Who am I? What was I born to do? Where do I belong? How can I live my best life?
These are the sorts of questions that preoccupy INFPs throughout their life’s journey. Such questions take on particular salience and importance in early adulthood, when INFPs are compelled to take seriously the task of self-discovery. INFPs invariably feel they have something unique and important to contribute to the world. And their job is to figure out what that looks like.
For better or worse, the quest for self-discovery is rarely as smooth or seamless as INFPs anticipate. In addition to the inherent challenges of acquiring self-knowledge, INFPs find an unexpected and in many cases unwelcome companion shadowing them along the way—doubt.
INFPs’ propensity for doubt can disrupt even their most earnest attempts to understand themselves and their place in the world. For some, doubt can be debilitating, engendering a demoralized sense of “stuckness” or aimlessness.
As one of the most naturally creative personality types, INFPs relish exploring new ideas and possibilities. It almost goes without saying that a shortage of ideas or options is rarely a problem for this type. The real challenge for INFPs is narrowing their options, finding and committing to a particular life path.
Even INFPs who finally feel they’ve identified the right path aren’t necessarily off the hook. For many, it’s only a matter of time before they start questioning things again, allowing uncertainty to once again regain the upper hand. Watching their well-intentioned decisions be eroded by undercurrents of doubt can be deeply discouraging for INFPs.
Like other types, INFPs exhibit certain patterns of thought and behavior. Most relevant to this discussion is a pattern I call the “Seek-Doubt Cycle,” which takes the following form:
Seek –> Find –> Doubt –> Seek
As depicted above, this cycle starts with a keen interest in seeking, which, among other things, includes INFPs’ intention to understand themselves—their personality, values, interests, etc.—and their place in the world.
However, as the cycle unfolds and potential solutions are identified, doubt creeps in. In many respects, doubt can be seen as a natural product of INFPs’ open-mindedness and unwillingness to accept mediocre solutions. Doubt urges us to dig deeper, question our assumptions, and further refine our understanding.
Considering doubt’s potential benefits, INFPs shouldn’t see their struggles as abnormal or indicative of an underlying character flaw. The presence of doubt suggests that we aren’t merely passive spectators, but active participants, in the unfolding narrative of our life. It’s a perfectly normal and healthy part of being an INFP. Indeed, I’d be surprised to find an INFP who didn’t wrestle with doubt on a semi-frequent basis.
That said, there are times in life when doubt proves less useful and fails to serve INFPs’ best interests. When what’s needed isn’t more doubt or deliberation, but purposeful action, INFPs must find a way of answering the call.
The need for purposeful action emerges not only in response to external pressures (e.g., needing to choose a career path or declare a college major), but from an inner prompting to find one’s path in life. This inner prompting is of particular value and importance to the INFP, a type known to march to the beat of its own drummer.
But even when INFPs reach a point in their journey when they feel ready to transition from “seeker mode” to one of purposeful action, doubts and fears arise. For many INFPs, the prospect of limiting themselves to ONE path can be terrifying, inciting all sorts of concerns and worries, including fears of missing out.
Such INFPs often feel stuck between two competing options, namely, between an open horizon of possibilities and commitment to a singular passion. This struggle can be understood, at least in part, as arising from different aspects of the INFP personality.
On the one hand, INFPs are incredibly open personalities. Drawing on their powers of Extraverted Intuition (Ne), they love exploring a breadth of ideas, cultures, and interests. The idea of limitless possibilities, as symbolized by Ne, not only resonates with the INFP imagination, but assuages concerns regarding commitment or making the wrong choice. In other words, some INFPs find it comforting, at least for a while, to leave everything open-ended and all their options on the table.
On the other hand, INFPs are also Introverts. As such, they are eager to find their own unique role and purpose, something they can pour their hearts (Fi) and souls into. Not only does this promise a meaningful channel for their values and creative energies, but can quiet fears of aimlessness or squandering one’s life.
In this light, INFPs’ doubt is not merely circumstantial, but is intrinsic to their personality type. It reflects a tension between parts of themselves with differing views and values. Finding a way forward thus requires reconciling these competing voices. INFPs must create a bridge between their desire for limitless possibilities and their interest in purposeful action and investment.
If you’d like to learn more about how to clarify your path as an INFP, be sure to explore our online course, Finding Your Path as an INFP, INTP, ENFP or ENTP.