My favorite question is: so what?
I waited a year before taking the time to design my blog. The first iteration took me 15 minutes to throw together from a template I found. This version, I spent roughly 60 hours designing and coding over the last 2 weeks. Even before I started design, my two questions were “so what?” followed by “who cares?”.
Amanda Linehan, an INFP who writes a self awareness blog, Look Far, wrote about asking the right questions. For me, “So what?” and “Who cares?” are my most important questions. They give me perspective. They moderate my need for validation. “So what” reminds me that even though I think I’m unique and special, the universe is under no obligation to acknowledge this in anyway.
INFP Blog is my third blog. The first two failed. I forgot that the fundamental objective of any blog is building a relationship with your reader. Anyone who says that they write blogs for themselves needs reminding that if a person wants to write something no one reads, it’s easier to keep a diary under the bed. Pen and paper have smaller learning curves than WordPress or Blogspot.
My first two blogs looked cool. I spent weeks with the design. My objective was to express myself by creating something that reflected me. If I asked myself “so what” at the start, I could have saved myself the trouble. After all the hours designing and coding those first blogs, no one read them. After the launch, I was too burnt out and too disappointed to get to the real work of building relationships.
Those failed blogs represent a bigger picture of how I formed relationships in my real life. I thought that if learned something really well and expressed myself with it, I’d be cool and people would be naturally be attracted. My self-worth would be validated by the awesomeness of my skills. Yeah, that didn’t work.
Here’s one thing I’ve learned about relationships. People don’t like us for who we are. For the most part, few really know who we are. And perhaps since we’re INFPs, most never will. People like us because of who they are when they’re around us.
A common complaint on INFP forums is how INFPs are shy and a little bit lonely because we find it difficult to meet people with whom we connect. So instead, INFPs focus on self-development. However, if our goal is finding meaningful relationships, why are we so focused on something we aren’t going to readily share with someone we don’t already know?
INFPs learn and improve on skills and knowledge that make us unique whether it’s Tarot, Vogon poetry, speaking Elvish or the MBTI. We get awesome at these skills and wouldn’t mind being recognized by the like-minded for the time and energy spent. However, the only people who recognize the dedication are others with the same interest who also spent time and energy and would also like to be recognized for their awesomeness. For me, mutual back patting has never been a solid foundation to build meaningful relationships. As for the ones who aren’t like-minded, they don’t care if we know the meaning of moons in certain Houses or about Risings and Cusps. People only care what we know once they know that we care.
The question of “so what?” takes me outside of my head. So I redesign my blog, lots of people redesign their blogs every day. What makes me doing it so special? My answer was nothing. This leads to better questions:
Will my traffic increase because I redesigned?
Nope. I have 12 years of web experience to know that’s untrue.
Will it make me feel better if the site looks prettier?
A little. I like shiny.
Will it make me feel better if the site is pretty and no one reads my site?
Is the reason for creating the site to make myself feel better?
So what’s a good reason to spend all this effort redesigning if feeling better was the reason for the site in the first place?
Because I can’t find anything. Whenever I want to link to an old post, I have to go digging for it. If I have this much problem navigating my site, it’s probably worse for someone else.
These are the same questions that went through my head a year ago when I first created the site. I couldn’t find a good reason to spend hours on design so I put up something simple and focused on writing and building relationships instead. Now that I have a modest readership, I redesigned for usefulness to improve relationships. People are attracted to usefulness.
Yes, I could have redesigned to feel better. INFPs do that all the time. We do things to make ourselves feel better, but feeling better usually isn’t the primary purpose. Feeling better is the consolation prize so we aren’t too hurt if we fail at our primary goal. Feeling better is 2nd place. INFPs spend a lot of time and energy trying to reach 2nd place instead of focusing on our primary goals.
I could have redesigned to just express myself. Expressing oneself is necessary and essential for INFPs. However, when we do something that only benefits ourselves, no one else cares. Doing things to make ourselves feel better falls under the same category because it only benefits us. Why should anyone else care?
Here’s a secret. Even though the new design is shiny, it’s not my preferred design style. However, the navigation is cleaner. Using serif fonts and increasing the white space make long text easier to read. Also the new layout, lets me scale the the site into a resource. I have a space for book recommendations that a reader asked for 3 months ago. In short, it’s more useful. Useful builds relationships.
Mar 4, 2010
Indeed, so what? is a good question. I discovered it recently and forgot again. Happy you reminded me just now. Nice to have found your blog and tweets. Good to recognize parts of me in a stranger who suddenly doesn’t feel so strange anymore.
So what? Well you know.
March 4th, 2010 at 12:54 pm
“So what?” helps me understand if I’m doing something for myself or if I’m doing it for something external. If I’m doing it for just myself, I keep it to myself. No one really needs to know. If I’m doing it for external reasons, then I have to admit that and realize that I might be disappointed. I don’t get surprised later that I was just fooling myself into thinking I was only doing it for myself.
I’m glad you commented. It lets me know I focused on the right things which is sharing experiences and the reasoning in hopes that other INFPs recognized that their not the only ones living inside their head.
Mar 4, 2010
“INFPs spend a lot of time and energy trying to reach 2nd place instead of focusing on our primary goals.”
We’re number two because we try harder? Should that be our new slogan?
March 4th, 2010 at 12:59 pm
INFPs can be very efficient when we set our minds to accomplishing a task. The problem is I often focus on the wrong task. That’s the difference between being efficient and being effective. There’s a saying: when climbing up your ladder of success, make sure it’s leaning against the right wall.
Mar 4, 2010
So.. a question pops into my head here, and it’s something that has troubled me for a while, as I was never able to figure out why it happens this way. Maybe it’s an INFP thing? (it relates to the questions you write about).
I often have problems finishing up a song, or story if I have someone look at it before it is complete. It’s like, once someone gives me praise on it.. that’s it, I’m done, there is no reason to keep going as I got what I wanted out of it.
Is this typical INFP? Or me? Since it seems that quite often I am not writing for myself to get something out of my head, but instead writing to get the praise, and once I get the praise I don’t need to finish it.
Sorry – basic question. Is that INFP? or something else? Do others go through that as well?
And, for the praise.. the new site looks nice 🙂
March 4th, 2010 at 1:12 pm
I think the praise is your external measure. You got the Reward, why continue playing that Game. I think that’s why INFPs stop midway. There’s the Reward they think they want and the Reward they really want. When you get the Reward you really wanted (praise), there’s no motivation to get the Reward you think you wanted (finished song).
From 19-23, I submitted my poetry to all the good poetry lit mags like Prairie Schooner, Plum Review and dozens and dozens of others. I wanted to be published. After 4 years and many rejection letters, I had a couple poems published in a few minor journals. Finally, one poem got published in The New York Quarterly in the same issue where they published a poem by Charles Bukowski, a poet I admired.
After that, I stopped submitting poetry completely. I thought the Reward I wanted was to have published poems. The real Reward I wanted was to know that I had the capability of publishing somewhere reputable with a track record. Once I got that, I stopped.
March 6th, 2010 at 7:30 am
Quitting after praise is very true of me. In school I’d often come out with a highly praised paper or story for the first assignment of the quarter, one that I had really given my best and spent a lot of time writing. However, once I had that exceptional praise (which usually surprised me), I backed off and turned in mediocre work for the rest of the quarter. I’m not sure if that is self-sabotage, or being uncomfortable with praise, or assuming the glow of the first reward will endure. I wish I wasn’t like that!
Jennifer M. Reply:
May 9th, 2010 at 8:54 pm
Haha. I totally do this too. It must be an INFP thing; I hadn’t even realized that until now. I can’t tell you how many unfinished stories I have sitting in my closet. Mostly I’ve stopped writing them after I share them with someone. That person gets all excited, wanting to hear what comes next… but my momentum is gone and I move on to the next creative challenge w/ o ever finishing the story I was on.
November 22nd, 2014 at 4:05 am
Hi, little late to the party here, but I love your blog! I recently delved into MBTI during a rough life transition, and landing on INFP has really helped me recognize myself in powerful ways. The perspective here is especially resonant and helpful. Thank you!
“So what?” Is a question I learned to ask many years ago from a writing colleague. The advice, basically, is that if your going to put something in print, even a single word, it should be there for a reason. It really does get you outside of your own head and into what readers will value.
A companion question, for when I believe something to be true, is “How do I know?” Again, it gets me out of assumptions based on ideals and into the real world. This can be really scary at first — having to do research, reach out and talk to strangers, maybe even be wrong — but the growth that happens as a result is sooooo valuable.
And that’s what we’re really after, right? The stuff we deeply value? I read people’s concerns about being good at something, getting praise and approval, etc. — and I’ve TOTALLY been sucked up by these desires, too. Maybe that is the basic thing that derails not just INFPs but everybody. And as INFPs that can be especially painful because we are driven by our deep values, yes? So I think it’s also really important to remember the deeper point here, which that in addition to asking good questions that lend perspective and increase effectiveness, we have to stay mindful of what really matters to us. I doubt that most INFPs would list “getting pats on the back” among our most deeply held wishes. Ask “So what?”again, this time with a mind toward staying aligned with our individual values.
Mar 4, 2010
This is good. (that i’m not alone in this.) This is better that it’s something I can work on. This is bad, in that I’m only just now starting to work on some of these things. (at 39).
I am so glad that you found me on Twitter and I’ve been reading this. It’s made a lot of things that I’ve been struggling to understand the last couple of years make sense. It’s rough that it’s happening now(where I’m seeing a too little too late attitude in my head), but I am glad that I am starting to see it.
I’m the only INFP I know in my friends circle..and up until now, I honestly just thought I was strange. It is very comforting to know there are others out there that see the world the same way, and struggle with the same things that I do.
Even self improvement seems, for me, to be more motivated by those I am with, than for myself. My greatest moves up the ladder of success have happened when I’ve been dating someone serious. My greatest stalls? When I’ve been single, or unhappy in my relationship.
March 6th, 2010 at 9:51 pm
I was like that too until I met my wife. Of course INFPs can succeed in whatever endeavor they set on but why bother if no one is there to share it with you. Why bother if there isn’t someone to watch you go the effort and share the Reward with you.
I didn’t start my web design and development career until after I met my wife. When I met her, I realized that I wanted to take her traveling more than I wanted avoid responsibility and be a free spirit.
Jennifer M. Reply:
May 9th, 2010 at 8:55 pm
That’s very interesting – I do that too. When someone else is right there with me on exercising or learning a new language, I can totally go for it and do really well. If I’m on my own, I usually fizzle out after a few tries. I wonder why that it?
Mar 4, 2010
So usefulness should be the key to relationships.
I understand what that says about what you should focus on in yourself, but what does that say about what kind of relationships you should be pursuing?
March 4th, 2010 at 3:45 pm
Usefulness is about developing skills. If I develop the skill of good listening, then I’ll attract into my life those people that need a good listener. If there’s a specific type of person I want to attract into my life then I develop the specific skills that those people need.
For example, I wanted to attract other INFPs so I had to develop a stronger sense of empathy and understanding. I think my communication and writing skills help, but it’s empathy that lets me write in a way that other INFPs can relate to.
As for the type of relationships I should be pursuing, “should” needs to be value-based. If I valued altruism, I’d be pursuing relationships in charities. If I valued career, I’d pursue relationships that helped me with my career. INFP tells me how I prefer to do things, not what my values are. Values should determine the “what” such as: what career, what type of relationship, what I want in my life, etc.
Mar 4, 2010
hi there. i’m practically new to your blog. well, new in terms of posting comments to your blog. and i found it very useful indeed as having an infp personality gives me difficulties in some areas of my life. i found a lot of interesting stuff in your blog which helps me learn more about INFPs. i guess it’s innate for INFPs to know more about themselves? O.o speaking of blogs, i was in a dilemma on what should be my main purpose or use for it. why am i writing a blog? the first one was to use it as means of generating income. i got into blogging because my classmate was doing the same and he was able to make some money out of it. so why not try it?
unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out for me. so i tried to find another reason and i failed again since i decided to write about just anything that interests me whether its useful or not.i see a lot of people expressing themselves or sort of writing a diary and even though it’s not really that useful i find it interesting because it showcases a glimpse of who they are. for me, i guess it’s not just usefulness that builds relationships but rather healthy interactions with them as well too. i tend to write something that somehow expresses myself and at the same time i try to put something in it that can somehow be useful to someone. or a combination of each. i don’t know. just a thought.
but i’m really glad i found your blog (googled it)…it really helped me a lot to learn more about myself and i found myself a constantly reading your blog. thanks for sharing something about yourself and your thoughts which have benefited a lot of struggling INFPs all around. 🙂
March 6th, 2010 at 9:37 pm
When I talk about relationships, I mean more than just personal, “I want a friend for life” relationships.
For me, a healthy interaction is a productive interaction where both side are getting their individual needs met. For me, that’s builds long-term relationships even though the interaction between those to parties may be intermittent.
Being useful is the start of the relationships, but maintaining relationships is getting both parties getting what they need whether it’s a professional client or your significant other.
Jennifer M. Reply:
May 9th, 2010 at 9:03 pm
I struggle with this too with my blog(s). I’ve started and stopped so many over the years. I try sometimes to make them structured and useful and that never works b/c I’m not particularly structured. Then other times I try to be really personal and say whatever’s on my mind, and that only sort of works b/c then I end up second-guessing my telling complete strangers the inner workings of my heart. Lol.
I currently have settled on a general theme (the fact that I’m in my thirties) and try to give myself the permission to write when I feel led (sometimes 4 times a day, sometimes only 4 times a month), and also to go back and forth between being useful and being personal. I’m starting to realize that it can be both. This flexibility combined with the theme has helped me find focus w/ my writing.
I’ve also tried really hard in this newest blog to actually develop relationships w/ my readers instead of just staying in my own head all the time. It’s very fulfilling to build these relationships and I find myself wanting to tell them things in my blogs that I know they will find interesting. This, for me, gets the blog out of my head and more into doing something for other people, which in turn keeps the blog going longer and feeling more fulfilling. If that makes any sense (I feel like I’m talking in circles here).
Mar 5, 2010
On a more serious note than my Avis reaction above, one of my key phrases I use to focus my efforts is to remember to “get what you came for.” For most of my major decisions I was very good at that, then about eight years ago I made a decision that has thrown me off course. There was very little that “I came for” and have been stuck in that loop ever since. This is a good reminder to get back into that frame of mind and identify what I really want – and how to get it.
Mar 6, 2010
Hi Corin – I really like “So what?” and “Who cares?” I guess they are pretty much the same thing. Doing something just for yourself is nice, but honestly, my “creative activities” are not just for me. They are partially for me because I love doing them, but I’d also like them to be enjoyed by others. Asking these two questions keeps that in perspective. And even if you do something that is just for you, asking “So what?” is still probably a good question. It keeps you honest about why you are actually doing something and what you are hoping to get out of it. (Also, thanks for the link to my post!)
March 6th, 2010 at 9:22 pm
All my creative activities are external directed. For me, writing is about communication first and expression second. For the longest time, I felt that if I was writing for external validation then I wasn’t being true to myself. Then I realized that if I wanted to write poetry that no one would read, I wouldn’t tell anyone I wrote poetry.
Jul 14, 2010
I don’t subscribe to more than a few blogs. The main reasons I like yours (and you as a writer) are:
– you write perceptively and originally about stuff that I’m interested in (your content helps me learn things that are important to me now)
– I like your writing style (personal, intimate and with humor) and I enjoy reading your posts
– You interact with readers – the blog is not just a broadcast of you; this is probably the key to creating and maintaining relationships
So relationship I’ve developed with your blog (=you) is based on the quality of your content and your communication/interaction style. And yes, I like the readable format too! 😉
July 14th, 2010 at 10:45 am
This blog is very much a release. It helps me sort out random thoughts about INFP. For example, in game theory there’s something called the Prisoner’s Dilemma.
I have this idea of framing the INFP experience as a Prisoner’s Dilemma where belief is one prisoner and action is another prisoner. If both cooperate then you get the win-win. I have notes and a partial draft, but I haven’t been able to get into words what I’m thinking which means, that I still need more time to let that idea marinate.
Thank you for reading my blog.
Sep 5, 2010
i just found your blog… and it explans a lot about me i never quite understood. =D. you know yourself very well apparently! im an INFP aswell, and I’m just 14 so i hope to better my personality weaknesses before they become habituated…
thanks so much for what you’re doing!
Aug 18, 2012
Thank You so much for working so hard on this blog. As an INFP myself I have been searching high and low for something that will help me gain a better grasp on my life. I could never really put a finger on my own struggles sometimes and your articles express everything that has been a frustration for me. Not only do you outline the problem but also give the reader a solution. I think your site has inspired me to start one of my own. I want to be able to help those who have been in my shoes. And just to be able to express myself to those who dont quite understand me. Keep up the hard work and know that you are helping this INFP through some very tough times. Thank you again.