This week’s INF interview is with Leslie McDaniel. In her own words...
Leslie is a personal and professional development coach and personality type consultant. She coaches creative and ambitious people to tap the potential of their personality type for the purpose of living a meaningful and well-lived life. She's passionate about bringing greater self-awareness and understanding to the world by helping others view themselves through the lens of their personality type (Myers-Briggs® and Enneagram systems).
🎧 We also followed this interview up with a podcast conversation -> listen here.
Hi Leslie :) So can we start this interview by finding out where in the world you currently reside? Is this also where you grew up?
I live in the beautiful state of Oregon in the United States. I didn’t grow up here and I’ve lived in many US states, but I hope to call Oregon home for a long time.
Oh, that sounds lovely. I visited Portland in 2016 for a Summit and I liked it there a lot. Do you remember what you were like as a child?
Hmm...I don’t spend much time thinking about what I was like as a kid, but I’ve been told that I was a kind, friendly, and considerate kid and I was pretty eager to please others. Thinking about my interests as a child and questions I tended to have as a child, I believe my curiosity about people must have been hard-wired.
And that was school like for you? And how were your teenage years as a whole?
I really enjoyed school when I was younger. I loved learning! As I got older and entered middle school and high school, things got tougher but I was determined to work hard and do well anyway. As a teenager, I had a very small group of core friends but attempted to be friendly with all the “sub groups” in my high school. I always had a sense of feeling different, but I didn’t dwell on that feeling.
I can relate to that, too. I really enjoyed just learning for the sake of learning. As I moved through my teenage years, exams became more important and I was forced to narrow down on subjects, I started to enjoy school less. Your experiences with friends/sub-groups/feeling different all resonate with me, too.
What words, or phrases, would you use to describe your current self?
Curious, obsessed with learning and understanding, open to learning and making changes, driven to make a difference in the lives of others.
And when did you first realise that you were an introvert? How did this happen?
I can’t describe a moment of epiphany because it didn’t happen that way. When I learned about type, and the INFJ type specifically, I focused more on the whole of what that meant rather than the individual parts (I, N, F, J). I discovered this type when I was asked by a former manager to take a Myers-Briggs®-like assessment. In fact, my type result indicated that we shared the same personality type!
Your manager was an INFJ, too? That’s pretty cool :)
Do you remember when it was that you first took this Myers-Briggs assessment?
I discovered my INFJ type through an unofficial version of the Myers-Briggs® assessment somewhere around 2009(ish).
Has discovering you were an INFJ impacted you in any way? If so, how?
Absolutely! Learning about this type helped me discover that I was understandable—that I could be understood. The description that went with that four-letter label helped to put words to things in my life and experiences that I didn’t know how to describe. The fact that I work with INFJs in my coaching business illustrates how impactful this knowledge has been for me.
I hear you, Leslie. When you started coaching, did you consciously focus on coaching other INFJs?
Yes! In fact, I knew I wanted to work with INFJs before I knew I wanted to become a coach. I might have been the only person in my coaching program cohort who had a very clear idea of their niche before the training began. The idea to work with INFJs came to me as a sudden “ah-ha” intuitive insight. I just knew that was the right direction. I began by writing a weekly email for INFJ women to build relationships and to see how people would respond. As I researched ways to help these women live a more fulfilled and purposeful life, coaching rose to the top.
What qualities do you think you share with other INF’s?
As someone who is trained in Myers-Briggs® type (certified MBTI® practitioner and trained personality profiler), I know that INFJs and INFPs share many qualities (although we’re fundamentally wired differently). This causes some of the confusion between the types and the question of, “Am I an INFP or INFJ?”
It’s those two letters in the middle that account for many of our similarities. The “NF” types are considered “idealists.” INFx types are typically sensitive, idealistic, and empathetic. Of course, we’re also all introverts. INFx types want to have meaning in what we do and most of us want to have an impact on people. Many of us are also perfectionists and find criticism difficult.
Thank you for your insights, Leslie. As a Myers-Briggs practitioner your insights here are really valud.
Rewinding a little to our earlier conversation, what were your favourite subjects at school? And what did you study at university/college?
In elementary and high school, I enjoyed art and English (reading and writing) courses most. In college, I studied both education and photography (at different times). I’ve continued my education in adulthood by completing a coach-certification training and training in both Myers-Briggs® and the Enneagram personality type systems.
You sound very much like a life-long learner :) What are you spending your time on at the moment?
As I sit here at the top of the year 2020, I’m spending my time planning for the year ahead and how I want to grow personally and professionally (in my coaching and personality consulting business) this year. I’m also working on figuring out how I can get through the books I’ve already accumulated without adding more to the collection until I make some progress!
Haha, I am also working on that very same thing - I had set myself an intention to try to only read one book at any one time, but apparently I am just not wired that way. I am trying to read the books I have - and finish them - before enthusiastically adding to the pile, though.
Was there a moment in your life when you made a drastic change?
I feel as if I’ve made a few drastic changes over the course of my life, but I never considered them drastic at the time because they often felt like the next right thing. However, a friend pointed out all the so-called “big leaps” I’ve taken in my professional life not long ago which made me realize that these changes could be considered “drastic” to some.
That’s really interesting that they didn’t feel drastic to you at the time. Do you feel this was because, in the moment, they just felt right? That it was you merely following your intuition? I’d love to hear you talk more about this...
You know, I’m not really sure. Maybe it did feel more drastic at times than I’m remembering. I might need clarification on how you’re defining ‘drastic’ since I don’t view any of the changes and transitions in my life as radical. I don’t typically dwell on this kind of thing since I’m very much focused on what’s next. That doesn’t mean the changes I’ve gone through weren’t difficult at times. I didn’t have an understanding of “intuition” during many of these transitions, but I believe I was following my insight as I made changes. That insight comes from my intuition as well as guidance from my belief in a higher power (God).
Do you have a preferred creative/artistic outlet? Can you tell us a bit about this?
As a formally trained photographer, I still love photography even though I’m not currently spending much time making photographs. I also have professional experience in video and graphic design, but I’m not doing any of that right now, either! I feel like my creativity now has a home in many aspects of my business. I get to share my thoughts through writing and I hope to get back into making videos this year.
Would you describe yourself as a 'highly sensitive person', or an empath?
I’m certainly a Highly Sensitive Person, as described by Elaine Aron. I also have very high levels of empathy but I struggle with the word “empath.” I feel as if many words lose their meaning through overuse or over-identification. While I have nothing against anyone who uses the word “empath,” I don’t personally use the term to describe myself despite having many of the qualities attributed to the label.
You’ve articulated that really nicely, Leslie, thank you. Moving along a little, what does being 'successful' look like to you?
I love this question! I always want to encourage my clients to consider their own definition of success (or fulfillment or whatever word resonates for them). Because INFx types are a smaller percent of the population, it makes sense that we would need to develop our own definition for success rather than measuring ourselves against the standards of the mainstream.
My definition of success has evolved as I’ve grown older. Right now I see success as taking care of myself by acknowledging and accepting the way I’m wired, spending the most energy on the things that I’m uniquely gifted to bring to the world, and bringing meaning to the world through my work.
I love everything that you have just said there, and thanks so much for sharing your own definition with us. I also love how you said that your definition has evolved…
What about 'happiness' - do you have a personal definition for that? What are the ingredients?
I have a complicated relationship with the word, “happiness.” For some reason, happiness seems like it exists more on the surface while “joy” exists deeper. When I feel joy, I have a deep sense of contentment and peace that isn’t rocked by the waves of whatever is swirling around me at the moment. I believe that one of the main ingredients for joy is a connection to something greater than yourself that provides purpose and identity. Hope is another foundation of joy. This means having hope for the future and hope for an ideal that may not exist on Earth.
Leslie, I couldn’t agree more. I know exactly what you mean. I actually studied a Masters in Positive Psychology (dubbed ‘the science of happiness’), and that’s the same conclusion I drew, too. ‘Happiness’ feels more fleeting and surface-level, whereas joy/peace/content feel more synonymous with the sort of ‘happiness’ I try to embody and make space for. Thank you.
Do you like to plan things, or are you more of a go-with-the-flow type of person?
I’m a planner, but I can plan to go with the flow. :) I don’t like things to be too regimented, though. As I’ve aged (and lived with my INFP husband), I’ve learned to be a little more go-with-the-flow.
That sounds like a nice balance :) And what does your 'perfect Sunday' (or Saturday) look like?
My favorite days are responsibility-free and spent relaxing with my husband. We may spend this time reading, watching a movie, or walking in nature. The more I’m able to immerse myself in the present and the experience, the more perfect it is!
Ah, that sounds lovely. Is there anything you've read, watch or listened to recently, that you've loved?
I’m currently reading Digital Minimalism and I really love how it’s helping me reshape my relationship to technology and digital tools.
How interesting, one of the books I’m reading at the moment (I mentioned my ‘habit’ earlier!) is Cal Newport’s ‘Deep Work’. I am also re-shaping my relationship with tech, particularly when it comes to my mobile and my laptop. Have you made any adjustments here as yet, or are you still in the process of letting the book’s message(s) settled and figuring things out?
I would love to say yes—I’ve made HUGE adjustments! The truth is that I’m mostly using digital tools more consciously. The one thing I’ve really worked on is physically putting my phone out of reach in the evenings and on weekends. I don’t typically scroll or mindlessly use my phone during the workday, but I tend to struggle more with it when I’m “off.” I’ve also worked on leaving my phone in my bag while in public and waiting in line or waiting for appointments. I try to work on being more present in those moments rather than reaching for my phone to fill the time.
Do you have any favourite blogs or podcasts?
I don’t have any blogs or podcasts that I’m religious about listening to or reading. I’ll obsess about one for awhile and then move on. I mostly read or listen to a variety of things related to typology, personal development, or creativity.
How about favourite movies or TV shows? Anything you've seen recently that you'd recommend?
I enjoy almost anything that has well-developed characters, witty dialogue, and/or makes me think. I’m also terrible at remembering the names of movies and shows!
If you could go back in time and meet "you" back in 2010, is there any advice that you'd give this younger self?
I think I’d always tell my younger self that things will look different as you grow and develop and to spend time acknowledging and accepting the ways in which you’re already doing great.
Those sound like wise words :) If you could one or two pieces of advice to your follow INFs, what would they be?
You have the same value right now (inherent in who you are) as you will when you reach that next bar you’ve set for yourself. In other words—you have incredible value, just as you are.
Wow, that is such a worthwile message to remember. And what does 'self-care' mean for you? How do you practise it?
Self-care is another term that I struggle with, but I see it as knowing your needs and the willingness to meet those needs (even if it’s not what others need). I believe that self-care is a way of being as much as it is a thing to practice.
Again, this really resonates Leslie. You have a wonderful way of putting these things into words. Thank you.
Thanks so much! That feels like a huge compliment because “putting things into words” so that it expresses something creatively and brings understanding is really important to me.
Okay, we’re getting to the end now. Do you have a favourite quote?
Not that I can think of!
Where can others find and connect with you online?
Lastly, is there anything else you'd like to say before we finish up?
Thanks for sharing the stories of other INFx people!
You are so welcome! This has been really enjoyable, thank you for taking part and for sharing your story and your insights with us.
Jas + Leslie
Published: June 7th, 2020
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