In Gifts Differing, Isabel Briggs Myers called INTPs “the most intellectually profound of all the types.”
INTPs are candid, ingenious, and oftentimes rebellious. They are committed to autonomy, freedom, and independence. They are more likely than any other type to study foreign languages, and like to challenge traditions and social assumptions. INTPs make up only 3.3% of the world’s population and male INTPs outnumber females 3 to 1.
Albert Einstein was most likely an INTP, as are Bill Gates and Tony Hsieh (CEO of Zappos). Possible fictional INTPs are Sherlock Holmes, Bertram Gilfoyle of Silicon Valley, and Lisbeth Salander from the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series. All these people have a unique way of looking at the world and I can’t help but admire their withering intellects.
In a recent survey of INTPs we asked four questions:
- What are the top 3 challenges you face as an INTP?
- What 3 things do you wish others knew about you as an INTP?
- What 3 books/movies/courses/events have most impacted your life?
- What do you wish you could have told your 15 year old self ?
Over 140 INTPs opened up and shared their world with us. In this article, I would like to focus on the last of the four survey questions – What do you wish you could have told your 15 year old self ?
Many of the answers shared some common themes. So, I have broken them all down to 5 items INTPs wish they had known when they were 15 years old, in order of frequency.
#1 Don’t Worry About What Others Think
15% of INTPs wish they could tell their younger selves to stop obsessing about what others think. This is a surprising statistic when we consider the stereotypical INTP seems more concerned with logic and data than social niceties. However, it gives us an interesting insight into the sensitive nature of the INTP.
- “Do not be scared about showing yourself to the world. Stop thinking about what others think and do what you want to do. You are beautiful and smart do not let your insecurities tell you otherwise.”
- “Don’t listen to the haters and trust your intuition/”gut.”
- “Don’t give two sh*ts what other people think of you. I know deep down you care, but you can’t let it affect your decisions in life. Be true to yourself and what you want in life.”
- “Stop worrying about what others think about you. Be honest with how you feel and think. Stop wearing a social mask and be real with people. Stop stalking others on Facebook and have a hobby! Get out there and have a life. Try EVERYTHING.”
- “Create. Keep creating. Make quick and dirty prototypes. Never be afraid to show your work. Those are signs of scarcity. There is no need to cover things up. Be proud of what you do because you always try to put the best quality out there. Notice the things you love in life. Whether it’s actions/items/people, etc. bring more of those things into your life and play into them.”
- “Do not give a damn about what other people think. It’s none of your business and you can’t control it. Are you living for yourself or living for others and letting them control the limited time you have on this planet?”
- “Stick with what interests you most. Other people’s opinions matter but eventually it is your life that you are living. If you do what you enjoy most, you are going to be great at it.”
#2 Do More, Think Less
Sometimes it can be hard for INTPs to get out of their heads and into the real world. However, this is their fastest path to growth. INTPs may be introverted, but their auxiliary cognitive function is extraverted (Extraverted Intuition). All the idea generating in the world doesn’t do any good until it can be tested, refined, and explored by observing emergent properties. This is how INTPs bring their genius to the benefit of everyone.
14% of INTPs wish they had spent more time exploring during their youth and less time hiding.
- “It’s nice to get good grades every now and then, but you need to learn there’s more to life than studying. Go out there, get some adventure… do something! Stop worrying the world is against you, or you have to be something of great importance. You are you. It is okay to make a mistake.”
- “There is nothing wrong with you. If you want to make friends in college, you need to socialize more.”
- “The educational system is inadequate, delve deeper into self education. Begin learning other languages now, it will pay dividends. Learn to see value in experiences over things. Begin your own path – you need not wait.”
- “It’s okay to have multiple interests; don’t feel like you have to have your life all planned out at 18. You should also definitely take a year off after high school to backpack through Europe and ‘find yourself”.”
- “Don’t go to uni straight up after high school. Go and travel.”
- “Stop being so hard on yourself. Life is long and the prime directive is to experience what you can while you are here.”
- “Enjoy high school a bit more. You only need 60% of all your subjects to get into university, so stop studying for those distinctions and live a little. Also Oblivion and Dragon Age are great games, play them. And start watching Naruto and Bleach right now. Plus you should join that dance studio so you can actually have fun at your matric dance in a few years and you’ll lose some weight too fatty! Seriously though, go make some friends and party while you can.”
#3 Don’t Be Scared To Be Yourself
A common thread throughout all the Intuitive surveys is the reminder that we are different and that is not only okay, it is awesome.
13% of INTPs would tell their 15 year old selves to just be themselves.
- “Follow your curiosity. Don’t worry about trying to be like other people– it isn’t going to happen. Just be the best version of you. Give yourself a lot of room to make decisions because you’re good at seeing possibilities, and you will need to explore a lot of them before settling on anything. Enjoy the process of living– beginnings and endings are short and usually kind of anticlimactic, but you can find all kinds of fun in between.”
- “You’re not wrong. You’re just different, and that’s okay.”
- “You’re weird but that’s okay. Believe in yourself. Please stop procrastinating.”
- “Stop trying so hard to be like other people or meet the expectations for normal high schoolers. Just be who you are, regardless of who understands you, finds you attractive, wants you around… you are a wonderful person. ”
- “Don’t try to conform to what others do or think. There is nothing wrong with you!”
- “Be true to yourself. Pursue your dreams. Don’t let idiots derail them or try to tell you what to believe or how to think/feel.”
#4 Never Stop Learning
The INTPs dominant cognitive function is Introverted Thinking (Accuracy). This is a Decision-Making function that gathers data in order to sort out fact from fiction. Honest and concise thinking is the highest priority to an INTP. Data must be gathered to assure the INTP is reaching the most accurate conclusions possible. So, it should be no surprise to us that 10% of INTPs want to make sure their younger selves never stop learning.
- “Study about your personality. Find interesting things to research instead of playing video games all the time. Learn to program.”
- “Trust your instincts over authoritative figures. Don’t be afraid to not follow the crowd. Ruffle some feathers. Make more of an effort to keep up with old friends. Seek knowledge and always challenge your views.”
- Math is NOT hard, you’re just not being taught well. It can actually be pretty fun when you’re encouraged to be creative because it isn’t all about memorizing formulas. I promise. Start with Geometry and explore from there. The same thing goes for science. Learn to “code.” It’s a computer thing. Buuuuut… before all of that, don’t be afraid to audition for performing arts school. You’ll get in.”
- “There is no end to the search. The maze keeps expanding. Find peace in the beliefs and understanding you choose to accept as foundational. Always pick the red pill!”
- Being smart and curious does not mean you have to be a college professor (it’s sort of the family business). For me the subject matter comes and goes; what’s consistent is the process of clarifying and problem-solving. That’s my “thing”. (I have spent most of my life trying to find my “thing” – medicine? chemistry? economics? – and I’m now trying to reconcile myself to the idea that for me that’s the wrong question.) Being curious can get me into trouble, but I wouldn’t want to be any other way. Imagine the horror of running out of books to read!”
#5 You Are Complete
In exploring INTPs, I read that they have one of the lowest levels of coping resources of all the types (except for maybe ISTPs). This may explain another sobering statistic – INTPs are the most frequent type among college students committing alcohol and drug policy violations. Perhaps this is the reason why 9% of INTPs wish they could tell their younger selves that they are not flawed. Another 5% would like to remind their adolescent selves that they are not broken.
- “There is nothing wrong with being an introvert. You’re perfect just the way you are.”
- “You are not broken. INTPs are rare and have that “little bit of crazy” kind of genius. Put on your comfy but mismatched pants and shirt and go learn things.”
- “Practice self acceptance. Relax.”
- “Be patient. Life is long and things happen at their own pace. You are already complete the way you are. There is nothing missing. It’s okay to feel awkward and uncomfortable. That’s how growth feels.”
- “Don’t measure your own worth by any social standards whatsoever. Find out what your talents are. Don’t question whether your rational talents are of less value than the empathic or social talents of others. They’re not. Being less emotional or warm-hearted doesn’t make you a worse person. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.”
Never Stop Being Honest
The gift INTPs bring to our world is their radical honesty. Unbiased, unemotional, data-driven honesty. It is the rubric by which we as a society see through the BS and focus on the facts. Its laser precision cuts through the social detritus and reminds us to pull our heads out of our asses. This is why I love INTPs…even when their truth is painful.
- 7% of INTPs wish they had been more honest with themselves and others.
- 6% of INTPs want their younger selves to realize that the future is worth waiting for.
- 4% of INTPs wish they could have accepted the fact that it is impossible to change the world.
- Another 4% want their younger selves to realize that friendship is about quality not quantity.
- And 3% think they should have shared their work more with the people in their lives.
We would love to hear more about the advice INTPs would give to their teenage selves. Please share them in the comments below.
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