The Butterfly – ISFP

One part gentle, one part easy going, with more than a splash of space cadet, the Butterfly can defy all misconceptions of what it means to be an SP. In fact, from the outside, they can seem far more similar to their distant NF cousin, the Humpback Whale. Not as kinetic or aggressive as the Foxes and Sharks, or dramatic as the Peacock, the Butterfly is a more delicate breed of SP, relishing the simple pleasures of life as they come to them.

The Free Spirit


Some say cavalry and others claim
infantry or a fleet of long oars
is the supreme sight on the black earth.

I say it is

The one you love

– Sappho

The Butterfly surpasses all types in its appreciation and sensitivity for beauty. They can see splendor in a blade of grass, hear complexity in a simple note, and taste perfection in a freshly brewed cup of tea. For Butterflies, life is a breeze of fresh air, cool and evanescent, and to harbor any critical or negative energy towards anything would be to squander the moment. Because of this, Butterflies are naturally inclined to avoid conflict at all costs, opting to smile through most volatile situations. While their natural preference is to experience new things, Butterflies are not as demanding for novelty as their SP siblings, the Foxes, and will be quite content to enjoy the same sensations over and over again, frequently mining them for new pleasures in the process. Decision-making can be both an easy and difficult process; Butterflies are highly adaptable to the consequences of most decisions, as they’re confident that they’ll be able to find the beauty in everything, but their tendency to refrain from taking a hard and fast stance on anything can be a detriment when they’re the one having to decide. The one area in which Butterflies will deviate from this optimistic indecisiveness is their respective artistic field—whether it’s within their occupation or hobby, Butterflies will find a way to express their creativity. That’s when the free spirit morphs into the insightful critic, pointing out the slightest errors in all manner of compositions: pasta that’s not al dente, a stitch that’s out of place, or a minor chord that should have been a diminished chord. Interestingly, Butterflies don’t view this critique as a matter of voicing a subjective, contrary opinion as much as righting an objective, artistic wrong. Just as they appreciate the variety of styles in which beauty can be achieved, Butterflies also believe that there are a variety of mistakes that can offend the senses; a Butterfly will scrub the graffiti off a wall to make room for the spray painted mural.

The Master of Harmony

Giada De Laurentiis

I’m into very colorful food. Obviously lots of flavor, but I think we eat with our eyes first, so it has to look great. The presentation has to be great.

– Giada De Laurentiis

As opposed to the Shark, the master of tools, the Butterfly specializes in balancing the various elements of a craft to achieve creative harmony. As chefs, Sharks master the knife, the crêpe griddle, the broom handle-like rolling pin for pasta; Butterflies, on the other hand, are virtuosos of the pantry and larder, with an extensive knowledge of spices, fresh herbs, and various other flavor profiles. Artistic elements such as these can be dangerous in the hands of non-Butterflies, as the possibility of overdoing it—a literal assault on the senses—is quite common. Who hasn’t overused a favorite ingredient before or worn too much of a favorite color? When it comes to fashion, no type is more equipped, and more likely, to compose a stylish ensemble from a bucket of spare parts: the designer scarf, the shirt purchased while traveling abroad, the slacks from that thrift store around the corner. For Butterflies, it’s not about being cosmopolitan. It’s about balance and nuance, two things that their SP siblings, the flashy Peacocks, sometimes have a difficulty grasping. The Peacock might make a great model, but it’s the Butterfly you want designing the clothes. Not only are Butterflies gifted at blending artistic elements, many of them also have the innate ability to blend their sensory perception; it is not out of the ordinary for Butterflies to be able to taste colors, see melodies, touch flavors, smell textures, or hear fragrances, a phenomenon known as synesthesia.

The Sensitive Pushover

Rachel Green

It’s like all my life everybody keeps telling me that I’m a shoe. You’re a shoe, you’re a shoe, you’re a shoe! But what if I don’t want to be a shoe anymore? Maybe I’m a purse, or a hat…

– Rachel Green (“Friends”)

Although on the outside they might appear like doppelgängers for the equally sensitive Humpback Whales, Butterflies are inwardly distinct, their carefree, epicurean style differing greatly from the pensive meditation of the INFP. In social groups, it is not uncommon for Butterflies to be extremely quiet, just happy to be in the mix of things. At their worst, however, Butterflies can be extremely susceptible to social pressure. It is almost impossible for them to say “no”, their experience informing them that whatever new adventure is being presented to them, they are more than likely going to enjoy it. It could be said that Butterflies are regularly coaxed into doing things against their better judgment, but that would be assuming that they have a clear sense of judgment in the first place. The reality is that, especially with less mature ISFPs, Butterflies would prefer to have their decisions made for them; if you command a Butterfly to go down a certain path, don’t be surprised if they thank you for giving them directions. When they do act defiantly, it is frequently in a passive aggressive way. An irritated Butterfly might withhold sex from their partner because they’re “tired”, or promise to attend social gatherings that they loathe, only to flake out when the time comes.

The Artist

Bob Dylan

Inside the museums, infinity goes up on trial.
Voices echo this is what salvation must be like after a while
But, Mona Lisa must have had the highway blues
you can tell by the way she smiles

– Bob Dylan

Lacking the easy charm of Foxes, or the bravado of Peacocks, Butterflies prefer to work outside of the spotlight. However, this in no way means that they dislike attention. Like the Sharks, who will practice their skills for days on end, Butterflies will hole themselves up in their studio/kitchen/creative space until they have completed a work of art that is worthy of admiration. This process can be grueling, and there is the danger that the Butterfly, not really known for its determination and focus, might become distracted by other sensory pleasures, like an invitation to a lunch date, finally opening that bottle of wine, or a random Frisbee flying past the window. For Butterflies, much like it is with their similarly—but to a much greater degree—hedonistic siblings, the Peacocks, there is always a delicate balance between consumption and production. To tip the scale to one side might lead to sloth, to the other side, boredom. Nevertheless, Butterflies are no strangers to the idea of balance, and once they’ve discovered that perfect harmony within themselves, they are free to live a life filled with beauty, whether they are savoring it, creating it for others, or both.