Things I Wish I Knew About The INTJ Confidence Gap

Just about six years ago, I started looking into personality theory. I was skeptical, curious and enthusiastic about finding a system that could help me understand the stranger aspects of human behavior. I hoped it would be the cornerstone of my success as I prepared to transition from one career into another. And it was, to a point.

I tested my personality several times and it was INTJ—the personality of knowledge and competence. I read voraciously about INTJ behavioral traits and most of them rang mind-blowingly true. Except for one part. The part that said I should be self-confident to the point of arrogance didn't register at all.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a wallflower. I fall on the ambivert side of Introvert and occasionally—very occasionally—a personality test will point me toward ENTJ. But confident? Nope. Stick me in front of an audience and I'm a quivering wreck. Push me out of my comfort zone and my calm, cynical, full-of-quips persona morphs into this exaggerated caricature of Ron Weasley before the spiders.

Reading the forums, it was obvious that I wasn't the only one who felt that confidence was eluding them. So, I decided to do some digging. Here are six key lessons I learned about the INTJ confidence gap.

#1: If you're achieving something, you're confident

INTJs derive confidence from two places: being good at things and accomplishing things. When neither of those are happening, then your confidence will plummet like a wounded bird. There are times when I've felt like a crappy parent for putting my kids in daycare, a crappy employee for not focusing fully at work, a crappy daughter for not finding the time to visit my parents, a crappy wife for not giving my husband the attention he deserved, and a crappy person because I was still carrying an extra 5 lbs and it was August, not New Year. We've all had them—those days or weeks when you're not achieving much more than breathing.

Long story short: INTJs need wins to feel like they're winning. Confidence comes from regular task accomplishment—when you can point to something and say, "I am really nailing this."

#2: Confidence comes from trusting the gut

INTJs are good at many things, but for me the one that sticks out is decisiveness. I think about things a lot, but when something is right, and the time is right, I act. I don't need more information. I don't need to procrastinate. I just need to trust my instinct, go all-in, and see what happens. And I feel far more confident when I follow my antennae with gusto than when I over-rationalize and second guess myself.

Why is trusting your intuition so confidence boosting? I'm speculating, but I think it's because there's never an end point with the rational-analytic style of reasoning. There's always more to know, and more things that you realize you don't know, when you rely on analysis to make decisions. And through those knowledge gaps, doubt and uncertainty creep in.

Learning to trust your intuition is something that comes with maturity—my younger self definitely struggled with a top-down approach to decision making. But regardless of age, most INTJs feel much more confident when we balance our rationality and our instincts. Intuition is pretty crucial if we don't want to rationalize ourselves into existential crises.

#3: Confidence isn't one thing, it's many things

It's easy to lump the different types of confidence together and classify them as a single personality trait, but it's perfectly possible to be confident in one area and not in another. Like most INTJs, I tend to have knowledge confidence in spades. I know what topics I'm an expert in, and I rule the roost in those arenas. Social confidence is more problematic. Who else feels inferior when they're struggling to strike up conversations with people they don't know?

That INTJs are clueless in social situations is nothing new—nor is the assumption always right. But it's worth mentioning because it helps us to recognize the many subcategories of confidence (physical, emotional, social, intellectual and so on) and put some measure on the confidence gap. As INTJs, we have a habit of overthinking our flaws. If there's a confidence area we need to work on, we're likely to see it as a strong indicator of overall low confidence, instead of a tiny part of a much bigger picture.

#4: Failure gives us confidence...but we have to work for it

I'd like to say that I embrace failure and use it as an opportunity to grow. But it's subtler than that. I hate failure. Loathe it, despise it, will do everything in my power to avoid it. And because of that, I will do all the hard things to make myself better, sharper, stronger and more focused the next time I'm in a potentially vulnerable situation. It's less about embracing failure, and more about plugging the gaps so that I never fail again.

This is relevant for one reason: knowledge fuels an INTJ's confidence. It's only when an INTJ is ignorant of something that we experience self-doubt. Failing pushes us out of comfort zones and forces us to acquire more knowledge. It sets the scene for us to improve ourselves, so next time there will be nothing for us to feel nervous about.

#5: Sometimes, it's what's on the outside that counts

You might feel like a fraud, a hack or an imposter, but if you're cool, calm and collected on the outside, people will perceive you as confident. And if there's one thing INTJs are good at, it's faking facades and letting people see only what we want them to see.

Whether you buy into the whole 'fake it 'til you make it' mantra or not, there are lots of people who won't see through your pseudo-confidence. They will trust your fearless persona and feel relaxed in your company. It's amazing how that changes the vibe. Suddenly, you've made a connection with someone who is treating you like a put-together person. How do you respond? With confidence in kind.

For some of you, feigning confidence will feel like a violation of your values; better to admit that you are not confident than surrender to someone else's stupid expectations. That's honorable, and completely INTJ! But if you're up for a little faking, composure is your confidence-boosting friend. Love it and embrace it, even if it is phony.

#6: Confidence is low when awareness is high

For a long time, I assumed that I wasn't self-confident and, therefore, was a pox on the house of INTJ. Then I realized—it's not that I lack confidence, it's just that I have too much critical awareness. Like many INTJs, I'm acutely aware of every mistake I make, and set a high bar for my own behavior. I could spend an entire month beating myself up about a mistake that wouldn't even register if someone else made it. And thanks to my overactive INTJ imagination, I assume that others are judging me just as harshly as I'm judging myself.

The faults I see are not imagined, but my perception of them often gets exaggerated—sometimes to absurdity. I don't like that I do this, and it seems dangerous; taken to extremes, there's a risk that high self-awareness could turn into crippling self-loathing and doubt. I haven't found an answer to this problem yet. I suspect it's a cross that INTJs must bear.

Now, it's over to you. What does it take for you to feel truly confident? Let me know in the comments!

Jayne Thompson

Jayne is a freelance copywriter, business writer and the blog editor here at Truity. One part word nerd, two parts skeptic, she helps clients discover the amazing power of words on a page. She lives with her ENTX husband and children in Yorkshire, UK, where she drinks a lot of tea and loves winding people up. Find Jayne at White Rose Copywriting.

Comments

NussiINTJ (not verified) says...

Wow! Thank you for this article!! You just described me to a T and opened my eyes on the confidence gap conundrum that I never could quite figure out.  A business coach recently recommended that I get counseling for my unfounded self-confidence issues that, as he surmises, might be rooted in my somewhat unfortunate childhood.  Another one told me that my own perceived lack of executive presence is a complete "Gremlin in my head" and that I come across as very calm, confident, and credible. Guess I fake it pretty well.  I also got incredibly positive 360 feedback that tells me that others rate me much higher in just about all aspects than I view myself.  So maybe I hold off on the counseling for now, take courage in the fact that others are not as critical of me as I am, and continue to fake it until I make it.  Thanks again. This was extremely useful. :)

EJ (not verified) says...

Here's a thought.... perhaps our lack of self confidence is actually part of our appeal? ?

Michell (not verified) says...

This article resonated with me beyond belief. In order for me to feel confident, I must know the "ins and outs" of the situation completely. In my career, this meant lots of research, questions for peers, and "homework" until I was able to project the kind of confidence needed in my position. Even with my due diligence, I sometimes find myself in situations where I have to "fake it until I make it".

On a side note - I am sending this article to my husband. He often mentions that he is one of the few people allowed in my "turtle shell" and finds it hard to believe that I do not hold others to the standards that I place on myself.

David Warrilow (not verified) says...

Hello Jayne

I don't see any conflict between your statements "self-confident to the point of arrogance" and "Stick me in front of an audience and I'm a quivering wreck". INTJ's build their concepts like a wall: "brick by brick". While if we encounter new evidence which invalidates a specific point, we are willing to rethink the issue. To us if we had compelling evidence that the world is ending tomorrow - we would state it as a fact. When the world doesn't end tomorrow we re-evaluate the evidence and concede we were wrong and move on to the next hypothesis. We are confident in our knowledge (as you state above).

Standing in front of a crowd doesn't work well for INTJ because we are not very good at social clues. Fortunately I have worked on the bi-polar aspects of my personality (I was born in June so I did embrace the dual nature attributes of the "Gemini") So if I need to speak in front of a large crowd of people, I turn my INTJ oblivion to my advantage and just turn on the manic button. 

Treat it like an experiment on yourself. See if you can create an alternative persona for yourself.

J. Milton Dwiggins (not verified) says...

That was well written and incredibly insightful.  I battle my self awareness every day and have from my time as a child. I consider it to be both a blessing and a curse. Your thoughts about trusting our intuition more also resonated with me. I generally have been able to do that in my career but I am not as good at it when making life and relationship decisions.  In fact that is what prompted me to start my blog at www.mullguy.com. One of my posts is about whether my INTJ personality has contributed to my commitment phobia  That could be something that you might want to address.

Thanks!

Jan

MattATL (not verified) says...

What a great article this is and just when you thought you had seen it all about your personality type, a different spin is put on it to make you look at something a different way.  I could never figure out why I felt so confident and can take on the world one moment and the next feel so low.  The difference was striving toward something and feeling some sense of accomplishment.  Doesn't have to be major goals met but feeling as if I am working towards them even in the steps taken.  

Angela says...

I've been struggling with understanding why I've been feeling down and lacking confidence and reading this made so much sense to me. I truly do feel better when I'm being purpose driven and winning at something. I abhor loosing and do find that I take time to enhance my skills so I can win the next time. Reading this just helped me in so many ways.

Joanie (not verified) says...

I found your article very insightful, and relevant to my own confidence issues.  (It also tells me that it's a good idea to read posts by other personality types because I might have missed something I needed to read.  I'm an INFP who tested INTP at another point in my life.)  Regarding my own confidence issues, it finally dawned on me that I wasn't giving my self enough opportunities to develop confidence outside of the few things I'm already good at/ can win at.  For me this has meant running that first 5K, volunteering and serving on more committees through work, and going back to college surrounded by people half my age who seem faster, smarter, and better at many things than me.  All the while this is going on, I still feel like a crappy mother, daughter, and employee at some point in the day.  My boss tells me that I underevalue myself, and to others I seem calm and at peace with myself (little do the know that the quivering jelly that's my insides is could ooze out at any moment).  Anyways, thanks for a relatable post!

Pereira (not verified) says...

Wow. I just came to know my personality type and found the confidence part just left out. I’m so glad I found this .! Feels so good to have other people with the same gap. I used to think there was something wrong with me. Nope. Not anymore. Thank You So much.!

Javier (not verified) says...

My main concern when speaking in public is actually finding a way to explain to other people what I know, i.e., trying to get people to the same conclusion step by step, when I've arrived to that point through a path that's, many times, much more immediate, not easy to put in words, etc. I guess that's the downside of intuition: how to sell your conclusions to other people. However, I think it's good to exercise to work on your weaknesses, so I try to be as slow, detailed and logical as possible in my explanations. Sometimes even logic doesn't seem to be enough though, but certainly the exercise (backcycling from a conclusion you already know somehow) takes you to new and interesting places, mostly to new questions. I guess this is the reason why I always thought I'd be a horrible teacher, I just don't have the patience to do that all the time. You can't be explaining/describing what you just see so clearly all of the time. And, unfortunately, I think it may complicate relations with children (even your own) some time, as you need to remind yourself many times to slow down, be patient, and remember that things are not as obvious as we might think.

Seqular Seattle (not verified) says...

Javier, I think what you're struggling with is our "gift" of introverted Intuition.  We can run the show with our extroverted Thinking, but our inner intuitive process is very difficult to communicate. We don't arrive at our insights through a step-by-step process, which especially Sensor types have trouble understanding. As far as relating to children, though, I hope you will joyfully share your unique perspectives and questions and the fruits of your imagination. Kids need that so much! Don't you wish we'd had more adults doing that when we were growing up? They likely have at least 1 Sensor parent who totally doesn't get them, and most teachers are SJs.  Don't be afraid to say that something just came into your head and you're not sure why.  NT and NF kids are experiencing that too and need to know it's OK and they're not wrong or weird.  Some of the best times with the children in my life started with me saying "I wonder..." or "what if...?" Despite being so intense and rational, INTJs can be playful and it's great!

Rafael A. (not verified) says...

This is really great! I also have been reading a lot about INTJ personalities and the confidence is always the part that don't fit. I'm lecturer/professor and have not much confidence problems to teach or supervise projects because it's all prepared and I think I know what I'm talking about. And I can notice people king of believe in this. But, when I'm researching about topics I have no domain, confidence goes down the drain. Thanks for the lessons, they will be really helpfull!

STES (not verified) says...

Many thanks for articulating it so lucidly. I am an INTJ, and while I am not unconfident, I do struggle at times. Also I seem to be more empathetic than an INTJ usually is suppossed to be. This piece clarifies a lot of my questions.

Seqular Seattle (not verified) says...

This article was exactly what I needed today! After screwing up at work, I lost all sense of self-efficacy and couldn't motivate myself to do anything.  I so envy my INTP husband's ability to shrug off mistakes like this and move on without beating himself up. What a great reminder that 1) what I did was probably not as horrible or uncommon as I judge it to be and 2) the need for accomplishment and success is a bottomless pit for most INTJs and I have to acknowledge and manage that aspect of my personality, not criticize myself more for it (which ultimately can lead to binge-watching The Practice while eating Ben & Jerry's - not pretty!).  Thank you!!

Vander (not verified) says...

Hi I just wanted to say that the extreme self-criticism definitely resonated with me.I often find it strange how some people tend to have an inflated sense of self based on nothing concrete.

Zy (not verified) says...

Thanks for sharing and you are so right. I too did the personality test several times thinking if I am truly a INTJ as it is one of the rarest personality.

 

When said INTJ is confident such that it seems like arrogant I don't think so. I get nervous and lack of confidence because I think there's so much more I don't know and whether the things I did was the best option possible. 

 

I tend not to avoid my weakness but I tried to strengthen it so I could get better. 

 

Really great article!

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