ISTJ personalities are full of complex and nuanced internal contradictions. The outrageous part of being the Inspector personality is that we are quite aware of them while, at the same time, acknowledge that there is no “fix.” ISTJs are sensitive about what we could perceive as faults but intelligent enough to realize they are not necessarily life hindrances.

It’s annoying how easy it is to identify all the ways that don’t make sense about the ISTJ personality because, after all, we consider ourselves to be… Very. Sensible. People. Our behaviors strike us immediately as incongruous, but accepting them and learning to work with ourselves is a huge step toward living with the peace of imperfection.

Deep breath. Admitting it is the first step to loving ourselves, internal arguments and all.

1. We are so loyal that we are taken advantage of. 

We give a pass to the people we care about, and our perseverant personality tells us to forgive again and again, when letting them go would be a healthier decision. While we cheerfully give our all to relationships and strangers on the street, this makes us vulnerable to being used or abused.

2. That trip to the day spa or the golf course is further away than ever. 

We know self-care must be on our to do list, but we can’t seem to make the time for it. At least ten tasks seem to always be ahead of it and the longer we avoid it, the guiltier we feel. We usually require someone else to drag us there for our own good.

3. We are such perfectionists that it takes forever to do tasks that we are attached to. 

I’d love to write that book… after I take five years of classes, sit in on a writing group for two, and write several secret practice novels. I’d love to present this information to my team, but I must pull a few “all nighters” to make sure it’s exactly right first. The thing that brings us joy also brings us pain.

4. We put off important life steps that we value because the budget “isn’t there yet.” 

It’s not only time that we budget, but dollars and retirement plans and mortgage payments and school enrollments and orthodontist bills… We know that marriage, children, career moves, and other big life markers don’t always fall into the tidy squares we planned, but our deep sense of responsibility is always at war with life’s unpredictable opportunities.

5. We feel grief, passion, wrath, betrayal, and other flamboyant emotions but have no intelligent way to express them. 

Therefore, the person whose actions sparked the emotion may never find out, let alone understand, what happened, which is both infuriating and depressing. Our emotions can spiral quickly and our solace is in isolation, not always a healthy combination.

6. We are deeply uncomfortable in the spotlight but know we earned every bit of the award we are receiving. 

We don’t like a surprise, even when it's a milestone birthday party thrown by our best friends. Although we seldom enjoy recognition, we are also compelled to acknowledge it because that’s our own way of honoring their adherence to traditions and routines. It’s an awkward circle.

7. We are our own worst critic. 

The internal struggle to graciously accept accolades is real. It will never make sense to us that we crave others’ feedback while still knowing that our best is bound to be their “quite good enough.” While knowing we worked our fingers to nubbins, we are also suspicious, deep in our soul, that it could have always been just a teensy bit better.

8. We set play dates on the calendar with friends and then regret it when the time comes. 

While work always comes before play for us, this time set aside for recreation seems suddenly frivolous. We want to relax and have fun, but it becomes just another check mark on our list. No wonder we’re always tired.

9. We want to attract the handsome stranger across the room (or impress the new boss) and end up making a total fool of ourselves. 

Subtlety is not our forte, but that’s never stopped us from going after what we want. Unless we can invent a way for people to read our minds in their favorite language, we are going to put our foot in our mouth for a while.

10. We cherish our alone time but accidentally binge on it. 

What our personality requires is also dangerous for us. We crave peace and quiet the way others lust after chocolate and wine. We’ll take both, please. And when we come back around, hours or months later, the world has moved on without us and we may or may not have to work twice as hard to catch back up. Ugh.

11.  To our own detriment, we strive valiantly to not let others down. 

Against our better judgment, ISTJs will attempt to behave like an Extravert, simper like a Feeler, or conjecture like an iNtuitive. We know we can’t keep it up for long, but if others are counting on us to act out of character, we will move heaven and earth and try. It ends up hurting us, hurting them, and hurting the mission.

12.  We are driven. And focused. We push hard and don’t take the road to halfway. 

We say “yes” more than we say “no” and live a double-booked life the way Nascar drivers take to the racetrack. We aren’t the least surprised when we crash into a wall. But also, it hurts. We know this going in, and we tell ourselves to slow down. As we add one more thing to our list, we vow to stop the madness. And then we agree to three more things.

The internal life of an ISTJ is full of things that don’t make sense, something that can be frustrating to us. Thinking we can change, fix, or train our personalities into something that’s more perfect is an illusion. Instead, let’s embrace our messy humanity, learn to laugh at ourselves, and maybe even get to that day spa this week for a nice dose of balance!

Jolie Tunnell
Jolie Tunnell is an author, freelance writer and blogger with a background in administration and education. Raising a Variety Pack of kids with her husband, she serves up hard-won wisdom with humor, compassion and insight. Jolie is an ISTJ and lives in San Diego, California where she writes historical mysteries. Visit her at