The Idealist temperament is one of four temperaments defined by David Keirsey. Correlating with the NF (intuitive–feeling) Myers-Briggs types, the Idealist temperament comprises the following role variants (listed with their corresponding Myers-Briggs types): Champion (ENFP), Counselor (INFJ), Healer (INFP), and Teacher (ENFJ).
Keirsey combines those Jung personality types with the iNtuitive and Feeling (N and F) preferences into a Temperament called the Idealists. He describes the NF group’s primary objective as “identity seeking” since they use their Feelings, which is about as personal to each person’s identity as anything gets, to determine the possibilities and changes they see as being necessary in the world. The NF Temperament includes these types and their symbolic names:
- ENFJ – Teachers
- INFJ – Counselors
- ENFP – Champions
- INFP – Healers
Only 15-20% of the general population are of the Idealist Temperament.
Idealists, as a temperament, are passionately concerned with personal growth and development. Idealists strive to discover who they are and how they can become their best possible self – always this quest for self-knowledge and self-improvement drives their imagination. And they want to help others make the journey. Idealists are naturally drawn to working with people, and whether in education or counseling, in social services or personnel work, in journalism or the ministry, they are gifted at helping others find their way in life, often inspiring them to grow as individuals and to fulfill their potentials.
The people having an Idealist temperament tend to be future oriented. They are interested in new ideas particularly ones that relate to people. They are eternally optimistic that the world is going to get better and that everyone will live in peace and harmony. While they are concerned about everyday things like seeing that everyone is fed, they are more concerned about seeing that everyone has the opportunity to develop their full potential. For Idealists, rules are only guidelines. If there are special circumstances then rules are made to be bent a little or even broken.
Often their speech is peppered with abstract concepts such as truth, love and peace. They can rhapsodize over a good theory. They are less concerned about the details of day-to-day living. The details have to be taken care of, but seeing the big picture is much more fascinating.
All Idealists share the following core characteristics:
- Idealists are enthusiastic, they trust their intuition, yearn for romance, and seek their true self, prize meaningful relationships, and dream of attaining wisdom.
- Idealists pride themselves on being loving, kindhearted, and authentic.
- Idealists tend to be giving, trusting, spiritual, and they are focused on personal journeys and human potentials.
- Idealists make intense mates, nurturing parents, and inspirational leaders.
Idealists are relatively rare, making up no more than 15 to 20 percent of the population. But their ability to inspire people with their enthusiasm and their idealism has given them influence far beyond their numbers.
Art & Entertainment / Sports /Journalism / Literature
- Oprah Winfrey (Teacher)
- Jane Fonda (Teacher)
- Richard Gere (Healer)
- Mia Farrow (Healer)
- Charles Dickens (Champion)
Science / Education / Humanities / Philosophy / Religion
- Siddhartha [Buddha]
- Karen Armstrong (Healer)
- Carl Rogers (Champion)
- Pope John Paul II (Teacher)
- Abraham Maslow
- Carl Jung (Counselor)
Politics / Government / Military
- Mohandas Gandhi (Counselor)
- Eleanor Roosevelt (Counselor)
- Nelson Mandela (Champion)
- Vladimir Lenin (Teacher)
- Princess Diana (Healer)
Idealists long to be authentic. They don’t like to pretend they are something they are not as it is usually very stressful for them. They are not very interested in social position and just want to be accepted for who they are. Wearing a uniform or following a dress code is not comfortable for them, although they will do so to please others who are important to them. They don’t see the need to dress in certain ways just to impress others, e.g. teachers wearing suits and ties to set them apart from their students.
Another core need is to be empathic to those around them. Often Idealists end up in work that involves counselling, teaching and psychology. Even if they are working as an accountant, Idealists bring that element of human compassion that belies the more usual bottom line approach to the job.
Above all, life must have meaning for Idealists. What is the meaning of life and what is their part in the grand scheme of things is a lifelong quest for Idealists.
Idealists are abstract in speech and cooperative in pursuing their goals. Their greatest strength is diplomatic integration. Their best developed intelligence role is either mentoring (Counselors and Teachers) or advocacy (Healers and Champions).
As the identity-seeking temperament, Idealists long for meaningful communication and relationships. They search for profound truths hidden beneath the surface, often expressing themselves in metaphor. Focused on the future, they are enthusiastic about possibilities, and they continually strive for self-renewal.
Interests: They seek careers facilitating the personal improvement of lives of others, whether through education, counseling, or other pursuits that promotes the happiness and fulfillment of individuals and society. Idealists are sure that friendly cooperation is the best way for people to achieve their goals. Conflict and confrontation upset them because they seem to put up angry barriers between people. Idealists dream of creating harmonious, even caring personal relations, and they have a unique talent for helping people get along with each other and work together for the good of all. Such interpersonal harmony might be a romantic ideal, but then Idealists are incurable romantics who prefer to focus on what might be, rather than what is. The real, practical world is only a starting place for Idealists; they believe that life is filled with possibilities waiting to be realized, rich with meanings calling out to be understood.
Orientation: The lives of Idealists are guided by their devotion to their personal ethics. They are altruistic, taking satisfaction in the well-being of others. They believe in the basic goodness of the world and of the people in it. They take a holistic view toward suffering and misfortune, regarding them as part of a larger, unknowable truth, a mystical cause-and-effect. With an eye toward the future, they view life as a journey toward a deeper spiritual knowledge.
Self-image: The Idealists’ self-esteem is rooted in empathetic action; their self-respect in their benevolence; and their self-confidence in their personal authenticity.
Values: The emotions of Idealists “are both easily aroused and quickly discharged. Their general demeanor is enthusiastic. They trust their intuition and yearn for romance. They seek deeper self-knowledge and want to be understood for who they are behind the social roles they are forced to play. They aspire to wisdom that transcends ego and the bounds of the material world. Highly ethical in their actions, Idealists hold themselves to a strict standard of personal integrity. They must be true to themselves and to others, and they can be quite hard on themselves when they are dishonest, or when they are false or insincere. More often, however, Idealists are the very soul of kindness. Particularly in their personal relationships, Idealists are without question filled with love and good will.
Social roles: Idealists seek mutuality in their personal relationships. Romantically, they want a soulmate with whom they can share a deep spiritual connection. As parents, they encourage their children to form harmonious relationships and engage in imaginative play. In their professional and social lives, Idealists strive to be catalysts of positive change. They believe in giving of themselves to help others; they cherish a few warm, sensitive friendships; they strive for a special rapport with their children; and in marriage they wish to find a “soulmate,” someone with whom they can bond emotionally and spiritually, sharing their deepest feelings and their complex inner worlds.
Idealists experience stress when their desire for cooperation and harmony within their group conflicts with their desire for personal authenticity. Since Idealists often go to great lengths to try to ensure that everyone’s needs are met, they can become frustrated when others fail to do the same, either by acting independently of the wishes of the group, or by trying to enforce the wishes of the group without regard to individual needs. This tension is especially evident in the two mentoring types (Counselors and Teachers).
Idealists tend to come by their best ideas through a combination of intuition and feeling, so they may have difficulty explaining how they reached their conclusions. They may become frustrated, or even insulted, when others fail to share their enthusiasm and instead want an explanation of the reasoning behind the Idealist’s insights. Since inspiration is not a conscious process, the Idealists may not have an immediate explanation, even though their reasoning is sound, and so may feel dismissed and undervalued. They know they love someone but can’t really explain; oftentimes misunderstood causing a great deal of inner stress.
Idealists have a strong drive to work for the betterment of a group or organization, and can feel as though they are losing their identity if stuck in an environment that requires conformity. This is especially evident in the two advocating types (Champions and Healers).
Relationship: In relationships Idealists are very caring and considerate. They are usually more aware of their partners’ needs and will do everything they can to satisfy those needs. They are more likely to suffer in silence if they cannot get their partners to understand what the problem is between them. Above all they want a harmonious relationship. They will put up with a great deal before admitting a relationship has come to an end. Idealists are often attracted to Rationals particularly for their intellectual approach to life. Even Idealists have to learn to appreciate the differences of others. In other words, NF’s are looking for more than life partners in their mates-they want soul partners, persons with whom they can bond in some special spiritual sense sharing their complex inner lives and communicating intimately about what most concerns them; their feelings and their causes, their romantic fantasies and their ethical dilemmas, their inner division, and their search for wholeness. Idealists firmly believe in such deep and meaningful relationships-they settle for nothing less-and in some cases they try to create them.
The Idealists’ desire that their relationships be deep and meaningful (that is, intense, enduring, and all-important in their lives) is very much in evidence in the way they go about dating. NFs do not usually choose to play the field to any great extent, but prefer to go out with one person at a time and to explore the potential for special closeness in each relationship. Never casual or occasional about dating, NFs typically look past surface relations to more deeply-felt connections, and they lose interest rather quickly with dates which center around social events and physical activities. Idealists can enjoy this skin-deep sort of date for a while, of course, but they usually try to find their own kind of enjoyment as the evening wears on. At parties, for example, NFs will often look for a quiet corner where they can talk with their date (or someone else) on a more personal, intimate level. And at amusement parks or sporting events, Idealists will eventually separate themselves mentally from the rides, the sights, and the action, and begin to observe people around them, wondering about their personalities and fantasizing about their personal lives.
Indeed Idealists would usually rather talk with their dates than do things or go places, although chatting about concrete, literal, or factual things doesn’t particularly interest them either. Idealists want to talk about abstract matters-ideas, insights, personal philosophies, spiritual beliefs, dreams, goals, family relationships, altruistic causes, and the like-inwardly felt topics that break through social surfaces and connect two people heart to heart.
Finding the rare person with whom they can share their inner world is difficult for Idealists, a painful process or trial and error, and often they vow not to date at all for periods of time rather than go through the search. For NFs, dating someone means more than physical fun or social experience; it is an opening of their heart and mind to the other person, in some cases a baring of their soul, and carries with it both promise and an expectation of deep regard and mutual understanding. And because they are offering so much of themselves to the other, and expecting so much in return, NFs are highly sensitive to rejection, and can be deeply hurt when spurned by another, or when having to break off a relationship themselves. The trauma of breaking up can be so difficult for Idealists that at times they will avoid getting involved with others for fear of things not working out. At the other extreme, they will remain in a relationship longer than they should be in it, just to put off the soul-hurting scene of rejection.
Romance and the Male Idealist
Idealist men find it relatively easy to express tender feelings, sympathize with others, and have female friends. Some even enjoy shopping. Many women find this intensely appealing while others view them as effeminate.
Idealist men are the most likely to provide romantic dates, an empathetic listening ear, and kindness. Women are likely to appreciate their ability to simply listen without trying to solve problems although they are likely to need to share the stage with the Idealist man who also wants to be heard. Along with sensitivity, Idealists are the most likely type of man to be moody, responding to the moods of those around them.
Tom is a Teacher (ENFJ) Idealist. When he met his wife, he threw himself in front of her car so he could ask her on a date. He says that he knew the first time they dated that she was “the one”. Almost every day, he leaves her a note about something different he loves about her. Although both he and his wife work hard to take care of their family including their four daughters, his wife says that he actually sacrifices more. He’s very protective and fears many things that could harm his girls.
Ian is a Counselor (INFJ) Idealist. He had many female friends in high school, some of whom were interested in him. He dated a couple but didn’t find it very satisfying. In college, he was convinced he’d found the woman of his dreams. They hit it off right away and dated for two years before he found out she’d been cheating on him almost the whole time. She told him she felt trapped because he idealized her so much. Now he’s dating a new woman and is working to view their relationship more realistically.
P.J. is a Champion (ENFP) Idealist. He never lacks for female companionship. Women seek him out because he’s cheerful and believes in them. His tendency has been to have very intense relationships which burn out quickly. He’s decided that it’s probably best to date casually to avoid flash-in-the-pan romances. P.J. figures he’ll eventually settle down and have a family but, for now, he enjoys the experience of femininity in many different forms.
Julius is a Healer (INFP) Idealist. In high school, his closest friends were girls. He and his friends were forever finding a cause, such as a homeless family or students’ rights. They worked hard to right the wrongs they found. His wife says she was drawn to his activism, his caring for the oppressed and the environment. She jokes that they have their roles reversed. She says she’s logical, stable, and hard-headed while he is romantic, moody, and compassionate.