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ESFP, or Extroverted Sensing Feeling Perceiver

is a label borrowed from MBTI nomenclature and now applied to the Jungian Cognitive Function set {Se, Fi, Te, Ni}.

What Is Personality Type

What Is Personality Type

Dominant: Extroverted Sensation (Se)

"I'm the kind of person that feels most at home when I can get involved in a lot of different things, in a really hands-on way that connects me to lots of new people and situations and opportunities to explore. I tend to make a lot of friends wherever I go; somehow, people always seem to appreciate my charisma and my natural talents in lots of different areas. If I can get my hands on it and make a real impact or observable difference, it's probably something I'll be good at. I have to be engaged with my surroundings nearly all of the time--I think it's really important to be aware of what's going on around you, because something unexpected could happen at any time, and often that something will demand an immediate response. I don't tend to spend a lot of time on calculated preparation, but nonetheless I feel prepared to deal with anything because I'm so naturally adaptable and ready to respond to anything and everything as it happens. I think it's important not to take life too seriously or let anything slow you down--if I stop actively engaging the world around me, I'll lose my drive and enthusiasm, and I really dislike getting bored or running out of projects to work on. Some people need to learn to relax and just take life one day at a time--to pay attention to what's really happening, instead of trying to read too much into things. If you don't have real people and real connections to involve yourself in, how can you really live life to the fullest?"

Let's begin by dispelling some stereotypes, by explaining what ESFPs are not: ESFPs are not mindless party-mongers. While they are known for their vaunted people skills and personal charm, their psychological motivations run deeper than most type profiles and common renderings of the SeFi function hierarchy give them credit for. As Se dominants, ESFPs are extremely aware of the value of first impressions. Since their dominant attitude encourages emphasis on the immediate sensory impact of the physical world surrounding them, they're generally aware more than most of the inherent assumptions and interpretations the human mind tends to make based on the first sensory impression it's exposed to in any given situation. Continually vigilant of these impressions and the way they impact people and interpersonal interactions, ESFPs tend to place high value on presentation and style.

As with all extroverted functions, dominant Se depends upon objective, externally derived information (frequently involving other people) to orient its perceptions according to the collective perceptions of others. Who exactly those others are will depend on the particular ESFP and his idea of what groups of people are worth making an impression upon. It's worth noting that the common stereotype that ESFPs are always "trendy" is somewhat misleading: while this idea would imply that all ESFPs always keep up with the collective trends of popular culture at large, many do not. The only constant for dominant Se is a concerted effort to keep up with whatever will produce the most memorable and effective sensory impact: it just so happens that, in many cases, popular culture serves as a useful way to accomplish this goal in reference to large groups of people. But it's also important to realize that many ESFPs do not pay attention to or value popular culture in general, at least not for its own sake--their perceptual standards simply reference those of whatever groups of people they happen to consider interesting or worthwhile. One ESFP may find another ESFP's approach utterly boring and ineffective, based on differences in the perceptual preferences of their respective social and personal groups.

Even though ESFPs are often stereotyped as "performers", dominant Se may lead to all sorts of different "performances" even well outside the commonly expected manifestations of that practice or idea. Everything depends on the audience and what it wants to see, hear, or feel: Se is the soul of the audience, its perceptual expectations and responses, and our responses to them. ESFPs tend to see the world as a continually unfolding set of constant opportunities to take action and create observable change. They look around, they see an opportunity, and they act as soon as that opportunity presents itself. If nothing else, ESFPs know how to play to a crowd, adjusting their appearances and perceptual approaches to whatever it is that that crowd expects.

It's difficult to overstate how important continual action is to the ESFP's psychological needs. They frequently reference body language--especially eye contact--as a vital benchmark upon which honesty and integrity are won and lost. The ESFP must be interacting with her physical environments as often as possible, because she must collect as many different variants of new sensory information as she can find. Remarkable hands-on resourcefulness gives rise early on to boredom and routine's life-long branding as hated enemies of dominant Se's overwhelming desire for constant and consistent new experience. To restate a cliché (which is actually true to a certain extent), no one lives in moment--truly in the moment--more than an Se dominant. In Se's philosophy, the more we distract ourselves with imaginary second-guessing and time-consuming hypothetical analysis, the more we hinder our ability to direct our full attention to the imminent reality of the present moment. And if we're not paying attention to the reality of the present moment, we're surely missing whatever new information should be granting us the cues and hints that will lead us to stumble upon our next move--ESFPs rarely prefer to stay in any one place for too long.

Auxiliary: Introverted Feeling (Fi)

"The image is one thing and the human being is another. It's very hard to live up to an image--I'll put it that way." --Elvis Presley, ESFP

"As with all EP types, auxiliary Ji (in this case Fi) imbues the ESFP's character with a sense of personal purpose and integrity, with a conscientious concern for the well-being of others, and a sense of purpose and identity amidst the chaos of constant change and exploration. Most at home in the heat of the moment, young ESFPs may have difficulty slowing down and soul-searching long enough to show any meaningful degree of self-reflection or evaluation. When they do, they almost invariably describe a sense of heartfelt empathy with the needs and feelings of others. Development of Fi allows the ESFP's natural ability to adjust to the expectations of his audiences to be uplifted and stabilized by a personalized vision and unique understanding of the universal needs of all living creatures, spanning the physical, spiritual, and emotional. ESFPs who command Fi will know where they're coming from, where they're going, and why--the personalized ethical, spiritual, and aesthetic vision granted by the auxiliary function will remind dominant Se of the real purpose of its endless search for new experiences: personal growth and development.

It's easy to see how many ESFPs become involved in creative pursuits--and that's not limited to just the arts. Any method by which they can involve themselves directly in the creation of something that reflects the reality around them, and interacts with and affects their perceptions and the perceptions of others, will likely be viewed in a positive light. The key is finding a personalized representation (Fi) of real events occurring in real life, affecting real people in tangible ways (Se). In art, ESFPs find both an immediately stimulating sensory impression and a hint of the weightier and more important personal values by which they will eventually learn to navigate their own sense of virtue and self-evaluation. Fi should ideally lead ESFPs to hold themselves up to the light of the truth, to keep themselves grounded by an unerring sense of private moral rectitude and widespread good will toward life in general: ESFPs will tend to treat most people as good friends until given an explicit reason not to, and it's difficult for most to resist their upbeat attitudes and straightforward, earnest openness.

If developed poorly, it can be difficult for the ESFP to harness Fi in a genuinely empathetic way. He may neglect concern for the emotional and spiritual needs of others in favor of ensuring that he fills his own quota for new experiential input: more than one ESFP has justified his constant (and potentially excessive) need for high stimulation as a simple expression of his individuality, insisting that others respect his right to behave as he pleases or risk threatening his self-experience. This can and does cause a variety of arguments with the ESFP's close friends and family: Where does my right to individual freedom end, and my obligation to the needs of others begin? While it is true that ESFPs must continue engaging themselves with new experiences in order to feel fulfilled, too much emphasis on dominant Se with not enough on auxiliary Fi can result in crude, directionless hedonism. With so much new information of so many different varieties constantly entering the cognitive sphere, ESFPs (much like all EP types) must be cognizant of taking time out to analyze their experiences in depth (via Fi) in order to grant coherent meaning or value to any of them. Left to its own devices, dominant Se will explore to the ends of the Earth, but never retain the importance of the many life lessons it happens upon in the process.

When balanced properly, Fi should provide the ESFP with a sense of personal vision and deeper understanding of her mission and purpose in life. Although her externalized creations often seek to represent physical reality in her own subjective terms, they never quite match the internalized sense of aesthetic and spiritual perfection that Fi leads her to continue seeking throughout her entire life. The more Fi is able to provide subjective ideals for Se to translate into tangible representations of the ESFP's identity, the more it will strike him that he must reflect and further and refine his own sense of self, his own idea of value and hierarchy of priorities. Fi provides, above all, a personalized counterweight to Se's constant attention to the outward expectations of whoever the ESFP may find himself "performing" for nearly every day of his life.

Tertiary: Extroverted Thinking (Te)

Much like in their ENFP cousins, tertiary Te will ideally enter the cognitive picture to take on the role of adding externalized order and structure to the oft-disjointed and hectic world of the active ESFP. When balanced in order (assuming Se and Fi are differentiated and performing optimally), Te should strike the healthy ESFP as a somewhat difficult but necessary mindset to be able to access when the time comes for decisive direction, for the setting aside of personal sentiments in favor of the completion of a grander and more important goal. Contrary to popular stereotypes, tertiary Te actually assists in granting ESFPs their status as one of the most empirically-oriented types. Since Se and Te are the function attitudes most focused on direct action, the combination of the two can show outsiders a surprisingly aggressive driving force in the process of goal-setting and completion: while Se demands directly observable action, Te insists on consistent and predictable measures of progress and development. When Te is integrated effectively, the ESFP will not hesitate to take whatever action he needs to get the project back on schedule, nose to the grindstone. His desire for continual navigation of new challenges never subsides; however, proper development of the tertiary function will grant a sense of urgency and attention to objective detail that may seem to utterly contradict his usual disregard for formal rules and regulations.

Unfortunately, premature reliance on Te to the exclusion of the natural auxiliary Fi will result in some peculiar problems for the young ESFP. Already heavily focused on the objective expectations of others in terms of perceptual impact, the SeTe loop ESFP may become overly stressed and unable to genuinely relax. Because his only way of taking a "break" from the constant high stimulation of Se is to indulge in the constant high-priority organizing and correcting of Te, he may forget almost entirely to spend time reconsidering any of his decisions. The more Se demands immediate action and stimulation, the less patience Te maintains for anything deemed off topic or not imminently useful. Torn between the sensory expectations of those he finds interesting and the procedural expectations of those he finds knowledgeable and effective, the ESFP lacking Fi may become so lost in aggressive pursuit of his desires that he loses sight of why he really desires them in the first place.

Unable to satisfy all of the objective expectations he sees coming at him from all angles, the ESFP may wear himself out working too hard to ensure that everyone likes him, or considers his contributions worthwhile. If threatened or convinced that he is being ignored or undervalued, the ESFP in Te mode may even occasionally become territorially aggressive, insistent that every detail of every one of his preferred methods be followed to the letter--or else. The healthy presence of auxiliary Fi seems to be the primary mitigating factor in drawing the fine line between healthy and unhealthy Te use in the ESFP. Given time for the more important functions to develop first, tertiary Te should serve as a helpful reminder that some form of externalized structure must be had at some point, and that some attention must eventually be paid to the knowledge of people who know the subject in question.

As Te grows and develops into an important and regularly consulted part of the ESFP's cognition, her tendency to lose herself entirely in the immediately pleasurable sensations of reality will be tempered by a focus on dutiful consistency and objective reliability. Her personal ethics will come to balance themselves against the impending sense of immediacy that something measurable and empirically valid be done--drawn to the sensory stimulant properties of the object, the ESFP will learn to apply to his desire for exploration to measurable completion of legitimate, working objectives. He will find that he can apply his abilities to impact others toward useful and meaningful career goals, that his natural talents are valuable for many reasons beyond their inherent accessibility and sensory enjoyment. As much as Se would love to learn everything purely through hands-on experimentation, Te provides a vital balancing focus on the established methodology and evaluative standards of authoritative knowledge.

Inferior: Introverted iNtuition (Ni)

The peculiar effects of Ni as an inferior function provide one of (in my opinion) the more fascinating parts of the ESFP's cognition. Directly at odds with dominant Se's broad focus on the vast quantity of different sensory information immediately available around us, inferior Ni seems to flood the ESFP's cognition with all manner of esoteric (and often incoherent) symbols of unstated and covert interpretations. First encounters with this poorly developed inferior attitude can be unsettling at best: forced to reconsider the true meaning of everything they've always seen as most obviously important, ESFPs in the grip of inferior Ni may feel everything they know is slipping out from under them. The unconscious world of subjective perceptual significance threatens the sense of empirical observability by which dominant Se defines its primary worldview.

In terms of practical manifestations, inferior Ni tends to lend itself to bizarre and unfounded suspicions of others, even close friends and family. Since all possible perceptual angles are now on the table, dominant Se must stay aware and responsive to its surroundings, even if that means taking on and connecting with the most outlandish or improbable suggestions and possibilities regarding the intentions and motivations of the people around him. It's not entirely uncommon to see unfounded accusations, perceptions of disloyalty, delusions of grand significance, and occasionally even conspiracy theories (see Glenn Beck) pour out from the stressed ESFP as he becomes increasingly convinced he possesses some sort of supernatural insight, one which renders the directly observable and quantitative evidence upon which he normally relies entirely obsolete. As inferior Ni takes over, the ESFP will feel compelled to peer into every nook and cranny for something he's missed--some secret interpretive value that will change the way he sees everything around him. Unfortunately, this is typically done in such a juvenile and unrefined manner that it tends to result in assumptions that are implausible at best (and paranoid at worst.)

Like all inferior functions, inferior Ni is most commonly forced out by situations in which the dominant function finds itself unable to handle the problem or complete the task at hand. It tends to surface when ESFPs lose faith in their ability to adapt to and handle their surroundings using their instinctive understanding of physical reality and literal surface impressions. Naturally distrustful of unspoken (and thus unobservable) information, they may become convinced that the only solution involves some sort of nefarious plot to obscure the truth or the real significance from themselves or their loved ones. Convinced that the truth can't be empirically observed but simultaneously painfully aware of his own inability to process information outside an empirically observable context, the ESFP may be forced to confront outlandish, cynical, and even totally unsubstantiated hunches or "gut feelings" about the true reality of the events unfolding around him. Determined to uncover the secret meaning that has been deliberately withheld from him (which is almost invariably perceived as a personal attack), the ESFP struggling with inferior Ni may seize onto strange and improbable accusations and implications, convinced that he must ignore the world of physical reality in which he most naturally thrives in order to see any genuine significance in it.

On the other hand, inferior Ni may be gradually developed and applied positively as the ESFP matures. While most internal reflection will be handled by Fi, occasionally the self-awareness of subjective perceptual expectations provided by inferior Ni will help grant the ESFP a more balanced impression of the world and a more reasoned organizational hierarchy of his priorities. It should help to produce the realization that sometimes there actually is some value in withholding judgment, in reconsidering the reliability of surface impressions, and even in looking for meaning that isn't even directly suggested by the concrete information available. Development of inferior Ni (in conjunction with the higher functions) should lead ESFPs toward more fulfilling lives, replete with the excited energy of continual active exploration, but offset and harmonized by the occasional ability to trust gut feelings about the intangibles in life with which we cannot directly interact. As this balance improves and gains consistency, the ESFP will bring himself both the capability to build and maintain the high volume of personal contact and activity upon which he thrives, and the wisdom to know when to back off and reconsider--the difference this can make will be subtle, but powerful and influential for years to come.