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Struggling INFP ISO college major and life advice

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I spent two reasonably successful years at a notoriously difficult University and then, during my third year, everything fell apart. I've never been the perfect student. I procrastinate as a result of fear or failure and perfectionism. As a result I have always, to some extent, underperformed. But during my third year, I found every paper nearly impossible to complete at all, much less on time. It was excruciating an humiliating and a lot of other unpleasant things that end with -ing. Even though I have at certain points not lived up to my potential, I've never been the sort of person who doesn't do my work. There was a lot going on at home: my father was ill and my parents were struggling financially. Additionally, I found the pressure of finally having to commit to a major terrifying. So, I took a year off. I did some other things: I studied art which has always been a passion, got a job, tried to stop worrying so much. I'm glad I've taken this time, but I still feel much the same way I did at the end of last year: overwhelmed, struggling to complete simple day to day tasks that shouldn't be hard, and utterly paralyzed by the notion of committing to a field of study that may somehow guide my life in a direction that will make me miserable. I think too much, and realize this is mostly ridiculous. It is, nonetheless, something I have little control over. (I know I should see a therapist, but unfortunately my health care plan doesn't cover that and I can't afford it on my own.)


When I took my leave of absence, I was an Anthropology major and a creative writing minor. I have since decided that Anthropology probably isn't for me, but I'd like to hang onto my writing minor. I need to graduate in the next two years at most, and I don't really have any more time to experiment with classes. I need to settle on something before I start again and stick to it this time. Deep down, I feel resigning myself to Visual Arts is the best option, because it won't be as stressful as a more academic field and creating has always made me happy. It should be simple, shouldn't it? However, I can't help but worry that if I choose Visual Arts, it will hurt my chances of getting into grad school (I've considered art conservation, historic preservation, architecture, photography, creative writing, or archaeology as potential future courses of study) should I want to pursue academia. I fear, more generally, that it will harm my chances of being taken seriously as an intellectual person period. (Yes, I realize this attitude is ridiculous and ill-informed--I also realize a lot of people ARE ridiculous and ill-informed.) Mostly, I want to ensure that I have the option, post undergraduate, to go on and do something that is engaging and exciting (and ideally pays well enough that I don't have to live in a box). Do any of you have any experience with this? Or advice on making important, scary life decisions? Or helpful tactics to push the fear out, and go on living life? Any insights would be appreciated really. Thank you and sorry for the long, rambling, somewhat incoherent post!

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First, I really do think you should seek out therapy. I'm not saying that to be mean or nasty at all! Everyone deals with anxiety, but the extremity of your anxiety should really be discussed with a professional. When it's to the point that it's affecting your daily life and your long-term plans, it's just too much. Many therapists work on a sliding scale, so they accept payment depending on your income, regardless of whether or not you have insurance. Psychology Today's website has a great database that can tell you about therapists in your area, their specialties, and if they accept payment on a sliding scale.


That said, I think your attitude about not being taken seriously in academia as a Visual Arts major IS very ridiculous and ill-informed. The visual arts have become a very serious academic pursuit. And if you're worried that you will get this degree and want to move into something different - say, law - I can tell you that many professional programs are just dying to take on people like you. I was a Theatre Management major in undergrad (I have a BFA), and law schools were fawning all over me because they so rarely get people from majors other than poli sci, philosophy, and sociology.


I think your first step is to think long and hard about going into academia, as that will really change your path in undergrad. If you do want to go into academia, it'd serve you well to focus on challenging classes almost exclusively in your major, and to try and get your name on some research or work directly with a professor in doing so. If you're not, you may want to focus on a more liberal arts education and think about internships.


Two other random notes: If you do want to do Visual Art as a major, how about a minor or some classes in business to complement it? I work in the fundraising department of a museum, so I'm still working in arts and culture, but I'm salaried and have a roof over my head. Also, I have a friend who's working to become a conservationist, and it's slow going. She has an undergrad degree in fine art and has been interning unpaid for her first year after graduation at a conservation studio. She loves it, but she knows she won't be getting a paid job without a Master's, and there are only a handful of schools in the country that offer art conservation graduate degrees.

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Change your degree to art. It's what you are passionate about. You will find SOMETHING to do with your degree, and you will love getting up in the morning.


btw, problems making decisions, et al. are typical of either people with self-esteem issues or depression.

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INTP here. I don't know an actual INFP, but I read up on the type.


It sounds as though you need to reconcile your ideals with reality - that you're not underperforming simply because you didn't meet the ideal (which can't ever be met, by definition). Also, don't feel overly-scrutinized and take external criticisms personally.


Your core runs off of introverted Feeling, and gathers information from the world using extroverted iNtuition. Under fire, the information gathering become biased, or even ceases, in favor of preserving the core. The world then becomes somewhat self-centric, with the externals that lend perspective becoming merely peripheral.


While I don't know you personally, I can somewhat see this in your post:


[...]I've never been the sort of person who doesn't do my work.

There's no need to rationalize or blame others for the behavior. It happened, and that's what it is. No one blamed you, and you didn't fail. Divorce yourself from the unreachable ideal and strive for something more realistic.



I fear, more generally, that it will harm my chances of being taken seriously as an intellectual person period.

This sounds all internal - as though you're no longer gathering information in an objective manner with extroverted iNtuition, but shutting it off and feeding your core negativity that you conjured up. You have a natural talent in the arts, so don't find reasons to kick your own ass. The person makes the degree, not vice versa.



While the site is fairly colloquial, it sums everything nicely:

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On a side note: decision making problems occur for different reasons. Check out the above site, turnera!

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