The INFP personality type makes up about 4-5% of the population, outnumbering INFJs at a pace of three to one. INFPs are idealistic, humane, creative, quirky, and individualistic. They see themselves as unique individuals, equipped with a special blend of skills and abilities.
With Introverted Feeling (Fi) as their dominant function, INFPs’ (and ISFPs’) emotions are deep, intense, and personal. This contributes a deep sense of attachment and loyalty, even jealousy, toward the objects of their affection. INFPs empathize with and form attachments to those that affect their own emotions (Fi), such as their own pets, children, or the victims of an act of injustice. Instead of broadly distributing their F-related concerns (the way of Fe types), INFPs (and other Fi types) funnel their emotional energies into select individuals, groups, or causes. This is why Fi is often said to be intensive, whereas Fe is extensive.
INFPs can commonly be found helping individuals that are sick, disabled, disenfranchised, or otherwise in need. They love rescuing or helping the helpless, such as adopting abandoned pets from the animal shelter. They take up “niche” causes that have affected them personally, such as rallying for research for a rare disease.
INFPs want to feel inspired. They need their Fi to be stimulated and impassioned. They may therefore seek out, even if unconsciously, experiences that arouse or intensify feelings of passion, inspiration, or meaning. They may turn to relationships, novels, poetry, music, travel, or charity work to achieve their desired level of intensity. In romantic relationships, INFPs can feel restless and dissatisfied when the passion or intrigue wanes.
Since Fi is introverted in direction, INFPs’ status as Feelers is not always evident when viewed from without. When immersed in Fi, INFPs can often seem cold, aloof, indifferent, moody, or hypersensitive. But despite their Fi’s lack of emotional warmth, INFPs’ auxiliary function, Extraverted Intuition (Ne), often steps in to compensate. When using Ne, INFPs present as open, receptive, quirky, and even fun.
Because INFPs are outwardly receptive and non-judgmental, they can serve as veritable dumping grounds for others’ problems. This can engender a sense of emotional heaviness, leading some INFPs to have a tragic or melancholic air about them.
Many INFPs are well-described as “earthy,” both in appearance and lifestyle. Female INFPs tend to go light on the make-up and are generally less concerned with being fashionable than ISFPs are. INFPs also content themselves with rather meager or Bohemian living arrangements, flanked with second-hand furniture and decor. Designer clothes, fine meals, and extravagant vacations are rarely high on their priority list. Male INFPs, especially early in life, often assume the role of the lone wanderer. Almost always lovers of nature, many take to the trails, mountains, and wilderness in hopes of passionately connecting with what they see as the essence of life.
Although body types do not always closely correspond to personality types (especially in females), there is evidence to suggest that INFPs are disposed to more of an ectomorphic build. If mesomorphs are envisioned as square and chiseled and endomorphs as rounder in shape, ectomorphs can be pictured as more linear and lanky. While it is not all that unusual, at least in the Western world, to encounter INFPs who have taken on a rounder shape, only rarely are they heavily muscled.
Of all types, INFPs are among those most explicitly concerned with achieving a holistic balance of mind (Ne), body (Si), and emotions (Fi). Toward this end, they often populate self-help, “human potential,” or bodywork seminars. Such holistic practices may also serve as attractive and viable career paths for many INFPs. They may find their niche in alternative or complementary medicine, homeopathy, naturopathy, Reiki, etc. Others might opt to study psychology, nursing, or ecology. Because Ne and Si are adjacent in their functional stack, INFPs (like INTPs) enjoy work that allows them to bridge theory (N) and practice (S).
Like ENFPs, INFP career-seekers can be drawn to all sorts of creative endeavors—poetry, music, drama, fiction writing, the fine arts, and the like. Creative expression is in many ways the lifeblood of artistically-inclined INFPs. It not only provides INFPs an enjoyable sense of intensity and absorption, but an opportunity for self-discovery and self-expression.
INFP Personality Type Development & Functional Stack
INFPs’ functional stack is composed of the following functions:
Dominant: Introverted Feeling (Fi)
Auxiliary: Extraverted Intuition (Ne)
Tertiary: Introverted Sensing (Si)
Inferior: Extraverted Thinking (Te)
INFPs’ personality type development can be broadly conceived as consisting of three phases:
Phase I (Childhood)
This phase is characterized by the development and employment of INFPs’ dominant function, Introverted Feeling (Fi). Phase I INFPs tend to be highly idealistic and quick to judge (even if keeping most of their opinions to themselves). In this phase, they have yet to grasp the bigger picture of reality (Ne). While their Fi confers a strong sense of right and wrong, their moral sensibilities have yet to be opened by the use and development of their Ne.
Phase II (Adolescence-30s)
Once their dominant Fi reaches a certain threshold of strength and dominance, INFPs’ inferior function, Extraverted Thinking (Te), enters the picture and begins to play a more influential role. This can be confusing because Te is not next in line in their functional stack. Its undue influence derives from its bipolar relationship with INFPs’ dominant Fi. Phase II INFPs are also characterized by a propensity for seeking and experimentation. In developing their auxiliary function, Extraverted Intuition (Ne), INFPs explore new ideas and open up some of their Fi judgments. They realize that some of their earlier judgments were premature, too black-and-white, or uncritically inherited artifacts from their childhood. This may compel them to embark on a journey of discovering their own truth, including obtaining a clearer understanding of themselves and their place in the world.
Phase III (30s, 40s, & Beyond)
If all goes well and they are fortunate enough to enter Phase III, INFPs become increasingly aware of the insidious ways of their inferior Te. As they become more aware of their inferior and learn to function more authentically as INFPs, they experience greater balance between their Fi and Te. They learn that integrating their Te happens naturally and indirectly as they go about authentically using their Fi, Ne, and Si. As they cultivate conditions that support their natural strengths, Phase III INFPs come to experience a heightened sense of peace, wholeness, and satisfaction.
INFPs’ Dominant Function: Introverted Feeling (Fi)
Introverted Feeling (Fi) is a Judging function. As an introverted function, it is directed inwardly, actively brokering and managing personal tastes, values, and emotions .
As we saw earlier, Fi is more intensive and selective in its focus than Fe tends to be. This is one reason why Fi types seem particularly bent on having their own children, which can serve as a longstanding, rewarding investment for their Fi energies. Finding a niche cause or artistic outlet can also provide an object of focus for their Fi.
While Fe turns to others for emotional support and kinship, Fi deals with emotions more independently. When INFPs do opt to outwardly express their feelings and values, they often do so indirectly—through active (S), creative (Ne), or rational (Te) expressions.
Since Fi judgments are personalized rather than customary, INFPs can be wary of Fe judgments and expressions. To INFPs, Fe expressions can seem generic, predictable, shallow, fake, or contrived. Their distaste for what they might consider the facades of Fe may lead some INFPs to further dampen their own expressions of positive emotions. Some may even repress positive feelings within themselves, often unwittingly, to bolster their ideal of real and authentic Feeling. Others may assume the role of the victim or martyr. These Fi-Fe differences can at times make communication difficult between Fi and Fe types. INFPs may find themselves questioning the Fe’s sincerity, while the Fe may wish the INFP would display a little more good feeling to enhance rapport and emotional resonance. But Fi is more concerned with authentic feelings than it is with good feelings.
Fi also works to mold and shape its own worldview—a personalized system of values—that can serve as a platform for self-understanding and decision-making. In this sense, it is similar to Ti, which also involves a process of building or modifying an inner structure. This Fi structuring process was nicely illustrated by one of my INFP blog contributors:
“My inner values and feelings (Fi) are like a building, a structure of affections that inform my worldview. This involves an inner love for certain things, and an inner repulsion for other things. My values and feelings form “blocks” of varying hardness, depending on how strongly I feel about them; the stronger ones are more resilient…I constantly discover more about the structure as I go, and what I should change to make it better. For example, I didn’t have to factually discern a respect for human dignity; I simply found myself in situations where people did not respect human dignity, and it made me angry — I found out that I hate bullying.”
As introverted Judging functions, Fi and Ti share much in common. Both are intensive and focused rather than broad and extensive. Both involve a more individualized or subjective process of Judging. Just as Ti runs counter to the standardized methods of Te, Fi diverges from the broad, collective focus of Fe. Both can be skeptical of large systems or standardized ways of doing things.
Fi and Ti differ primarily in their focus. As we’ve seen, INFPs feel compelled to help the sick, needy, children, and animals. Ti types, by contrast, are less motivated to directly help or care for others. INFPs are also inclined toward art, poetry, and other means of self-expression, whereas NTPs are more interested in conceptual pursuits than artistic ones. Of course, these lines can sometimes be blurred on account of the inferior function, which, for better or worse, often inspires INFPs to pursue Te sorts of interests.
(This Personality Junkie type profile is continued on the next page.)