In less than an hour’s time, it’s my birthday. And not just any birthday. When I wake up, at precisely 7.42am I’ll be thirty. Three, zero. 3-0. Thirty.
It feels a little strange. Yet, I feel absolutely fine about it. I had my ‘wobble’ around 4-5 years ago in my mid-twenties, when I found myself stressed, overwhelmed and unfulfilled in a day job that just wasn’t me. At that time, those societal expectations loomed large (marriage, kids, mortgage), and it felt like I was a million miles away from them.
Back when I had been at school, I pictured a 30-year-old as old, bearded, married with a couple of kids. I probably imagined that my life would be like my father’s.
Teachers of that age seemed old. My mum and dad seemed old (sorry, mum & dad!).
Little did I know that my generation would somewhat be reinventing the rules around living an adult life, throwing caution to the supposed ‘rules’ and making their own ones up.
Not least INFPs & Js, where we have a strong sense of personal identity and hold our values dear to us. We certainly don’t like to conform, and my individuality has only shone brighter as I’ve gotten older.
It’s been an uphill struggle at times.
Complacently going through school, without a care in the world aside from my grades. It was all good fun up until A-levels (11th & 12th Grade in the UK), where I chose subjects I thought I was supposed to pick, didn’t enjoyed nearly as much as I had at GCSE (9th & 10th Grade). With talk of university applications, it suddenly felt like I had to decide the rest of my life right there and then.
I didn’t know who I was, let alone what on earth I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I didn’t realise it so much at the time, but I was really different to most. Choosing a conventional career was like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
I went from a sheltered school life, to moving away and entering university, where I felt like a fish out of water. It was all too much for me, I didn’t who I was, who my people were, nor why I was there and where this Law degree of mine would lead. I was sick of studying, especially when it now had no purpose for me and learning about just one thing (and Law was a dull thing), it turns out, wasn’t so fun for me.
The high-achiever in me had set the bar very high, and when I stumbled into a recruitment job in the City, not knowing what to do and with limited options as a non-graduate in London, it was the perceived people-focused nature of recruitment and the money it was possible to earn that had been why I went along with this career path.
The reality was, in an open-plan office and a sales job with long hours plus long commute, it was only going to be a matter of time before I ended up burnt out, fed up and intellectually unstimulated.
Since then, it’s been a case of exploring and really getting to know myself, learning new skills and ways of being, and figuring out exactly what I want my work and life to look like. To truly listen to my heart, and drown out the noise and expectations of society-at-large.
And I think that I, finally, have an answer.
What works for me is work where I feel free, either as a freelancer or as a remote employee. Where I can control my time and my energy, I don’t have to work in an energy-depleting office and be exposed to tedious and excruciating (however subtle) office politics, where it’s just me to live and enjoy my day, and my life.
Both being a remote worker and a freelancer (in that order), have come with some serious adjustments. The isolation, the lack of structure, without any feedback or anyone telling you how you’re getting on, left to your own devices and having to make your own decision about when to work - and when to stop.
Yet, it gives me that autonomy and that freedom and the opportunity to be in control of my time and my energy. To be able to make room for other nourishing projects and things in my life.
To create something new, from scratch, to be paid for your own work, rather than an employer, is something really quite special.
I feel like I have developed a strong sense of who I am, of who my people are, and of the activities/habits that nourish me (and the ones that have the opposite effect).
Our work life is a significant part of our lives overall, and us INFPs need work that nourishes them more than most. It’s certainly a balancing act not to let work take over, however, and for other aspects of my life and to the detriment of my health and how I felt.
Back in 2015, I was every so unhappy at work for the reasons I described earlier in this piece. Work unhappiness aside, there was a whole load of underlying stuff to be dealt with, particularly around my sensitivity and emotions and learning to manage these better, to stay nourished.
You might’ve noticed that I use the word nourish(ed) a lot these days.
Outside of my work, my family and friendships are very important, as are movement (gym and yoga), travel & exploration, and learning new things - whether it’s a language, a random topic, or to cook (still much effort to be made with that last one).
As INFPs, we feel emotions more deeply than most - if not all - other MBTI types. (It’s the same for our close compatriots, INFJs; us INFs are more sensitive than the average person, and there is a high proportion of highly sensitive people(HSPs)/empaths amongst us).
Really, the secret to INFP fulfilment is about a sense of balance, and keeping those individual buckets that nourish us well-kempt. Or, in other words, creating a work-life that suits us, and also keeping those various other buckets outside of work, whatever they may be, well looked-after. Those buckets can be different for different INFPs, and yet there is also an overlap; for example, energy management is an essential factor to the wellbeing of the vast majority of INFPs.
Today, I take time to step back, to re-charge, to slow-down and to let things be.
I let my intuition guide me, and I try to keep my work and my wider-life balanced. I’m listening more and more to my gut, and I’m learning more about myself all of the time. I’m aware of those super-high expectations, and it’s taken conscious effort to slow down, to relax, to manage my energy and not keep spinning my wheels and burning myself out in the quest to make this whole freelancing thing, work. Instead, I commit to take small actions each day and I trust the process, to lead my making an income that I can live off, and then eventually an income that is enough for me.
And with that, I’ll leave things right there.
It feels good to turn 30. I have felt better than I have ever felt, before.
With the INF club, my intention is to share with you:
- The lessons I have learned in the last few years in finding work & creating a life that nourishes me, as an INF(P).
- My experience with healing, growth & self-care (past & present)
- Interviews with inspiring INFPs & INFJs who have moved through their own struggles
PS. It’s also interesting to note this piece I wrote 3 years ago, on turning 27. It’s a piece that screams someone yearning for the answers in books, in science, in logic. Since then, it has more been a case of turning inward and finding the answers that way, rather than outward. (this is a work in progress!)