Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself: The ENTP's Guide To Working With (Not Against) Your Weaknesses

Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on February 18, 2018

It was second grade. I was a curious, outspoken, shamelessly bizarre kid who was doomed to never mesh naturally with my environment. How obvious it was from the moment I showed up to the first day of kindergarten at a strictly-uniformed religious school wearing a neon orange sundress!

After three years of seeing the contrast between my family’s progressive style and the school’s more traditional set of priorities, I was starting to suspect that (though I in no way thought myself superior) I was pretty out of step with the lifestyles of the majority of my peers. But I still hadn’t fully appreciated the discrepancy between my own personality and the operating system I had been thrown into.

That is, until I fell asleep face-first in the bible and spent an hour dreaming about horses while my classmates studiously followed our teacher word-for-word as she read from the sacred text.

The sharp crack of textbook hitting desk not only yanked me from my equestrian-themed slumber -- it also alerted me to the much larger realization that I was the sole student whose thoughts had strayed from the task at hand.

As a well-meaning, people-pleasing child, this weighed on me heavily. I truly did not want to disappoint my teachers. The notion that they might see me as lazy or scatterbrained in my struggle to stay on track haunted my every thought …. or at least the few thoughts my brain could eek out before crashing into the next subject like Cosmo Kramer making an uninvited entrance.

This was when I truly became conscious of my own weaknesses. It was the first time I realized that staying focused was something I was going to have to put special effort into in order to keep up with my peers, fulfill my potential, and (perhaps most importantly) get where I wanted to be in life. It was the first time I faced the fact that my ambition and my ability to follow through functioned at wildly different levels.

It was a crossroads that, unbeknownst to me, would determine how I approached almost every new path for the rest of my life.

Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

I was fortunate to discover these things about myself before I had been on Earth long enough to develop an ego.

Looking back, I envy the ease with which my seven-year-old self indulged in healthy self-criticism. Though it may not seem as cut-and-dry now that I know I’m an ENTP, I am still profoundly thankful that I was able to nurture this compulsion in a productive way at such a young age. I spent time carefully considering my relationship with the environment I had no choice but to exist within, recognizing that it was not even vaguely made to suit me.

In doing so, I was able to take advantage of some of my uniquely positive traits for the first time in my life as well.

I wasted no time wallowing. I did not let my awareness of my weaknesses dilute my awareness of my strengths. Instead, in pure, unadulterated ENTP fashion, I approached the situation with a chameleon-like mindset, preparing to adapt my skills to suit whatever systematic value I may be able to pander to in order to accommodate the mismatched ethoses of me and my school.

At the ripe old age of seven, I carved out a niche for myself that I knew I would be happy maintaining: the school bookworm. Being the first in my class to get a solid grip on reading, I dove in head-first, making it my personal mission to pour through every single printed page in the library. In opening the floodgates to my own curiosity, I allowed the built-up pressure to propel me towards my goals at lightning speed.

In seemingly no time at all, I was making the school which had, justifiably, seen me as a bit of a problem child look great at every spelling bee and comprehension contest in the southern United States. If one were to make a Venn diagram of traits which the school valued and things I could realistically execute with minimal suffering, being a giant literary geek would have fallen perfectly in the center.

My plan to MacGyver my own academic reputation had worked perfectly, though not for the reasons everyone else assumed. Externally, it appeared as though I had a sudden burst of motivation to turn my life around and part from my old ways. This was far from the truth.

Behind the scenes, my old ways were chugging along just as aimlessly as ever. I had simply accepted that focusing on one book was never going to be my path to success, stopped attempting to jump-start my motivation to suit that goal, and instead gave myself permission to explore all of the other ways I could use my towards intense, short-term fascinations to achieve things that would satisfy both me and the school.

Though I still recognized it as a weakness, I relinquished my guilt over my lackluster self-discipline. It was time to focus on what I could do rather than what I could not.

Playing To Your Strengths And Weaknesses

As I progressed through life, this outside-of-the-box approach to my own self-guidance continued to reappear in profoundly positive ways when I needed it most.

As an overworked and overwhelmed high school freshman, I sought out alternate education programs only to end up graduating early with dramatically improved grades and a hefty amount of college credit the next year. As a perpetually tardy and painfully bored grocery store employee, I sought out less emotionally-draining jobs only to find success as a writer within months.

Even something as simple as switching from taking graduate classes in person to online ultimately allowed me to land consistent work in both comedy and in modeling -- two interests I had previously just seen as distractions from my ‘real work.’

Throughout all of these life adjustments, I had to continue reminding myself that it is okay that I don’t possess the organizational skills most traditional systems reward so heavily. I wasn’t letting the institutions I had parted from down -- if anything, I was ridding them of a less-than-ideal team member, giving us both more room to thrive. I, like any ENTP, still possess qualities that can thrive tremendously in non-traditional circumstances, and just a bit of our signature resourcefulness can go a long way in bringing these situations to fruition.

The moral of this story for other ENTPs?

Recognize your distractibility, but forgive yourself for it. Don’t be afraid to throw yourself into whatever pit of innovation your curiosity leads you to. Instead of attempting to force yourself into one box, take steps to ensure that you can afford to bounce around between your three or four strongest passions and still remain productive. Most importantly, choose your environment based not on simply what interests you (because let’s be honest, that’s everything), but also on what will allow you the most freedom to be the brilliant, messy, unconventional powerhouse that you are.

It may seem easier said than done, but you’re an ENTP - you can always make it work.

Jesse Carson

Jesse is a psych student, writer, and full-time ENTP from Cincinnati. She enjoys traveling, late night comedy shows, garage rock revival bands, and any restaurant that serves breakfast food in the middle of the night. Find her on Twitter @yungbillnye

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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.


Dave Humphrey (not verified) says...

Hi Jesse, I live in Joburg South Africa.  I LOVE THIS ARTICLE.  My wife of 25 years is an ENFJ and even though we are two opposites - in pretty much EVERYTHING we do together, (and of course in every way we approach and think about the world around us in general). I read your article to her and she laughed so much......because I witness with very much of your journey.I recounted a few of my own experiences growing up and that gave her a much better understanding of "what makes me tick". ( I turn 50 this year)  Thanks for making my day.  Much love and STAY STRONG Sister, Dave (and Louella)

Cecilia (not verified) says...

When I was 7, I thought “if only my mother hadn’t named me such a weird name, then I wouldn’t act so weird.”  If only I’d been called “Grace”, then I wouldn't have to stay after school with the unruly boys, and I wouldn’t have to write 100xs on the blackboard “I will not tell my teacher how to teach her class.”

When I was older, I would simply try to embody the name “Grace”, but failed repeatedly.  My impulsive brain and mouth betrayed my efforts, and I constantly amazed, amused, fascinated, offended, and/or repulsed those around me.  I managed easily to collect several higher degrees w/ honors, but would drive north for two hours instead of south and wear two differently colored shoes.  But I finally not only accepted my name, I accepted I could not change my personality, and instead have given in to it, and used my ability to simultaneously charm & annoy to my professional advantage.  I only wished I knew earlier that my ENTP-ness was not abnormal, but just characteristic of a somewhat rare personality type!

chris myers (not verified) says...

I've recently found out about the myers briggs sys and i'm very happy about it - i'm probably ENTP Cecilia in the prior comment is perfect! its really good to know there really are large personality types, deeper reality than just it all being about some deficiency! i have plenty of work i need to do that's for sure, but i don't actually have to reinvent my whole self! thanks for your articles and the site! Best, Chris

Katleho (not verified) says...

I'm so glad I came across this article.  I'm at a point where I've realised and accepted that societal 'normal' just won't suite me, I've tried my best and failed dismally. Thanks for sharing your story, I'm sending you good ENTP vibes from Jo'burg to show my gratitude :)

Just another1 ENTP guy (not verified) says...

Oh yeah, nice article sis. \m/

Zea hersi (not verified) says...

A lot of words but nothing interesting 

Void (not verified) says...

I dunno, I'm usually down for a bit of narcissism :)

I enjoyed the writing and the story as well, thanks.

Zea hersi (not verified) says...

A lot of words but nothing interstinggg

Jaimepois (not verified) says...

I’m really interested to know how many ENTPs also have ADHD. They seem to go hand-in-hand (short, intense attention spans, distractibility, hyperfocus, poor self-discipline, resourcefulness). Thoughts?

Jesse Carson (not verified) says...

Hello! I agree that this would be a compelling thing to look into. I myself have (perhaps unsurprisingly) been diagnosed with ADHD and have found getting treatment to be an enormously helpful supplement to the strategies I described in the post. There does seem to be some anecdotal overlap between the struggles ENTP and ADHD-prone populations are vulnerable to experiencing. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!

Cecilia (not verified) says...

Jaimepolis, when I was kid concept of ADHA, as such, did not yet exist.  Although, still did hear term “hyperactive” used colloquially many times, father’s constant lament more fitting: “You just wound up tighter’n a $2 clock !!”.  G’ma feed me copious amounts of sweet, strong, chicory coffee; G’pa ‘d run me through woods like young dog, & found me trees to climp like baby monkey; father taught me to swim in creeks and ocean like little fish, and ride wild Shetland pony wild open like tiny deranged cowboy.  Had stilts, pogo stick, hula hoops, etc.

But, even then, this too-wound-up $2 clock could “hyper-focus” if interested, sit still w/book, draw animal pictures, or made homemade ant farm,etc. and even pass-out in coma-like sleep.  Father told me when I was 5, he was gonna make me into “sesquipidilian”, and we learned new big world from big dictionary or Compton’s encyclopedia every day.

Jaime, I do not think ADHD separate sympotmology, but just plain ole reular, normal mainisfitation of our personality’s basic traits.  In others, we all got it to some degree.  Best to recognize it, use it when can, control it when can’t!!


chris myers (not verified) says...

yes, it seems close. i have shades of adhd in my childhood and slightly that way at least today. its difficult to allow that there are conditions that "sharpen" or otherwise impact the personality types, and perhaps its that ENTP "helps express the adhd/autistic?

This account is (not verified) says...

Finding balance between my different interests always bugged me. When I was intensely into music, I felt like I was becoming dumber every second because I understood the patterns between music composition (don't get me wrong, I still love music and enjoy how complex it is) and I lacked more intellectual challenges severely. Then, years later, I applied at university to study maths, then biology. While it gave me that intellectual challenge, I was now looking for more creativity. The good thing is that biology is the middle ground of about all 4-core science disciplines (physics, math, chemistry, computer science), so you need a bit of everything to get around in class. I'm doing above average in most of my classes and never felt so motivated to finish my degree. I make illustrations and help kids in high school as a part-time job. I guess I'll just end up making sci-fi comic books or nature memes as a career. XD (Seriously, though, there's hardly a day where I don't worry at some degree about my future... I still don't know how to deal with juggling multiple interests and getting things actually done. I gave up traditional planners 2 years ago because it was a constant reminder of my past failures... :( )

Cecilia (not verified) says...

My heart (do we have one!? Lol) understands your present confusion because been there.  As older version of yourself, can tell you will eventually fall into some sort of career.  But, with us, our other interests are always tugging as strongly and rapidly as they are changing. Work that first job as best and as long as you can, but should you find simply can no longer do so, move on to another.  We generally acquire very varied eclectic capablites in many things, and are quite adept in performing all sorts of jobs . Of course, that need to constantly and quickly change is  problematic, but our adaptability enables us to indulge it easier than others.  One last caveat, seek job with lotsa of creative freedom, plenty of opportunity to brainstorm w/ others (because we need them), but avoid positions of great power over any underlings, because we often find that responsibility uncomformtable and even distasteful.  Yet, you need to look for those who can follow through for you on administrative stuff.   And, young ENTP, if you ever find that perfect combo, drop your older version a happy note!


tanstaafl28 says...

My second grade experience was similar. I was different than the other kids but I could not figure out why. I was so disruptive in class that my teacher segregated me (shock!) from the rest of the class. I shoved all my school work into the back of my desk (after signing my name on them) and went over to the play center to make masterpieces out of the bristle blocks. I hardly turned in a single handout the whole year. Like you, however, I became a fast bookworm. I loved stories. By the time I was in 7th grade, my reading comprehension was in the 98th percentile in my school. I wasn't diagnosed with ADHD until I was 27, but my school record definitely reinforced the diagnosis (I also had grand mal siezures until I was 5 and then I stopped having them). After a stint in the Navy after high school, I managed to get a BS and an MS, and I'm fairly successful. It did not look as if I would make it far, but somehow I turned things around, so it is doable. 

Vijay Jadhavar (not verified) says...

This is the answer/solution I was looking for. So simple yet, SO brilliant! 

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