I’m an INTP, but I used to think I’m an INFP ten years ago

I found an old Moleskin notebook I used to keep 10 years ago. I was still in university back then.

It wasn’t embarrassing so much as puzzling.

First of all, it’s way too abstract and pretty much useless. There is almost zero concrete information talking about what is happening in my life and what I do everyday. Almost all of it is abstract musings around writing and society and people, and even those are kind of pointless because back then, I used to rebel against structure.

Back then, I though I was an INFP.

Like all bad ideas, it started with a charismatic professor at university. He taught German literature and philosophy.

He would deliver these incredible speeches that belong more in an Oscar Wilde book than in modern day Japan. He talked about the human soul, the role of art, and importance of writing. I was brainwashed convinced right away, bless my Fe inferior, and promptly went on to emulate this wonderful, perfect father figure.

I threw away the ideas of productivity, efficiency, and structure. Because they were bad or ugly or something. And I drudgingly went on to find a job, but of course, any sane employer doesn’t want a resentful artsy fartsy person on their team. So I couldn’t find anything, and eventually settled on freelancing and a mishmash of other random gigs (which I don’t recommend as a way to start your career, by the way. For one, you won’t have a career – you’ll be mindlessly plowing through low-level tasks everyday. You may as well be an intern. And it’s better to learn the ropes in an organization before you go out on your own).

The two things I was the most concerned about back then, as a fake INFP, was (1) authenticity, and (2) how horrible the idea of money and capitalism is, and the horrible truth that I must live within its boundaries, and how horribly unfair this whole ordeal is.

I’ve pretty much sorted these two “problems” out, by the way. (Skip if you don’t care — I’ll get back to my story after the wall of text I promise. Scroll to the kitten.)

(1) Authenticity

I was stuck because I had erroneously assumed that there is some Platonic “real me” out there somewhere, and that my job as a human being was to “channel” it, and to live according to the ideal. And that the “physical me” sitting in an office and “sucking up” to capitalism is fake, a lie, and that reality is horrible and shit. This isn’t wrong, by the way, according to Idealism in philosophy. But the problem with this approach is that it fucking feels horrible when you adopt this worldview. Because by definition, you’re starting with the assumption that the physical world is “bad”, and the ideal world “good”, so by default you’re damming yourself, a physical, animal, imperfect being, into being “bad” from the get-go. Every time you can’t articulate an idea perfectly, every brush stroke that isn’t quite perfect, every piece of skin that doesn’t look like a pristine CG image is a reminder of your “bad”-ness. Does it come as a surprise that people with high ideals have mental health problems?

So yeah, according to nitty gritty philosophical arguments, you’re right. Idealism can’t be refuted (or at least according to a beginner book written by Bertland Russel I read some time last year). But just because something can’t be refuted, does it mean you should make it the core philosophy of your life? Even if it doesn’t serve you? Even when the conclusion leads to suicide?

I personally think commiting suicide for an ideal is fucking stupid. But I thought it was legit when I was 20.

(2) how horrible the idea of money and capitalism is, and the horrible truth that I must live within its boundaries, and how horribly unfair this whole ordeal is

I used to feel this way when I was 20. And I hear the same sentiment from other people, and still can relate to them as a human being, somewhat. But I can’t take it seriously anymore.

Because for one, this sentiment is very hard to separate from the person’s background resentments.

We don’t know if the person is genuinely referring to the abstract idea of money, or whether they are projecting their emotions of hurt or resentment. I certainly couldn’t, and still can’t. Will they still feel this way if they were paid more than enough to support their lifestyle, and had plenty of intelligent, healthy friends, and a loving partner? If their work was appreciated and understood by other people? If they were in perfect health with bodies that allow them to move with joy? We can’t conduct this experiment for obvious reasons and will never know. One thing to keep in mind though, is that missing 1 hour of sleep is sufficient to influence one’s mood the next day. Imagine how this compares to living a shitty life, which continues for 24 hours a day, potentially for decades.

Photo by Alex .B on Pexels.com

Okay back to the story since I’m getting bored of these arguments.

So anyways, I became enamoured by a charismatic INFP professor. He was a father figure. In an attempt to become more like him, I stopped thinking logically and went full on touchy feely. I made an internal pact to make decisions purely based on my beliefs and feelings.

A quote I loved from back in the day:

“Pleasure is Nature’s test, her sign of approval.”

― Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

I essentially went around being a bohemian/freelancer/creator kind of thing, and it was miserable and I hated myself. I was depressed, it was horrible, and I really couldn’t wish this life on anyone. It was a fucking disaster.

There were some positives to come out of the experience, though.

  • I got the “want to be an artist” thing out of my system — and figured out that for me, it’s good enough to keep as a hobby (and even that would come after learning and exercise if I’m being entirely honest…)
  • I followed through the Fi feelings based lifestyle to its logical conclusion: lack of structure, financial difficulties, making problems where they don’t exist, mental health issues, alienating other people, obscuring the truth, etc etc etc
  • And I found that these things aren’t worth it, at least for me

I still do sometimes think I could be an INFP. I have weirdly strong feelings about art and music, and get insecure when a Te person confronts me on a wrong detail — that sounds pretty INFP.

I am pretty pessimistic about humanity in general, and kind of know deep down that the world is headed in the wrong direction. On a cosmic scale.

But to me, at least in 2021, it all comes down to the individual level.

Because, let’s say the world really is going in the wrong direction.

Who cares?

There is nothing I can do about it. It is aeons above my pay grade, or my abilities. The best I can do is way smaller: at least make sure the people I work with aren’t suffering because of something I do. Or at least don’t go around actively harming other people. Don’t add more misery to the world.

These things are small, and petty, and mundane.

Yet I would like to ask you.

Can you do them?

Do you do them?