Look for Perfect and Then Compromise

This is a response to a post by Mike on INFP Careers as discussed in INFP, The Healer Idealist discussion group on LinkedIn.  The post was called, “The Greatest Post about INFP Careers in the History of Ever.”

What a fantastic world it would be if there were places where we INFPs could live our ideal lifestyle as described in this post!

I think every ESTJ (opposite type) manager should read the article as part of their management course but  I wonder if it would seem impossibly, impractically self-indulgent to an ESTJ to imagine that anyone could find a job that would fulfil these desires. I don’t imagine the writer actually expects to ever find such a job, and I recognise that this is probably just a flight of fancy but still it made me want to laugh; not derisively but ruefully. Yes, I’m sure the sentiments contained in this post resound for almost all INFPs; they certainly do for me but at the same time, I’m old enough and ugly enough to know that the world doesn’t work that way and we have to get in line with the world rather than expecting it to get in line with us.

Why do I mention ESTJs?  Well, many of the managers against whom this article rails from time to time are ESTJs. They tend to think heirarchically and to assume that we would have their job if we were clever enough or as hard working as them.  As I see it, part of the INFP’s challenge is to find enough compromises that she can make (without losing herself) to be able to function sucessfully in the world.

For a while after I first found out about type I used to go round saying to myself, “I’m an INFP in an ESTJ world” (you need to say this in an Eeyore voice to be able to get the full effect). I felt hopeless and doubtful that I would ever be able to find a niche where I could be useful and fulfilled at the same time…….. And this is where the key lay, for me; “a niche“. The kinds of roles where INFPs typically feel happy are niches.  It is harder for INFPs to find the niches where they can excell and be comfortable at the same time because niches are, by definition, small. Given the statistics about the prevalence of ESTJs and the relatively small numbers of INFPs, it makes sense that there are fewer INFP roles in the world. If it were otherwise we wouldn’t be able to fill all the INFP shaped holes.  Also, like it or not, we need the practical, down to earth types to take care of business and put food on the table. Think of it in cave man terms. They painted the sides of the cave only after they had gone out and killed enough animals to ensure survival. That’s why we are in the minority; it’s simple Darwinian evolution – survival of the fittest.

Before you go out and shoot yourself, it’s not that desperate – read on – you’ve come this far with me, you might as well go all the way now.

The writer said that she, “could use a good career counselor who understands and respects our needs, but knows a lot of possibilities and can make the connections for us that are hard for us to make ourselves“. Well, I am a career coach, will that do?

This brings us back to the niche. The corporate world may have a few niches where you can be yourself and still earn a living; roles such as welfare officer, staff development, even training manager can work for INFPs if the organisation has a sufficiently caring ethos. The important thing to do is to research the organisation thoroughly before deciding that you want to work there.

Then there’s the public sector. In the UK (I don’t know so much about the US or other parts of the world) you can find roles such as Careers Adviser in schools, colleges and universities, Connexions (although the government is currently dismantling it, bit-by-painful bit) and the little known service for adults, called Next Step. This, along with counselling, offers an opportunity to help people significantly and mainly on a one-to-one basis, which is not too challenging for most introverts as long as you can get a bit of peace and quiet in your free time.

Volunteering in your spare time is another way of finding the fulfilment that may not be possible right now in your job. This can sometimes lead to paid work after a while.  Even if that doesn’t happen you will develop good transferable skills along the way.

Finally, there is the creative side of the INFP to cater for.

Having been a careers adviser in a college where there was a large number of art and design courses, I know how attractive these pursuits are to INFPs. I also know how difficult it is to make a living this way. If you decide to embark on a creative career, follow the advice of Bill and Ted, “Be excellent!” If you can be excellent and can learn to market yourself effectively, this could be your answer.

I have offered a few alternatives, none of which meets every requirement of the original post and therefore some sort of compromise is required but that’s OK – we’re Ps so we can be quite flexible and adaptable.

One of many points that Aelthwyn, the author of the post, made that is very true is that we do need the support of other types to make our dreams come true. But that’s OK too. INFPs can be very persuasive when we try, and there are enough supportive, strong extroverts out there who will recognise our worth and support our efforts. So my alter-ego, Eeyore was wrong – it’s not all hopeless!

44 thoughts on “Look for Perfect and Then Compromise”

  1. Helen,
    Hmmm- excellent points. I hadn’t thought of that! Thanks for the blog! And umm… were would we post recommendations of other careers for INFPs? I have a few on my wishlist 😉

  2. Mark,

    You’ll get there! I have to use phones often in to out of four of my jobs. Just take it as the more effective that you are, the faster you can get off! So be clear, precise, and take down notes so you don’t have to ask the speaker to constantly repeat what they are saying… plus writing turns the interactive audio activity into a kind of personal, introverted activity when you are writing things down.
    I hope that you have had better luck with your company!

  3. 39 year old male.

    I had a job in IT that let me delegate work, help those under me develop their skills and I got to learn every day. What an awesome job that was.

    Due to a company buy out I could no longer do that job. So 7 years later I’m on my 4 company and still looking for that satisfying role. Not liking techie talk or speaking on phones is a bit of a hinderance in IT and this makes each position feel like hell. There’s not even a creative part that I can do as a job, when the chance comes along I’m always there than that ends and I’m back to the sucky side that makes me unhappy.

    It’s nice knowing though what could start to make me happy in work. I’m about to start a company (IT Outsourcing) and that will let me help people both the client and the resource who I can help build their career. This has helped me feel unbelievably positive.

    Just have to get this phone talking “phobia” sorted!!

  4. Hi Helen

    Thanks for your posts, very interesting. I’ve taken a few hours today to look at my life and discovered that, rather than the ENFP I have always thought I was, I am actually and INFP ( and a bit INFJ sometimes). A long-term, close friend raised this with me a while ago. This certainly puts a different complexion on how things have gone recently and how I need to think about the future.

    Anyway, I am feeling a real failure in the life/career stakes. I’ve raised 6 wonderful children, 4 have flown the nest and 2 teens remain. I did a degree in social Policy as an adult and some post-grad study. I also did voluntary work while I was married and then qualified and taught adults. However, after five or six short-term F.E. teaching contracts, all very highly target-based, I can’t envisage going back to this as I just can’t cope with combining the creative, people, and massive amounts of admin work – I just can’t get the paperwork done. I can do them all separately but not together.

    I’ve also done several low-paid admin and voluntary advising jobs. Skills combining was a problem with the admin, too, and made me feel completely incompetent. In fact, that’s the feeling I generally end up with. All this gives me a very bitty c.v. And while there is much talk of transferable skills, I’ve never seen it work for me. I’m involved in several community groups that require time and commitment, and with the kids to run around after (I’m a lone parent) I hardly know which way is up. I’m unemployed again, which has been the case, on and off constantly for the last 10 years, and at age 50, am feeling very demoralised about the future, not to mention in a financially precarious situation.

    In any discussion group or team, I always have instant solutions and creative ideas for development. People clearly respect what I have to say, although they often want to be much more cautious than I would like and this drives me a bit bonkers. I have been interviewed on t.v. and radio successfully. But nobody takes me seriously enough to give me a job.

    I identify with so many comments above – I am an ideas person and have great communication and creative skills but my pedigree is poor, due to 28 years of child-raising and general lack of pushiness. I need a career (part-time) and a pension. I forgot to mention that I’m a Christian and keen to enter the ministry but my relationship makes this problematic and I can’t afford any more training – I desperately need to earn some money!

    Any advice you have to offer would be gratefully received.

    Warm wishes


    • Karen, I just spotted your post.

      You do sound more like an INFP than an E, I have to agree.

      I wonder if you are using all the contacts you must have made through your community involvement? Do you chat and let them know that you are looking for paid work? Do you invite their ideas about work you might be good at? They have had chances to observe you and probably have a few ideas about this. As a Christian and an INFP you probably feel that it is better to give than to receive so you may be slow to ask for help. You might be surprised how many people were keen to offer suggestions, advice, contacts or other help. I think the quote is actually, “It is more blessed to give than to receive”. So think about how your friends and contacts are missing out on an opportunity to be blessed by giving to you. If their advice is off-target (some of it probably will be) just forget it but some of it might be useful.

      I might be way off beam with this speculation. I would be interested to hear what you think.

    • BTW, Karen, I do relate to many of the other things you said, especially feeling a sense of failure (and yet you have obviously had a very productive life) but I chose to focus on something that could be of practical use to you.

  5. Hi Helen,

    I really like this article. I am too an INFP looking for a niche. I think in some cases I really need to get out into the world, but being the perfectionist and idealist I am (and from becoming depressed at work and study before) I don’t want to push my square-peg self into another round hole.

    I am quite creative and I’d say quite intelligent. I seem to be pretty good at a lot of things and unable to master anything in a way I am happy with. When I was young, I was very afraid of conflict, and I think this has made me wish I could live a life free of worry. I have spent a long time internally trying to understand how things are and what the truth is, but I think this has left me confused and disconnected from reality. Ultimately I have sacrificed my own happiness in order to achieve the harmony that I crave.

    I am really at a loss of what to do for a career, I cannot see a future in anything. I like the arts, but cannot seem to get skilled at them. I am skilled in the sciences but cannot seem to find fulfillment there.

    I think just getting this off of my chest has helped.

    Thank you,


    • Alex, I’m sorry I didn’t see this comment when you posted it.

      I don’t have any answers for your situation but I wonder if a counsellor would be able to help you to feel more robust and confident. I think it should be possible to find harmonious relationships and happiness – it doesn’t have to be an either/or choice.

      Best wishes

    • Hey Alex, don’t know if you’ll ever see this comment, since it’s a year out from yours, but wanted to send some encouragement your way. I am also an INFP.

      I, too, have tried to live a life on the fence between the sciences and art. While I have an intuitive gift for understanding the concepts of science, and love – to some degree – discovering things about the human body, I long for the time and the skill to do something with my art.

      I went through a period in college where I felt unable and incompetent at accomplishing the things in music that I desired to accomplish. I knew that I had a spark, a certain gift for expression, but whenever I recorded myself I thought I sounded horrible. The crisis grew so bad that I became depressed and withdrew from college for awhile.

      Now, I am studying in a profession that integrates the art of healing with science. I find it somewhat rewarding, but still miss making music. So, after that period of feeling down about music, I gathered myself up and started practicing music whenever I got free time. I made many musical friends, friends who have encouraged me and inspired me to grow my skills. But honestly, I continue to struggle with the dynamic between needing science to pay the bills and wanting to do something with art.

      I’m not sure how much of this story resonates with you or if it will be helpful to you. I hope, at least, that you know there are others who have struggled with similar things. If you search and try and keep trying, there can be fulfillment in both fields. It is very hard because of time commitments and the feeling that you’re splitting your identity – but being an idealist is always hard. One thing about INFPs is when we’re set on something, we can have a lot of passion. Use that passion to your advantage.

      All the best, and don’t give up!

  6. May I say that this site has enlightened my soul over the past couple of days. I am nearing 50 and debate whether I can hold out in my current career until I retire (most likely not). I loved the job at first as it “married” my financial skills (which I studied for) with my IT skills (which were learned “in the trenches” in the 80’s and onward).

    At first it was all analysis of data, a bit of tech support for our Blackberry users, and I loved it. Now, no tech support, a bunch of day-to-day clerical duties, and the analysis is “back-burnered” and only gets done when there is “spare time” which there never seems to be. I enjoyed that and the tech support the most as they “fed” parts of me. The clerical duties & politics drain me on a daily basis. I’ve been here 6 years and had glowing reviews until last year-needs improvement on mid year and meets on end of year, but I feel as if I’m fading fast in my little “niche”.

    I’ve also had 12 changes of manager in my 6 year span (had a couple of them more than once) just due to shifts within the company. Constantly adjusting to new management styles is very difficult and not helping the situation. It is like convincing each & every one that you are worthy.

    I lack a college degree as “in my time” that wasn’t really necessary. I’ve had 3 years of college way back when.

    I’m not sure what to do at this point. My children are almost out of the house (1 at age 16), and I find myself questioning if we can live on less (I am the primary bread-winner), and if so, how. I could, by myself, but not with the family in tow.

    For now it is just research into what I think I can do – I am extremely diversified skill wise, but need to find another good “niche” to crawl into.

  7. you know, i have been thinking about this “getting in line” with ze nazi besuited polo shirt weekenders and minivan enthusiast types career mom spreadsheet lawn care set who always look at me funny from their suvs like they want to hide their children’s eyes (but i smile at them). i have learned by now that they’re not so bad. you just gotta believe that there is one good thing everyone has in their character arsenal and you may feel less, well less than (you know that happens ;o) or in my case, resentful that these narrow minds control so much in this world. (give me compassion.)

    they are unlikely to have epiphanies on cue and allow our tribe to take over, and maybe that’s not so bad for now. they can do all the mind-numbingly uncreative taSks of maintenance. that’s their part of the bargain. we need types who do the heavy lifting, shoot game, organize things, and guess what, that isn’t me.

    in the grand scheme, and in some darwinian sense, they may be fit survivors. but they only have about as much power over us as we let them.

    we’re the ones who painted the walls of the caves. we’re the ones who mixed the paints. we’re the ones who beat the drums in song. we’re the ones who tended their wounds after battle. and we push with our ideals from the other side to make the progress in society that is our mission.

    so play the jester, conjure their potions in cauldrons it took them 10 meetings to brand and budget and six-sigma-fy. because we’re also warriors, albeit in a quiet manner. and eventually (i am idiotic – quixotic – i know) things will slide on just the way they need to. and in the meantime time between time i intend to just keep out of the paths of the righteous (if you get me) and try to get enough cash to do my thing. that is my religion.

    LOVE to all of yuz
    borderline xNFP

  8. Hey Helen,

    Hated my current job (I am laid off now do to the weather). Working construction can be draining to an INFP, the routine nature of the work, negative people, business mentality, and as the Asian girl said not believing in the work I do really makes the work impossible and horrifically unmotivated. I really don’t want to imagine another five years of it. I have been meeting with a career coach now , and for all curious it is very helpful, in learning about yourself fully (pros and cons). Also, allows you the unique experience of finding the job to match, you and not acting outside of your character to fit a job. But, I found info helpful, so far I have been thinking of becoming a dietitian/ nutritionist, sounds pretty attractive to me, but having trouble taking action (making interviews, etc.)

  9. Aaron, thanks for your comments. For some reason they only popped up in my in box today.

    I take your point about idealism and compromise seeming to be mutually exclusive but as a P I actually am able to go with the flow until an important (to me) value is pushed. Then my F rises up and refuses to budge. Where there is no challenge to my value system my N is often quite happy to take the compromise route and see what exciting possibilities will come as a result.

    As for Bill and Ted; I only saw it once, years ago, so I dare say you’re right.

  10. Thank you for your article. You make some good suggestions for INFPs to find niches that will meet many of their needs. As an INFP, the word “Compromise” in the title did rankle me a bit — we are idealists, after all — but having worked for many years I understand the practicality in your advice.

    I do especially like your suggestion in volunteering! This can be a wonderful way to recharge for us while we’re on the lookout for another niche, as well as doing something meaningful. Balancing the time and income demands can be tricky in this regard, but personal sacrifices are not new to us.

    There is one last thing I feel the need to mention. You quoted Bill & Ted, which for silly nostalgic reasons is one of my favorite movies. The full quote was, “Be excellent to each other!”, not “Be excellent” (at what you do), as you are suggesting. Your suggestion is certainly valid, but it bothered me somewhat that you attributed to Bill and Ted something that they didn’t mean. Granted, they are fictional characters, but their quote was great as it was and didn’t need repurposing. But that’s just my opinion.

  11. Hi Helen,

    Thanks for providing all this useful information. Career coaches aren’t really very popular in the part where I live.

    I suppose what people do is to get information or advices through networking. Networking is not an easy thing for introverts but I took initiatives in signing up for evening classes and joining clubs that I’m interested in. Some of them I enjoyed while others I still need time to explore. What I found most interested in is a Communication Class that I’ve attended recently. It really helps me to know my own strengths or weaknesses more because the teacher always give helpful feedbacks. What’s more, by mixing with people with different ideas, it pulls me closer to rationality. Sometimes it can be hard to handle too much socializing, but I think spending time in solitude at some other time can always keep it more balanced. Another problem with socializing is that I tend to speak before I think. Sometimes I screw up in face-to-face interactions and there are moments of embarrassment. There’s always room for improvement and I always wish to speak like an extrovert can do. But on and on, what I figure out is that we have to accept who we really are. I can’t speak powerful words, but I think I can speak comforting words.

    Best regards,
    Girl from Asia

  12. Hi Girl from Asia,

    I don’t know what part of Asia you are in but I would suggest you go to LinkedIn and look for coaching discussion groups of which there are a few. You could join the groups and then look for a coach from your area. This would not only help you to find them but you could check them out in terms of whether they “sound” like someone who you could work with, by reading their contributions to discussions.

    Try Career Coach Academy, Career Coach Forum, Career Guidance Open Network, and Career Lighthouse. These are the ones I know; there may be others.

    Alternatively, there are coaches who work via the internet and Skype.

    All the best.


  13. Hi Helen,

    Thanks for all the advices. I strongly agree with you that an idealist has to believe in what he/she is doing (or else they will stray away from where they’re going). Whenever things at work/in study/in life go against my perception or unfair/unethical issues popped up, that’s the time when I get discouraged to go on. However, as for now, I’m starting to learn to take another point of view for any situation before making any judgements or decisions. It needs constant practice and I need to be very careful when I need to beat the irrational thought with rational ones. It’s a challenging task but I’ve learnt a lot.

    The story about the INFP gradually shifting from IT to welfare role is very encouraging. So in real life there are atypical career paths that INFPs have created for themselves. I hope I have the perseverance and wisdom to create one by myself, if there’s none available yet. That might mean mingling with a lot of different people in order to get “inspirations”. Thank you so much for telling me this story!

    I am also thinking about your opinion on consulting a career coach. I think it’s more easily accessible to get into contact with one in the western society than in the part where I live. From my observation, there are no such kind of profession here. Where do people usually go when they want to talk to a career coach? What kind of services will a career be able to provide to clients? Maybe I can find such services over the internet too?

  14. I nearly forgot a 4th option for Girl from Asia.

    I read once of an INFP who worked in the IT industry. Over the years she gradually moved sidewards into a welfare role within the company. This recognised her skills which were rarely found within that company, as you might imagine. It also gave her idealism an outlet, as she was able to work directly with individuals and help them. Of course, you don’t have to wait until it’s your job to help people.

  15. Hi Girl from Asia,

    I really feel for you in your struggle to find a sustainable compromise between the practicalities of paying the bills and the aspects of your INFP personality that pull you towards something creative. I am happy for you that you have a new job to go to and hopeful that this one might be less stressful for you.

    One thing that would make the job less stressful is if the ethos/activities of the new company match your value system better, such as managers who are encouraged to recognise the individual gifts of the workforce or making solar panels that will help to save the earth. The INFP (idealist) has to believe in what she is doing.

    Here are some suggestions for making the compromise work:

    1) Set aside time out of work for something creative. I don’t know what is available in your part of the world but in the UK I would suggest signing up for an evening class or club where you could develop skill in a perticular art form, whether visual arts, music, drama, dance or whatever appeals to you. It might only ever be a hobby or it could lead you into some more expressive line of work after you’ve spent time building up a skill. At some point you might value your business skills and experience if it ever comes to setting up your own artistic or craft enterprise.

    2) Use your spare time to volunteer with a local charity. This would help if your rebeliousness is caused by the apparent futility or commercialism of your work life. It would balance that for the present and, again, could lead you in a different direction eventually; for instance, if you were running the business side of a charity you would have a greater sense of achievement than running a business that sold engine parts. Equally, the charity might train you to be a project or case worker, directly involved in making people’s lives better.

    3) Think of your current job as a temporary thing. Take time to reflect on what you would really like to be doing with your life, possibly working with a career coach to ensure you consider all the possibilities and to map out the steps you would need to take to achieve your goals. Create a five year plan (if you can stand the new job for that long) and begin to put it into action. I think most INFPs can sustain a job they don’t like for that long if they have the hope that springs from a vision of a better, achievable future.

    I hope some of this helps.

    Does anyone else have suggestions for Girl from Asia?

    • I can identify with all the steps suggested here. I have a business degree and have been working somewhat in the “back room” most of my life – it was alright.

      But gradually, I moved to managing positions and began to head HR teams and that was when I started to move from one place to another.

      Now I am back in my old firm where I had enjoyed my work before but left because of the politics. However, I am now leading the HR team and just only after 4 months, I am feeling the drain of it.

      But l am using the 3 steps which somewhat are keeping me alive:
      1. I am in a choral group since 2006 and loving it there
      2. I am active in church work
      3. I have just decided only a few days ago in making this current job a temporary one for the next 4-5 years with plans to take up a Masters degree in Counselling. I feel more at peace with myself for now and feeling quite positive in sustaining my current job just so I can pay my bills and support my family.

      I am not sure what will come out of taking the Masters degree but it is enough as a fulfilment of my intellectual needs, and more so, it is a subject I love. It should keep me focused for the next 4-5 years.

      Moreover, I completed a Masters in Christian Studies last year after 8 grueling years of part-time studies and I had been seaching for the next intellectual stimulus. I am glad the search is almost over. Now to wait for the registration to open up for me to submit my application.

      • I came across this post and just want to say thank you to Helen and also the people who contribute in the comment section.

        I am also an INFP and benefit a lot from hearing about the short term plan that I can do for the next 5 years (i know it sounds like a long time), so that I do not have to worry about the minimal survival in, build my resources up in a “bearable job”, with the positivity and optimism that things will change for the better in the future when I can pursue what I truly love (ie. counseling degree as mentioned)

        I have seen what I can do when I truly stand for the possibilities of people and speak from my heart when I was in a life coaching organization. That’s when I could bring people to connect to themselves and what they truly want to the point of tearing up. It’s true that right now, as a new college graduate and elder parents to support, I do not have the luxury to spend additional year in getting a teaching degree. But as much as I think “Money is evil/unethical/not important at all” as an INFP, it is to people who I love, it is to me, who needs to pay off my college loans, and it is if I want to attain the minimal financial freedom to pay my own bills, pay for my own education, and at the same time, gain experience in the real world.

        I know that I will become a great teacher one day, but I always hate hearing the saying “Those that can do, do, those that cannot, teach.” I know that I am not naturally good at Doing– as “INFPs” or not natural Do-ers, but dare I say that we can do better than anyone when we believe in the value and the cause by which we stand for.

        So I end this post with one final word, which is to know what you are doing this for– even if it’s not enjoyable, even if it’s torturous, as long as you know what you are doing it for, engage fully, shine, and may the “compromise” you make in putting in hard work every single day lead you to your dreams.


  16. Hi Helen,

    This is a great article, I feel like someone speaks for me as an INFP because I always find it hard to explain myself clearly to other people. Thanks for writing it up!

    I’ve graduated from uni for almost 2 years now and still struggling with a career path that’s suitable for me. I had some work experience in Finance (I did BCom in uni), I always know that I dislike the subject very much but think that I need to learn to pay my bills and this is a better way to do it. However, after working at a very serious and stressful position in less than 6 months I knew this plan wouldn’t work any longer. While at work, I always find myself struggling with a rebellious mind (which keeps discouraging myself whenever I have to accept the reality at work), combined with uncontrolled emotions. In the end I quitted the job, with some hope that I can search for my dream out there (Dreamer!). But I lack luck. To cut it short, the following half year was 20 job interviews with no offer, combined with break-up, and a broken leg which means a lot of emotional breakdown.

    In fact, I wouldn’t have been in deep thinking about “what kind of a person I really am” if I haven’t gone through a great deal of realization of how the real world runs. I know there’s an urgent need to find out more about myself so that I know how to choose more wisely from now on. I checked that I am an INFP. Thing is, the more I read about INFP personality, the more I think that it’s not a very impressive personality and I actually WANT to change, because I know I have to leave the idealistic world and be closer to reality, wanting to be more mature in the way I think. Being in the minority in the society/work environment is hard. Do you think it’s possible to change? Would you mind pointing me to some directions? I feel lost.

    To add a bit of positive-energy in my comment, I got a job offer yesterday. The job nature is similar to that of my previous one, just less stressful in terms of workload. I think people with other personalities might think that it’s fine to work at this position and will probably work their way through without thinking too much on whether it’s a “suitable job” or not if they were in the same situation. I didn’t argue with myself about taking this offer too, there is no other better option at the moment, but I’m really scared of screwing up again. Helen, would you have any recommendations for me, as an INFP, to survive this job for a bit longer? Until I found inspirations on my next step in work and life?

    Many thanks!

    ps I’ve never thought that there are other people who “think” like the way I do. For some time I thought I was the only outcast feeling stuck and suffocating who sits still watching people enjoy their busy lives, I want to be one of them too. I think other INFPs might have similar feelings at some point in their lives. Interesting enough, I happened to be one of those who can draw and make crafts, so it makes me fall into the category of being an INFP pretty well. I wish I’d started developing my interest into something since early age. It’s so much harder to start again as an adult now.

  17. What an interesting blog, Helen! You certainly have a specific niche! I had to look up what INFP was and I think I am either that or close to it. I find that if I am around a lot of extroverted people, i can hardly find the opportunity to express myself without feeling like I’m interrupting. Do you find that too? How do you network as an introvert?

    • Hi Nanette,

      Thank you for your response.

      I know what you mean about interacting with extroverts. Sometimes, though I find their talkativeness facillitating; they get the ball rolling, break the ice and give me something to respond to. I’m a natural listener rather than a talker but I do like to stick my oar in now and then but only a few people talk so much that they don’t give others a chance.
      Networking doesn’t come naturally. I started using Linked In a lot but now I find that I have joined too many groups and I’m overwhelmed with emails, most of which are really adverts. I have a completed form to join a local breakfast networking group but it has sat on my desk for the last two months waiting for me to write the cheque and post it. Are you starting to get the picture?

  18. Interesting post! Though, I need to brush up on my Myers-Brigs “acronyms.”

    I’d say that with awareness comes great power; meaning that once we understand our behavioral tendencies, we can work on our weak areas, and perhaps capitalize even more on our strengths.

  19. Hi Helen,
    I can feel sympathy with the INFP’s in this world — I am one to (either that or INTP) but I do no understand the claimed entitlement on their uniqueness.

    I looked it up at wikipedia and there are some other combinations even less populated, for instance INFJ

    Hope you can enlighten me on this.


    From Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myers-Briggs_Type_Indicator

    The Sixteen Types
    US Population Breakdown
    The table organizing the sixteen types was created by Isabel Myers (an INFP).
    ISTJ 11–14%
    ISFJ 9–14%
    INFJ 1–3%
    INTJ 2–4%
    ISTP 4–6%
    ISFP 5–9%
    INFP 4–5%
    INTP 3–5%
    ESTP 4–5%
    ESFP 4–9%
    ENFP 6–8%
    ENTP 2–5%
    ESTJ 8–12%
    ESFJ 9–13%
    ENFJ 2–5%
    ENTJ 2–5%

    Estimated percentages of the 16 types in the U.S. population.

    • I don’t remember claiming uniqueness for INFPs but you do raise an interesting question, Crystal.

      This is one of those subjects where it is important to stay up-to-date. When I was first introduced to MBTI in the 90’s, I read that INFPs represented 1% of the population. I am currently using UK data, because I’m based in the UK, from a study done by OPP in 2007. This says that INFP’s are 3.2% of the UK population and gives five other types as being less common (ENTJ = 2.9, ENFJ = 2.8, ENTP = 2.8, INFJ = 1.7, and INTJ = 1.4. INTPs match INFPs at 3.2%). Even at 3.2% we are unlikely to meet many people like ourselves in the average week, unless we meet a lot of people every week, and, as Is, this seems unlikely.

      From a career point of view the general population hardly matters. The prevalence of STJ types in management (I don’t have data to hand for this) means that NFPs are often faced with a need to please their opposite type, which is going to feel like an uphill struggle at best and at worst; next to impossible. At the same time, the pragmatism, which seems to come easily to STJs can leave NFPs feeling distinctly uncomfortable. the INFP is not called the Idealist for nothing.

    • Crystal,
      Wow! That IS interesting!
      So, just to recap… from least population to greatest:

      INFJ 1–3%
      INTJ 2–4%
      ENFJ 2–5%
      ENTJ 2–5%
      INTP 3–5%
      INFP 4–5%
      ESTP 4–5%
      ENTP 2–5%
      ISTP 4–6%
      ENFP 6–8%
      ESFP 4–9%
      ISFP 5–9%
      ESTJ 8–12%
      ESFJ 9–13%
      ISFJ 9–14%
      ISTJ 11–14%

      Hmm… thanks! 😀
      I have a question: Can you change types as you grow up? Up until my late teens, I tested positive for INTP- but this was through use of only one source, though I positively received the same results when I took the same test twice more over the course of three years. Since then I definitely HAVE changed quite a bit, and I test positively 100% of the time for INFP no matter what source I use. Any ideas why this would be so?

    • As an INFP with a father who always encouraged me to “follow my heart” I ended up going to a liberal arts college, then to grad school for an MFA in painting, and on to a series of college teaching jobs in 6 different colleges (never tenure-track) raising two children along the way and divorcing my controlling husband and much later finding the perfect partner who cooks and cleans… All my energy has gone into my art career. I don’t earn much but I am very happy painting what I want to and sharing it with a small following who appreciate it.

    • Helen,

      I really loved this, great article! I am definitely an INFP, score that way everytime and seem to relate very well to the description of this personality. The only issue I find is that I am very aggressive, direct and assertive, (but not mean/angry) which always throws me off in this category. Have you met these “types” of INFPs or share this sort of trait as an INFP?

      • I am an INFP as well. I exhibit all of the traits detailed in the original post and the subsequent one by the career counselor from the UK with one additional characteristic. After a 6 year stint living and working in Manhattan, my INFP traits are coupled with a fiercely independent aggressiveness (only way to survive in NYC to be honest). My personal ethos is still intuitive and personal, but I learned that I must doggedly protect myself (and the people I care about). In fact, I usually have to tone it down, or keep it subdued because to others, even those who know me, my perspective is sometimes brutally harsh and unforgiving. I try to explain that I know exactly who and what I am (through sometimes painful self-assessment), and expect the same candid understanding in others. My thought is if I don’t pretend to be something I’m not (one of the other personality types, for example) why should I put up with others who haven’t taken the the time to reflect on their own strengths and weaknesses? If I can see these traits in them, why can’t they? Anyway, it is an old argument and best if I just keep it to myself until someone asks, and then I give what I see. What they do with that opinion is up to them. Usually they listen, sometimes they don’t. But back to the purpose of this post. I too am an assertive INFP Katherine. Life knocked me around a bit and taught me how to protect my sensitive soul.

      • Hi Katherine,

        I only just saw your comment.

        Being aggressive, direct and assertive is generally associated with being in an area about which you feel passionately; most commonly when one of your values is being challenged. I don’t know if it also links to the INFP’s desire for authenticity, which can lead one to be brutally honest sometimes. I certainly can relate to that kind of behaviour and I have often felt that I should try to be more diplomatic.

        I’m glad you liked the blog.


      • Katherine,
        I get where you are coming from! I do not share those traits naturally, but I often slip into that role when I want to take control of the situation- and fast.
        I am glad that you posted this, because although I score INFP every time from every website thus far (whether I take my time, or zip though them), I am EXTREMELY loud. I hum, sing, whistle throughout the day and dance a lot. I crave physical exertion, and usually vault out of bed with some sort of Naruto-volumed saying or exclamation. I blast music while studying or working, and I listen to language tracks when I go for walks. I easily carry conversations, and people generally think that I am a very social person.
        This seems the epitome of extroverted behaviour to me…


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