ESFP personal growth

Personal Growth for an ESFP

by Robert G. Heyward

What does Success mean to an ESFP?

ESFPs can't help but spontaneously grasp the moment, particularly if it offers a new sensation or experience. And while the ESFP might seem to others to only be interested in piling up new experiences, or reliving old ones just to savour the quality of the sensations or lively enjoyment they bring, the ESFP has in fact a far more subtle relationship to life and the world around them. Indeed, with their curious mixture of Extraverted Sensation and Introverted Feeling, the ESFP can show a wealth of complexity in their ways, even if to the ESFP themselves, considering such matters is felt to be a tedious and - to their way of seeing the world - quite unnecessary task. For this reason, just defining what success means to an ESFP requires more than simply assuming that a life filled with satisfying, quality experiences necessarily fulfills this criteria, as the ESFP's true needs and satisfactions will depend greatly on the strength and refinement of their Sensation and Feeling functions. But there is one thing that defines all ESFP's, and that is their exuberant abilty - and need - to engage with other people and express that which grips them. So, whilst success might come through many different paths, and be felt by the ESFP in modes and preferences not necessarily understood as success by other types, the successful ESFP will nevertheless always be found where they can live in full and open engagement with people and able to express their talents, appreciations and joys before the world at large.

Allowing your ESFP strengths to flourish

As an ESFP, you have gifts that are specific to your personality type that aren't natural strengths for other types. By recognizing your special gifts and encouraging their growth and development, you will more readily see your place in the world, and be more content with your role.

Nearly all ESFPs will recognize the following characteristics in themselves. They should embrace and nourish these strengths:

A great ability to understand the objective world, its facts and realities A talent for entertaining and pleasing others with words and actions An aptitude for getting the most out of any situation or place Very skilled at finding the best of things for themselves and others A warm and generous attitude both as a giver and receiver Exceptional natural musical and dramatic skills A detailed and finely nuanced appreciation of the outside world Adept at detecting and recognising the effects of minute changes to their environment A talent for learning to do practically anything by just watching and doing A reassuring and practical sense of the world which supports others

ESFPs who have developed their Introverted Feeling to the extent that they can integrate the concrete world of their perceptions with a responsive and healthy system of personal values will find that they enjoy these special gifts:

Their refined tastes will make it a joy for others to be in their company and homes. Their abilty to weigh the value of their actions gives great force to their talent for entertaining people of all tastes. They will quickly differentiate between those things which are of greater and lesser importance to a situation. They will not just seek entertainment and things for their own sake, but will seek always to find that which they feel will provide the most value and reward for themselves and others. The ESFP who augments their ability to recognize opportunities (Extraverted Sensing) with a strong internal value system (Intoverted Feeling) will find themselves more likely to attract, and be attracted into, very rewarding relationships with others - particularly with those of the opposite sex. They will recognise and promote the talents of others. They can be counted on to defend the best and most life promoting aspects of the world.

Potential problem areas

With any gift of strength, there is an associated weakness. Without "bad", there would be no "good". Without "difficult", there would be no "easy". We value our strengths, but we often curse and ignore our weaknesses. To grow as a person and get what we want out of life, we must not only capitalize upon our strengths, but also face our weaknesses and deal with them. That means taking a hard look at our personality type's potential problem areas.

ESFPs are kind and creative beings with many special gifts. I would like for the ESFP to keep in mind some of the many positive things associated with being an ESFP as they read some of this more negative material. Also remember that the weaknesses associated with being an ESFP are natural to your type. Although it may be depressing to read about your type's weaknesses, please remember that we offer this information to enact positive change. We want people to grow into their own potential, and to live happy and successful lives.

Most of the weaker characteristics that are found in ESFPs are due to their dominant Extraverted Sensing function overshadowing the rest of their personality. When this function smothers everything else, the ESFP can't use Introverted Feeling to properly judge the value and propriety of their perceptions or actions. The first ten of the following weaknesses derive in varying degrees from this problem alone, whilst the rest are due to the additional effect of the ESFPs unique make up and result from their diminished capacity to use abstract reasoning.

  • May be seen by others as unnecessarily coarse in their behaviour and life choices.
  • May be unable to value or may ignore the preferences and needs of others.
  • May perceive even the most careful and objective criticism as simply a ploy to spoil their enjoyment of life.
  • May have skewed or unrealistic ideas about the feelings of others.
  • May be unable to acknowledge or hear anything that would lead to second thoughts or a more careful appreciation.
  • May blame their problems on the world at large, seeing themselves as frustrated heroes battling against the odds.
  • May become totally self-focused and oblivious to the havoc they wreak on others feelings.
  • May uncaringly use totally innapropriate social behavior simply to make a point.
  • May be overbearing in their judgements upon the taste and dress of others.
  • May come across to others as boastful and rash in their attitudes.
  • May rationalise the ways of the world in the most inane or simplistic ways.
  • May believe the most extraordinary things about inanimate objects and their workings.
  • May feel overwhelmed with tension and stress when driven into a situation which requires deep and careful consideration.
  • Under great stress, may feel the world around them is alive with dark, unseen influences.

Another difficulty, which is not so much a problem for the ESFP but for those around them, particularly if Introverted Thinking or Intuitive types, is that even when joyful or in the midst of life, they may be percieved as coldly self absorbed and oblivious to the feelings of others, even when the truth is quite the reverse. Should it somehow matter, then when in the company of such people, the ESFP should take some trouble to express their feelings and value judgements.

Explanation of problems

Nearly all of the problematic characteristics described above can be attributed in various degrees to the common ESFP problem of being overly absorbed by the sensations and immediate apparent facts of the external world. ESFPs are usually very spontaneous and outgoing people who have little time for analysis of the complexities behind the world they live in. They are likely to treat any point of view other than their own rather shortly, waving away in particular the more intellectual and intuitive understandings of others as irrelevant and totally secondary to the obvious realities of life. If the ESFP does not learn how to deal with the tension that arises between, what to them, is the most obvious and satisfying way to deal with the world, and those deeper intricacies which lie behind its facade, the ESFP will begin to shut out any incoming information which produces this tension. This is a natural survival technique for the ESFP personality. The main driver to the ESFP personality is Extraverted Sensation, whose purpose is solely to perceive the realities of the external world and by which the ESFP orients themselves towards the things they need or desire. If an ESFP's image of the world is threatened by demands for careful judgement or reasoning, the ESFP shuts out the demand in order to preserve and honor their world view. This is totally natural, and works well to protect the individual psyche from getting hurt. However, the ESFP who exercises this type of self-protection regularly will become not only more and more careless of other people's needs and perspectives, but also cut off in a world where the facts and realities which they perceive become interwoven with a belief system which supports only the ESFPs desire driven view. Under such circumstances they will justify their own inappropriate behaviors in the most astounding or rationally simplistic ways, and will always find fault with others for trying to complicate and disturb what ought to be a simple and obvious way of life. It will be difficult for them to maintain close personal relationships because they will not only have unreasonable and simplistically concrete expectations, but will be unable to understand why such expectations cannot be easily met.

It's not an uncommon tendency for the ESFP to look to their inner world only for feelings that justify their desires and perceptions. However, if this tendency is given free reign, the resulting ESFP personality is too self-centered to be happy or successful. Since the ESFP's dominant function is Extraverted Sensing, they must balance this with an auxiliary Introverted Feeling function which is sufficiently refined to make reasonably objective judgements about the value of the ESFPs actions and the people and things in their life. The ESFP makes value judgements via Introverted Intuition. This is also the ESFP's primary way of dealing with their own internal subjective world. If the ESFP uses Introverted Feeling only to serve the purposes of Extraverted Sensing, then the ESFP is not using Introversion effectively at all. As a result, the ESFP does sufficiently consider the effects of their actions and perceptions sufficiently for a strong value system to arise in their personality. They see nothing but the joys, satisfactions and sensations of the world outside themselves, and deal with feeling only so far as it supports their need for constant stimulation and gratification. These individuals can often come across as coarse and lustful, although can just as easily seem the complete opposite, as refined and tasteful connoisseurs who, nevertheless, at closer quarters reveal their complete indifference to anything but the satisfaction of their own desires.

At this point, I would like the reader to understand that, as with all personality types, serious problems are usually only encountered by those whose dominant function is unusually strongly expressed against the other functions. Such situations are rare and although the problems discussed here can indeed be felt to some level by all ESFPs, most people regardless of their personality type tend toward a balance within both their personal and worldly relationships which occurs despite differences in personality preference; a balance driven by the need for comfort in others and the human capacity for love. So whilst it is essential for us to fine tune our relationships through knowledge and understanding of our differences and peculiar needs, it is also good for us to remember that the most simple and childlike longings of the heart can also be most powerful guides to happiness.


To grow as an individual, the ESFP needs to focus on increasing their self understanding to allow a rational and more objectively reasoned value system to arise within themselves. In order for the ESFP to more validly judge the the value of their desires, actions and the things they allow into their world, the ESFP needs to know that their world view is not being threatened but qualitatively reinforced by the strength and objectivity of their judgements. The ESFP must consciously tell himself/herself that a feeling that does not agree with their desires or perceptions of the world is not an indictment of their character but a clue to greater understanding.

The ESFP who is concerned with personal growth will pay close attention to their motivation for valuing certain actions, interests and possessions over others. Do they attend to their feelings to judge such things according to a strong set of values which accords also with the needs of others? Or, do they judge only to support a personal desire? At the moment when something is felt, is the ESFP concerned with adjusting that feeling to fit in with what appears to them as the most important things in the world? Or is she/he concerned with allowing their feelings to be fully realised? To achieve a better understanding of their feelings, the ESFP should try to allow feelings their full force, before setting them against their strong desires. They should be consciously aware of their tendency to discard anything that doesn't agree with their immediate sense of appearance, and work towards lessening this tendency. They should try to see situations from other people's perspectives, without making personal judgments about the situations or the other people's perspectives. In general, they should work on exercising their Feeling in a truly Introverted sense. In other words, they should use Feeling to understand how the world of their perceptions affects their inner life, using it to discover the values that truly matter, rather than simply to support their wishes. The ESFP who successfully creates a strong value system can be quite a powerful force for positive change.

Living Happily in our World as an ESFP

Some ESFPs have difficulty fitting into our society. Their problems are often a result of an uncaring attitude to anything other than the moment, an unawareness of the needs of others, or too simplistic a set of expectations. All of these issues stem from using Introverted Feeling in a diminished manner. An ESFP who uses feeling to judge the value of their perceptions and actions, rather than one who uses it only to support their desires, will have a clearer, more refined appreciation of the world and what it can offer. He or she will also be more aware of how others may feel, and will have more realistic expectations for others' behavior within a relationship. Such well-adjusted ESFPs will fit happily into our society.

Unless you really understand Psychological Type and the nuances of the various personality functions, it's a difficult task to suddenly start to use Feeling in an Introverted direction. It's difficult to even understand what that means, much less to incorporate that directive into your life. For the ESFP, the most important thing is to recognise and understand that Feelings must not be confused with sensations or the emotions they unleash. Quite often we say "it feels good" when we really mean that the sensation we are experiencing is good. The sense of "Feeling" from a psychological viewpoint is that it underlies that rational, judging factor which discriminates rightness or applicability from wrongness or misapplication, guilt from pride etc. With this in mind, I am providing some specific suggestions that may help you to begin exercising your Introverted Feeling:

Ten rules to live by to achieve ESFP success

  1. Feed your strengths! Encourage your natural expressive abilities and hands-on talents. Nourish your appreciation of the world. Give yourself opportunities to enjoy life to the full.
  2. Face your weaknesses! Realize and accept that some traits are strengths and some are weaknesses. Facing and dealing with your weaknesses doesn't mean that you have to change who you are, it means that you want to be the best You possible. By facing your weaknesses, you are honoring your true self, rather than attacking yourself.
  3. Express your feelings. Don't let worries build up inside of you. If you are troubled by doubt or fear, tell those close to you who will listen and offer counsel. Don't make the mistake of "blipping over it" or "sorting it out" some quick fix way.
  4. Listen to everything. Try not to accept everything at face value. Let everything soak in and listen to your feelings.
  5. Smile at criticism. Remember that people will not always agree with you or understand you, even if they value you greatly. Try to see disagreement and criticism as an opportunity for growth. In fact, that is exactly what it is.
  6. Be aware of others. Remember that there are 15 other personality types out there who see things differently than you see them. Try to identify other people's types. Try to understand their perspectives.
  7. Be accountable for yourself. Remember that your every word and action affects those around you, so it is important for you to be fully responsible for your self, and to the values you hold.
  8. Be gentle in your expectations. You will always be disappointed with others if you expect too much of them. Being disappointed with another person is the best way to drive them away. Treat others with the same gentleness that you would like to be treated with.
  9. Assume the best. Don't distress yourself by assuming the worst. Remember that a positive attitude creates positive situations.
  10. When in doubt, ask questions! If something seems to be wrong and you can't put your finger on it, maybe someone else can. Remember, there are many ways of seeing the world, and perhaps someone else's way will reveal the truth.

More resources