Generally speaking, INTJs are perfectionists, especially the turbulent types. Other MBTI types are perfectionists, too (INFJ and ISFJ come to mind), but INTJs in particular seem to struggle with this. We tend to have extremely high standards that we apply to others and ourselves. I like this description from typelogic.com’s article on INTJs: “INTJs are perfectionists, with a seemingly endless capacity for improving upon anything that takes their interest.” I agree with that statement.
One thing that I’ve discovered about perfectionism is this: it can be both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it can drive INTJs toward excellence and give us a competitive edge. You might say that perfectionism is the fuel we burn on the road to success. It’s that voice in our mind that whispers, “This isn’t as good as it could be, and you know you could make this better–so do it!”
On the other hand, perfectionism can lead to many problems for INTJs and other types. When perfectionism is directed toward self, you might obsess about your work, your looks, your actions, and other things. You can procrastinate or become depressed or overly sensitive to criticism.
When perfectionism is directed toward others, you might obsess about other people’s looks, work, or actions, holding others to the same high standard that you apply to yourself. You can become overly critical or cynical toward others, and even hurt them deeply.
As an INTJ, I struggle with perfectionism daily. There have been many times, for example, that I’ve made a video for this channel, only to trash it and start over because I forgot to add something, mispronounced a word, or wasn’t happy with the final product. In fact, I’m really never 100% satisfied with any video I’ve ever made. (Interestingly, during the editing of the video, I noticed that I made mistakes such as mispronouncing “prerequisite” as “preresiquite.” Grrr!).
I’ll sometimes leave a social situation, and I’ll think to myself, “I probably should have said such and such,” or “I wonder if I came off too much like this.” I’ve applied a standard of perfection to my appearance, which used to cause a lot of low self-esteem issues. (I’ll probably talk about that in a future video).
My career has also been an area of struggle for me. I’d often feel as if I wasn’t successful enough, wasn’t earning enough money, didn’t have enough talent, etc. I’d easily feel like a failure the first second that I fell short of some goal.
Perfectionism has also paralyzed me, preventing me from moving forward. It’s as if I constantly know that my projects will never live up to the standard of perfection that I hold in my mind.
This can even apply to unimportant matters such as house chores. If I don’t feel like I can clean my office (dust, vacuum, and reorganize everything), I’ll probably put it off until a later date. And if I feel like I’m failing at something, it’s very hard to overcome the desire to simply give up. It’s as if I have to do everything right, or I don’t want to do it at all.
Tips for Overcoming Perfectionism
While being a perfectionist isn’t always bad (it has many great points), you do want to keep it in check. Otherwise, it can stifle your productivity and lead to a lot of mental anguish and depression.
Here are four tips to help you balance your tendency toward perfectionism:
1. Put your plans into action quickly, even if they aren’t perfect. INTJs are brilliant strategists and planners, but we can fall victim to “analysis paralysis.” We can overthink things to the point of exhaustion in our quest for perfection. Instead of obsessing over a perfect plan, put a good plan into action quickly. This is probably one advantage that ENTJs have over INTJs. They lead with extroverted thinking (Te), and they are much quicker at putting things into action.
George S. Patton was a highly respected military leader in the United States army. He once said this: “A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.”
Don’t allow the details and possibilities to overload your brain. Craft a plan, and run with it! You can always revise it later.
2. Minimize negative people. Some people will point out every flaw in your work, yet never offer the slightest praise or constructive criticism. These people are bitter, miserable, and just want to lift themselves up by knocking you down. You need to minimize people like that in your life. This is especially important if you grew up in a dysfunctional or abusive family, because you’ll always struggle with feeling inferior or imperfect.
3. Remember that perfection is not a prerequisite to achieving success or happiness. Microsoft has made billions of dollars, yet their operating systems are full of bugs and flaws. Every human has physical blemishes or flaws, yet many people find a mate and enjoy a fulfilled marriage. When you realize that your work or appearance will never be perfect, then you can stop beating yourself up. Be the best you can be and strive for excellence and competence, but be reasonable with your expectations.
4. Find an accountability partner or loved one to help encourage you and keep things in perspective. I remember watching a documentary about the horror writer Stephen King (some people think he’s an INTJ). He was poor and struggling in his writing career. As he was typing out the manuscript for the book Carrie, he became so discouraged that he threw it away. His wife, Tabitha, later found that crumpled manuscript in the garbage. Out of curiosity, she read it, and she immediately thought it had huge potential.
She gave him a few tips and then encouraged him to finish the manuscript and submit it to a publishing company. A publishing company accepted his work and later sold the paperback rights for $400,000, which launched Stephen King’s career as a writer.
There have been many times that I’ve wanted to give up on some project, but my wife would encourage me to stick through it. She’d tell me to keep going and offer me constructive criticism to see the project through. As a perfectionist, you need to have someone to encourage you and offer that outside perspective. Your work may not seem very good to you, but others may think it is great.
In conclusion, perfectionism isn’t always bad. Perfectionism can help us achieve our goals. It gives us that competitive edge and ensures a high level of competency. I believe that we should never settle for substandard performance. Nevertheless, perfectionism can also stifle your productivity or lead to depression if it becomes unbalanced. I hope that these tips will help you keep things in check.