4 Best Ways for INTPs to Stop Second-Guessing Themselves

Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on March 12, 2018

INTPs are the idea mills of the personality world; always examining, always questioning and always musing about some theory. They live in a world of "what if" and possibility. When there's really no answer, INTPs are the most interested.

But often, "what if" is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it's a clear strength that you're able to keep your options open. You wouldn't be able to philosophize, categorize and objectively analyze the possibilities before you if you made snap decisions based on half the facts.

On the other hand, your tendency to question the validity of everything means you're never truly certain of anything. In a job, you worry that you're on the wrong career track. In a relationship, you worry that you might be happier single. In social situations, you worry that you're saying or doing the wrong thing, and there's usually a significant amount of shame when you decide that yes, you could have made better decisions and the grass is probably greener on the other side. 

What gives? Why does the idea of making decisions eat you up so, and how do you stop yourself from second guessing the decisions you have made? Here are four suggestions.

#1: Accept that there will never be enough information.

Some INTPs confuse their tendency to second-guess themselves with a fear of failure, but it's not that at all. The reason you second guess yourself is that you see the absurdity of acting on limited information. Getting into action when you don't have all the variables goes against your instincts - it feels rash and foolish to you. 

So let's start with a realization: you will never have all the information. It's great that you're concerned about the logic and accuracy of your decisions, but you cannot predict the "should haves" any better than I can predict the start of World War 3. We're not omniscient. We just have to work with what we have and take those risks now and then.

I know this is a typically INTJ thing to say. The fundamental difference between us is that I take only the data I need to create a comprehensive plan, while you keep on info-gathering. And your decisions are likely much better quality than mine. But the fact is, positive change won't occur until you stop looking for data that doesn't exist and actually accept the cards you've already got.

#2: Get an outside perspective.

One thing all INTPs realize as they get older is that it really is helpful to talk through problems and get an outside perspective. You like hearing the thoughts and ideas of others, and while home truths can be a little hard to take at times, you're the first to admit when you need a reality check. Sometimes even just speaking things out loud can break the vicious loop of overthinking and give you some acceptance.

#3: Make a decision. Then make it right. 

You're going to make mistakes - that's a fact of life. You might think that being wrong is not an option but reality check: it's inevitable, for each and every one of us, regardless of type. So don't second guess a decision just because it might be imperfect. Playing safe or worse, throwing your babies out with the bathwater, leads to mediocrity. Taking risks, on the other hand, pushes you into territory that could lead to your biggest wins.

There are such things as course corrections. In time, you'll have the opportunity to fix all sorts of things you might have screwed up. But you never know where your decision will lead you until you've made it. The outcome is the bit that comes after the decision. Never before.

First, make the decision. Later, you can work on making the decision right.

#4: Don't fall into regret territory. Learn.

If you were a value-driven personality type, an INFJ for example, you could start from the perspective that the path you choose to walk is the important thing. But you're not one of those types. You're an INTP and for you, it's not the path that matters but how you choose to walk it. Every path has possibilities. Which one you wind up on is not as important as what you can learn and explore along the way.

What's curious about your type is that you have such an eyes-wide-open, playful approach to learning, yet such as glass-half-empty, pessimistic approach to decision making. What would happen if you reframed your decisions as learning experiences? Could you transfer some of that playful curiosity to your decision-making, and stop being so pedantic?

It's fine to look back and consider if, in retrospect, the decision you made was the right call. This is valuable feedback for your future decision making. Just don't fall into regret territory it if it turns out to have been the wrong decision. Nothing is irreversible. The situation doesn't have to stay that way forever. Accept where you are now, do what you can within those boundaries, and do what you do best. Learn.

Jayne Thompson

Jayne is a B2B tech copywriter and the editorial director here at Truity. When she’s not writing to a deadline, she’s geeking out about personality psychology and conspiracy theories. Jayne is a true ambivert, barely an INTJ, and an Enneagram One. She lives with her husband and daughters in the UK. Find Jayne at White Rose Copywriting.

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About the Clinical Reviewer

Steven Melendy, PsyD., is a Clinical Psychologist who received his doctorate from The Wright Institute in Berkeley, California. He specializes in using evidence-based approaches in his work with individuals and groups. Steve has worked with diverse populations and in variety of a settings, from community clinics to SF General Hospital. He believes strongly in the importance of self-care, good friendships, and humor whenever possible.


Ayman (not verified) says...

Thanks for sharing interest in INTP

Cjcheat (not verified) says...

Spot on! Thanks I needed this. 

James1976 (not verified) says...

Solid article. Really helpful. Please keep up the good work.

Frank P (not verified) says...

Thank you! So relatable to past experiences and present decisions. 

Devansh Saraf (not verified) says...

As an INTP ,I really like the accuracy of your blogs as compared to most others out there.Not meaning offense,but playing my role as a critic,as soon as i read "reframe your decisions as learning experiances",I thought about the negative aspect of doing so amd it was serious.

We like experimenting,as you may know we may even ask questions just to know how someone would respond(as in the case of tyoing someone for example),if we try taking our decisions as learning experiances,we are constantly going to make decisions ,which we know are not the best,just to 'see' what happens if we make that decision,which would render our ability to make good decision while i agree it would still help us make better decisions afterward. Thanks for the article though....learnt a lot

Anon INTP (not verified) says...

You present an impossibility for INTPs in point #3, and it's also a fundamental misunderstanding of what's going on for an INTP.  INTPs, like all types, prefer not to make mistakes, but investing an extra 15/20% in the planning stage doesn't constitute some manner of inaction.  Further, it's psychologically quicker, because of the extra time spent in the planning phase,  for an INTP to reevaluate, redesign and reimplement a process mid-project than it is for both for other types to do so, including INTJs, and than it is to brute force a solution through a continous process of elimination, as INTJs seem to prefer to do ... which is hugely tedious for INTP brains. It's about where time is spent ... INTPs are much faster in implementation even if it looks like they're throwning out the baby with the bathwater, because they've spent that extra time upfront considering other possibilities, that they know will work.  INTJs preference for Ni over Ne might mean that they're less apt to jump between approaches to a problem in finding a solution mid-process, but it doesn't make they're approach more valid, effective or speedier than an INTP approach ... it's just more comfortable for them, and recogniseable to other J types and therefore more widely accepted.

The INTJ process is equally uncomfortable for the INTP, possibly, in part, because it will likely rely getting others to toe the line, rather than allowing the INTP to minimise potential errors by working them all through in advance, by themselves.  We, INTPs, are just more efficient in a different sphere of the process, and prefer to conceptualise an entirely new process for each problem upfront rather than rehashing historic patterns on the go. 

Anon INTP (not verified) says...

Self reply: An edit really, but what I've written speaks to all points, not just number three,as I've written initially.  I think the differnce between my point and your article really exemplifies the misundersanding of INTPs by INTJs.

Anon INTP (not verified) says...

Further self reply, haha.  Just for clarity; It's becasue INTPs are less comfortable compromising on the outcome that they change their approach when they need to.  INTJs on the other hand are more pragmatic where the outcome is concerned, so they'll plough on with a single approach but just say the outcome, whatever it ends up being, is what it should have been, or is good enough.  You make this point above, in a different way, but I just want to further reitterate that the INTJ unwillingness to accept the INTP approach as anything but flawed/flaky, as opposed the accepting it as different but equally valid, really exemplifies the difference between the types.

SHASHWAT BHAGAT (not verified) says...

Thanks for sharing this Perspective. I realised I am always on the lookout for the info. That doesnt exist Before making any sort of decision. Fear of failure is just my pessissmistic view of some postive trait in me and is robbing me of the fun i could have in present moment. IDK you but thanks for this. I Really needed to read this and realise about myself. Have an Amazing Day. 

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