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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi there everyone!

I'm a female INTP and I need your help, I hope you INFPs -or not- can enlighten me on something.
I'm 27 and I have an INFP little sister, aged 14. Ever since she was little I realized that we had much in common and always had an amazing relationship with her, passing her books, music and discussing on them, and stuff like that -- even though we fought a lot, too. She used to have that uncanny sense of humor that takes you by surprise I came to realize belongs to many INFPs (my bf is one as well), and was very carefree as a child, yet deep, and veeery sharp. Growing up, I don't exactly know how, she came to be very withdrawn and insecure, to the point that now she kind of lost that particular sense of humor, and she has become very dark and gloomy. It's not that I don't understand her, I used to be just about the same, but she doesn't even seem to be the same person she used to be, and this saddens me (and drives my mother mad). Some time ago I realized she seems to demand herself crystallized perfection, in the sense that she doesn't strive to better herself as I used to do at her age, but strongly feels she should always be appreciated the way she is. So the result now is that you actually can't tell her anything at all that vaguely resembles a critique, because she becomes a harpy, withdraws even more and spends her days on the bed not doing anything. I am the most similar to her in our family, as I have an ISFP mother, an ESFJ 16 yo sister and their father is ENFJ. My Fe prompts me to try and help her, though I am much more logical than her, and tend to be very critical, since I easily spot what could be improved. I get that she is insecure and suffers if someone criticizes her, but I just wish she realized that the only way to get out of insecurity is building up one's strengths, and that if she wants to be praised on every aspect of herself, since she so clearly needs it, she needs to work on it (and realize that perfection doesn't exist). I don't seem to find a way to make her absorbe this without feeling criticized, or worse, rejected. How to deal with adolescent INFP, then? I know she has a lot of potential, and that these years are crucial to development, but I'm at loss as how to really deal with her when she doesn't want to hear logic.

Thank you for taking time to read this. Be well.
 

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Hey there! I think you are already doing a really great job as an older sister to your INFP sibling. Honestly, I don't think you should tone down your criticisms if they are constructive. Criticism is a part of life and something she needs to at some point learn to take. When I was an adolescent INFP, I mostly just wanted someone who would believe in me and really listen to me. All my life I struggled with feeling like what I had to say wasn't important enough to be heard aloud.

You and your sister see the world very differently because introverted thinking and introverted feeling process information differently. I encourage you to try and see the world from the view of your sister and I also encourage you to gently show your sister how you experience the world. I think it's a very healthy exercise to practice looking at things in new ways.

I wish you and you sister all the best!
 

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Hi @korin!

You're sweet to want to help your sister. I'm the same age as you, and I have to laugh because your sister sounds exactly like I was at 14. She is lucky to have you watching out for her. :)

I think it's safe to assume your sister is plenty critical of herself inside, as would be suggested by her outward gloom. It seems like INFPs almost always feel like they are falling short of their own expectations for themselves, and to that end your sister probably realizes that a lot of things in her life could stand improvement (INFPs are inherently critics, too, just judging on value instead of logic). My first thought is that she may simply need some space to grow in her own time - I'm sorry that it has been hard on you and your mom, but to some extent withdrawing and being moody may be part of her own child-to-adult transformation. Not that it should be ok for her to snap at you, but she does have her own internal compass, and the strength to grown and learn of her own accord, even if it takes a little moping first.

I wonder if she may be pushing you and your family away because she feels unaccepted as she is - unfortunately an inherent INFP emotional weakness which she may be projecting onto you and combining with her observation that she is getting mainly critical feedback from you. My dad is an INTP, and when I was a teenager, I felt like he really disliked me and was trying to turn me into a different daughter. I didn't understand back then that criticism was his way of helping me grow, and of showing his love and support. Especially at 14, a time of emotional change and identity-seeking even for non-INFPs, it can feel like everyone has an agenda for who you should be and few people are interested in who you are. I think the trouble comes in when an INFP feels like someone may be criticizing their worth as a person, even though the other person may simply be critiquing an inefficient behavior or maladaptive choice. Learning to endure and interpret criticism is definitely part of growing up, and as @leseera pointed out, I don't think you should have to "pad" her environment for her, but it may help her a lot if you can draw a clear line between how you feel about her as a person and how you think she could make things better in her life.

The great thing is that INFPs have a very static sense of who they are inside (though we may have trouble expressing it), but we are far more flexible outside - so if you can try to support the person she is, the dreams she has, the things she likes, and so on - all those internal identity things - then it should be easy to help her tweak some of the externals that could be improved, and that's where your Fe/Ti can really come in handy for her, since that's her blind spot. My suggestion to you, then, would be to try to take a few blocks of time just to enjoy being with her and sharing experiences with her - easing off criticism and direction as much as you can, and focusing your energy being a supportive companion just for the duration of that time block - and see if she warms and opens to you a bit. I suspect that if you extend her your companionship in this way, appreciating her for who she is without focusing on changing her, then she will increasingly open up to you, accept your criticism for what it is, and seek your input and advice.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
@angelfish thank you very much for your reply, it's definitely spot on! The thing is, all the family is actually very supporting of her qualities, as we all are very idealistic (too much for our own good, probably :D). She writes poetry and draws, and we all realize she is talented, we always encouraged her to pursue her dreams. My mother, who tends to be very traditional and respectful of social decorum, as she puts it, even defended her writing talent at school with a very obtuse professor she has, so I think that in reality she is being supported, fortunately by both of her parents, which is much more than many have. She apparently doesn't see this at all. She receives way more attention than the other ESFJ sister (who's more independent and selfreliant, but who sees this and I think suffers much for it), but she doesn't see it this way, she actually feels inferior to her. There is the fact that she has some unnerving traits she should be working on, and she needs to realize she isn't the only one living in this house, and right now her father is going through some rough stuff, so it would be better for everyone if she could be supporting as well, so she is scolded at times, yet she refuses to see this as normal. I always tried to support her, and for a long time I didn't criticize anything she did (I didn't feel I was in the position to do so), I only teased her, and she would laugh about it along with me. But I have a sharp sense for reciprocity, so I really can't stop myself when I see she isn't being fair. I think I can pinpoint a specific event in which my mother undermined her confidence, not exactly on purpose, though she could have avoided it. I think from that time on, she pushed my mother away and everything began to go down for her, but she sees it way worse than what it actually is. She is loved. She takes everything the wrong way now, even when nobody is even remotely criticizing her. I think sometimes she feels guilty about things that she failed to do, and lashes out in response to this guilt, which is something I know very well. I can perceive she's highly critical to herself, and I try to help her see it differently, to build up some self respect, which she lacks. It doesn't bother me that she lashes out to me, I really am in no position to judge her as I was very similar to her at 14 and even onward, I just wish I could spare her from some really futile grief I went through first-hand (though I believe grief makes one grow), but apparently she just sees what she decides she wants to see, so there's little anyone can do. I hope that in September, when she enters high school, things will change (she is going to an art school, so I suppose she will feel accepted).

Thank you very much for the help, it's good to have a first-hand experience about it all ^_^
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
@angelfish thank you very much for your reply, it's definitely spot on! The thing is, all the family is actually very supporting of her qualities, as we all are very idealistic (too much for our own good, probably :D). She writes poetry and draws, and we all realize she is talented, we always encouraged her to pursue her dreams. My mother, who tends to be very traditional and respectful of social decorum, as she puts it, even defended her writing talent at school with a very obtuse professor she has, so I think that in reality she is being supported, fortunately by both of her parents, which is much more than many have. She apparently doesn't see this at all. She receives way more attention than the other ESFJ sister (who's more independent and selfreliant, but who sees this and I think suffers much for it), but she doesn't see it this way, she actually feels inferior to her. There is the fact that she has some unnerving traits she should be working on, and she needs to realize she isn't the only one living in this house, and right now her father is going through some rough stuff, so it would be better for everyone if she could be supporting as well, so she is scolded at times, yet she refuses to see this as normal. I always tried to support her, and for a long time I didn't criticize anything she did (I didn't feel I was in the position to do so), I only teased her, and she would laugh about it along with me. But I have a sharp sense for reciprocity, so I really can't stop myself when I see she isn't being fair. I think I can pinpoint a specific event in which my mother undermined her confidence, not exactly on purpose, though she could have avoided it. I think from that time on, she pushed my mother away and everything began to go down for her, but she sees it way worse than what it actually is. She is loved. She takes everything the wrong way now, even when nobody is even remotely criticizing her. I think sometimes she feels guilty about things that she failed to do, and lashes out in response to this guilt, which is something I know very well. I can perceive she's highly critical to herself, and I try to help her see it differently, to build up some self respect, which she lacks. It doesn't bother me that she lashes out to me, I really am in no position to judge her as I was very similar to her at 14 and even onward, I just wish I could spare her from some really futile grief I went through first-hand (though I believe grief makes one grow), but apparently she just sees what she decides she wants to see, so there's little anyone can do. I hope that in September, when she enters high school, things will change (she is going to an art school, so I suppose she will feel accepted).

Thank you very much for the help, it's good to have a first-hand experience about it all ^_^
 

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Welcome to the forums (I feel obligated to say that whenever somebody's under 10 posts :happy:).

Big caveat here: I'm speaking from my experience and only mine, any and all advice needs to taking with a generous pinch of salt.

I think teenage years are really tough, not just for INFPs, but for people in general. School environments get more negative, kids become aware of societal BS, they get to deal with hormones. As it is being a tough period of time, she's not going to be at her best.

There's a good thread of INFPs and criticism. Also if you haven't yet, you should talk to your BF about this. Present some hypotheticals (so his FI doesn't get in the way). The problem with criticizing an INFP is that we're so hard on ourselves already, but we frame that line of thinking in our heads. Any criticism tends to shatter that framework to some extent. To break it down in cognitive terms, criticism and question our Fi ("I know I suck at math, but I'm trying as hard as I can, can't you see that?") sort of thing. Also a lot of us have horrible Te/Ti, and eventually you just have to work around that (personally I have to stop expecting me to be organized/routined, I just have to put the effort and forgive myself for imperfection). Instead, I suggest the following:

1. Always be there (within your own time restraints of course) to be a sounding board. INFPs love to have people that listen to them. Doesn't always need to be serious, either. Your sister needs to know that you're willing to help, and to some extent she needs to ask you, first.

2. Instead of a normal criticism, say something like "Can I help you with ___?" "How can we get better with ___?". Hopefully, if you're really positive and (within reason) available, she'll open up to you. It must be terrible to wait for that to happen, but it's hard to force it.

3. Some of that "running into her room" stuff is pretty productive, even if it doesn't look like it. We're adjusting our Fi and Ne a little bit to new information. Also, and you can probably relate being INTP, we need our me-time :).

Even though you may not mean this way, for a 14 year old you might come off as just another person yelling at her. Above all, be there to listen, if the opportunity comes to delicately work on something, go ahead, but mostly you should just be there to support.

Also, if she's really mature, you could actually be direct, in a loving manner. What she probably doesn't know, is how she's presenting herself to others. If you can put that into feelings, then she might actually learn a lot from this line of dialog. I was really surprised when my mom told me (I was in my mid-20s at the time) that I always seemed like a sad kid. I had some issues (don't we all?) but never meant to come off like that.
 

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Your sister sounds exhausted from depression.

Perhaps just don't criticize her at this time. That's the last thing people who are paralyzed by perfectionism need.

My sister is a ESFP who often criticized me and we are not close because of it. She too admires my wit but, at the end of the day, doesn't know who I am or anything about my life. She is 31 and I am 26. What I wanted from her was unconditional love and involvement but she didn't know how or want to. I don't care anymore.

I also had an INFJ best friend growing up who would viciously criticize me out of "love" and to "protect" me.

I love STJs because I find they do not criticize me. They listen and offer some ideas about a next steps. It was an ESTJ who brought me out of self-loathing and feeling like I didn't have worth to give society, enough so that I dared to pick a career path.

You sister just needs you to tell her how fantastic she is and to be listened to. Help her in ways that are nonjudgemental, selfless, and concrete.
 

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@korin Her Fi is very strong, her other functions are not. Your sister looks inward all the time and that makes her come across as egocentric, selfish and like she is the only person in the house. Couple this with puberty (hormones) and you have a very stubborn person. Put insecurity and self-criticism on top of that and you have someone who is very difficult to deal with.

I actually agree with @WhateverLolaWants the most. The last thing a perfectionist, self-criticising, self-loathing young INFP needs is more criticism. That would only add more fuel to the fire, she will start criticising herself even more. But, I also realize some of her behavior might be unnaceptable and that said behavior should be corrected. So. When it is needed to critisize her always present the good with the bad. There is a feedback method called the Hamburger Technique, where the negative criticism is the hamburger itself and the positive feedback is the hamburger bun. Start with a positive, then give the negative, finish with another positive. This way you have corrected whatever behavior needed correction and you have given her a confidence boost and/or feeling she is loved or appreciated.
 
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