👤 This week’s INF interview is with Ilaria Alfonsi, an INFP from Sardinia.
✉️ To read this week’s subscriber letter -> click here
Here’s the interview with Ilaria:
Hey there! What do you like to be called? (first name and surname)
Well, my name is Ilaria Alfonsi, but writing my first name and surname sounds very boring, even though I like both of them very much. I think Ilaria will be fine.
Okay great, Ilaria it is :) Thanks so much for taking part in this. Can we start this interview by finding out where in the world you currently reside? Is this also where you grew up?
I'm Italian. I live in Sardinia, but I stayed for the first 9 years of my life in Lombardy.
Oh, Sardinia is beautiful. Do you have any memories of Lombardy? What was it like there, compared to Sardinia?
Yes, a few though. I recall the little park near my house. There was fine grass and stone tables. And also a swing. I recall my babysitter, a family friend of ours that sometimes I still hear on the phone. Very sweet woman. Comparing it to Sardinia, I would say that Lombardy is mountains and Sardinia is sea. And unluckily I don't like the sea very much. I would love to visit it again to rediscover my roots. I saw Milan but I still didn't have the chance to go to the cities of my childhood.
Wow, thank you for sharing some more with us. They both sound like beautiful places.
They really are!
Do you remember what you were like as a child?
My mother always tells me I was joyful and social, which is quite strange for me, knowing how I am now. What I surely remember though is I was very sensitive.
That’s interesting that you remember that about yourself. Do you remember in which ways that your sensitivity showed itself? Are there any particular moments which come to mind?
Yes. You know the passages of life, such as coming to know the non-existence of Santa Claus, were challenging for me. I remember my mother told me I cried a lot. Too much maybe. But it was my way to cope with my world that was falling apart as a child. Maybe it will be banal for someone but I've always been an overreacting child and this to me is certainly a proof of it.
I loved believing in Santa Claus, and the tooth-fairy too. I remember it being difficult for me, too, to come to terms with the reality. There’s a part of me that likes to still pretend he delivers presents each Christmas to children all over the world…
I get you. There will always be a part of us longing for childhood.
And what was school like for you? How were your teenage years as a whole?
I enjoyed going to school because of the potentially stimulating opportunities of growth and question of ourselves. But I didn't like it at a certain point due to its being repetitive and too structured in the same way. My teenage years were (are maybe, I'm still 21) a bit difficult. I started to have depression, with all its consequences. But there was an official beginning of my creativity: I started to write ordinarily, and I'm still living that peak of inspiration that allows me to write Shakespeare monologues such as this.
I can relate a lot to your feelings about school. I enjoyed learning but, especially towards the end of high school, I grew tired of it all. Thanks for being honest in sharing your depression. Have you found being creative/writing has helped with your mental health? If so, how?
I will say something maybe inconceivable for someone, or even paradoxical: depression helped me to write, not the other way round. Depression was my source of creativity. "From great pain comes great art", someone said.
That’s amazing, and so interesting. I like that quote a lot, too.
I'm glad my experience can be interesting for someone. Interesting is the door to useful.
What words, or phrases, would you use to describe your current self?
In search of my current self.
That’s very honest of you, and I think a lot of INFPs and INFJs will be able to relate to that for sure (if not now, then at some point during their lives).
I think so too. Questioning our existence is a must for every person, but I believe that for us introverts is crucial in a peculiar way.
When was it that you first realise that you were an introvert? How did this happen
After a particular episode of my life that made me read up as much as I can on introversion.
Would you mind telling us more about this particular moment? Do you remember what it was specifically that you read?
It was when my first boyfriend and I broke up. From that moment I focused on myself and I observed my behaviours more carefully. That led to a better understanding of who I was and a desire to confirm what I was (at the time) just supposing. I took the test in the same period, I read many articles, watched many videos and listened carefully to what my mind was giving me back.
Well thank you for sharing that with us.
Thank you! I'm glad to have done it. Initially I was reluctant, but now I know it was for the best.
Are you an INFP or an INFJ?
INFP to the bone!
When did you first do the Myers-Briggs test and realise you were an INFP?
Five years ago. My uncle who was studying psychology at the time suggested me this test.
Oh, that’s great. And has discovering you were an INFP impacted you in any way? If so, how?
Absolutely! I was mind blown. It was revolutionary for me. Having a perfect description of who I was, encapsulated in a few pages was relieving and what I needed without really knowing. It was a true point of reference, if not a pillar.
I can imagine, and I can really relate to that. What qualities do you think INFPs and INFJs share with one another?
Sensitivity most of all, but also being prone to certain passions, such as writing, reading...and overthinking!
I am nodding my head to all of those things! :)
All of us are in the same boat!
Going back again to your days of studying, what were your favourite subject? (If applicable) what did you study at university/college?
Philosophy and English. I studied languages at first and two years ago I changed to education.
Well done on making a change. What was it that prompted this move to education?
My disgrace was (and still is) that I've always had too many passions and interests. Languages was one of them. I went to a languages college so it was the most reasonable option. But my vocation was elsewhere. There were many factors that made me see it: the voice in my head, my firm belief in the power of education, my love for children. It has always been this and luckily I realized that!
Oh, I don’t think that’s a disgrace at all. There are many, many of us who can relate to that. (I wonder if you’ve ever come across being a multi-potentialite, or a multi-passionate? Emilie Wapnick has a great TED Talk and blog all about that).
I thank you for making me discover that! It seems I am. I still have to listen to the TED Talk, but I have enough elements to suppose that (I am one).
What are you spending your time on at the moment? (Whether studying, working, or other focusing your attention… it can be more than just one thing!)
I'm (trying to) studying, writing, overthinking, imagining...too many things to list them all!
Was there a moment in your life see when you made a drastic change?
Not that I remember. My changes, if present, were always gradual and slow. I've always been not very prone to change. When a situation needed a drastic change I was never fully able to do it, nor to recover from it.
Wow, I can really relate to this. I actually went to university twice (three times, if you count my Masters, after I went back to study), and those first two times were really tough for me.
For me too. I changed, and I had to start twice if you think. It was thrilling but quite draining!
You mentioned creativity earlier. Do you have a preferred creative/artistic outlet? Can you tell us a bit about this?
My outlet is exercised through writing. I try to write every day to let it all out, to placate my thoughts. Not always totally successful, but it helps a bit.
That’s great. When was it that you first started writing? Do you remember what prompted/inspired you to start?
I started writing at 8, with fanfictions about Harry Potter. I clearly remember that I liked to write them on sketchbook sheets I used for my art class. My mother always yelled at me because technically I was wasting them! But I wasn't good at drawing, so they had to be useful in some other way!
I love that :) I’m glad you put those sheets to good use! I actually started writing a script for ‘Toy Story 3’ (when just the first two had been released).
Oh, that's truly amazing!
Would you describe yourself as a 'highly sensitive person' (or an empath)?
Definitely, no doubt! I read up about it too and I know what it means!
Do you have a personal definition of 'success'? What does being 'successful' look like to you?
Leaving your mark. Being of help.
I love that answer. So simple, but profound.
I believe sometimes less is better, even in writing.
What about 'happiness' - do you have a personal recipe for that?
I guess happiness is made of three components: the emotive aspect, the professional aspect and the individual aspect. By emotive I mean having a family, a circle of friends and a partner who support you and love you. The processional one is getting a job that satisfies you and fulfils you. The individual aspect is achieving a good physical and mental health.
It sounds like you have a good sense of what ‘happiness’ means for you. That’s great.
It was a process of discovery and union of pieces previously collected that led me to a realization all at once. It was not easy but now I have at least some certainties.
Do you like to plan things, or are you more of a go-with-the-flow type of person? (Or, perhaps, a little bit of both? E.g. planning your day, or a project/big task, or an event, or a trip)
It depends. For bigger things I like a bit of a plan, for others I go with the flow.
What does your 'perfect Sunday' (or Saturday) look like?
Writing and staying at home with my boyfriend and our cat watching Netflix.
That sounds lovely. What have you been watching on Netflix recently that you’ve enjoyed?
Versailles. It's a historical TV series about the King Sun. I love historical fiction very much!
Oh, that sounds super-interesting. Is your boyfriend an introvert, too?
No, he's an ambivert. And I really envy him for that: he can have the best of both worlds and he can balance perfectly his two sides depending on the context. For me instead it's quite difficult sometimes, so I try to be inspired by him and learn some of his secrets!
Oh I see, that’s interesting. Moving slightly along, is there anything you've read, watch or listened to recently, that you've loved? (Whether a book, blog, podcast, film/TV show, etcetera).
I did love When Calls The Heart. It's a TV series of love and faith that comforts me every time I watch it. Besides, it means so much to me because it made me realize my vocation to work on the education field, thanks to the main character who is a teacher
(Note from Jas: When Calls The Heart looks like it’s on Netflix… check it out)
Oh, this sounds beautiful. I’ll have to look out for this one. And it’s lovely that this helped inspire you to work in education.
Yes, it is. And I would've never expected such epiphany from something that isn't real!
Do you have any favourite blogs or podcasts?
I don't, mainly because I write my own blog and I don't have time to focus on other ones and because podcasts are slow to follow: you have to listen to generally long discussions and my mind gets bored easily!
How about favourite movies or TV shows? Anything you've seen recently that you'd recommend?
I have several. Favourite movies are the ‘Before’ trilogy that I absolutely recommend by all means. My TV show is definitely Friends, I love Chandler's sarcasm!
Friends has to be one of my all-time favourites, too :) I sometimes wonder if Phoebe is an INFP or an INFJ…
I don't see Phoebe as an introvert though. More of an ENFP or something like that!
Oh that’s true, yeah I know what you mean, she could well be an ENFP… If you could go back in time and meet "you" back in 2010, is there any advice that you'd give this younger self?
Try not to be too kind to people who don't deserve it.
That sounds like great advice.
I see it quite banal, but it was something I learned at my expense. Basic but maybe because of this forgotten.
And if you could one or two pieces of advice to your follow INFs, what would they be?
Don't self-sabotage. Try at least. Imposter syndrome is too much common not to try to work on it. Don't think you are less or you can't succeed just because of a mistake. Simply, shine your own way.
Thanks, Ilaria, for sharing these sentiments. You mention “imposter syndrome” - I agree, I think this is very common. Is there anything you’ve done so far to help yourself work on this?
I'm currently seeing a psychologist because I realized that I can't do it alone. I confide that with her help I will have what I need to act accordingly.
Thanks so much for sharing that with us, and I think it’s great that you went out and got the help that you needed. I, too, have seen a psychologist and therapists in the past.
In sharing these kind of things, I want to spread a clear message. Psychologists are for everyone and everyone should see a psychologist. Taking care of mental health is not for "crazy people" and the concept of crazy itself must be fought through respect towards every human being, regardless of their situation.
What does 'self-care' mean for you? How do you practise it?
Self-care is something that I struggle to practise. It's very easy for me to get lost. I try though, taking care of my hair with specific pills, making me some tea and flossing my teeth.
Do you have a favourite quote?
"Knowledge is power"
If they wish to after reading this interview, where can others find and connect with you online?
Hahaha, you try to make me look like an influencer! I'm on Twitter anyway, the only social media I (can) still stand a bit -> @diariesoftig
Lastly, is there anything else you'd like to say? (Whatever's on your mind, whether it follows on from this interview, or is just something completely random and opportunity. Say whatever and as much - or as little - as you like :)
I loved being interviewed. I discovered it's something I like very much! I love being asked interesting questions and answering them with no limit. Probably I'm such a primadonna inside, so thank you for the opportunity!
It has been such a pleasure to interview you, Ilaria. Thank you so much for taking part and for being so open and honest throughout.