First, I must disclose that I’m a Thinking type – but thanks to my mom’s frequently asking: “how would your sister feel?” or “how would your friends react?” – that over time, I’ve done a lot of thinking about how other people may feel. This alone tells you something about me, however, my research and writing isn’t about me or about my creative process. Instead, it’s about helping you find the ways that are right for you. In fact one of the reasons that creativity is so misunderstood is because when people try to show us the ways they are creative, often their ways aren’t right for us.
Today, with so much changing in our lives at home and at work, we all need to use our creativity – but unfortunately many of us were discouraged from acting creatively by people who criticized us. In fact, many times, especially for INFJs who make up only about one percent of the population, our critics and teachers had a different personality type as us and as they showed us what worked for them, we saw their ways weren’t right for us – and we started to feel uncreative.
I’ve heard so many people say they stopped seeing themselves as creative at the very moment when they were doing something they were excited about like painting the sky in a yellow color, and were criticized for the very original thing they were most proud. When your originality gets laughed out, the easy choice is to stop trying – but not trying is not using your unique creativity and this is a disservice for everyone.
Furthermore, INFJs are often misunderstood simply because they tend to keep so much of their wonderful Intuition to themselves – and instead what they show in public is their Feeling function – and this isn’t very easy to put into words for others to comprehend.
For this reason, if you’re an INFJ, it’s especially helpful for you to learn ways to express your ideas by translating what’s in your mind into a form others can appreciate. This can be done by learning and practicing techniques such as writing, drawing, playing an instrument, or dance to name a few. After all – we all have ideas and we’re all capable of learning techniques to express our ideas.
With Otto Kroeger, I spent about eight years researching the connection between personality type and creativity. I’m happy to share some excerpted parts from CREATIVE YOU from the INFJ profile. Please keep in mind the context as these passages are from the middle of the book.
“Inspiring others, INFJs are contemplative visionaries whose creative style is driven by the possibilities they see in people.
INFJs’ strength and inspirations for their creativity comes from their rich imagination of fantasy and theory through their dominant Intuition, while they persistently and outwardly express their own personal values using their second strength, Feeling. “There is an indefinable, mysterious power that pervades everything. I feel it, though I do not see it,” described Mohandas Gandhi, who continued, “It transcends the senses.” Gandhi used nonviolent civil disobedience to lead the independence movement in India. In true INFJ form, Gandhi internalized his message by using his own body to endure hunger strikes and imprisonment—a bold, creative act of passionate defiance that sent ripples throughout the globe and history.
If you’re an INFJ (an Inspirer), you may agree with philosopher and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson when he said, “People only see what they are prepared to see.” As an IJ (Introverted Judger), you contemplate and plan, and as an NF (Intuitive Feeler), you see what is meaningful and corresponds with your values. Furthermore, your reflectiveness and Intuition allow you to visualize ideas without requiring an actual stimulus to be present. The visions in your mind’s eye are what you share; however, being private, you may prefer to express indirectly through complexities and abstractions.
INFJs develop an understanding of individuals by evaluating past context with present events. Connecting the dots in people’s personalities allows them to construct multifaceted composites. Besides people, they also notice patterns and trends. And when they overlay their understanding of people with the trends that they see, a vision of the future emerges.
An Inspirer’s ideas may bubble up through different creative outlets. In spite of his “mad genius” persona, Vincent van Gogh’s eight hundred letters reveal a theoretical and intelligent dreamer with a grounded side. Religion played an important part in his life, and he particularly empathized with the poor. INFJs often strive for something beyond material or financial rewards, and Van Gogh was particularly rewarded when he made others happy. After completing a commission for one dealer, he said, “Because my work pleased him from first to last, I consider myself already sufficiently paid.”
As Inspirers, INFJs also share their visions through words. “They use an unusual degree of imagery in their language—the kind of imagery found in complex and often aesthetic writing, such as novels, plays, and poems . . . They are masters of the metaphor.” Metaphors can persuade and enlighten by making intangibles into something physical. Gandhi frequently spoke in metaphors to get his point across: “You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”
Like Gandhi, INFJs contemplate and strategize about interrelationships, and prefer to quietly lead and direct from behind the scenes. By keeping many of their thoughts to themselves, their creativity isn’t immediately apparent to others or even to themselves. Isabel Briggs Myers explained, “A masterpiece of insight into human relations may not look original at all. It is so accurate that it looks obvious.”
The Inspirers are reminded to share their ideas and show the steps they traveled to reach their conclusion in order to gain others support. Also as they connect the dots about possibilities in people to form patterns, the Inspirers are cautioned to verify the facts before jumping to conclusions.
Overall, as Inspirers, INFJs use their creativity to align people for a mission, to beautify the environment, to teach people to see what can be, or to improve the human condition. They’re determined to bring to life what they envision, and they have a high completion rate for the range of creative projects that interest them. Furthermore, INFJs implement visions that are integral with themselves, as Gandhi conveyed: “My life is my message.”
Remember we’re all different and that your creative style is just a starting point or framework to help you understand your own uniqueness and find your own path. In CREATIVE YOU, We further discuss how each personality types can use their creativity at work, how to kept children motivated to remain creative as they grow up, how to interpret what our critics say, and how to develop better creative collaborations. I’m hearing from people every week about how understanding their creative style is giving them more confidence to be themselves. Creativity takes courage and the more we know about ourselves, and our own creative style, the more we can have the confidence we need as we adapt and thrive in our lives.
By David B Goldstein
About David B. Goldstein
David is the author with Otto Kroeger of Creative You: Using Your Personality Type To Thrive, published by Simon & Schuster in 2013. He is a management consultant, speaker and the originator of the “creative-type” concept. David speaks about how everyone can be creative in their own way using their natural strengths.
David is a researcher with a science background and an M.B.A. in Management of Science, Technology and Innovation, who uncharacteristically is also an internationally recognized artist. He was commission by the Pan American Health Organization/WHO to create their symbol to promote and protect human rights and David was invited to speak before a global televised audience for World Health Day.
David has been interviewed by the Huffington Post, Psychology Today, and Innovative Excellence. He has spoken at the Creative Oklahoma Forum, the Association of Psychological International’s Conventions, written for The Bulletin of Psychological Type, The American Bar Association’s Law Practice Today, and posts the Courageously Creative blog. As an entrepreneur for nearly 25 years, David founded an early digital imaging company, pioneered one of the first Internet startups creating an award-winning web-directory company. David also founded a research firm specializing in intellectual property, providing clients with information on the novelty and infringement of patents. Over the years, he has served as a consultant to technology start-ups, Fortune 500 companies, universities, hospitals, and government agencies.
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