Outgoing, friendly, and accepting. Exuberant lovers of life, people, and material comforts. Enjoy working with others to make things happen. Bring common sense and a realistic approach to their work, and make work fun. Flexible and spontaneous, adapt readily to new people and environments. Learn best by trying a new skill with other people.
Clara is an adventurous thrill-seeker who enthusiastically soaks up the novel and fantastic experiences and sensations that travelling in the Tardis affords her. More than just loving the Tardis life, it’s obvious that she’s positively addicted to the life of risk and adventure that she leads with the Doctor. For Clara, the Doctor and the Tardis are a drug. This is clear, for example, when Clara, in Mummy on the Orient Express, throws her doubts and uncertainties, and resentment, about the Twelfth Doctor to the wind — lying to both the Doctor and Danny in the process — because she can’t keep away from the Tardis life. The Doctor even becomes concerned about Clara’s reckless and thrill-seeking attitude, as we see in Under the Lake and The Girl Who Died. To me, this all points emphatically to the dominant Extraverted Sensing (Se) function of the ESFP.
Clara’s relationship with Danny Pink (INFJ?) is also strong evidence of dominant Se. Given their natural desire to explore and seek excitement and novelty, ESFPs can sometimes feel constrained by relationships, and are hesitant about seriously committing to a person. Clara was never as invested in her relationship with Danny as he was, despite being the one who instigated the relationship in the first place. She was constantly trying to balance her relationship with Danny with her much more exciting life of adventure with the Doctor, with the result being that she never fully invested herself in that relationship. Her relationship with Danny was just one more thing in her life, and I don’t think it’s unfair to say that, if she had been made to choose between Danny and the Doctor, she would choose the Doctor (and she kind of did, in Death in Heaven… “He is the closest person to me in this whole world. He is the man I will always forgive, always trust. The one man I would never, ever lie to.”) That said, I think she did really love Danny, but only realised the extent of her feelings for him after he died.
I wavered between ESFP and ESTP for Clara. Both are Se-dominant types, but the difference is in the auxiliary function: ESFPs have auxiliary Introverted Feeling (Fi), and ESTPs auxiliary Introverted Thinking (Ti). Clara often comes off as a Thinking type: she’s adept at working out solutions to problems that present themselves to her, and she’s particularly good at thinking on her feet. But there are other times she displays a lot of Introverted Feeling. I think this is where there is a lot of confusion about Clara’s type, and I think it’s because she isn’t an “archetypal” version of an ESFP or of any type. I think she’s an ESFP whose lower functions, Extraverted Thinking (Te) and Introverted Intuition (Ni) have undergone a great degree of development due to the influence of the (Twelfth) Doctor, whom I think is an INTJ, a type which uses all the four same cognitive functions as ESFPs, but in reverse order. Naturally, hanging around with a type who constantly uses your lower, weaker functions, and who has exercised as profound an influence over your personality as the Twelfth Doctor has over Clara’s, you’ll tend to experience a lot of development of those lower functions.*
So, in Series 9 we see Clara displaying a confident command of her tertiary Extraverted Thinking (Te), a function which seeks to impose order on the external world and figure out the most efficient, logical way of accomplishing goals and solving practical problems. In The Girl Who Died, she was the only one who thought to use the Vikings’ swords to attempt to jam the door on the Mire’s spaceship, and she deftly (and almost successfully, if it weren’t for some meddling kid) took to persuading the Mire to leave Earth in peace. In Before the Flood, she figured out that Lunn was able to bypass the ghosts to retrieve the phone, so they could talk to the Doctor. The show constantly makes it clear that Clara’s pragmatic, often cold logic is a product of the Doctor’s influence:
LUNN: “She said to ask you whether travelling with the Doctor changed you, or were you always happy to put other people’s lives at risk.”
CLARA: “He taught me to do what has to be done.”
In contrast, Clara’s auxiliary Introverted Feeling manifests itself more naturally and instinctively. Although she’s good with people and has fluent social skills (typical for an ESFP), she’s generally more attuned to her own feelings than those of others, and, especially in her relations with the Doctor, frequently elevates the importance of her own feelings. In her outburst at the Doctor in Kill the Moon, she didn’t even try to engage with the Doctor’s logic or perspective, insisting that her own feelings of abandonment were paramount. In Dark Water, she attempted to blackmail the Doctor into bringing Danny Pink back, contemptuously brushing aside the Doctor’s protestations about the laws of time, which paled in importance, in her view, before her feelings. She did something similar in Before the Flood when the Doctor decided he had to die because he saw his ghost (“Not with me! Die with whoever comes after me. You do not leave me.”) And I don’t see what Clara’s insistence that the Doctor not wipe her memory in Hell Bent, disregarding the Time Lords’ solemn warnings about the fracturing of time, is if not a manifestation of Introverted Feeling. On the other hand, Clara protested against the Doctor activating the Moment in The Day of the Doctor, despite seeing no other alternative, because she felt on a deep, personal level that what the Doctor was doing was wrong, logic and pragmatism be damned.**
In summary, Clara is an ESFP, an adventurous thrill-seeker, driven by exploration, who thrives on excitement and sensory stimulation, albeit, by Series 9, a more balanced, well-rounded one who has successfully developed the weaker sides of her personality through her association with the Twelfth Doctor. I should mention that one of my best friends is a female ESFP, and it was seeing such a striking resemblance between Clara and my friend that first made me see Clara as an ESFP. Both are passionate, excitable, energetic people who live for adventure and experience, and I adore them both.
* It’s also, I think, because Clara’s personality has been something of an enigma over her time on the show. In Series 7 there wasn’t much to her character beyond the Impossible Girl arc, and what personality she had was a generic constellation of standard Moffat female character tropes. In Series 8 the writers gave her personality more substance, but I felt like they still only had a very general idea of what Clara’s character was supposed to be. Only by Series 9 did Clara feel like a realistic, convincing, fleshed-out character—and it’s on Clara’s character in Series 9 that I’m predominantly basing this personality analysis.
** I hope I haven’t come across as too disparaging of Fi here with my mostly “negative” examples of Clara’s use of Fi. I was just using the most overt examples of Clara’s Fi, and, also, because it’s not a function I have myself, I don’t thoroughly understand it except by description, and so I find I struggle to recognise it except by its more obvious manifestations. I assure Fi-users that I don’t have a negative view of Fi at all—in fact it’s probably one of the functions that most fascinates me.