Thursday, December 10, 2015

ENFP: How to be the very best- and truest- version of yourself

Hey there ENFP friends! You're my favorite, you know. You're everybody's favorite! (I know you know). You're delightful to be around and I really appreciate you. I just wanted to get that out of the way so that you know I'm coming at you from a really warm place. 

Here are some tips to make your life a little easier, and also for you to make the lives of those around you a little less frustrating. Some of this is going to apply to you, some won't, but I have had a lot of ENFP clients and friends over the years, so there do seem to be some themes to your behavior, so hopefully you find some of it useful.

ENFP functional stack: Ne Fi Te Si 

1) The singular mission of your life is to figure out who the fuck you actually are, and then just be that as best you can. Some of you probably feel like you're pretty authentic most of the time, and that's great. You may be one of the well-developed ENFPs who has solved the ENFP existential crisis early. Good for you! BUT. For those of you who are still working on that or haven't even named it as the fundamental crisis of your identity, wellllll....sorry, love. Here we are. Here you are. Here is the story of your life. 

2) See, the thing is: you're brilliant at socializing. Truly incredible dexterity in this department. Unparalleled, maybe. Genius, certainly. But (isn't there always a "but"?) because you tend to be so good at fitting in anywhere and being a social chameleon and doing whatever is needed from you at any given moment, you may take that too far. You may get so engrossed and tuned in to what everybody else wants/needs from you that at some point (often in midlife) you may look around and just literally can't find your true self. This is a really scary moment for ENFPs and it may look a lot like a midlife crisis. Whenever it happens, if it happens, it's like the real you got left by the wayside and is out trying to hitchhike its way back home. And sometimes it (you) doesn't get picked up right away because you don't know where to look or you don't know that you need to be looking. Which means the real you is out wandering the lonely highways of your internal landscape, lost and alone, and you are in the world just bullshitting through everything. Learning how to stop bullshitting is the key to your best life. You have to go out in your dusty old car and drive around as long as it takes for you to find the hitchhiker that is your true self and bring him/her home. And then you have to teach your true self how to stop getting lost. You have to integrate even the parts that aren't so good. Your true self has to feel loved and accepted and validated and welcome in order to be willing to stick around. 

3) Let me bring that out of metaphor and give you a little more practical advice: if you at any point find yourself feeling fractured or inauthentic or vaguely unhappy, go to therapy. It could just be that you're living the life intended for some other type and you need help finding your way out of that life and into the life you are suited for. You are meant for warmth. You are meant to connect with people and support them and help them be their best selves. But it could be that you went into banking or some cold corporate job when you should have gone into teaching or counseling. Or maybe you married a steady, practical, duty-fulfilling ISTJ when you'd be much happier and feel more connected with a warm and affirming ENFJ. Maybe you were in the military and you've had to learn to set aside all your feelings and emotional needs. Maybe you grew up in a family that didn't encourage your growth into the ENFP you were supposed to be and now you feel like you are just generally out of sorts. Maybe you're simply feeling unseen and unvalidated. Or maybe you just don't feel good but you don't know why. Go to therapy. Find a therapist who is an NF and who can see you for who you are, and who won't be fooled by your spectacular skill at bullshitting, and who will challenge you to figure out how to live more authentically. It is worth this effort. You will feel better. Being seen is where it's at. 

4) If you won't go to therapy, (dudes, I'm looking at you) then my next suggestion would be to use your realest, truest, deepest, most authentic friendships as safe spaces to explore this question of who you are. Externally process all facets of your identity crises. Make sure you always have people in your life you never have to put on any airs for, that never need you to be anything but you, and who are willing to accept whatever new "you" may emerge over time. This is especially important if you are in a work or love situation that is not a good fit for you, and if you are consistently required to be something or someone you really aren't. Because ENFP can end up not only spiritually fractured, but legitimately depressed if you don't answer the question of "who am I?" - and live accordingly- in a timely fashion. The distress to your psyche this disconnect causes can pop out in any number of ways that can cause real discomfort or pain (or a series of bad decisions with real consequences, the most likely scenario if you're out of alignment and don't know what's happening) in your life. 

5) Please know: the real you is a beautiful thing! A well-balanced ENFP is an amazing, loving, generous partner and a wonderful parent and a supportive friend. When I call you out on bullshitting, please know I am saying that for your own good. I'm not calling you a liar, or a fake, or a bad person. I know that some of it is just that it's so easy to morph into what you intuit people needing from you. That's your superpower. You know what every social situation calls for, and you know how to make people like you, and you know all the right things to say or do. You can detect a hidden need, and effortlessly provide it. You can make people feel seen and accepted and loved in ways they have never felt before. You love being that person. And most of that comes from a good place, because you genuinely want to be all the things to all the people, and you genuinely like making people happy. But some of it is also about needing to be validated, needing to be admired, and needing to be loved, which then makes what you're doing about you and not about the other person. And so sometimes this tendency can slip off track and become something that is ultimately damaging or misleading to another person, which I know you don't want to do. (I hate to use the word "manipulative", but sometimes you just have to call a thing what it is, and a misaligned ENFP is truly masterful at manipulation). And so what I would invite you to consider is the possibility that you can totally still make all these things happen, because it's so you to be loving and's just that once you've fully integrated and emerged to live authentically, you will also be really happy doing it. You will be able to do it from a better, kinder, healthier place. You will do it because you want to, not because you feel compelled to or need to. You will feel good doing it because it will align with your idealistic values. 

6) Now, while I'm on the topic of values, let me say that I do find the ENFP ability to rationalize rather remarkable. Y'all can really work yourself into some fascinating ethical conundrums by way of your "ends justify the means" logic and your reflexive conviction that rules don't really apply to you and that you alone hold the vision of what is good and just and right. Like, the reason ENFP can be an effective politician, for example, is because you are fundamentally good, which sets you apart ideologically from most other politicians and allows people to generally trust your intentions. But your overall effectiveness - whether in politics or life in general- lies in your ability to envision the forest in its full idealized glory...and completely ignore the trees, because details. (Who has time for details? Not the ENFP!) You are inclined to favor the greater good, and to justify any number of minor ethical transgressions in the interest of a decent overall outcome that aligns with your vision. I get it. I kind of admire it, really. But (again with the but) sometimes you can be a bit of a bully when it comes to what you think is best, and you can sometimes fail to consider the ramifications of relentless pursuit of your vision. The advice here is to remember to ask other people to ethics-check you. To put an extra set of eyes on your work before it goes out the door. To keep people on your advisory board who will call you on your shit and be like "No. You can't do this." Sometimes you need to just be shut down. Sorry, ENFP. I know you don't like it, but you are not always right and sometimes you miss big chunks of concrete information in your haste to realize your vision. Pump the brakes sometimes, or at least hire/keep people to pump them for you. 

7) Let's get back to the whole "living authentically" thing. One thing that can help you live more authentically is if you consistently allow yourself space and time to just be. You don't always have to be answering to the needs of others. You don't always have to be championing a cause or entertaining people. You are actually one of the more introverted extraverts, which means you do need some time alone. You do need time to reflect and feel and sometimes wallow in your darker feelings. You're very sensitive. Sometimes you need to just give in to that sensitivity. Give yourself this gift. Learn to say "No, I actually don't have time to get that done" or "I'm sorry, but I am taking the weekend off from everything and will respond to you on Monday" or "I cannot handle one more fucking thing right now" and then just sit down and be quiet and disconnect from everything/everyone. You have the right to this. You deserve it. It's what you need. 

8) Speaking of needs: Make sure you're getting your very real need for physical touch met. This is the ENFP bread & butter. You have to touch and be touched a lot in order to feel balanced. It's not necessarily about sex, but that's part of it. If you find yourself in a relationship where things have gone cold, you should know (well, you probably do know, so maybe I should say your partner should know) that this puts you at great risk of infidelity. And I know you'll feel horribly guilty if you cheat on your person...(or you won't feel guilty, and then you'll feel guilty that you don't feel guilty, but one way or another you'll end up feeling bad). So. Don't cheat on your person, but do say: "I need this." And don't be ashamed that you legitimately do need it. ENFPs love to cuddle and nest and be close. You are some of the most tactile people I have ever met. You snuggle your babies, your partners, your friends, your pets. Physical affection is what you do. It's who you are. 

9) That said, if you are an ENFP for whom this does not resonate, check out your history for clues as to when/why you shut this need down. Because I'd say it's pretty much a nonnegotiable need for any healthy ENFP. So if you don't feel like you really need it, it's more likely that the need probably got thwarted somewhere along your life trajectory. Maybe somebody withheld affection from you for a long time. Maybe you had to learn to live without it. Maybe your primary caregiver or a partner or someone shamed you about the extent to which you need it. Maybe somebody called you "needy" or "clingy" if you're a woman, or if you're a man, said something emasculating about your touch-hunger. Who knows. What I do know is you should try and find your way back to this. You will nourish yourself by engaging in physical touch with people you love and care for. 

10) This last one is really for the sanity of all of us who are not ENFPs: Please respond to people in a timely fashion. Let me repeat: RESPOND IN A TIMELY FASHION. I know you don't not do it to be disrespectful or to avoid contact or for any nefarious reason, but it is nonetheless incredibly fucking annoying to the people who are trying to talk to you or get answers to time-sensitive questions. The funny thing is you hate people being being mad at you, right? It makes you feel all icky and bad when you're "in trouble" with anyone you care about (sometimes even with people you don't care about) so in order to avoid that thing where people are annoyed with you all the time, just shoot a quick text or email back when you see the message. Don't just glance at it and respond in your head, or assume they probably know you're busy, or assume that because you don't care if people reply to you right away (because you're totally cool with people being busy, or forgetting, or whatever- you tend to be very forgiving and understanding) that other people similarly don't care. THEY FUCKING CARE. Thank you on behalf of the whole world. 

11) Just be you. All you. 100% authentic you. You're awesome; you're also brilliant, and interesting, and generous. People love you. People will love the real you just as much, if not more, as they love the millions of not-quite-authentic versions you've invented and offered them. Trust me. 

Here is a post you can share with your partner that might help them relate better to you:

If you want to talk more about this :


  1. You my dear Amy are freegin amazing! My friend posted this earlier today and in between work I read each of the notes of advice...girl this made me take ACTION! I realize I need a dern therapist! I love everything you offered here. #8, well the lack of having it as much as I'd like that realization nearly had me in tears! Thank you again for this! Do you offer virtual therapy? cv

  2. You advice. Thank you so muc

  3. Such an insightful article!! I totally resonate with what you said!! I had been living in the shadow of vague unhappiness for years. The approach I got myself sorted out is to learn to honour my emotions, my authentic feelings! I lived as an INTP, but right now I am actually feeling (yes, feeling but not thinking) I am a much happier person as an ENFP! What a revelation!

  4. Accurate! And with some wonderful advice! Thank you! ^_^