12 Ways that ISTJ Women are Misunderstood

Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on July 22, 2022

ISTJ personalities make up 12% of the general population. ISTJ women claim 7% of this personality, while 16% of ISTJs are men. Running on pure statistics, it might surprise you that we make up so large a personality population. Odds are, you know an ISTJ. It’s also a safe bet to say that if you aren’t paying attention, you don’t know that you know her.

In 2022, not only gender stereotypes, but other varieties of assumptions, are still alive and well. ISTJs don’t corner the market on being misunderstood, not by a long stretch. But we can all be taken by surprise when someone makes an assumption about us, and the root cause is almost always a preconceived idea or bias that walked into the room when they did, not necessarily something we did, said, or are.

Gender plays into a lot of the reasons ISTJ women are misunderstood. If society at large tells you that feminine (or any label) appears or behaves in a certain manner, nonconformity will trigger a question mark. The irony here is that ISTJs are the Inspectors. If anything seems out of place, we will notice it first.

It behooves us as ISTJs to both understand and stand up for who we are. We are lovers of routine and harmony. We are incredibly feminine. We embrace traditional gender roles. We love to categorize and place things into tidy little boxes.

But we are also the ones to reevaluate a system and give it some necessary updates when things aren’t working. I’ll tell you what I love more than flowers or candy: respect. In a man, we rarely question these traits. In a woman, they are regularly misunderstood.

1.  ISTJ women are misunderstood when we don’t behave like a simpering damsel in distress. 

We are the shero, thank you very much. Crises do not deter us from our objectives. Intelligent, impressive, and independent should not translate into intimidating or arrogant. But it often does.

2.  ISTJ women are misunderstood when we act like we don’t need you. 

Maybe sit down for this one. This does not translate into “we don’t want you.” Internally driven, we have no need for micro management, opinions, or gossip, therefore we are written off as aloof, cold, or even hostile. We would love to hang out with you, we just don’t enjoy idle chit chat.

3. ISTJ women tend to position themselves in ways that don’t rely on others. 

We are misunderstood when we ask for what we need. I have been accused of having no soul by my own angry daughter, but terms like nit-picky, bossy, or nagging are also terms of endearment used when the ISTJ’s need for quality work or timely actions are taken personally.

4. ISTJ girls are misunderstood when they aren’t interested in fashionista clothes. 

Or shopping, radical hairstyles, or raging slumber parties. We aren’t girly girls who need to be in the popular group at school and pay a high emotional price for being misunderstood as…well, the labels during this fragile time of growth can hurt. ISTJ girls like the traditional roles of the feminine world, but we don’t feel the need to prove it to anyone.

5. ISTJ moms are misunderstood when they don’t brag about their kids.

ISTJs moms don’t fawn, flatter, or conform to be in the trendy mom groups or exert energy to push their kids into the spotlight unearned. We expect our kids to achieve their goals on their own merits and it’s misunderstood as a lack of caring or even called poor parenting. We neither bubble nor brag, but we manage to parent well all the same.

6. ISTJ women don’t allow feelings to cloud our judgment. 

ISTJ women make practical, logical decisions, and are misjudged as having not taken feelings into consideration. Of course we considered the emotions involved, but we superseded them with action. Instead of talking about emotions, we do something about them. Just because you won’t see us working through emotions doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

7. ISTJ women have their high standards misconstrued as competition.

When an ISTJ woman is working her career like a boss, striving to be her personal best, and raising the bar in her industry, she is misunderstood as competition. We tend to trigger a fight-or-flight response. Our perfectionism is never about you, but about our own internal goals. We make incredibly supportive colleagues and fiercely loyal mentors.

8. An ISTJ woman is always working, even when she’s relaxing. 

Unless you know us well, the misunderstanding comes in the idea that we never have fun, that we’re in a rut or are a boring old stick in the mud. The traditions and routines in our world support a greater cause: to have a great life. We’re organized so we can go out and have fun—we work first and play second. It’s our own version of balance and it makes us happy.

9. An ISTJ wife won’t coddle you. 

Love you, respect you, support you, yes, but it looks more like giving advice or practical actions as opposed to a shoulder to cry on. Nurturing behavior in the ISTJ looks like taking you on adventurous hikes, cooking from scratch, and reminding you to get the oil changed in the car. If you bring her a problem, expect her to try to fix it. Because she loves you.

10.  The ISTJ woman tells the truth and never are we more misunderstood. 

So much so, that if we can’t say something nice, we won’t say anything at all. Sugar coating is for cookies. ISTJ women aren’t going to fib to make you feel good or further our own personal cause. Telling the truth is our highest form of respect. We don’t trade on tact.

11.  Our strong opinions are misunderstood.

If you have the friendship of an ISTJ woman, don’t misunderstand her constantly voiced opinions. She isn’t criticizing, she is showing where improvements will advance your cause. She is contributing and coaching, not complaining. She isn’t telling, she’s teaching. There isn’t anything you’ll hear that we haven’t already exhorted to ourselves. We want our people to win.

12.  An ISTJ woman’s sense of humor is often misunderstood.

It leans into dark and sarcastic, rueful observations of the world around us. Because we point out the ridiculous and laugh at incongruous behaviors, it’s easy to offend people. If we didn’t like you, we’d avoid you. If you catch us laughing at you, it’s because we feel safe doing so—that is, we seriously love hanging out with you.

ISTJ women are rebels with the best cause. Although we love harmony and tradition, our behaviors occasionally challenge gender and other societal expectations and we live with a lot of misunderstandings because of it.

We don’t need your approval but it would be really nice to have it.

Jolie Tunnell

Jolie Tunnell is an author, freelance writer and blogger with a background in administration and education. Raising a Variety Pack of kids with her husband, she serves up hard-won wisdom with humor, compassion and insight. Jolie is an ISTJ and lives in San Diego, California where she writes historical mysteries. Visit her at jolietunnell.com

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About the Clinical Reviewer

Steven Melendy, PsyD., is a Clinical Psychologist who received his doctorate from The Wright Institute in Berkeley, California. He specializes in using evidence-based approaches in his work with individuals and groups. Steve has worked with diverse populations and in variety of a settings, from community clinics to SF General Hospital. He believes strongly in the importance of self-care, good friendships, and humor whenever possible.


Mary Meston, CHPC (not verified) says...

Jolie - This is so spot on.  I was always seen as competition and the curve breaker.. in school and work.

Jolie Tunnell says...

Thanks, Mary. As your incredibly supportive colleague, I encourage you to continue to crush it like a boss and feel good about yourself.

Mae Rand (not verified) says...

FINALLY feel understood. Thank you ❤️

Jolie Tunnell says...

Thank you, Mae. It's amazing how empowering just a little understanding can be. High five!

Brooklyn Don (not verified) says...

How are these women when it comes to love and snuggling?


Jolie Tunnell says...

Hello Brooklyn, I'm in favor of both, lol. Take look over here for an idea of how that works for us: https://www.truity.com/blog/7-hard-truths-about-istj-relationships


Kara Berna (not verified) says...

ISTJ here. If we love someone we will try our best to learn what our partner needs and make a habit of doing them as long as it doesn't go against our morals. Snuggling is okay especially if my partner initiates because I know that's how he shows love but as for me it's not natural to initiate since I love just being with the person and spending quality time together. I do try to snuggle him because I want him to know that I love him and I will do anything to show him.

Chanti (not verified) says...

I've been questioning myself lately, wondering what's wrong with me, my personality, why I'm often misunderstood even by the people I love. This article describes me down to the tee!! Spot on!  


Jolie Tunnell says...

Story of my life. It feels so good to stop misunderstanding ourselves, doesn't it? Freedom in ownership. Just pass this post on to whoever needs to hear the message, then go forth and flourish. Cheers!

Nyx (not verified) says...

Oh my god! My friend and I are both ISTJ and this list of things describe the both of us. Totally makes sense how we get along and people thing we’re similar. Only thing I would disagree with is that if I see an error in someone’s behavior, work, etc I’m going to point it out rather than stay silent since it will help the other person improve. Are ISTJs religious? I haven’t heard much on mbti and religion. Lastly, are ISTJs abysmally realistic? I’ve been told by my parents, siblings, and friends that I’m too realistic and wanted to know if it has anything to do with my mbti.

Jolie Tunnell says...

Yes, you are a Sensor. (https://www.truity.com/blog/seven-superpowers-sensing-personality-types) "Realistic" is a necessary facet for humankind, wouldn't you say? We can also be optimistic, altruistic, and sympathetic. And religious, when it makes sense to us. #11 is a thing. In general, the best time to offer advice is only when it's asked for or you're getting paid to do it. If your people do not understand that you are helping them win, don't help them. Not if you want them to remain "your people". ;~)

Deb1 (not verified) says...

This assessment is so correct. A guy friend of mine has often told me that I am not like most other women because I am decisive without getting overly emotional or influenced by my peers. To be honest, I love hearing that as I do not enjoy being with some women because they lack self-confidence. Too often they are needy and looking for approval from others for their fashion, feelings, activities, etc.. 

A23R92 (not verified) says...

How does the ISTJ dress? My mother is very girly and always pushing me to dress in pink and in dresses. It’s not that I don’t like those things, sometimes I want to dress in pink and be girly but it’s just not everyday. I also feel as though I want to pin my style down, put it in a box as I would say and know the ins and outs of it but I really don’t know where to start. Any advice on this topic?

Jolie Tunnell says...

We definately have a style of our own! See this article. Also, pinning a style down is my style, lol. After a ton of research and trial, I decided on my colors, my "uniform" for both work and home, and have a couple of classy dressy things for going out. We reach for the tried and true, yes? Makes life so much easier.

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