The Benevolent Princess Archetype

“You always need help, it seems.”

“I feel like rescuing you even though you’re not asking me to.”

Sound familiar? I’ve heard these things all my life. Apparently, I have “damsel in distress” or “helpless” written across my forehead. In this post, I wanted to delve into an INFP subtype which I don’t think is terribly common (or it is and these people are mistyped). I could be wrong but this INFP trope is generally a female INFP or in the very least, embodies an unmistakable feminine energy as to not preclude biological male INFPs.

This subtype sometimes doesn’t present as an INFP because of the notable lack of quirkiness which is present in almost all INFP subtypes, especially enneagram type 4s. Even then, (I’m a type 4) the quirks are not presented outwardly, making the INFP look as basic vanilla/cookie cutter, Disney On Ice as any ISFJ female would.

This subtype, which I dubbed “The Benevolent Princess Archetype” is surprisingly mainstream and often idealized as a standard by which young girls aspire to be. These quintessential little girls grow up to be quintessential women (think Lana Del Rey). They couldn’t hide the abundance of yin energy through any amount of masking or borrowing of other people’s quirks and personalities. I know this because I’ve tried. It’s no wonder then that so many styles and methods of being look contrived, clumsy, and unnatural on me. Trying to “fit in” doesn’t exactly work for someone who is born to sit at a separate table from everyone else. Being a princess is lonely business, even if everyone tries to get close to you; even if everyone tries to rescue you.

Ultra Femme Lana Del Rey

Not Necessarily A Narcissist

There’s a negative stigma to being a Princess thanks to the Uggs wearing basic bitches of today’s society with their pumpkin spice lattes, their leggings as pants, and their fucking nose rings. They like to try to own the title of Princess but what they really mean is “I take a lot of selfies for Instagram and expect other people to take care of me despite my histrionics”. You can tell who I mean because they idolize Marilyn Monroe even though Marilyn Monroe had more issues than the Middle East.

Fuck you, basic bitch

I digress. If you claim to be a Princess and you’re a self-absorbed, entitled, spoiled brat…then you’re doing it wrong. That’s not what being a princess is about, as any INFP would tell you. Being a princess is actually a great deal of responsibility. A Princess is an Ambassador of good will. She is morally obligated to maintain humility (easy for an INFP), dedicate herself to good works, serve her people, and lead by example. A Princess is “on” 24/7. People are always watching her so she is not permitted to be selfish, hostile, immature, sleazy, or in any way, a bad role model. As a Princess, your job is to be perfect. If you are not perfect, then you’re without identity and therefore non-existent and that is the worst fate known in the universe.

Princess Di – the ultimate INFP Princess (and literally a princess)

A Never Ending Identity Crisis

The threat of non-existence looms over this type of INFP for the entire duration of her life. This is true for all Princesses, though their reasons vary. Moral perfectionism is the most stated reason for feeling threatened followed very closely by innate co-dependency in varying levels of severity. INFPs of this type are prone to Borderline Personality Disorder and co-dependency with the textbook co-dependent tendency to form attachments to Narcissistic personalities and Sociopathic personalities. Not always but often enough to be worth noting. 

The reason can be explained by an over dependence on the Fi-Si loop, similar to the Ni-Ti loop of INFJs. Fi assigns feeling values to everything that it takes in while Si remembers what has happened in the past and wants to stick with what is known, familiar, and comfortable while avoiding things unknown that could potentially hurt. A Fi-Si loop skips right over Aux Ne, which would normally be open to new possibilities and taking risks. Without the balance of Ne possibilities, an INFP could find herself perpetually infantilized by parents and partners alike. There’s very little risk and energy expenditure in not doing your own thinking or coming up with your own ideas. 

INFPs of this variety “borrow” other people’s personalities in lieu of developing their own. Everything from careers, hobbies, quirks, and even style can be temporarily borrowed from the people whom the INFP has a close relationship with. The result is an underdeveloped Id function, making the Princess a hollow vessel for transient qualities and ideas to temporarily take up residence. For this reason, the Princess is constantly threatened by representations of her identity (such as a job) from being taken away and being left with nothing to identify with (non-existence). She mistakes ego attachments to material possessions, jobs, and hobbies which are supposed to be a ‘part of’ her as representations of the true self, which are innate. Losing a job, for example, threatens her very existence because she can’t fathom what she is without the job title. Using Ne would help her understand that being transient and experimental is an innate quality in and of itself.
Everyone Wants To Be A Hero

It is a given that Princesses attract knights in shining armor. Though knights are usually lovers and spouses, they also come in the form of parents, friends, bosses, and colleagues. The princess has an endearing “lost” quality about her which makes those around her want to help her and relieve her of her eternal suffering.  Sometimes the princess sees qualities she likes and encourages this, though the attention will come whether she actively encourages it or not. 

there’s my guy

Knights are everywhere and they all have their own ideas about how to save someone, which may not align with what a Princess thinks is good for her, creating inadvertent tension between herself and others. “I didn’t ask for your help” is a line I’ve delivered to so many unsolicited, well intentioned heroes of all kinds over the years. One of the biggest problems with being a Princess entails all the resentment and misunderstandings from unsolicited help and advice, which comes off as condescension and control. Princesses tend to foster a magnanimous spirit from decent, good hearted people and also become targets for those looking to exploit her for ego purposes.

But Why Is It a Benevolent Archetype?

In interviews, Princess Di used to talk about what her position in life meant to her. She saw her existence as a kind of duty (Si) of service to mankind. Rather than being served or rescued herself, Diana sought to serve others and rescue others. It didn’t happen overnight. Her evolution took years of being a quiet victim to her circumstances. She was disillusioned by the romanticism of being courted by and married to a prince when his affair was discovered and further humiliated when it became public. The press hounded her non-stop as she struggled with hard pregnancies, migraines, depression, and an eating disorder. Diana recalled in detail hating herself during that time. She found solace in gaining her independence, giving up her title, and devoting her life to humanitarian causes, even at the risk of her own safety and well being. In other words, she became a princess in the true sense that she ruled in the hearts of the people.

Diana risking her life to test the newly cleared minefield

In many fairy tales, storybooks and legends, the Princess is a passive protagonist with a tragic motif. Her tragedy is that she is beautiful and kind and her kindness and beauty serve no other purpose other than to make her destruction all the more tragic and the villains all the more villainous and the story all the more compelling. But there is another side to the Princess archetype; one that portrays her as an Ambassador who conducts acts of political diplomacy and reassures the people that benevolence is a royal decree and that the kingdom will enjoy times of peace and prosperity. Though she is a member of the elite, her compassion transcends even the most deeply ingrained disparity between peasants and their lords. She bridges the gap between the rich and the poor, the fortunate from the disgruntled, the loved from the unwanted. She’s not afraid to mingle among commoners. She feels at home with them.

The Making of a Princess

As I explain how I developed into such a creature, I think it’s important to remember that people aren’t inherently good or bad. It’s more complicated than that. The archetype of Princess could be taken to either extremes depending on your view of what it means to be a Princess (or how big of a Disney fan you are). This post is particularly interesting to me because for once, I get to speak from personal experience. I don’t want to sugar coat it or distort the reality of my personality type and I will be honest, even if it doesn’t put me in the best light. 

There was a time when I literally believed myself to be a princess. In my defense, I was five years old. I lived with two older brothers, eight and ten years my senior, making me the baby of the family by quite a few years. My mother worked seasonally at a costume shop in upstate New York so I was able to indulge in period costumes and princess dresses nearly every day of the week. Everyone more or less doted on me and why not? It seemed safe to do so since I had always been painfully shy, conscientious, and nearly unwaveringly sweet. Nevertheless, our household was chaotic, hostile, and generally not a safe place to be from what I’m told. My brothers, in their adolescent state of mind and with good intentions, went above and beyond to protect me from it all. They even shielded me from normal, every day disappointments and failures. For example, my brother Randy often relented and did my math homework for me and my brother Jared was so popular in school that I rode his coattails for some time.

What resulted was a general inability to make decisions and a lack of personal accountability. I was never arrogant since Fi-Ne authenticity would never allow it. I was, however, spineless and heavily impressionable. Uncomfortable thinking for myself, I always managed to jump from person to person; borrowing their preferences, stealing their ideas, and placing someone, often undeservingly, up on a pedestal. When there was nothing of value around me to borrow, I escaped into fantasy and borrowed from there. I tried on so many personas and experimented with so many things that it’s fair to say that anyone who knew me between 1995 and 2010 really didn’t know me at all. What they saw when they looked at me was merely their own reflection. I inspired a lot of obsessive love and a lot of abiding hatred from people who hated weakness in me because they hated weakness in themselves. I was often a hollow character, like Bella from Twilight, who didn’t take an active role even in her own life. Like Bella, my life seemed to happen to me rather than me making things happen in life…or in the very least, demonstrating cognitive dissonance about how my choices led to the circumstances that seemed to lead me by the nose.

My boyfriend was originally going to eat me but he changed his mind

Becoming Someone Worth Being

Ironically, the only way to defeat weakness is by embracing it. Fi Doms always find strength in introspection. Shakespeare (an INFP) said it best: “Know thyself”. When you stop comparing yourself to others, everything that seems so comparably superior about them is all relative and doesn’t even necessarily apply to you. Before MBTI, I envied everyone across the board for their wide range of skills and their natural state of being. Understanding that there’s different types of people relieved the pressure off me to be like them and instead, just appreciate them for being so different. There is more of a sense of boundaries (This is me and that is you. We’re separate.) which helps me distinguish the ideas and the traits which are mine and those that belong to other people.

Instead of borrowing personalities now, I merely study them. It gives me more of a scholarly presence, increases my capacity for empathy, and makes me a better friend and partner. People can come to me and I can give them insight into themselves if that’s what they’re looking for. Helping them gives my true self a boost of confidence where I am the source of knowledge and wisdom rather than the child in need of help. 

I’ve been criticized in the past for not really having any hobbies. In fairness, I do but they’re just not very exciting hobbies. They’re mostly kinesthetic, repetitive, detail oriented things like cross stitch embroidery and paper craft (cutting patterns out with a razor blade and gluing them into 3D figurines and structures). Of course, I also write for a living and for fun. When someone criticized me for not having any hobbies (not having a life, really) they meant that I’m imbalanced because I have an overwhelmingly introverted lifestyle where the fun primarily takes place in my head. By contrast, other people have more exciting hobbies like sports, boating, camping/hiking/fishing, music, photography, dance, skiing, etc. In other words, it would be hard for me to show someone what I do and take them into my world as a introduction of who I am and be immersed into it as a visitor. That’s easy for other people to do because they can take you hiking or to a hockey game or invite you to see their concert. If you want to experience my world, you’re going to have to read one of my novels.

But if you want to be truly balanced (and not alone with your 26 cats forever), it is important to have a Se hobby that you can share. Once upon a time I was a cheerleader so dance isn’t a terribly big stretch for me though it doesn’t seem like something I would do. I try not to have hobbies, material possessions, or jobs that are meant to be a true reflection of who I am because if there’s some reason I can’t do them anymore or have them, then I don’t want to end up losing a part of me. Writing is the only thing that is a true reflection of who I am and even if I ended up in a wheelchair, unable to speak or even swallow food without the assistance of a tube, I could still manage to express myself through writing…and study other people like bugs. ❤