish you the best of luck with whatever you choose to do. You have all my love and compassion – Ingrid

    • Thank you so much for your love, care and concern. I know exactly what you’re trying to get across, and you’re not at all forcing your views upon me — I was, in fact, enrolled in a university course, and here in Australia university students are eligible for something called Austudy (here, we usually borrow the money for degrees and pay them back later on, unless we have a scholarship). However my problems had worsened and I dropped out, much to the horror of my mother. Though I would love to live on my own, study and then go on to have my own job, university wasn’t the place for me. The one I went to was very large, with sprawling grounds; each lecture class had at least over a hundred people in it, all sitting in rows of tiered seats; and it just felt very empty, hollow, impersonal, as though it was a business rather than a place of learning, wisdom and knowledge. The impersonal nature of the place also made me feel very alone, and worsened by anxiety and sensory issues to the point where I wouldn’t be able to breathe before stepping out the door, and often found myself ducking into bathrooms for long periods during the day unable to cope. Another about universities is that the courses, at least in Australia, are rigid and dull, in that, though you have the freedom to choose sometimes, say, what topic you want to write on, in the particular focus area for that semester, there is little room for the kind of wild, slapdash creativity that likes to burst from my heart, which stifled my soul. So I was really suffocated on all sides: psychologically, physically, spiritually — and I just knew that if it continued, I wouldn’t be able to go on. At the moment I am looking into doing courses online, but the experience truly made me re-think whether university was the right place for me and getting a degree the right pathway in life for me. But I know you were only caring for me –please don’t think that I deeply appreciate your suggestion — but sometimes, things just don’t mesh together well. In addition, after taking on the debt from my university degree, there would be very little guarantee I would be able to hold down a job after graduating unless I became, say, a freelance writer working from home, due to my psychological issues. I still want to return to studying, even if it takes me into some debt (because a degree is usually better than no degree) so that I can claim Austudy and help my mother out financially, and I am also working on my anxiety and sensory issues with an occupational therapist (her services are free as, like many medical practitioners in Australia, she is paid by the government). I’m a little lost, but it’s okay; it’s just a little difficult sometimes, being highly sensitive and with a high desire for novelty (any classes lacking in room for creative freedom – and writing is almost the only proper outlet for implosions of imagination – restricts my soul like a vice, and it’s so horrible it feels as though I am drowning). In the meantime, I will be reading lots of books, on an extensive range of subjects, and writing, gaining an education based on curiosity rather than digesting rigid focus area after focus area, only in one field (mine was an Arts Degree, Bachelor
      of English). Thank you, again, for caring, and I am so glad you found a place to live on your own where you can re-charge after work, and have found your little niche of contentment. 🙂

  2. Hello there, very detailed post about INFP.
    I’ve been traveling a lot the last few years (Asia/Europe), but currently based in NYC.
    The whole issue with not quite fitting into the extraverted/type A mold – I wonder if this is symptomatic mainly here in the U.S.; so it being more of a cultural/geographic problem than a universal human problem. That is why it’s important to determine what context you’re living in, and it’s unfortunate that due to human nature/society, you’re somewhat judged based on what is considered “normal” in the specific environment you’re in. Thus, you’re left with some options, one is to change yourself (obviously not recommended) or change your environment.
    I think of myself as more of a balanced INFP/INTP, not extreme in either type so I try to see larger perspective. My two cents. 🙂

    • Thank you for touching on that. It’s a good point to keep in mind. Yes, where I live the ideal is extroverted, which means that introverts are more often that not shuffled to the sidelines, and deemed “odd”, “strange” and “too quiet”. I suppose if I were amongst a group of writers, who are known for being introverts, I would feel far less self-conscious and inadequate.

  3. Hi. It’s me again. Since you mentioned that readers are free to email you, I was wondering about something. Perhaps this is a strange request, but here goes: I am writing a book. I’ve only reached around 900 words, but I think this time I’ll really finish it. Since you like reading so much, and don’t like mainstream themes, I was wondering if you would like to read it. I could send the whole thing when I’m done, or chapter by chapter if you like. Then, if you want to, you could tell me what you thought about it, if the plot is off, it it’s too mainstream, etc. If you’re interested. I’m sorry, this probably sounds extremely weird, but I was just wondering if you would like to do that, if you have the time. Thanks.
    Sincerely,
    AnotherINFP

    • Sure, of course. You can email me anytime. 🙂 I love emails. Oh, and I’m sorry for the late reply, I was moving houses recently and it took some time getting the Internet set-up, especially since we were changing our plan and everything. And I would absolutely love to read it. It would be my pleasure. 🙂

  4. Thank you sooooo much. I can’t tell you how much it means to me. I hope you had a good move :). DO you want me to send it chapter by chapter or do the whole thing at once when it’s done?

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