INTJs: How to deal with Low Self-Esteem and Emotional Emptines

Asthma asked: As an intj how do you deal with :
– lack of confidence/ low self-esteem.
– emotional emptiness.

Low Self-Esteem

I’ve never had a problem with low self-esteem myself, but I suspect that my methods for dealing with self-criticism could apply to your question just fine.

My interior monologue often runs along these lines: Why don’t I feel anything? Why don’t I care that this person in front of me is crying? Am I a bad person? Did l have to say that? It may have been true, but it wasn’t kind. I am a terrible friend. etc.

Here’s how I deal with it.

Recognise paradoxes where they exist

When I start thinking that I’m a bad person because I’m unfeeling (or any other equally plausible reason), I stop to consider all the angles. Rather than simply focusing on only the bad things that I do, I compare both the good and bad inside me.

This always ends with me concluding that I’m not a good person, but that I’m not a bad person either because I do both cruel and kind things. If people are defined by what they do, I can’t be defined as either good or bad because nearly every moral decision I make contains a paradox between the two.

Example: I said something quite brutal to my sister one day, and afterward, I kept thinking I was a horrible sibling for having said it. Yet, when I said it, I did so because it was something that she desperately needed to hear, and had needed to hear it for years. In other words, I did a cruel thing for a good reason.

I still felt guilty about it, looking back, I know that I did the right thing.

Summary: rationalise yourself out of your emotions and consider yourself and your actions objectively.


INTJs are supposed to be known for their ability to take control of a situation and simply do whatever is necessary to achieve the best possible outcome. However, low confidence does tend to stunt that ability.

Younger INTJs frequently suffer from a shyness that causes them to underuse their Te function. These INTJs don’t particularly hold the assertiveness that a strong Te function leads to.

Simple solution: practice using your Te function.

Emotional Emptiness

This one is tough.

My advice is this:

#1 Do things you love regularly

I don’t mean occasionally –I mean, use your Te function to schedule time to do things that make you happy. If you love art and you never have time to create art, make time to create art. If you want a 100% guarantee of an empty life, do not pursue your dreams.

As INTJs, it’s often our tendency to overwork and over-schedule ourselves, and while that makes us very productive, it doesn’t make us happy. You have to make a specific effort to do things that give you satisfaction in life. Treat having fun as part of your schedule and don’t think about work while you’re doing it. That way, even when the rest of life sucks, you have something that gives you a reason to keep going.

Even if you’re not an artist, I would strongly suggest watching Neil Gaiman’s Commencement Speech. It has a lot to say about life satisfaction.

#2 Surround yourself with remarkable people

One thing I do to give myself emotional fulfilment is to surround myself with people who help me do that when I can’t do it myself. The majority of my best friends are mature F-types because they encourage me to feel and to have fun.

Furthermore, do not isolate yourself. I learned this the hard way, but if you want to avoid emotional emptiness, you need to force yourself to spend time with other people. It is incredibly important to build and maintain strong relationships (even if, like myself, you only have a few of them) if you want have emotional fulfilment in life.


19 thoughts on “INTJs: How to deal with Low Self-Esteem and Emotional Emptines

  1. Have you read “A Death in the Family” by James Agee?
    Your section on paradoxes reminds me of that novel — how Agee sneaks you into the mind of each character and puts the paradoxical nature of human thought (and, consequently, human action/interaction) on full display. It’s rather unnerving and very raw, very real.

    I remember listening to a number of friends discuss the novel. After they made an exhausting over-analysis of each character, I realized that perhaps they were approaching the situation incorrectly (I am certainly not immune to this).

    They tried to make big-picture judgments using only small snippets of thought and one-time actions. Often, they came to conclusions about the entirety of a character through only reading his inner dialogue and bending his clearly contradictory thoughts into something clear and consistent. It really didn’t work.

    That book and this post were both much-needed reminders that the mind will be strange and we all make questionable decisions, but that big-picture thinking is pretty handy if we don’t want to overthink ourselves into existential crises.


    • I have not read that, but I typically love authors who are able to do that. Albert Camus does fantastically in “The Fall,” so that by the end, you hate the character but you have to keep reading because the paradoxes in his head are so fascinating.


      • I haven’t read that; the only Camus I’ve read is The Stranger, and both The Plague and The Myth of Sisyphus are on my list for sometime in the near future. I’ll have to add that as well!


  2. Thank you for answering my question about low self esteem and inner emptiness .
    And what you said is mostly true , I have never been able to use my Te correctly , it’s like I have never been able to detect it while I have been using it unconscientiously in studies for example and accomplishing things under stress , only in order to save myself from embarrassing situations .
    Lately I have understood that I have been a victim of Ni-Fi loop , because as you know : when Te is underused the copilot function turns automatically to Fi , so the final result is only an ineffective and frustrated Ni with a harsh Fi activated in the negative way .

    The way to fix the whole thing is to use Te , because using it will just equilibrate Ni process , and definitely shut down the negative impact of Fi .

    How to use Te ?

    2 things to remember :
    – avoid inaction , and be effective .
    – drop the perfection habit and just focus on getting things done .

    here are some tips I’m using and actually are working for me :
    I have decided :
    1/ to get in touch with myself in a deep objective level and stop the external influence that used to get easily to me via my Ni Fi loop , now I start questioning everything in the Te way , and I’m learning how to do that by observing my mother who is an ESTJ ( TE dom) and engaging in intellectual debats with her .

    2- to challenge myself and be 5 % more effective everyday , by setting goals , creating plans and doing them during the day and notebook to evaluate my progression (most normal daily life goals : reading 20 pages , learning something new , practicing sport , doing my homeworks in a defined period , fix my room , change its organization … Writing drawing something , …etc , the goals must gather everything i like to do and also things i have to do , without self-indulgence and desire .

    2- and I’m now pushing myself to say what I think properly objectively and be blunt , and this is weird for me but very relieving , as I have always been shy and totally understanding my feelings and others feelings at the same time .
    3- And finally to stop my self- criticism voice ,
    And fix a long term goals which concern my future , my career and my studies .

    Generally FI and Se for us INTJs , are underdeveloped but we must use them very often to empower our dominant and dominant and copilot functions :
    – so it’s necessary to :
    boost the positive part of Fi by helping others , taking care of ourselves and peoples who surrounds us .
    And stick to some Se habits and having fun sometimes .

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I know it’ll look like dumb questions (considering that I just read this:, but…

    1) How to practice using my Te function. Everywhere I look for it, it’s the same thing: “Planning, Organizing…”. I already do that, and it doesn’t help me with my low self-esteem…

    2) I don’t know what I love in order to do that regularly…Sometimes I think I became unable to “love” anything. It looks like there’s nothing that lights me up…


    • Hmm…been there (both places actually). And these are not dumb questions.

      1). No, this doesn’t help self-esteem at all. I was aware of that fact when I answered the question. I simply threw that in there as an extra tie-bit (notice how it’s listed under the header “shyness” not “low self-esteem”)

      2). I will be frank. The road to emotional fulfilment is not short, and it is not easy. I cannot solve your problem for you –all I can offer is advice, and whether that advice works for you will depend on a myriad of variables.

      I don’t know your situation or life story, so I’m going to give you the best advice I can with that limited knowledge.

      Chances are, regardless of how empty you might feel right now, there was something that you loved to do at one point in time. Yes? And you’re not necessarily sure how you lost the ability to feel all that excitement that you once did, or if you are, you’re not certain how to get it back. You now get no fulfilment from activities that may once have filled you with joy.

      When you’ve gone for long periods of time feeling nothing, you’re not suddenly going to get emotional fulfilment by trying to do things you enjoy ONCE. You have to put time into consciously trying to enjoy them, and I speak from experience when I say that you’re not going to get this right away. It will become a practice that you principally follow every day of your life if you want to keep it.

      Oft times INTJs (particularly those who have gone through a lot of trauma) will descend into what you might call Existential Disillusionment, or Existential Depression, wherein the big-picture Ni view overwhelms our ability to cope emotionally. The result is often that the Fi function will spiral out of control (either into overuse, or underuse).

      The post that was published right before this one talks in depth about how INTJs deal with trauma, so I might also suggest looking at that if you find it applicable.

      If you have more questions, I’ll be around.


      • I never had something that I really loved to do. Every time I try to speak about it, everybody thinks I’m lying. But, I’m not. I never felt that “excitement”. And I’m very jealous when I see someone doing what they love or talking about what they love…Thanks for the answer and the posts, anyway.


      • Going through same here, that existential depression, I am certainly using Fi a lot more, and Te less, hence causing a lot of imbalance here, your post and comment certainly helps.


    • Side note: I don’t think Mark Manson’s advice in that post applies well to INTJs. This is something I see a lot. Somebody rattles off some advice with confidence without taking into account their own personality type, and that what works for them may not work for other types.

      As an INTJ, I often feel like I am figuring out where my Ni is going and trying to lasso it with my Te. That feels like following my passion to me.

      I can make awesome plans with my Te but if they don’t align with what my Ni (and maybe my Fi) are passionate about, well, forget it. It’s not happening.


      • I agree with you. His advice does nothing for me. But I’m desperate for anything…
        I think I never used Te properly in my life. It’s very underused. I only see it working unconsciously. When I need I automatically become excellent in contingency planning. I don’t know nothing about where my Ni is going and don’t know how to use Te neither…


  4. Re/ low self-esteem, I think we INTJs tend to value our ideas but are quite admirably humble about our individual value. And we value the application of our ideas. So when I can be useful to someone else, it boosts my self-esteem. Effectiveness is very encouraging. So, if an INTJ is feeling down, go build something, fix something, make a plan, help someone do something.

    It’s also important to remember that we are pretty damned brilliant and if others can’t wrap their minds around our ideas, well that’s hardly our fault, is it?

    Re/ being cruel, as you put it, well… I don’t see it that way. Having someone in your life who will tell you the truth is a rare and precious thing. INTJs are truth-tellers. Even if the truth strings, the rest of you should be grateful to have relentless truth-tellers in your lives. You won’t get this anywhere else!

    Re/ emotional emptiness, I think you’re right on.


    • Well, it depends on the person whether or not telling the truth qualifies as being cruel –and the point I was trying to make is that you can see it that way, but you can also see it as a good thing.


  5. “Younger INTJs frequently suffer from a shyness that causes them to underuse their Te function. These INTJs don’t particularly hold the assertiveness that a strong Te function leads to.”

    I’ve wondered why INTJs are always described as so assertive, while I go out of my way to avoid most conflicts (with non-family members, at any rate) and understate things, or phrase statements as questions, in order to keep from offending other people. Underused Te function makes sense…possibly an Ni-Fi loop? I thought I might be INFJ for a while because of it, but I don’t have a shred of Fe.


    • Because an INTJ with a WELL DEVELOPED Te function will recognise that it is actually more efficient to avoid conflict than to try to plow through people.

      A lot of younger INTJs get caught in loops -particularly while their Fi function is starting to develop.


  6. I may be an ISFJ, but I can relate to much of this. Studying the paradoxes of my actions has always comforted me when my self-esteem is low (and should utilize more often). It was difficult until this year to build strong relationships and I realized how much I needed people. This post has the potential to help people of all kinds of MBTI types experiencing similar issues. Thank you for this post.


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