Letter from a reader

I was wondering if you might be able to help me with this.  I don’t think that I’m using my functions in a healthy way- to the point where I don’t trust myself to know what I want anymore. I have this “achievement complex” where if I’m not putting maximal effort (fruitful or not) into something and receiving some sort of external validation, I feel unstable and even unsafe because I’m really bad at structuring things/organizing my thoughts and actions.

For instance, a typical summer day for me involves waking up at 6am, studying and then attending my physics class (a subject with I have no personal interest in and which exhausts me), working at my lab until 4pm, then studying more until midnight, and then breaking down regularly because my life feels so narrow and I’m not taking care of myself. (Other people are achieving the same goals with less effort because of better planning and have different sources of satisfaction other than externally recognized achievement.)

It got the point where I walked through a dangerous storm while other people ran to shelter because I was so afraid of losing time to finish my problem sets that were due the next day. I go to a top university, have stellar grades, and an impressive medical school application, but my mind is an erratic and unstructured mess, I keep getting stuck trying to move forward with my other interests, and am pursuing medicine because both my parents tell me that I have to be practical and the path for medicine (albeit constricting) is already laid out.

Right now, I  across as rigid and inflexible yet at the same time directionless, undecided, and kind of random. I’m acting like a bad caricature of an STJ. I long for progress and growth, to explore new ideas and new experiences in a non erratic way, to understand something deeply and complexly and then to do something with it. 

In high school when I was under less “career” pressure, (despite the fact that was I in a loop for a long time, there was abuse in my family, and I was still uptight, overachieving, and anxious), I was able to dream big and pursue many things. I loved learning languages and how semantics and syntax and grammar all worked together, and I loved playing my flute and learning classical dance, and wrote and read regularly. I do very little of that now. (Right now, I keep looking back to the past hoping to find “the real me,” but I’m not getting anywhere….)

I guess , I don’t know if my problem is coming from a grip-like reaction because I’m “over-relying” on my Te and Si (yet am using them simplistically) or because I haven’t developed my Ne well enough or something else. I know I have to make my life decisions on my own. However, personal development wise, what do you think I should start actively working on? Have you ever related to this? Thank you so much for taking the time to read through this 🙂



Hi JJ,

I don’t think anyone but you can make such big decisions about your life, but I have to say I absolutely understand your feeling. I was always pushed by my parents to do well and to choose a career that was safe and good for my future. I am currently working in advertising, it has some aspects that I love, but just like you I often felt exhausted at uni all the way to my first “real jobs”. There are some things I can tell you that could hep:

First, I think no job is perfect. I know a lot of people who changed careers just to realize the grass was not greener. Don’t make impulsive decisions, think a lot if you really want to quit this.

Second, if you are always feeling worn out, its not a good sign. It means you are not getting enough satisfaction doing what you do. Our real passions GIVE us energy when we work hard on them. Think about something you like doing. You could do that all night and then maybe you would be tired but at the same time you would feel energized, you would want more and more. So this is something to consider.

Finally, I read somewhere that INFPs may never find work that satisfies them 100%, because we don’t get energy from the same things. We get energy from thinking deeply about concepts, we get it from helping others, we want to be free of schedules or restrictions.

So maybe the best thing for INFP is to accept that work is not where we get our full satisfaction. Try to see the positive in what you do (medicine helps people and the world), and keep some time for you and for doing something you really love in your free time. 

Finding the real you is a slow process, it’s something that you discover gradually when you try different things and experience life. Also, the real you might not be the same in 20 years from now. So don’t stress this too much, keep your heart open, enjoy discovering yourself little by little over time.

Hope this helps!


Image: Jennifer Nehrbass

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