I was about 17 when I took a Myers-Briggs-inspired personality type test for the first time. It was an online test and getting the results was a major eye-opening moment. I wrote in my journal about how learning that I was an INFP would “change my life forever!”
Then over the next few months, I forgot about it, and things went on as normal. Knowing my personality type failed to make a real impact in my life until I was dealing with another bout of depression 5 years ago.
After reaffirming that INFP is my type, I found myself discovering that those four letters say a lot about what I need to stay emotionally healthy.
I wish so much that I would have dove deeper into the intricacies of my personality type when I was in my late teens and early twenties. However, I’m still happy that now I know what I need to regain my emotional balance.
Maintaining emotional balance is difficult because I feel things so deeply. But it’s okay to get knocked down in life sometimes. What matters is knowing how to stand back up.
So here is what I wish I knew earlier about my emotional health as an INFP.
I need a lot of rest
And I hate the fact that I do. I want to keep going and going. But over the years I’ve come to accept that I need regular downtime.
The best kind of rest gives me room to work through my thoughts and values. Often that involves setting a 10- minute timer and then sitting on the couch with my eyes closed. I do nothing more than let my brain drift. Sometimes I’m thinking hard about stuff. Other times I’m daydreaming. It’s also not unusual for me to doze off.
After these short sessions, I often have a better idea of what’s going on with me for the day. I feel more composed and focused.
Outside time is essential
Often when I’m feeling unfocused and disconnected, going outside is a relief. I spend a ton of time in my head. So getting outdoors helps me to reconnect with the outside world and my body. I often walk barefoot, so I can feel the concrete and the grass.
Getting outside doesn’t have to be a big deal. I often find that sitting out on the porch is enough.
I should have never stopped journaling
For some unknown reason, in my early 20’s I stopped journaling. At the time I was focused on working on my webcomic, so it just slipped off my radar.
Unfortunately, when depression visited me, I had no recent journal entries to look back on to reorient myself.
With previous periods of depression, past journal entries were the first thing I would turn to. Re-reading them always helped me to get a better picture of why I’m not feeling well.
By not having a journal, I could not name my emotions and was unable to put them into a meaningful context. I felt numb. Plus, I had no clear picture of what I wanted in my life or was currently experiencing.
I realized that not journaling was a huge mistake. I started back again as soon as I could. Throughout my depression, I did some very deep journaling, and it helped me to reconnect to myself and let go of past things I no longer needed.
Books can be great companions
Books have helped me to get through feeling misunderstood. They are a reminder that there are many other people out there, real and imaginary, that I can relate to. Books connect like-minded people.
When people frustrate me, I pull out a favorite book. Not only do I feel less alone when I read, but I also find that I care more about the experiences of others.
For more thoughts on the awesome companionship of books, I recommend checking out A Velocity of Being: Letters to Young Readers which was compiled and edited by Maria Popova and Claudia Bedrick. It’s lovely book reminders readers of why even in our video-obsessed world, writing and books are still important.
Taking time to understand myself is important
Many INFPs carry the feeling of being misunderstood, myself included.
The feeling of no one ever “understanding” me was a constant thorn in my side throughout childhood to the first half of my 20’s.
Then one day I thought, “I keep going on about how others don’t understand me. But how much do I know about me?”
This lead to me becoming a major personality type addict. MBTI, the Enneagram, The Big 5, archetypes…there is no end to systems of understanding who you are.
I also took the VIA Character Strengths assessment, which is a test that needs to be retaken every year or so because your strengths change over time.
After all of this, I realized how much work it takes for me to understand myself. I’m in my own body and getting to know me is hard. I’m always changing. If it takes this much effort to even begin to understand myself, it definitely cannot be easy for those who are outside of me.
With this realization, I became a lot more forgiving of those who don’t fully understand where I’m coming from. It still bothers me from time to time, but overall I’m much happier, and I don’t worry much about people not getting me.
Take positive action, no matter how small
My mind vividly processes my life. As a result, I often get stuck in fear, anxiety, and indecision. When I feel paralyzed, deciding to take a small positive step forward helps me to get moving.
That can involve making a cup of tea, washing a few dishes, reading exciting fiction, listening to a podcast, or taking a nap. The steps I take depend on what I need to fulfill. If my house is crazy, washing only a few dishes is enough to get me to stop freaking out about how out of control everything feels.
What matters is that I’m moving in a positive direction, instead of being stuck in emotions that aren’t helpful. I’ve come to appreciate that my emotions tend to follow my actions.
So these are the things I wish I would have known earlier about my emotional health as an INFP.
Does anything in this article resonate with you? If so, feel free to reach out via Twitter or Email!. I would love to know what you think!