In our memories, some experiences from our childhood stand out in stark relief. Something about them made an impression on us. Something about them was charged with a feeling that we then carry into our lives, consciously or unconsciously.

A Sensitive INFP And Not Fitting In

For me, one such experience was in fifth grade in school in what was then called Bombay. It affected the way I thought of myself, and a fragment of that experience has remained with me through the passing years. It happened at the lovely Convent school for girls that I had just started attending after my family had moved from a different city. For around three years, from the fifth to the seventh grade, we had a needlework class. From the beginning, I hated needlework. I couldn’t figure it out. There were some people in the class who just got their assignments done by a parent. But although I hated it, I was a quite conscientious child and thought that was wrong. So, I tried to do it all by myself. More than once, as the school year progressed, the teacher was irritated with me and couldn’t understand why I didn’t get such simple things.

Then, one day, we were given an assignment to cross-stitch a printed pattern. It was on one of those cloth/canvas pieces with quite big holes, unlike the finer linen people use to make it easier for children. As usual, the teacher gave us instructions, and we began. I struggled and struggled, but for the life of me, I couldn’t understand what I was supposed to do. Mustering up my courage, I approached the teacher.

This time, she asked another girl, who seemed to be doing really well, to guide me. We sat down, and this girl started showing me what I was supposed to do. She showed me once. I didn’t get it. So, she showed me again. You are supposed to pull the thread out from this hole, and then put it into this one. I didn’t get it, yet again.

I was getting more and more flustered. Tears started crawling up. She was looking at me as if I couldn’t even get this one little thing as if I was dumb. But there were so many holes. They were shimmering and merging because of the tears I was so desperately trying to hold back. As the minutes passed and I still couldn’t understand, I started panicking.

What did she mean? It was possible to take the thread and put it back in so many different holes. There were so many holes. This was so hard. Why couldn’t I do anything right?

After what seemed like an eternity but was probably 15-20 minutes, my struggle and the class got over. I don’t remember how I completed that assignment, what I did later on. But I had learned something about myself, about my helplessness at not being able to do things right.

A Sensitive INFP Learns A Negative Self-Message

For years afterward, whenever I looked at some cross-stitched fabric painting in someone’s house, I had a nagging feeling that I was dumb, that I was stupid. How could I not figure out such simple things?

At that time, as a child, I didn’t think that my overwhelm, not being guided by the teacher and not feeling understood had contributed to my panicking, to my not learning. Like things do with sensitive children, the experience sunk a little deeper than such experiences do for others.

I also did not understand something else, something very important about me.

It’s only in the last few years, in my mid-30s, as I have learned more about being a sensitive INFP and thought back that I have had this small, but significant realization. I am a sensitive INFP, and as an INFP, I could see countless possibilities in that little piece of cloth. That was the way I saw the world. The truth is that it really is possible to take a thread, and pull it out from a not-approved, unconventional hole and make countless patterns (possibly also a mess, but still! ) on a piece of fabric. That is the very nature of creativity. It sees connections and inter-relationships between things. It is open to possibilities. There is no set way.

Especially as a child, with no preconceived notions of what a proper cross-stitch looked like, I was in a wide open field. When I started having the problem I was having, I wish someone had listened and seen that the way my brain worked was not the way their mind worked.

Looking back at that vulnerable little child, I wish someone could have told her, “You are not stupid. In fact, you are very creative. You see things in a different way.”

Sensitive INFPs Are Creative

A sensitive INFP is considered one of the most creative types of people . If you are a sensitive INFP  creative, it’s very likely that school did not offer you an ideal environment. We have all heard that schools can kill creativity, but it’s important to see what that really means. It means someone made an assessment about your being, a part of your soul that might actually be the very thing that makes you unique, makes you stand out.

Without realizing this or at least working to realize that this might have happened, we might keep on coming up against feeling again and again, that we don’t measure up. But what’s really wrong is that we haven’t looked at the faulty belief which is causing that “on the outside, looking in” feeling.  

From the HSPs I know and from what seems to be the case in online forums, it seems like a significant percentage of HSPs are either a sensitive INFP or INFJ. As two of the least common personality types, it’s no wonder that we can often end up feeling different and less than. We are often not mirrored back, often not understood. It’s up to us, then, to peel back the layers of our beliefs, unlearn the “right” way of doing things, and discover our own unique style, our own way.

Of course, this is not a problem that just a sensitive INFP faces. I think INTJs, another personality type that is less common, face similar (but different) problems of not being easily understood. Anything that makes you a minority in your social context, whether it is your personality type, your sexual orientation, or your cultural background is what makes you different and is what might make you misunderstood.

But maybe as adults, we can see that we are the only ones with the map to our own inner worlds. We can define ourselves, instead of accepting other people’s hasty assessments of who we are or making hasty judgments ourselves.

About Ritu Kaushal

Ritu Kaushal is the author of the memoir The Empath’s Journey, which TEDx speaker Andy Mort calls “a fascinating insight into the life of a highly sensitive person and emotional empath.” Ritu writes about highly sensitive creatives on her blog, Walking Through Transitions. Her work has been featured on Sensitive Evolution, Tiny Buddha, and Elephant Journal. Ritu was recently awarded the silver medal at the prestigious REX awards, instituted by the United Nations & iCONGO in India, and given to people creating social impact through their work. Connect with Ritu on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

8 Comments

  1. Turis on May 6, 2020 at 8:15 am

    As an INTJ myself, I can confirm that being misunderstood has been one of the biggest struggles in my life, especially when you put so much work, passion and attention to details on what you do. This can be really annoying and in the long term you may end up avoiding people, sacrificing social interactions for the sake of not being hurt. All this, of course, come at the cost of losing many opportunities, on both your professional and private life.



    • Maria Hill on May 6, 2020 at 9:47 am

      I understand, Turis. Being misunderstood can be very disheartening and you have to limit excessive damage especially in a driven perfectionistic world.

      Warm regards,
      Maria



    • Ritu Kaushal on May 12, 2020 at 3:25 pm

      I understand, Turis. My husband is an INTJ and I see our similarities in this regard. We both. do things — different kinds of things — without talking much about them. In a corporate setting where many people are trying to get “visibility,” this means it’s easy to get overlooked. It feels like the loudest person wins and the kind of detailed work INTJs and INFPs bring to the table is disregarded. So, it’s definitely tough.

      In personal life, one thing that I have started figuring out is that I am a pretty intense person who likes to go deep. So, instead of trying to just “accept” and go along with whoever shows up in my life, now, I am a little more clear about what I need.

      In friendship, for example, I need people who share my values. Only a person like that can end up valuing what I bring to the table is, in the long run, a good match for me. This isn’t easy. But it definitely makes life simpler and makes me less prone to resentment..

      Hang in there! INTJs are GREAT people. I think, weith your intelligence, you will figure this out as well.



  2. Laura on May 12, 2020 at 1:37 am

    Wow! Until reading this I don’t think I fully grasped that my personality type has been part of the reason I have felt I have never fitted in.. thank you for the insightful read