How to cope with the need for external validation

The reason I’m not homeless after basically taking a year off from writing is that I have been doing a lot of coaching. I say career coaching, but honestly, no one over 30 has a career problem. All problems that look like career problems are really something else.

But the only coaching most people can justify spending $350 on is coaching that will lead to making more money. So people hire me to talk about their career and they realize they do not have a career problem. After talking with me for ten minutes. So with the remaining 50 minutes I do career coaching about non-career problems.

I love talking with the people who call. It takes a smart, curious, brave person to set up a coaching session with me. If you read this blog for even just a tiny bit of time you know there will be no beating around the bush. A lot of people cry. And I tell them, “Don’t worry, a lot of people cry. And anyway, I have Aspergers so I can just ignore it.”

Well. If they want me to. Or I can express empathy. But for sure no one is signing up for a coaching session because they heard I’m great with empathy.

I get lonely. I spend all day with my kids. They say interesting things, like, “Mom, why are you so forgiving to everyone in your life? I think you have Stockholm Syndrome.” But in spite of that, or maybe because of that, I need to talk to adults; I need to talk to someone who I don’t cook dinner for.

Actually, I have had a few people over for dinner and in-person coaching. They begged, so I tried it once, and I liked it. I charged double. That might be why I liked it. But it’s fun to cook dinner and talk about someone’s life.

I coach a lot of people at Google, and sometimes I keep in touch. One of those people is a woman who recently had a baby and is trying to figure out what path to take moving forward. Google is not particularly family friendly. Of course they say they are family friendly, but there are no people at Google moving up the ladder while being the parent in charge of young kids. There are people moving up the ladder with a stay at home spouse, or a team of nannies.

Anyway, this woman I am corresponding with is obsessed with what other people are doing with their kids. I get that. I am always looking around at who is doing what so that I can do it that way, too. But when you spend your whole life competing – in school for grades, then at work for titles and for money — and then you have a baby, it’s disorienting when you start looking for the competition.

She has found the alternative ways parents who cannot compete at work can continue to measure themselves in order to find external validation. For example, sleeping through the night (nice for parents; irrelevant for the future happiness of a child) or getting into the right preschool (this woman has discovered schools don’t like to take kids with IQs higher than 130 because they are too much trouble to deal with).

Anyway, I confess that I love the information she digs up, but I think it’s messed up that she’s obsessed with finding another way to compete. And, on top of that, I think I am aiding and abetting in her misguided attempts to find another way to get external validation now that she has a kid. I feel like a heroin dealer. Every time she brings me fascinating data, I tell her she is fascinating, and then she does more.

Being a new mom is lonely – you don’t really have a solid new identity to hold on to, and you don’t really have any mom friends yet. New mom life is a life unmoored. I think probably she is just lonely and she deals with loneliness by seeking external validation.

Not that I, too, do not want to be fascinating. I want you to think I’m fascinating. But in the sort of trusted friend kind of way, or at least trusted paid friend so that you’d want to talk to me but you’d know that if you paid for a coaching session I would not divulge everything about you, like I am in this post.

Well, I am not divulging everything. I mean, there are thousands of women who fit this profile. But the truth is I asked her before I wrote about her, and she’s thrilled because she wants to be doing something that matters.

I have found that the most messed up people I coach are the ones who most need external validation. Another interesting thing: all S types need external validation. They care about rules and duty and want admiration that they are approaching those important markers with competence. They want acknowledgment for doing the right thing.

But I don’t coach many S types. They are concrete thinkers and not particularly interested in analyzing themselves or planning the future. People who I coach want to make sure they have a plan that will allow them to self-actualize. S types won’t even read this paragraph. They will get to self-actualize, quit reading, and go to the gym. Or the garden. Depending.

So I coach N types and you can imagine, the NTs do not give a shit what anyone thinks of them. I am like, the most insecure NT in the history of the universe, and I still let you guys write in the comments section that I’m a narcissist idiot and I’m destroying my children. So really, trust me that NTs do not need external validation.

This leaves the NFs. I coach mostly NFs and their number-one problem, no matter how old or what stage of life they are in, they want external validation. But the people NFs want external validation from are the NTs and the NTs don’t care about anyone enough to give them validation. This is not to say that NTs do not give praise. We do. In order to move things along. And, for the most part, we are horrified when someone thinks we need external validation from them.

So I coach NFs about how to not be so concerned about external validation and just do their life. The people who have the hardest time doing this, by the way, are INFJs, because they are reticent to admit how much they seek external validation; you can’t solve a problem if you don’t admit it’s there.

Still, my favorite people to coach are INFJs. Because they know so much about everyone but they have big blind spots about themselves. And, as someone with Aspergers, I have a good understanding of the blind spot thing. A blind spot means you don’t know you have a blind spot, so when someone tells you something is off, it’s mind-blowing.

For an Aspergerian (is that a word?) it’s mind-blowing to hear, for example, that people care if their socks match. I mean, now it’s not mind-blowing, but when I was not matching socks, it just never ever occurred to me that people care. It’s so much work for so little reward. That was my thinking.

The corollary for an INFJ is they are shocked to hear that half the world does not care about values. The INFJ feels they are winning the competition for living life according to one’s values. So they are shocked to hear that the rest of the world isn’t even in the competition.

For the INFJ it’s not enough to live according to their values. They want to be recognized and respected for that. The INFJ will say, “Everyone wants respect.” Then they will be shocked to hear that is not true.

We spend so much time trying to find out what the game is, and find the rules, and then win. School is like that, and money is like that, but for the most part, the rest of life is not. So the hardest thing in life is to get an internal compass that allows you to measure yourself against your own values and your own goals. You have to find your own, internal way to validate your choices in life.

I, for example, do not want your respect. I just want you to read to the end of this post so that I feel like I had a conversation. Because it’s midnight and I don’t have a call lined up from Australia tonight, so I’m lonely.

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  1. Karen
    Karen says:

    I am also an INFJ. When I saw the title of this post in my inbox, I assumed it was directed specifically at INFJs. I am aware that I constantly seek external validation. And I *am* shocked that others don’t do the same.

  2. Darja Wagner
    Darja Wagner says:

    i loved the “no one is signing up for a coaching session because they heard I’m great with empathy” part. it’s so me but i hate to say it on my website. so i hope you won’t mind if i recycle that beautiful idea. much love from berlin, darja

  3. emily ENTP
    emily ENTP says:

    I’m so happy that you’re writing again! Please write more posts. Please write more about enfps and how they’re just supposed to be dating intjs, because that’s probably the best advice you’ve given me and i’m trying really hard to follow it. i live on a floor of all intj men, it’s sort of like heaven. there are so many things to tell you. I miss talking to you and getting this post in my inbox was like hearing from you again.

  4. Ruth
    Ruth says:

    Hi from Australia, chewing over need for external validation which may indeed be one of my blind spots. Has definitely been my cultural experience that it is morally weak to seek any such thing. Selflessness & modesty in all things has been an unspoken rule. Reading your post may be enough to let that old habit go. Thank you

  5. Lucy Chen
    Lucy Chen says:

    It’s great to hear from you again, Penelope. It’s been such a long time! I think what you say about INFJ is very true. But I start to get a feel that I do have this blind spot. I am shocked that people don’t care about values!

  6. Dannielle (Dossy)
    Dannielle (Dossy) says:

    Penelope – I truly believe God is putting you where you need to be. Resilience, for me, comes from that faith in Him. Happy Jewish New Year to you and your sons. May you be inscribed in the Book of Life and experience serenity, good health, love and prosperity.

    – Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal

  7. J
    J says:

    “For an Aspergerian (is that a word?) it’s mind-blowing to hear, for example, that people care if their socks match. I mean, now it’s not mind-blowing, but when I was not matching socks, it just never ever occurred to me that people care. It’s so much work for so little reward. That was my thinking.”

    I don’t have Aspergers but I couldn’t agree more. What a waste of time. Also people who iron & fold their socks and underwear. The only thing that matters matching wise in a practical sense is sock thickness. Because one thick and one thin would be a little weird to walk on. An no one is really looking at your sock anyway.

    Nice that you are writing again. I like the photo.

        • Rayne of Terror
          Rayne of Terror says:

          I only buy my sons to one color/style of sock so every sock matches. 8 year old boys do not need a selection of socks. I myself have two styles of socks, black low cut athletic and white ankle, and I’m an attorney. I pretty much don’t wear socks to work, or in the winter I’m wearing a shoe that hides my athletic socks.

      • Beth
        Beth says:

        All of my socks are the same. I started doing this fifteen years ago and it’s one simple thing that makes my life better.

    • Nicole
      Nicole says:

      I disagree. Color is more important than thickness.

      I don’t care about matching socks either, but I know that other people do, and I know that if other people see you wearing one black sock and one white sock they are going to think that there is something wrong with you.

      It’s important to at least make it look like your socks match, even if they do not.

      • Amy
        Amy says:

        This made me laugh! As a person with sensory processsing disorder, if I had two different textures on each foot, my mind would stop working. It would impossible to even walk out of the bedroom! 😊

        And if you told me that your socks were different weights, even if they looked the same, I would feel so badly for you. I’d offer to get you some tea or your lunch so didn’t have to suffer.

        It made me laugh because we are all such individuals about how we deal with ourselves to function.

    • bt
      bt says:

      Yes! Vascillating I/ENTJ here and I *hate* the positive feedback from the women in my track group. I love running with them, but I know how fast I just did the interval — I have a stopwatch. I don’t need you to tell me it was good (often when it wasn’t). I’m always amused to realize that many of the women come to the group specifically for the positivity.

  8. Amy
    Amy says:

    I’m in Australia. I love talking to you. But you already fixed my life. ENTP married to an INTJ. I guess I should go praise him now, whoops, didn’t notice. He’s busy thinking about his value system ;)

  9. Ellen Lewis
    Ellen Lewis says:

    I don’t often post on other people’s blogs. I just can’t be bothered. I try and write a blog myself for I have a somewhat interesting life (especially now), but I am bored by my writing.

    But I did want to post on yours. I’ve been worried about you. Thinking about you and hoping you are okay and that your kids are adjusting to their new lives.

    I don’t know if you are a good mom or a good person. But that is not important. Who am I to have an opinion anyway about anything you do or don’t do.

    What I do know is that you are brilliant at writing about all of us through your prism of life. Isn’t that what a good person does? We learn about ourselves from others through reflexive thinking. And you do this all the time it seems to me. Everytime you post, I learn about me, from you.

    I learned a new idiom from the country I currently live in. “A pessimist wears both belt and braces.” What I see you describe post after post, is the cinching of your belt….there are no braces in sight. Hang in there.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      From now on I will appropriate your definition of both a good mom and a pessimist. And as I write this it ocurrs to me that you alsomshowed me how the two traits are related.


    • Lindsey
      Lindsey says:

      Well-said. I wanted to say the exact thing but was less eloquent, and then found your comment, so thank you. It is a gift to learn about yourself through someone who is so thoughtful and analytical and honest like Penelope.

      I always had this feeling, but was just able to see so clearly that my ENFJ boss wants my validation, which I don’t give; she can not simply move on and I can’t figure out why she cares.

      It’s also fascinating that Penelope’s honest writing has two outcomes: one, it creates a community that genuinely cares about her. Which we often know, but hate to admit, that telling our truths is the only way to build relationships. And, two, people who comment on her “thoughtless, insane” decisions, while probably ignoring all their own “insane” decisions.

  10. May
    May says:

    Yay! Fun article! I really like how it makes me think about th different people in my life.
    ENTJs are always so entertaining to listen to. They make supposedly sinple things sound poignant or important.

    I want to send people to get coached by you just to hear what you say to them.

    I think external validation os nice, especially when it matches with one’s internal validation, but when one has internal validation anyway, the external is just bonus. I guess NT easily set up their own criteria for “what counts” as success/failure, so whatever others think is often besides the point.

  11. RJG
    RJG says:

    I’m a Sydney girl. ENTJ, from memory. Penelope, seriously, you’re sooooooo hilarious. Call me anytime you’re bored shitless!

  12. Jim Grey
    Jim Grey says:

    I wonder if some of why you hear from so many NFs is that INFx people are introverted feelers but extroverted thinkers. I know as an INFP that when I have something really challenging to think through, I get fully stuck trying to do it entirely in my head. But if I can find someone willing to listen, and to engage in the conversation, I can solve all of my own problems.

  13. Amy Simonson
    Amy Simonson says:

    I am an INFJ, fighting the external validation thing, and someone is is APALLED by the fact that half the world does not care about values. My values and core beliefs dictate everything I say and do. How can people not live according to a value system?? ;o)

    • Beth
      Beth says:

      I’m an INFJ too, and I can’t believe it’s true either. When I read something like “other people don’t care about values” I try to understand what that would mean, but tend to decide it means that they use different words to describe the concept of values. Anything else gets rejected as nonsense.

  14. Susan Mitchell
    Susan Mitchell says:

    Love you are back to writing again! Gerry and I truly enjoyed our call with you.

    “But I don’t coach many S types. They are concrete thinkers and not particularly interested in analyzing themselves or planning the future. People who I coach want to make sure they have a plan that will allow them to self-actualize. S types won’t even read this paragraph. They will get to self-actualize, quit reading, and go to the gym. Or the garden. Depending.” Being an ISFJ I did read the whole thing. 😜

    I am looking forward to getting more coaching from you soon!

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Susan, since you left a comment about our session, I want to add that it surprises me how many sessions I do with couples. And those are super fun because understanding personality type more deeply can solve pretty much any marital problem.

      I think about having a testimonial page to show how many marriages I’ve saved. I don’t make that page because its so dumb that I can’t solve my own marriage problems with personality type. But anyway, Susan is an S which means she is exceptional in that she reached out to me.

      As I get older (I am not brave enough to write about getting older in a blog post, but I’m practicing using the phrase in the comments) as I get older I see that we grow the most when we find a way to feel comfortable functioning outside our type. When we are younger we function outside our type in an oblivious way – a job we thought we’d like and we hate, a city we thought was perfect for us and we’re lost, etc. Later in life we can be more conscious about trying something — like Susan solving S problems with N tactics. Or her husband (who is an INTP) (as who was a joy to talk with) who agreed to use S tactics to give Susan what she needs.

      I love talking with couples. The amount a couple can improve their relationship with persnality type is mind-blowing and its so fun to see it happen.


      • Susan
        Susan says:

        You should do the testimonial page for couples. It’s amazing to see your partner in a new light based on personality type. It has made our marriage better.

        Why fear putting up the page because of your marital difficulties? If anything it make you more real and authentic which is what your readers like me expect and love & value about you.

        I’m ready to talk to sometime soon about my future… scary for an S! 😊

        Oh, you can talk to me at any time when you are lonely and I won’t charge you. 😊


      • Alison
        Alison says:

        I love the idea of catering to couples! I have to say, when my husband and I (he’s an ENFJ, I am an ISFP), began digging into our profiles a bit more, so many things made more sense. Many “a-ha” moments there! And I have to say we are a Myers-Briggs match made in heaven. Well, for now, at least. AND we have two small children to care for. So far, so good. And along those lines, I would also love to see more things related to children’s personality types. I know they are probably harder to figure out, but I always notice you mention your own kids’ types when you write about them.

      • Jean
        Jean says:

        Please do this. People are obsessed with their own types, and you have the best insight ever. You could stop giving the same old career advice you’re so sick of saying and move onto this next thing which everyone is waiting for.

  15. Priscilla Wood
    Priscilla Wood says:

    I’m INTJ and I can’t even wrap my head around the whole external validation thing. I dated an INFx, it was draining to see him going around making sure people had the “right thoughts” about him. Unfortunately, I seem to attract the NF types, yikes.

  16. Emily Parker
    Emily Parker says:

    I’m using Aspergerian for now on. Lovely post. INTJ here who enjoys your insights. Your views on “S” type, I refer to as “check the boxers,” was so right on. It’s so nice to look at what can be appreciated about the complexities of all the types but so refreshing for someone to write so candidly and well. Blind spots, all of it so accurate. Thank you very much!

  17. Kim
    Kim says:

    This is gold, insightful and filled with wisdom. I find career coaching is about seeing the patterns and hearing people into their own wisdom…and sometimes, they need to be hit over the head with something mind blowing. I think you capture the pattern of hustle, winning and external validation in work and parenting in our American culture well. People want to feel like they belong and have value. If we hustle from a place of pure ego, we will be forever exhausted and dysfunctional for the rest of our lives (look at our current commander in chief)…perhaps an extreme mirror of what’s going in our culture of people needing to belong and feel valued in dysfunctional ways with repercussions for families, communities, etc. If people act from a place of heart or even know what their heart or soul is and just believe they have value, they will be more, hustle less, find service to others as their oxygen. Until then, there is a lot of work to do and there will be a lot of need to hear people into their wisdom and remind them they have value.

  18. Tracie
    Tracie says:

    I loved this line: “You have to find your own, internal way to validate your choices in life.” I’m an INFJ and still pondering whether I do seek out external validation. So I guess that’s the blind spot coming in to play!

    And you also finally helped me understand why, when I spend so much time matching my boyfriend’s socks, he could care less and just grabs whatever ones are clean – match or no match. Thanks for a good read!

  19. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    The second to last paragraph in this post which started with – “We spend so much time trying to find out what the game is, and find the rules, and then win.” – is what resonated with me the most. I got tired of that series of events even though the win many times didn’t happen. I turned to devoting more time to working on my internal compass and looking for my blind spots. In fact, looking for my blind spots may be an obsession of mine. I don’t necessarily know if that’s a bad thing but it certainly can be time-consuming so ROI is an important consideration. Also, the external validation is a non-starter for me in many respects. I think it was especially valid for me with school and early stages of my career. Later on, it became more tempered as I saw it for what it was. I’m glad to see you’re starting to write again and have conversations with your readers.

    • inthetrunk
      inthetrunk says:

      ““We spend so much time trying to find out what the game is, and find the rules, and then win.””

      Thanks for pointing out this quote. Trouble is, each type is playing by different rules with differing ideas of what constitutes a win! Must meditate on this.

      • inthetrunk
        inthetrunk says:

        And of course, if your goal is NOT to ‘win,’ you still are playing the game, and you win if you don’t win. Er…

      • Mark W.
        Mark W. says:

        inthetrunk, I think I’m winning if I’m learning rather than if someone thinks I’m right or wrong. The need for external validation becomes mute. I’m more interested in growing as a person and broadening my horizons than worrying how someone else is going to perceive me. As an example, I was one of those students who sat in the first or second row and asked questions especially when the professor was doing a lousy job of explaining something. And I never had any of the other students say I was asking too many questions or somehow wasting their time. The reason being was because, for the most part, they had those very same questions.

  20. Roberta H
    Roberta H says:


    “But the people NFs want external validation from are the NTs and the NTs don’t care about anyone enough to give them validation. This is not to say that NTs do not give praise. We do. In order to move things along. And, for the most part, we are horrified when someone thinks we need external validation from them.”

    This clarifies my frustrations with so much of my life when family is around (I’m an INTJ with an NF mother, sister, and daughter, and holy crap, they’re exhausting sometimes.) Thank you!

  21. Drew H
    Drew H says:

    I am an ISTJ and would love to hear more on this type and any coaching you’ve done amongst “us.” I’m good being called out by that paragraph, in fact that’s a challenge that seems to be saying “this is your life calling, anybody home!!!!”

  22. Maria
    Maria says:

    Welcome back! Internal vs external validation.

    I am an INTJ and remember a hotel general manager telling me he wanted me to find happiness at work. I was confused, I told him happiness comes from within and went on to share my philosophy about the need to feed the soul with art and creativity (outside hobbies unrelated to work, thus can’t be manipulated nor used as leverage).

    He began looking for my replacement.

    I have been a nanny for 2 toddlers in the last 2 weeks, taking Instagram photos of before and after pictures of the colorful meals I made, thinking of a cooking show I could produce. It’s a good thing too, because I was given notice as they found someone who will do the work for FREE (just room and board).

    I found a job as a motel manager starting next week. Double the salary and a free apartment. While working there, I plan on continuing with my cooking show idea, refurbishing and flipping furniture. The motel is in a downward spiral and based on the economy, their business model and their current budget, I foresee either they allow me to buy the motel at a reduced rate or they will eventually file for bankruptcy.

    Unless they find a couple willing to work for free. Which shouldn’t be too hard. I predict my days are numbered before I begin.

    I am really a web designer who is competing with free software and people who will undercut my rates. I refuse to lower my rates because I include business consulting. I would rather work on my own e-commerce site and web portals and apps than cut my rates. As a matter of fact, I realized on an hourly rate I don’t charge enough, so I am raising my rates. I want to attract​ competent business owners who know the importance of answering the phone, returning emails and understand the language of business.

    So I work these side jobs to raise funds for my start-ups, cleaning dirty diapers and overflowing toilets because I got discouraged at the statistics stating that 97% of tech teams with women will NOT get venture capital funding.

    Because the ultimate validation is when an investor believes enough in you to write a f*king check.

    On a side note, Penelope, have you thought about publishing another book with the collection of blog posts? I think it would be a good money maker.

  23. Rebecca
    Rebecca says:

    Maybe NFs who don’t need external validation don’t get coaching.

    I’m an INFP. The struggle of my young adulthood was believing I ought to want and strive for a big career, even though I am not ambitious.

    I did have to go through a process, to let go of my expectation of living up to my potential, duty to make the best use of my fabulous education, etc. But once I did, and accepted that life as an unambitious person who supports herself with a decent job is good enough – I’m one of the happiest people I know.

  24. Wendy
    Wendy says:

    People usually say “Aspie”. I really hate that term. It sounds exactly like “ass pee”. What am I, diarrhea?

    I like Aspergerian a lot better. I usually say “Asperg” myself. Less to type.

  25. Missy
    Missy says:

    I’m an ENTP and I need external validation. At least, I think I do. Example:

    I took a year and a half off to take care of my son after he was born. I thought of it as a job. I kicked ass at being a mom, did everything right, was very happy. Later, I went back to work and then a couple years later I was laid off. Same basic scenario at home with my kid (who was now almost 4) and I was depressed and barely did anything with him. Sure, I didn’t feel like I needed to compete with my mom peers when my son was little (I knew I was awesome), but I do feel the need to compete professionally. Not having the career I want just kills me because I can’t do what I want.

    My N is very close to S, so is that my issue? I am very much an ENTP, no question, but my N is not extreme like my T is.

    • Wendy
      Wendy says:

      I think since ExTPs have “extraverted feeling” in their function stack, they do tend to want external validation. Like I think Donald Trump is an ESTP and he thrives off it and gets very insecure when he doesn’t get it. I don’t think it’s tied so much to emotions in and of themselves as it is a drive to be perceived as “winning”, maybe. I don’t think it has much to do with N versus S in your case.

      The thing with sensors (s-types) is they tend to have a much stronger sense of societal norms and expectations than intuitives do; those things tend to matter more to them, and external validation is kind of how they measure whether or not they’re living up to those things as they think they’re supposed to.

      • Penelope Trunk
        Penelope Trunk says:

        That’s an interesting point. Because I coach a lot of NTs who want to tell me their ideas. I know XNTPs really need people to think their ideas are good. And XNTJs like to win. And both of those are forms of external validation. Just not based in values/feelings.

        Hm. Probably, to be human is tp want some form of external validaion. Even people with Aspergers want that….

        I guess I meant to talk about degrees of external validation. Maybe.


        • Missy Leone
          Missy Leone says:

          That makes sense. I do find that I really want to convey information. I don’t need people to agree with me on my ideas, though, I just need them to listen to me. I will say I am surprised by my need for this.

        • Amelia
          Amelia says:

          I’m late to this post, but I was hoping for this discussion ENTPs and validation!

          External validation strictly in the form of compliments? No, I don’t want it and in fact really hate it. However, lately I am struggling with how much I need validation in the form of people wanting to spend time with me, or trying to convince people that I’m captivating. Which probably just boils down to me wanting them to pay attention to and enjoy my ideas.

          Giving me time out of your day because you think I’m interesting is the only compliment I care about, basically.

      • Penelope Trunk
        Penelope Trunk says:

        That’s an interesting point. Because I coach a lot of NTs who want to tell me their ideas. I know XNTPs really need people to think their ideas are good. And XNTJs like to win. And both of those are forms of external validation. Just not based in values/feelings.

        Hm. Probably, to be human is tp want some form of external validaion. Even people with Aspergers need it.

        Maybe the issue is the degree of external validation someone needs and the gap between how much society values their skill and how much validation they need. In that case INFJs have a big gap because they want to be highly respected for their values but values are not universal so its hard to get that respect. Whereas money and ideas are more easily understood and respected by a wide range of people.


        • Julia
          Julia says:

          I’m an INTJ and author, so I have to solicit and read a lot of feedback on my work. The first thing I do is delete the positive comments. They’re worthless and generally come across as forced to me. The criticisms are the feedback I need to make the work the best it can be, so it will be understood as I mean for it to be understood, and have the greatest impact.

          That doesn’t answer any question you asked, but it goes with how I think about external validation and my NT-ness.

  26. Kitty Hawk
    Kitty Hawk says:

    Read till the end! I too, eagerly await your posts.
    And that pooch on your back in the photo is handsome.

    Meyers-Briggs is peculiar – I vacillate between ISFJ and ENFJ. Depending on the year, on how I feel?

  27. hello
    hello says:

    yay – glad you had a thought that got posted!

    my husband is an S and we had a fight about how he needs to impress me all the time with the amount of housework he accomplishes.

    “all S types need external validation.” – he specifically asked “are you impressed by my ability to finish projects?”
    i said “you are not trying to impress me, you are impressing yourself by getting me to give you compliments to feed your ego. you already know you are so much better at finishing than me, isnt that enough for you? it doesn’t impress me when you are just being yourself” (although secretly pleased that i dont have to do any house chores, hehe)
    he was so upset about this comment for 2 days cuz he thought it made him sound vain. and then yesterday, he goes “you are right. im actually just competing with myself to finish as much as i can so i can be terrifyingly efficient.”

    and i was pleased that I got an S to agree, “I was right”

  28. Cassie
    Cassie says:

    When I had a coaching call with you a few years ago, it never would have occurred to me to cry or even be offended when you pointed out my blind spots. After reading your blog for many months, I was familiar with your no bullshit approach, and it was exactly what I was seeking. I think it’s one of your best traits, being able to quickly and easily see which stupid things people are doing and point those things out to them. But then, I’m an ENTP so I’m not very attached to my habits. Few people will just call me out like that, so I found it refreshing.

  29. Joyce
    Joyce says:

    I read until the end. Thank you for writing again.

    Your post reminds me of Obligers, the largest group of people in Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies. Obligers meet outer expectations but struggle to meet inner expectations.

  30. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    Thanks. This was enjoyable. I’m an INFJ and have spent my career changing careers. Because I really never wanted to work because I’m so anxious. Every human encounter is anxiety producing for me. Therapy and meds have helped me be able to go out and make a living but All I’ve ever wanted since I was a little girl..even before kindergarten…wasI to get married and stay home and sew curtains and grow vegetables that i can put up, and play fiddle and piano with friends and check on my neighbors.

  31. ISTJ
    ISTJ says:

    Hey now, I’m an ISTJ and I would love some coaching, I just don’t want to shell out the $$ for you tell me that getting married and having children will solve all my problems.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Yes, true! But not on the blog. About half the people here are either INTJs or INFJs which is amazing because those are the two most rare types.


    • jana miller
      jana miller says:

      oh and I have all one type of socks. Question P, how can we figure out what our spouse is if they aren’t into taking personality tests?
      My spouse is a people person-everyone loves him.
      He is terrible at details and he never notices when I get my hair done, which i find funny but i don’t care. He does like credit for stuff he does but don’t most people like to get credit?

      • Cat
        Cat says:

        I used the Nurture by Nature general types and got my husband to agree which he felt was more like him. I felt that gave me a pretty accurate read. However, he still thinks personality types are bullshit, so his type is only useful as an analytical tool in my toolbox, not as a focal discussion point between us.

  32. Anne
    Anne says:

    Awww Penelope, you have many fans out here!! I am an ENTJ and really appreciate all your posts! Have you ever thought of having a “go fund me” page for all the people who have been helped, and enjoy your writing? You have a gift for drilling down and showing us things in a new way. I also enjoy the mailbag questions and have recommended your blog to many people.

    Thank you for sharing your life with us!! Both good and not-so-great! It reminds us to persevere. Who knows what lies around the corner??

  33. Lauren Teller
    Lauren Teller says:

    Functioning outside typology was Carl Jung’s motivation for creating the typology system. To get his patients unstuck. Is your compass drawn to thinking to action, or feeling for connection? Both? Good thing you don’t have an ENTJ tattoo….do you?

  34. ann
    ann says:

    I’m an INTJ and live with IxxP?. He needs constant praise for every little thing he does. I also know that he is a narcissist to a great extent.
    He does not understand INTJs. When I am extremely tired, I often lose my ability to withstand his validation over petty stuff, eg. cooking dinner and doing laundry–the stuff of life that does not need to be acknowledged. I already know that I am a great cook.

    OMG, it is so tiring, actually exhausting, to validate his actions. But doing so pays off in many ways, especially financially. As INTJ, I learned to keep my insights and pithy comments to myself in this situation. My validations have become automatic and I am not invested in them. I value peace and quiet over INTJ insights.

    Question: Do INTJs often attract narcissits?
    Keep your postings flowing. They make me think about my life.

    • Mabel
      Mabel says:

      Have you thought about getting out? “Pays off financially…not invested” is sad for any marriage.

      I feel badly for him.

  35. Tom
    Tom says:

    This is as good a post as you’ve ever done.

    Sarah’s comment about INFJ anxiety struck home for me. I’m a male INFJ (so super rare) and my concern about what others think of me makes me so miserable. It makes me want to hide in a cabin in the woods. And I hate the woods.

    INFJ feels self-destructive to the point of feeling like a mental illness. I’m tired of caring but can’t stop.

  36. Michelle Petrazzuolo
    Michelle Petrazzuolo says:

    Count me as another who read to the end! This was a really interesting post. You touched on a lot of things that I struggled with. I read a book called Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, and it changed a lot of things for me. I definitely still work on that need for external validation, but at the very least I’ve learned to pause, reframe the mental conversation, and redirect myself. It’s a journey! I wrote a post about it on my own blog that will be coming up in a couple of weeks, I care about this book so much. I can’t recommend it enough. Great post, thanks for these thoughts!

  37. INTJ Professor
    INTJ Professor says:

    Laughed out loud at this:
    …the NTs do not give a shit what anyone thinks of them.
    And of course I read all the way to the end.

  38. Melanie
    Melanie says:

    Ha! I’m INTJ and never understood my lack of need for validation. I was working at a church changing and growing programs. I knew it was time to get out when they would validate my success in meetings and in front of the congregation and all I could think of was, “Don’t clap, throw money.” I was such a do-gooder fraud.

    • Rebecca
      Rebecca says:

      Bwahahahaha. My husband got an award for something or other in college and my only question was “did they also give you money? Because I don’t care otherwise …” He knows me well so he just laughed (and yes, that award DID come with money so everyone was happy).

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