INFPs Across The Lifespan
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you into something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
ore so than any other type, the INFP is likely to feel as though they’ve embodied a thousand different personalities throughout their lifetime.
This type lives in a world of identity possibilities and they are constantly shifting their perspective and redefining exactly what it means to be themselves.
But identity crises aside, the INFP’s cognitive functions develop in a particular chronological order, just like any other type.
In childhood, INFPs lead predominantly with introverted feeling. They make for thoughtful and reserved children, who take in the world around them in a mystic, almost dreamlike manner. This type grows into their extroverted intuition in adolescence and their introverted sensing and extroverted thinking follow suit in early to late adulthood. For the first two to three decades of their lives, INFPs are likely to be most aware of their introverted feeling and extroverted intuition, as they are the primary functions they rely on.
INFPs In Childhood
INFPs make for vividly imaginative children, who often prefer their own fanciful interpretation of the world to the actual world that they live in.
Though they are agreeable and eager to please those around them, the INFP child experiences life on a highly sentimental level—one that those around them may be completely unaware of. This type is deeply tuned into the emotional experiences of themselves and those around them, to the point where
their own thoughts can feel as loud as the real-world stimuli that they are taking in.
It may take the INFP years to realize that others are not experiencing life in the same highly intense fashion as they are. Once they do eventually come to this conclusion, it can be both an isolating experience and a liberating one. They may feel disconnected from those around them, but also finally understand why they have felt just a little bit different their whole lives. Perhaps more so than any other type, the INFP possesses an incredibly deep and complex inner world, which can be incredibly difficult to communicate to those around them—particularly throughout childhood, when they are already struggling to understand the world around them and their place within it.
As Children, INFPs:
Often appear dreamy and aloof to others.
Are happiest in peaceful, harmonious environments. Enjoy imaginative, independent play as toddlers.
Gravitate toward meaningful one-on-one interactions with others. Shy away from crowds or aggressive environments.
Are extremely sensitive to criticism of any sort.
Are eager readers and learners as they reach school age. Direly want to please their teachers and parents.
Invest themselves heavily in deep, loyal friendships with selected peers.
Often appear disorganized or absent-minded when it comes to day- to-day concerns.
Can become so absorbed in their inner world of thoughts and feelings that they sometimes appear to lose touch with their external environment.
May recognize from a young age that they experience life significantly differently than the majority of their peers.
React best to positive, supportive interaction with parents and authority figures
Crave understanding, connection and validation from their loved ones above all else.
Common Chal enges INFPs Face In Childhood:
Young INFPs may grow up feeling as though there is something inherently ‘wrong’ or ‘flawed’ with the way they think (Particularly if they are raised by strong thinking or sensing types), which can breed feelings of incompetence and low self-esteem.
INFPs display a genuine love for learning, but often struggle to complete assignments that do not contain a ‘human element,’ to them, as they find impersonal reasoning to be uninteresting.
INFPs desire deep, meaningful connections with those around them and may feel overwhelmed by the ‘politics’ of a school environment, in which there is an immense pressure to befriend many people on a superficial level.
INFPs have an intense dislike of conflict and are likely to become deeply upset by schoolyard disputes or fights with friends, taking these clashes extremely personally.
Because INFPs intuitively understand from a young age that they are different from those around them, they are highly sensitive to any quips, comments or well-intentioned jokes that highlight these differences between themselves and others. Their negative reactions to these comments may cause others to perceive them as overly sensitive, which only exaggerates their feelings of isolation.
INFPs may struggle to keep up with their external environments on a day-to-day basis, as their thoughts often carry them away from reality and cause them to tune out things that are happening around them— much to the frustration of their parents and teachers.
Male INFPs may feel pressure to hide their sensitive nature, in order to appear more ‘masculine’ as they grow up. This is likely to cause a great deal of strain for the INFP, as they predominantly wish to stay true to themselves and their genuine identity in life.
To the INFP, everything that happens is an extension of their very identity. Performing poorly on a school assignment, disappointing a parent or failing at an activity they attempt may impact the INFP and their self-perception much more deeply than their parents or loved ones realize. Being told to ‘brush it off’ simply does not work for this sensitive type.
Raising An INFP Child
INFP children are both a joy and a challenge to raise. While these types are loving and eager to please on their best days, they also grapple with deep feelings of being misunderstood, which can manifest as a major source of conflict with their parents as they age. It’s important to keep in mind when raising an INFP child that their predominant wish is to be seen, accepted and loved by their parents for exactly who they are.
This type—more so than any of the other sixteen types—needs to formulate their own unique identity and have it be accepted by others. The INFP who feels accepted and supported for who he or she is, is an INFP who is likely to thrive.
Here are a few things to keep in mind if you are raising an INFP child:
Never shame the INFP child for feeling a certain way—this will not get them to ‘snap out of it,’ if they are behaving irrationally, it will only cause them to feel misunderstood and withdraw further.
Frame criticism in a positive and encouraging way—the INFP child thrives when they feel as though their loved ones believe in them and can see their unique potential.
Understand that your INFP child is often just as lost as to why he or she is feeling a certain way as you are. Emotional awareness takes time and many young INFPs are intimidated and confused by the intensity of their own emotions—they are not choosing to feel things as deeply as they do.
Understand that your INFP’s primary method of understanding the world is, by definition, egocentric—but that does not mean they are destined to become egotistical or selfish. It simply means that in order to understand the world around them, they first must understand how they themselves relate to it.
Make a habit of asking your INFP child directly how he or she feels about various experiences in his or her life. This validates the INFP child immensely and makes them feel more open to and receptive of your guidance.
When enforcing rules, explain to the INFP child why the rules exist, particularly as they relate to maintaining peace and justice.
Challenge your INFP child to accomplish mundane tasks in a creative way, as they remain most engaged in activities that allow them the opportunity to express themselves.
Encourage your INFP’s love of reading and learning. Don’t assume that a quiet day in with their books is less stimulating for them than an active day out in the world.
Make sure your INFP child is as informed and prepared as possible for any major life changes that are coming up for them. This type requires a great deal of time to emotionally process even positive upsets and the more advance warning you can give them, the better.
As often as possible, answer your INFP child’s inquiries about the world from a humanitarian angle. This type relates best to highly personal forms of reasoning that they can analyze from a subjective standpoint.
Regularly encourage your INFP child to put him or her self in others shoes, as this both teaches them empathy and helps them to realize that they are more similar to others than they may inherently feel they are.