What It’s Like Being an INTJ Woman

INTJ woman

All introverts feel like outcasts at times. But there may be no one who feels like more of an outsider than women of the INTJ personality type. While INTJ men can generally fit in with other men, many INTJ women don’t fit in with other women—or with anyone at all. Yet for all of the ink spilled about INTJs, very little of it is aimed at women.

I can’t pretend to be able to fix that, at least not alone. As an INTJ man, I’m no spokesperson for the women of my personality type. But I can see that my female INTJ friends and colleagues really struggle to be understood, and I decided to recruit expert help in the form of career coach Penelope Trunk.

Trunk is an ENTJ personality type, the INTJ’s extroverted twin. She also has one of the largest followings of female INTJ readers of any blogger in the world. Trunk got those readers because she gives INTJs exactly what we want: blunt, no-nonsense answers backed up with facts. I asked Trunk to sit down with me and discuss the difficulties that INTJ women face.


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Portrait of an INTJ Woman

Trunk said that INTJ women are right to feel like they don’t fit in—because often they don’t. “INTJ women just aren’t typical of women in general,” she told me. “INTJ is the rarest personality type for women.” In fact, at 0.5% of the population, INTJ women are the rarest of any gender/type combination. You can easily go your whole life and only meet a few other women like you.

Trunk ticked off a list of the ways that INTJ women stand out:

  • Gray or black seems to be the unofficial dress code for all INTJs, and many INTJ women wear minimal makeup. They prefer function over fashion. Many even have a system for what to wear and when, so they don’t have to think about it.
  • Many INTJ women don’t enjoy traditional female activities like shopping. They tend to shop alone, with a checklist, and get in and out as quickly as possible.
  • Work and school are not social activities for INTJ women. They focus on accomplishing goals, and are often alienated from the bonding that everyone else goes through.
  • Many INTJ women are told they’re intimidating. People think their no-nonsense attitude is an act that they will drop sooner or later—but it’s just who they are.

But the biggest difference between INTJs and other women is simply temperament. INTJ women aren’t “warm” the way women are expected to be, and they’re rarely the emotional partner in any relationship. INTJs do have deep emotional needs, like anyone else, but they’re much better at managing those needs on their own. After a fight, for example, most INTJ women prefer alone time to being comforted, unless they specifically seek out the comforting.

Trunk says this temperament is exactly what makes INTJ women so competent, and so successful in the workplace. “Every organization needs people who will make cool, dispassionate decisions,” she said. “INTJ women refuse to do the ineffective thing even if it’s the ‘feel-good’ thing.”

The Biggest Obstacle for INTJ Women

When I asked Trunk about the biggest obstacle for INTJ women, she didn’t even pause: “Being questioned for why they can’t fit in with other women.”

I took this answer to a group of nearly 100 INTJ women, and they resoundingly agreed. Most have only a few female friends, and many were tomboys as kids. Over and over, I heard that female politics or “girl stuff” is like a foreign language, one they’re expected to speak but were never taught. Several even wondered how much more they could have accomplished with their powerful minds if they had been born male.

Instead they’re constantly questioned for their blunt, sensible attitude. “If I were a dude, my workplace wouldn’t care about my demeanor and personality being the way it is,” one told me.

But it’s not just the workplace that’s hard. Relationships can be even harder. According to Trunk, “INTJ women don’t need a lot of the things out of a relationship that a traditional relationship provides. They aren’t going to take care of all their partner’s emotional needs, and they tend to be goal-oriented and financially independent. All they really need is just love and support.”

In some cases, Trunk says that INTJ women are more fulfilled by their career than they are by relationships, which can lead to being seen as emotionally stunted:

“Maybe you’re 45 years old and you’re not married. You stay late at the office every day and you don’t like vacations. Your family thinks it’s sad that you work so hard and they try to get you to do things for fun. What they don’t understand is that for you, working is fun.”

According to Trunk, this also leads to the biggest mistake INTJ women make. “They settle. They start to try to fake it, and they downplay their competence. They know it puts people off so they try to hide it.” Trunk says this gamble never pays off. “You can’t fake it. You’ll still seem different. So then you’re still the outcast but without the dazzling brilliance that people will respect about you.”

How to Fit in and Be Happy as an INTJ Woman

To me, what Trunk described sounded like a catch 22. How can you find acceptance, if you’re an outsider whether you try to fit in or not? But Trunk said that fitting in with the female norm wasn’t the point at all. She offered several tips for finding acceptance:

  • Seek out other women with big goals. “As an INTJ woman your aspirations are outside of traditional female roles, but you’re not the only one. Surround yourself with women with big ambitions—you’ll fit in.” Professional associations, women’s leadership events and continuing education classes are all great places to meet ambitious women.
  • Don’t be afraid to join the boy’s club. Many INTJ women aren’t drawn to careers that are traditionally female, and that’s okay.
  • Try developing your closest friends at work. Being accepted and understood feels very good to an INTJ woman, but it can be hard to find that acceptance with family members. Instead, turn to the colleagues you admire the most. These are the people who will respect your natural competence and like your personality.
  • It gets better. Many women quit or downsize their career to stay home with kids—including some INTJ women. But if you choose to keep working full time, eventually you’ll find yourself surrounded mainly by men and other career-driven women; you’ll fit in much better by your mid-30s than you did earlier in life. (The INTJ women I spoke to agreed; many don’t want kids at all, and others are happy moms who continue to focus on their career.)
  • Seek a partner who will take care of your emotional needs. This is especially true for heterosexual INTJs, Trunk says. “The man needs to want to do the work of being emotional and close, because the INTJ woman isn’t going to do it. It’s going to be on him, and he has to be okay with that.”

The most important piece of advice Trunk gave, however, was also the simplest: be yourself. There’s a much bigger world out there than “girl stuff,” and there are both men and women who will appreciate you for what you are—and believe it’s not an act. There is nothing wrong with you, and the world could use a lot more women like you.

“It’s okay to have high ambitions,” Trunk said, “You should be true to yourself and follow those ambitions.”  retina_favicon1


Quistic-logo-Penelope-TrunkSeminar for INTJs: Our partner Quistic offers a course for INTJ success. “Best Practices for Leveraging INTJ Strengths (and How to Be a Likable INTJ)” is a four-part webinar from career coach Penelope Trunk. Includes access to a private Facebook group with nearly 200 success-oriented INTJs. Learn more about the INTJ course here.


Read this: 7 Secrets About Dating an INTJ Personality Type



42 Comments

  • Vicky says:

    Yes, yes, yes! As an INTJ woman, your post strikes a chord with me.

    A great part of my life, I was bitterly disappointed by my lack of female friends: I was a loner, but I didn’t understand why I could not have a “best girlfriend”. Especially in high school, every girl seemed to have a best pal, and I didn’t.

    Moreover, in social contexts, there is the problem of small talk: everyone wants to gossip and chatter, and I can’t stand it, but it’s considered “good manners” and friends and acquaintences seem to expect it. I hate small talk!

    • I’m so glad it strikes a chord, Vicky. It’s always hard writing about women’s experience as a man. You INTJ women are an inspiration to me. Thanks for your comment 🙂

  • So much of this hits home. I once had a professor in a small accounting course I took ask a fellow classmate if I was mad at her for some reason. I wasn’t of course but I guess I just gave off this aloofness without meaning too. To me class was a place to learn what I needed and then go home.

    I use to wonder if others were built with something that I just didn’t have. I am a caring person who worries greatly about others feelings but socially that just doesn’t come across that way and in the end I am happy avoiding social engagements and not dealing with the awkwardness.

    • Thanks for this, CR. I always viewed class that way too, but I could be pretty friendly with professors mainly because I related to them better than to my peers. INTJs may be born without some social strengths, but we are also immensely brilliant. Thanks for your comment.

  • I am an INFJ female, but actually relate to some of these characteristics: getting along better with men, hating shopping, being very career-oriented, and not relating to girl gossip/girl chat. The thing is that I present myself as very feminine and warm, but these other things about me may confuse people. My intj male friends are very dear and brilliant to me. I wish I knew more intj women.

    • Funny, I’m a male INTJ and I wish I had more female INTJ friends. It’s helped to be part of several online INTJ groups (though it takes time to sort out the mature group members from the annoying ones, unless it’s a private group).

      • L. Andrew Augustus says:

        Andre, what online groups are you a part of. I’ve found dating to be particularly hard for me (INTJ-T, single, black male, IT Professional). I tend to be a loner. I’m interested in meeting new people and expanding my social circle.

        • Andrew, the main INTJ group I’m part of is a private group for people who completed Penelope’s INTJ seminar (linked in the article). I’m also part of a slack group that grew out of that group.
          However, you can also feel free to friend me on Facebook (just search Andre Sólo) and I’ll gladly accept the request.

  • Hey you quoted me! Awesome.

    Just throwing in that if you are an INTJ woman, the single best thing I did for being able to relate to others was taking that Quistic course for INTJ. The “how to type other people” part was fantastic. Now I take notes in my phone for different business contacts, like who needs a lot of emojis and positive sounding texts/emails.

  • I am a heterosexual INTJ ( Asian ) woman. Married twice and all finished. I decided to quit from my medical doctor career 6 years ago. I do painting from 2005 till now. Be a painter make me feel free to be the way I am. Thanks so much for sharing this wonderful post
    <3

  • Tree Pash says:

    What? So I’m not a freak of nature – hated or feared by males and females alike for being either too bold, too silent or too antisocial or theoretical? I’ve often felt or been made to feel as though I don’t fit in… Not the emotional, shop till I drop woman… And heaven knows I’m not welcome in the corner office…
    So I’ve managed to find my place in today’s world of open offices by being independent and working from home… Even more introverted than ever.
    But at least I know I’m not alone. And sorta normal!

  • Karen says:

    Now combine INTJ personality with bitchy resting face and have fun with that. 😉

  • Allison says:

    Nope. Saying INTJ women are all about their work and advising them to build their life around work is completely reductive. It’s nearly as bad as saying that they can’t fit in with other women. It’s also not an actual solution. I’m a woman and an INTJ and the advice here is legitimately offensive in my opinion. I am accomplished and competent. I work in a very male dominated field and I hold my own very well. But my male colleagues are far from my closest friends and if I expected my satisfaction with life to come from my work, I would be a very empty and aimless person. I did think this was the answer for a very long time… but then I realized how unhappy it was making me and I decided I had to branch out. So I developed real, lasting female friendships for the first time in my life. I was 27 and it was uncomfortable and extremely challenging but I can honestly say that it saved my life. Yes, I’m different from other women but not so different that we have nothing to offer each other. Other women may recognize that I’m different but that’s not an insurmountable obstacle. And here’s the kicker: any woman who has worked in a male dominated field knows that you encounter sexism over and over. It doesn’t matter what you’re personality is. As I’ve grown older I’ve become more fed up with the relentless bullshit and completely clueless attitude spewing out of the men who I work with. Do you know who understands these frustrations? And who supports me when I feel like reached my limit? My close female friends. Developing a life outside of work was the kindest thing I ever did for myself. I’m tired of seeing INTJ evaluations that are so reductive and stupid. It’s legitimately harmful and negligent. I hope that other women will read this and know that you have many many other options that will leave you fulfilled, challenged, and happy.

    • Allison, you raise good points and I understand that Penelope’s advice isn’t going to be right for every INTJ woman. Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

    • Jody says:

      Thank you for saying this! The more descriptions I read of the INTJ woman, the more annoyed I get by the generalizations and stereotyping, the lumping us all in as machines that cannot possibly form a normal friendship with members of the same sex (opposite too). I personally don’t care if the female (or male, really) population as a whole accepts me because I’m not what they consider to be “normal”. Most people that I encounter in my day to day life are irrelevant in the full scope of things, they are usually shallow, boring people that I wouldn’t bother to waste my energy on. I accept myself. I am who I am. Their opinion of me is immaterial to how I live and who I am. I am my closest friend, second is my spouse. I have two close female friends that I have known for decades. We are quite different personalities, but that’s okay. It may not have always been an easy experience when it came to our mutual attachments to each other, but we made it work because we tried, we accepted, and we always had each others’ backs. It’s an easy concept to understand, I just don’t think most people I’ve met are willing to provide the necessary effort of the push/pull, give/take that relationships require. “Fitting in” as being the biggest obstacle that I have ever encountered is ridiculous. Why would I want to fit in? So I can be just like everyone else? No thanks, I’ll pass. Give me contrasts, distinctions, contradictions, and variations, they’re so much more fascinating.

      • Jody says:

        My response above was meant as a response Allison’s comment….the view of the layout of this page does not seem to distinguish this.

    • Ellie says:

      Your experience sounds a lot like mine. I’m an INTJ female in a challenging, male-dominated field (ALL of my coworkers are men), and while I do get a lot of satisfaction from a job well done, and have a big dollop of the ‘a word’, ambition, which IMHO is just another way of saying ‘I want to do more stuff in this job’, my emotional life improved immensely once I looked elsewhere for true fulfillment. I don’t exactly have a huge female friends network, but the ones I do have are very important to me. Ditto about the sexism. And I know, for damn sure, that I don’t ‘read’ as a man.

    • I think this post too devalued women of other personalities. as INTJ, I have two women friends, a ENFJ and another ISFP. My best friend is a man ESTP effeminate. And my other “friends” men are just college buddies who come to irritate with sexist comments.

  • Rita says:

    Well, I’m an INTJ woman and I’m not so carrier oriented. I love my free time and love to travel. A love vacations and staycations in my home alone. My biggest struggle is that I can’t find a suitable partner to have a family. Yes, I want a traditional family, a husband and children, but I’m still single at 43. I want to experience motherhood and the opportunity to teach and shape a child ‘s mind. The social interactions and bonding with other people are very important component of a healthy and happy life. I want it all, but I would need some alone time from my future family to recharge.

    • Allison says:

      I definitely feel you on this. I want marriage and children as well but dating is challenging for sure. I think dating is actually much tougher for me than pretty much anything else. I don’t know what a suitable partner would look like but I do know for sure that I haven’t encountered him yet. Best of luck to you.

  • Kate Scott says:

    This is spot-on. I agree with her advice to seek a partner who “does the work of being emotional and close.” As a heterosexual INTJ woman, I find emotional intelligence an extremely attractive quality in a man.

  • Beca Lewis says:

    Love this Andre! As an INTJ woman so much of this rings true. For me, as I have gotten older I have learned how to soften some of these tendencies. Not to be more like other people, but to stop getting in my own way as much. One thing I don’t do anymore is wear all black and gray. That must mean something. And I am married to a wonderful man who makes sure I stay more grounded in feeling, and thankfully is also an I. It’s lovely to know more INTJ women – for years, I only knew one!

    • Funny, I’ve also focused away from wearing black and gray – to an extent. As a creative I’d prefer to be one of those people always dressed in something eye catching and bright, but the best I can do is usually one bright color (often my red scarf) with an otherwise sensible outfit 🙂

  • tc says:

    INTJ woman here, and this article is mostly spot-on. Although it can’t fit perfectly, as people are individuals even within a personality type. It had some good insights for me, and the stuff that didn’t fit, I just let roll off my back. Because obviously nobody expects anything based on a personality type to be 100% true of everyone with that personality type. I did share it, though, since it provided enough “food-for-thought” for friends, acquaintances and family to gain a little more understanding and hopefully insight on how to interpret our relationship and maybe not feel so “frozen out” by my single-mindedness and tendency to not hit the right emotional flavor that they are expecting/needing for many situations.
    I’m still working on this whole “talking to humans” thing…and in the mean-time, I do need the occasional accommodation from those close to me..

  • Nina says:

    Thank you for the thoughtful and thorough article Andre. I’m an INTJ female who served in the military and have always been way more comfortable around men, despite desperately wanting a close group of girl friends. I still don’t have a girl BFF which hugely bothered me growing up. It only bothers me when I compare/notice how different that is from most other women. But, as Allison stated, it’s totally possible to build those relationships later in life. I’ve realized that opening myself up more and being vulnerable really helps build relationships with other women. My spouse also happens to be an ESFP (only found that out recently after forcing him to take the test, before that we just knew we were pretty close to opposites but didn’t know we were EXACTLY opposite) so having him around really tempers my cut/dry personality and makes me cultivate a warmer and more open side of myself. Thanks again for the insightful article. Trunk is pretty spot on too.

    • Thanks for this Nina. That’s great that your husband is ESFP. One of my best friends is ESFP and I’m always a thousand percent more charismatic when I’m around her.

  • Jennifer says:

    INTJ female and I found this one of the least helpful articles that I have read. INTJ’S are independent thinkers above all else so some of these generalizations just seem absurd. In fact, I’ve read another article that said we are all over the place in our fashion tendencies from person to person and, individually, day to day depending on our mood (which describes me). I agree that it’s easier to get along with men but my job doesn’t give me the choice. So I spend the day trying to be sure I don’t accidentally offend anyone and then I am thrown in with 40 parents in kindergarten orientation and asked to socialize. Oh, that’ll turn out great! I think the should be put on notice that we are not all extroverts and interpersonal (especially forced) interaction is uncomfortable for about 40% of us. But seriously, telling an INTJ to just focus on work because relationships are hard is as wrong as telling women in general ro stay in the kitchen because they will face resistance in the workforce (please forgive my disorganization, writing with a migraine).

  • Sol says:

    INTJ woman married to an INTJ man, I think he is the only person I’ve ever met that understands me and can read me right away. It also works the other way around, we spend most of our time focused on our careers and this has worked perfectly because neither one of us feels like we lack attention from the other. I think any other person would feel very lonely being with someone like us. We’ve decided that if we ever had kids he would stay home and I would continue working. This still worries me a bit because I know that I would go crazy being home all day, every day. He, on the other hand, tends to stay very productive at home. I think because he could continue to fix things and use his tools, he would still be happy. I sure hope so.

  • Freshhell says:

    This is me but I’m annoyed by the subtitle in that seminar. Maybe I’m not interested in being “likable”. Do women all need to be likable? Screw that.

    • Haha, Freshhell, fair enough. As a male INTJ I was definitely interested in how to be more “likable,” but I could see how that would be a tired message for a woman.

  • Em says:

    You know, it’s funny — I agree that as an INTJ I am terrible at building those close bonds that other people seem to build so easily … but I have actually gotten good enough at being social in the workplace that others don’t seem to notice too much, and many are surprised I’m not extroverted. I took the time to observe others and build these skills because even if I don’t enjoy it, being able to come out on top of work politics situations is important for getting ahead.

    Additionally, neither myself nor my husband are really emotional/mushy types, but this works for us. My relationships with emotionally softer types always ended with me just making them feel terrible because I don’t know what to do with them. We’ve been able to bond through other things like obsessively discussing our future ambitions, traveling together, and the like. That gives us the bond foundation to lend each other the emotional support when it’s needed, but the rest of the time we just don’t really worry about it. A couple of hard-hearted ambitious individuals! We joke that we’re like the villains in those Lifetime Christmas movies 🙂

  • Lena says:

    Also an INTJ woman here. Upon realizing this type was me (all over) it was a relief to know that trying to be like other women was no longer necessary or even logical. I’m in my 40s now, my children are grown, and I’ve been through two marriages. Each husband expected me to be like a typical SF-type woman and were disappointed because of these misguided expectations. But now, finally, I have realized that the painful memories of me trying to perform under typical marriage expectations or even do ‘chit chat’ at the bus stop with the other moms, was entirely unrealistic. But more importantly, it could now just be a painful memory and not a complete mystery. For INTJ women, I think there’s no real ‘formula’ for success, as some have pointed out here. But in general, it seems way more important to give yourself ‘permission’ to be yourself, and listen to yourself when you have that feeling of ‘this isn’t me’. Btw I feel fortunate that I gave marriage the old ‘college try’ and had my 3 children, regardless of how ill-conceived the matches may have been. They’re in their 20s now, and they understand me, in all my INTJ weirdness. I’m fairly certain one of them will let me live in their basement when I’m an old crotchety INTJ grandma so I can sit in a rocker and teach their children rational thinking.

  • E says:

    Relatable. INFJ and have more in common with the INTJ than any other Myers Briggs type. In my last career I felt like my brain cells were slowly dying off one by one. It was in a female dominated profession.. I think INTJ’s and INFJ’s need to find big picture people, introverted intuitive dominants.. it doesn’t need to be just women. After a while I realized I don’t need work to fulfill me so don’t have a struggle to be understood in the workplace. I have projects on the side and team up with big picture people, even small details personalities to get the job finished. Balance is key. Walking the type rope can be manageable.

  • Jen says:

    I’ve always had more guy friend than girl. My best friend is a girl but she’s no nonsense like me. And she helps keep me in check when I’m being super INTJy. I’m very affectionate with my husband (INTP) and somewhat with loved ones. Should I have children, I’m sure I would be with them as well. With everyone else, though: my personal bubble is enormous. Very fortunate to have found my wonderful INTP husband or I would have been content to spend my life single. Books and pets are excellent company. To end, I recently had the experience of working a professional kitchen with a straight-forward, tough, head chef and absolutely loved it. It was rough but exhilarating.

  • I really liked this article because it made me seem like less of a freak. I am finishing high school at the moment, and I agree with the fact that INTJ women do not usually use school and work as social practice. I would actually like it a lot more if we didn’t have a thirty minute lunch time to have to deal with people when eating. They are . . . difficult for me to deal with.
    I also tend to go through best friends quickly, some labeling me as insane. Maybe I am insane, I don’t know, but all I do know is that I tried. I try very much to have that one person to stick to, but often times they leave me in the dust. I don’t get very stressed over this fact, dealing with it as soon as possible and than moving on is my thing. I know that you have to go through the motions. It is a process. Many other times I get mocked for being too cold, or too freakish, or maybe my ideas and interests are too . . . ambitious? I do not understand their logic. They do not believe that I can do what I want to do.
    Over all, I am glad someone out there decided to write about the personality type. I have been reading many things on the subject because it makes me seem less out of the norm. Someone understanding me is comforting.

  • george says:

    It’s very interesting to know about INTJ peoples. I am also an INTJ women. I am happy to know more about INTJ womens

  • Jennifer says:

    I am an INTP women but on a comparison chart between the J and P personality traits I am almost fifty-fifty so I relate with this post much. Thank You for writing it.

  • Dilo says:

    In the last days I’ve been thinking about relationships and future, as expected this drive me really deep in thoughts like sexual orientation and gender identity. All in this post suits: the main content about not being enough “women” and the high probabilitys of manly environments; but also the sexist comments from males colleagues. The fact is I don’t feel to much like a woman, but the environment force that category all the time against me, is not about girly things, is about you viewed as a walking vagina in a manly environment and at the same time not enough women in a normal environment. After reading the comments I feel like a woman, I understand their points, being capable and enjoying work and at the same time want a partner who loves you and a warm home, but for some reason you can’t be a tomboy with feminine goals or vice verse. I had the luck to grow up socially in a really open-minded place, I found really good friends and now I’m more conscious about my feeling part but is time to achieve my goals. The future I’m looking for is in a REALLY male environment, just 0,4% are woman and I’m scared of just be seen as a woman and not as a capable person; also is lonely and far away from everything, and with my introversion I doubt could reasonably meet anyone. I imagine hypothetical situations with a partner but I don’t really know if I really want or if I even could, I even doubt if I’m asexual!! (I don’t know if is that or I’m just too stupid to notice if I’m attracted to anyone)… Is hard, find this kind of things makes me fell relieved, that I’m not the only one. Sorry for the blabbering and thanks for the space.

  • The INTJ is a strategist. They naturally see all variables and outcomes in any given situation. They always see the entire picture, no matter what. Its not something they have control over, its an integral part of their being. Because of this, they know what has to be done, whether its easy or hard, to reach the desired outcome. That is where the “cut-throat” mentality comes from. They understand what it truly takes to produce what their world, and perhaps what the whole world (If they are also a humanitarian) truly needs. Nikola Tesla is another INTJ example, which speaks for itself.

  • INTJs have a conversation, it is an exciting ordeal and quite a show for an observer. They will participate in dark humor, inside jokes, and connecting ideas with lightning moments of realizations. If one INTJ builds a framework and gathers information and inspiration, imagine what they can do together. Two minds working as one to create endless possibilities.

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