Or so many people seem to think upon meeting us or truly getting to know us. That we are these very soft, very fragile creatures, full of intense emotion, easily hurt, easily broken, self-hating and entirely disconnected from reality. And they’re right (though they’re certainly not right when they try to “fix” us). We can be a bit silly sometimes. We do find building up our self-esteem a very difficult task to do, one we must chip away at every minute of our lives. We can be naïve, and weak-willed. We are quite avoidant by nature, very bad at dealing with conflict and any sort of discomfort in general, and immensely good at escaping into fantasy when our current reality is no longer to our liking. But since when did these traits become bad qualities?
I can tell you this, with great certainty: everyone who has ever hurt me, most of whom were my bullies in school as well as a handful boys I liked and admired secretly from the sidelines, were people who did not understand my nature, or were highly logical themselves and possessed very little empathy. Next to them, I could not help but feel woefully inadequate. They were so confident, so sure of themselves, so beautiful, hard and smiling and bright, lean and full of energy. It was like being a single candle flickering in a sea of blazing bonfires, I simply could not compete. And when those same people teased me and hurt me, or worse, looked at me blankly, with a complete lack of understanding of who I was as a person, the pain and loneliness cut me like a knife. As an INFP, my tendency to idealise everything, needless to say, worked against me in this regard in the worst way possible. I saw these bold, extroverted people, who saw me as silly, naïve and weak, as small gods strolling across the land, capable of building cities and tearing them down again, of charming their way in and out of any situation. I idolized them, aided by my overactive imagination. They were everything I was not, and some of them made sure I knew it. I hated myself, admired them, desperately wanted to be them; I was the candle, overwhelmed by the burning blazes around me, wishing I could spit and flare just as brightly, wishing I was bigger and better.
INFPs only start to really grow up when they realise sometimes there are good things about being a candle, even if our light is dim and quiet. Sometimes, it’s better to provide soft illumination, than fiery heat, for there is a gentle beauty to candles no bonfire can ever hope to match and things in this world only candles can do, like sit in a lamp held in the hand of a young woman exploring the corridors of a haunted house. It’s funny. So many INFPs throughout history, from writers to filmmakers, who are now lauded for their achievements, would have been ridiculed and disdained by the very same people who now enjoy their creative efforts had they met those INFPs in person, or known them personally. We’re very quiet, a little odd, and loners. Most of us don’t possess a drop of charisma, and can only charm cats and children, on the best of days. We go about our days with a vacant look on our faces, absorbed in our own minds or quietly watching the world and the people in it around us. We prefer to stay at home, in our bedrooms, with our books and our fantasy worlds, than face the world outside our doorstep. We say the oddest things, and have the oddest thoughts, which are often not received well should we miraculously pluck up the courage to share them. Of course, this isn’t applicable to all INFPs—there is always variation in every group—but some of these apply to most INFPs. As a result, we are seen as silly, naïve and weak, sometimes even useless, when, really, our talents just lie elsewhere, somewhere over the rainbow.
For the longest time, due to this disconnect between who I was, and who the rest of society seemed to be, I disliked myself. I tried to change myself, by acting more extroverted, straining myself socially beyond the breaking point, trying to fend off the bullies who suddenly found me more entertaining now that I was chattier and therefore an easier target—only to end up, after twelve or so years of “faking it”, in hospital, for a severe mental breakdown. My mother and psychologist thought I was sick, I was mad, and in a way I was, but not in the way they thought I was. I was sick and mad because I had been forcing myself to be someone I was not for too long. Years of my life I lost to this false self, simply because I wanted to be accepted and loved by people who would never truly understand me. What I learned from that experience was this: no company at all is a thousand times better than bad company, and the only path to true happiness is to do what you love, for yourself, and let that be enough to fill the void inside your heart.
At the end of the day it matters little whether people scorn or disdain the essence of who we are, believe us weak and small, cowards, find us too anxious and neurotic, too strange, lacking in confidence, pathetic. What they think does not matter, and most likely they do not care what we get up to with our lives, our failures and successes, anymore than we care for theirs. In this life, each of us are alone, and each of us are responsible for our own happiness and achievements, and we would do well to remember this, hold these two truths close to our hearts, each and everyone of us, as a talisman to carry us through the many dark days of our lives.