Advice, Software Engineer

What I’ve Learnt About Being An ISTJ

I am an ISTJ. No matter how many times I take Myers-briggs (MBTI) personality test, or how many different MBTI personality quizzes I take, I always get the same answer, “You are an ISTJ”.

I would like to share with you my story as an ISTJ. By sharing with the world how I feel and putting my thoughts into writing, I hope to be more self-aware and connect with you better. I also hope it helps you learn something about yourself if you are an ISTJ or if you have a common letter, I, S, T, or J in your Myers-briggs personality type.

I will use the strengths and weaknesses discussed in this page as a guide because if you haven’t already known, as an ISTJ, I like having structure and order. Ha.

If you’re a fellow ISTJ, after you’ve figured out your strengths and weaknesses, I strongly encourage you to do a self-assessment exercise to get clarity on where you are currently in your career and where you want to be. Knowledge is of use only if you take action to bring a profound change in your career & your life.

ISTJ strengths

Honest and Direct – Integrity is the heart of the ISTJ personality type. Emotional manipulation, mind games and reassuring lies all run counter to ISTJs’ preference for managing the reality of the situations they encounter with plain and simple honesty.

This is true. I place strong emphasis on integrity and what I do must not be in conflict with my integrity. I am honest and direct but I always try to be conscious about what I say to make sure I am not offending people or causing conflicts. I guess I am not one of those extremely direct people who say what they think, but I don’t have a problem with it.

Strong-willed and Dutiful – ISTJs embody that integrity in their actions too, working hard and staying focused on their goals. Patient and determined, people with the ISTJ personality type meet their obligations, period.

I can’t agree more. I am dutiful. The only thing is I am dutiful as long as what is being asked of me is not in conflict with my integrity and my inner and outer expectations. Gretchen Rubin described this as an attribute of an Upholder personality.

Very Responsible – ISTJs’ word is a promise, and a promise means everything. ISTJs would rather run themselves into the ground with extra days and lost sleep than fail to deliver the results they said they would. Loyalty is a strong sentiment for ISTJ personalities, and they fulfill their duties to the people and organizations they’ve committed themselves to.

ISTJs’ word is a promise, and a promise means everything.

I think this point is very similar to the point above. Dutiful and responsible, same same right? However, I am always cautious about running myself into the ground and it gets me quite upset if I have to lose sleep because of my commitments to organisation or people, unless I am really really passionate about them. The way I deal with this is by making sure that I never take on more than I can accomplish.

Calm and Practical – None of their promises would mean much if ISTJs lost their tempers and broke down at every sign of hardship – they keep their feet on the ground and make clear, rational decisions. Peoples’ preferences are a factor to consider in this process, and ISTJs work to make the best use of individual qualities, but these decisions are made with effectiveness in mind more so than empathy. The same applies to criticisms, for others and themselves.

Being efficient is one of my biggest strengths and efficiency is my top priority. Not only for myself, but for those around me.

Create and Enforce Order – The primary goal of any ISTJ is to be effective in what they’ve chosen to do, and they believe that this is accomplished best when everyone involved knows exactly what is going on and why. Unclear guidelines and people who break established rules undermine this effort, and are rarely tolerated by ISTJs. Structure and rules foster dependability; chaos creates unforeseen setbacks and missed deadlines.

I like structure and order. I like having efficient processes. I believe that the less thinking or improvising someone has to do in order to achieve something, the better. Rules, regulations and processes help us do just that.

Jacks-of-all-trades – Much like Analysts (NT), ISTJs are proud repositories of knowledge, though the emphasis is more on facts and statistics than concepts and underlying principles. This allows ISTJs to apply themselves to a variety of situations, picking up and applying new data and grasping the details of challenging situations as a matter of course.

Yes, this is me. I like to know and do many things, usually all at once. There is nothing else to discuss further regarding this point.

ISTJ weaknesses

Stubborn – The facts are the facts, and ISTJs tend to resist any new idea that isn’t supported by them. This factual decision-making process also makes it difficult for people with the ISTJ personality type to accept that they were wrong about something – but anyone can miss a detail, even them.

Ouch. This is probably true. Show me the facts and I will likely agree with you. Similarly, when I am told that I am not right, I tend to take it personally and will analyse facts to get to a conclusion for myself, of whether I am right or not.

Insensitive – While not intentionally harsh, ISTJs are often hurt more sensitive types’ feelings by the simple mantra that honesty is the best policy. ISTJ personalities may take emotions into consideration, but really only so far as to determine the most effective way to say what needs to be said.

This is actually not an issue for me because I always try to think before I speak. I may be harsh and insensitive in my thoughts though, but nobody has to know, so nobody gets hurt. Hehe.

Always by the Book – ISTJs believe that things work best with clearly defined rules, but this makes them reluctant to bend those rules or try new things, even when the downside is minimal. Truly unstructured environments leave ISTJs all but paralyzed.

This could be the most frustrating thing about myself, in my own opinion. Sometimes, I wish I could take more risks and do bigger and crazier things. This is why I am always envious of risk-takers and start up entrepreneurs who scarify everything to follow their passions.

Judgmental – Opinions are opinions and facts are facts, and ISTJs are unlikely to respect people who disagree with those facts, or especially those who remain willfully ignorant of them.

I won’t disagree with this and I don’t want to change the type of person I am. But I try to be diplomatic and empathic in my dealing with others, which could sometimes mean I keep some things to myself. Well, you can’t win at everything in life and I am ok with this approach.

Often Unreasonably Blame Themselves – All this can combine to make ISTJs believe they are the only ones who can see projects through reliably. As they load themselves with extra work and responsibilities, turning away good intentions and helpful ideas, ISTJs sooner or later hit a tipping point where they simply can’t deliver. Since they’ve heaped the responsibility on themselves, ISTJs then believe the responsibility for failure is theirs alone to bear.

Spot on! One of the feedbacks I have received about myself is that I am too hard on myself. Unlike the example mentioned above, which is failing to deliver projects because ISTJs load themselves with extra work and responsibilities, I don’t have a problem delegating and letting go. My issue is that I often don’t think I am achieving all there is to achieve in my life, reaching my full potential or doing things to change the world, make the world a better place. I know they all sound very big, but to me, they are the things that keep me going and making me feel satisfied.

So that’s me. I am a true ISTJ, by the Book, and my main weaknesses are “Always by the Book” and “Often Unreasonably Blame Themselves” aka “being too hard on myself”. If you are like me and have discovered techniques that works, then I’d like to hear from you. Or if you are like me and have not discovered solutions for yourself, well, keep reading my posts because as soon as I find something that works, you will be the first to know*.

*I found the points discussed in the article, Ten Rules to Live By to Achieve ISTJ Success, quite helpful. Of course not all ISTJs are equal and all of us do not have the exact same weaknesses. But the followings are great reminders for me.

  • Feed Your Strengths!
  • Take in Everything.
  • Assume the Best.
  • There is Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself.

There is Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself.

Footnote: ISTJ is one of the sixteen personality types of Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®.

Career Guide for Software Developers