Intrapersonal Intelligence Meaning & How To Develop It

Intrapersonal intelligence allows you to confidently pursue your goals, prioritizing your own wishes and needs over any outside influences.

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Despite the popular misconception, intelligence isn’t just the score you receive on an IQ test. According to newer psychological theories, there are many aspects to it, including concepts such as musical, existential, or intrapersonal intelligence.

Now, what are these intelligences, and how does the theory work as a whole? In this article, we will delve deeper into the topic, focusing on the often misunderstood concept of intrapersonal intelligence. So, without further ado, let’s get started!

What Is Intrapersonal Intelligence?

The story of intrapersonal intelligence begins in 1983, when Howard Gardner, a developmental psychologist and Harvard graduate, wrote a book called Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences.

In this book, Gardner introduced the idea that there wasn’t just one type of intelligence. Instead, there were nine, and everyone excelled in at least one kind. Gardner then went on to list his proposed intelligences, which include the following:

Despite some resistance, the theory of multiple intelligences quickly garnered followers, especially among educators. Gardner’s supporters felt he was right when he claimed that people couldn’t be limited to a single type of intelligence and that everyone had something they were good at.

Intrapersonal intelligence—often mistaken for interpersonal—refers to a person’s ability to understand themselves and their own feelings, thoughts, and motivations.

It’s important to note that intrapersonal intelligence is not the same as self-absorption or narcissism. Yes, a person with intrapersonal intelligence spends a lot of time in an introspective mode. However, they do so only because they know that the only way to process the world is to first understand yourself.

The Importance of Intrapersonal Intelligence

A person relaxing in nature

A person relaxing in nature

As nice as it is to understand yourself, how exactly does that help you personally and professionally? Wouldn’t it be better to work on developing other skills, such as interpersonal intelligence?

The answer is—no matter how intelligent you are in other areas, you’ll be prone to blunders if you possess low intrapersonal intelligence. Those mistakes may range from agreeing to something you’d rather not do to choosing a career path you have no interest in.

In other words, intrapersonal intelligence enables you to understand your desires and needs and instills the confidence to act upon them in you. Instead of seeking external validation, people with this intelligence trust their own instincts, which, in turn, leads to richer and more fulfilling lives.

Ultimately, if you want to feel like you have better control over yourself and your circumstances, as well as rid yourself of crippling self-doubt, focus on developing your intrapersonal intelligence. Other types of intelligence, such as interpersonal, may naturally follow.

Intrapersonal Intelligence Characteristics & Traits

So, what can you expect to be like if you develop high intrapersonal intelligence? Here are some of the most common traits and behaviors characterizing those who have it:

  • Introspective. High intrapersonal intelligence makes you prone to self-reflection and analysis of your own thoughts and feelings.
  • Self-aware. You are aware of your strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, and feelings. As a result, you can make better judgments and decisions.
  • Confident. With self-awareness comes confidence, making you more certain of who you are and which paths you need to take.
  • Intuitive. Intuition is usually strongest in those who know themselves well. As a highly introspective and self-aware person, you can grasp any situation without prolonged deliberation.
  • Self-prioritizing. Remember that this is not the same as selfishness—you put yourself and your needs first, yet still leave enough room to care for others.
  • Independent. Resolving issues and working through emotions by yourself is second nature to you. You can rely entirely on yourself and need no validation from anyone else.
  • Introverted. Although extroverts can possess high intrapersonal intelligence, it is most commonly associated with introversion due to frequent dives into introspection.
  • Excellent self-control. You aren’t prone to acting on impulse or making rash decisions that don’t align with your inner set of beliefs and values.
  • Prone to taking calculated risks. Although you aren’t rash, you also aren’t risk-averse. You don’t fear making mistakes because you see them as learning opportunities. Moreover, you understand that you can’t embark on the right path without taking a few risks.

Intrapersonal Intelligence Examples

While achieving the zen state characteristic for people with high intrapersonal intelligence seems impossible, you likely already know a few individuals like this.

For example, have you met anyone who seems almost resistant to fads and trends? Instead of constantly buying workout equipment that YouTube health gurus recommend like the rest of us, this person commits to their own idea of a healthy lifestyle. And moreover, that likely doesn’t involve giving up all sweets or lifting weights every day.

And what about your cousin, whose parents have been pestering them to go to a medical or law school, yet they decided to follow her passion to an art college? Despite society assuring them they have made the wrong choice, they persevere with what they love, perfectly confident in their choices.

Or suppose you had a co-worker who realized they weren’t happy with the way their life turned out. Someone else in their place might have despaired or rejected the reality of things, but they took action instead. They quit their job, packed their bags, and moved to the city of their dreams to look for a second chance.

As you likely guessed, all three people above are examples of high intrapersonal intelligence. They know themselves well enough to understand what they want and have enough confidence to pursue their own paths.

5 Best Ways to Develop Intrapersonal Intelligence

Obviously, intrapersonal intelligence is a valuable skill regardless of who you are and where you are in life. Still, while some people naturally seem to possess it, others need to put in extra effort to develop it. If you belong to the second category, you’ll find useful advice on increasing your intrapersonal intelligence below.

#1. Practice Mindfulness

Practice mindfulness to develop intrapersonal intelligence

Practice mindfulness to develop intrapersonal intelligence

Practicing mindfulness may sound like something you’d encounter only in a questionable self-help book, but before you write it off completely, you should know how it works.

Essentially, mindfulness means connecting with the present moment and experiencing yourself as you are right now. Instead of letting your mind wander or focusing on past regrets and tomorrow’s anxieties, take a deep breath and listen to your body and senses. You ground yourself in the now, accepting whatever thoughts and feelings come your way.

Even if you’re not a spiritual person, practicing mindfulness helps you get to know yourself better and appreciate small moments of silence. As a result, you’ll learn to forgive and be kinder to yourself, slowly turning into your own best friend.

#2. Create a Strong Relationship With Yourself

A women taking a break from biking

A women taking a break from biking

When you hear the term “building relationships,” you likely think of connections with other people, be they professional or personal. But a relationship can also refer to your attitude towards yourself, which is, arguably, the most important bond in your life.

Considering you’re with yourself 24/7, it’s a good idea to actually get to know yourself. What habits and routines do you find enjoyable? What are your likes and dislikes? Is there anything that you find unbearable or that makes you feel excited?

Once you find answers to all these and other questions, you’ll be more confident in yourself and your decisions, which is the number one sign of high intrapersonal intelligence.

#3. Take Time to Reflect

Reflecting as a way to develop intrapersonal intelligence

Reflecting as a way to develop intrapersonal intelligence

Ask yourself: what are you feeling right now, and what exactly is causing those feelings? These may seem like simple questions, but a surprising number of people struggle to answer them. And even if they do, the answers tend to be vague and uncertain.

If you are one of those people, you’re likely thinking, “That’s simply how I am.” However, everyone has the potential to gain awareness of their inner selves—it’s just that some people aren’t used to this kind of self-reflection.

Take a moment several times throughout the day to gaze within yourself and focus on your inner world. Once you encounter different thoughts and feelings, ask yourself why they are there. With consistent practice, you will become a self-reflection expert and significantly improve your intrapersonal intelligence.

#4. Keep a Diary

A diary on the beach

A diary on the beach

Psychologists recommend journaling to work through issues and sort out feelings that are otherwise difficult to express. This is also a great way to develop your intrapersonal intelligence.

For some people, reflection alone isn’t enough to connect with their innermost feelings and thoughts. Instead, they need to express these somehow and come back to them later with a fresh mind, and what could possibly be a better solution than keeping a diary?

In your journal, you can write about anything and everything without fear of judgment or misunderstanding. Moreover, diaries provide a record of your progress over time, making it easy to reflect on your highs and lows.

#5. Work With a Therapist

Develop intrapersonal intelligence with therapy

Develop intrapersonal intelligence with therapy

Contrary to popular belief, therapy isn’t meant to help only people with big problems or mental issues. Everyone could benefit from it, regardless of how satisfied they are with their lives and themselves.

One huge perk of regularly visiting a therapist is that you’ll get to know yourself and learn ways to embrace your personality just the way it is. Of course, some tweaks and improvements might be in order, but those will arise from your genuine wish to become better—not out of negative feelings toward yourself.

What Is the Difference Between Interpersonal and Intrapersonal Intelligence?

We’ve mentioned earlier that interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence frequently get mixed up. That’s not particularly surprising—after all, there’s only a two-letter difference. Yet, when we examine the concepts, the actual distinction becomes far more obvious.

As already established, intrapersonal intelligence refers to your ability to know and understand yourself and be introspective and confident in your own skills and decisions.

On the other hand, interpersonal intelligence has nothing to do with your inner self. In fact, it’s the ability to connect with others, understand their feelings and needs, and effectively communicate.

People with high interpersonal intelligence are excellent verbal communicators and conflict solvers, possessing strong empathy that allows them to put themselves in other people’s shoes.

So, the bottom line is that both of these intelligences deal with feelings, thoughts, and needs, but their directions are completely opposite. Intrapersonal intelligence is directed toward the inner world, whereas interpersonal intelligence deals with outward connections.

Let’s sum all this up:

Intrapersonal intelligence:

  • Understanding your own feelings, thoughts, behavior, and beliefs
  • Focus on introspection, self-reflection, and learning about yourself
  • Commonly introverted
  • Independence
  • Self-motivation
  • Resilience

Interpersonal intelligence:

  • Understanding other people’s feelings, thoughts, behavior, and beliefs
  • Focus on communication and learning about others
  • Commonly extroverted
  • Empathy
  • Teamwork
  • Influence

Top Career Choices for People With High Intrapersonal Intelligence

Top Career Choices for People With High Intrapersonal Intelligence

Top Career Choices for People With High Intrapersonal Intelligence

Although people with high intrapersonal intelligence can thrive in any career they pick, there are a few that truly suit their characters. The top choices include the following:

  • Writer. To write effectively, you need to understand your characters’ psyche and motivation. Since people with high intrapersonal intelligence spend a lot of time on introspection, they grasp these concepts better than others.
  • Therapist. Of course, therapists need to be gifted with exceptional interpersonal intelligence, but intrapersonal skills help too. When they are sure of themselves and their own thoughts, they can be of much greater help to their patients.
  • Philosopher. Philosophy and introspection go hand in hand, so it’s hardly a surprise that philosophers typically possess high intrapersonal intelligence.
  • Spiritual leader. Spiritual leaders need intrapersonal intelligence in the same way therapists do. Without it, they would be more likely to doubt and question their own beliefs, which would make them unconvincing to their followers.
  • Entrepreneur. Confidence, independence, and intuition are crucial traits of a successful entrepreneur, and they are also characteristics frequently encountered in people with high intrapersonal intelligence.

Famous People With Intrapersonal Intelligence

Do you need an extra push to start working on your intrapersonal intelligence? Well, let us introduce you to three famous people you’ll be more similar to if you do:

  • Albert Einstein. This physicist, known for his theory of relativity, was also a fiercely independent thinker who relied mostly on himself. In addition, there’s no doubt that Einstein liked to march to the beat of his own drum without worrying much about approval or validation.
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Arguably one of the most famous activists in the world, Martin Luther King Jr. was acutely aware of his standing as a black man in 1950s America. This awareness helped him understand the plight of all other black Americans and the steps that needed to be taken to change the circumstances.
  • Anne Frank. Though she was just a girl, Anne showed high intrapersonal intelligence in the diaries she left behind. She was introspective, brave, and surprisingly rational, given her situation.

Doesn’t sound too bad, right? Well, it gets better; honorable mentions also include Michelle Obama, Mahatma Gandhi, Emma Watson, and Mark Zuckerberg.

Key takeaways

Key Takeaways

If you possess high intrapersonal intelligence, congratulations—you are self-aware, confident, introspective, and independent. And if you feel like you’re not quite there yet, here’s what you can do:

  • Practice mindfulness and self-reflect by taking the time to get in touch with your feelings
  • Build a relationship with yourself to improve your self-confidence
  • Keep a regular diary to work through your thoughts and emotions in a healthy way
  • Talk to a therapist to get to know yourself better and raise self-awareness

With consistent effort, you’ll surely reach the level of intrapersonal intelligence you desire!

Intrapersonal Intelligence FAQ

#1. What are the signs of intrapersonal intelligence?

People with high intrapersonal intelligence are confident but don’t feel the need to brag about their achievements. In addition, they are independent, disciplined, and comfortable being alone.

#2. Is intrapersonal intelligence rare?

Everyone has some degree of intrapersonal intelligence, just as they possess the other eight kinds as well. That being said, high intrapersonal intelligence is considered to be fairly rare, as it’s abstract and difficult to develop.

#3. What jobs are good for intrapersonal intelligence?

Taking into account intrapersonal intelligence strengths— resilience, self-awareness, discipline, and confidence—it’s easy to see why most careers suit people who possess it. Still, they truly shine as writers, philosophers, therapists, spiritual leaders, and entrepreneurs.

#4. Does everyone have intrapersonal intelligence?

Yes—the only thing that varies is the degree of its development. Some people are born with naturally high intrapersonal intelligence, while others have to put in some effort to achieve it.

#5. How important is intrapersonal intelligence?

Intrapersonal intelligence is, without a doubt, one of the most important kinds among Gardner’s nine intelligences. That’s because, in essence, it deals with knowledge of oneself, which may be the most important kind a person can obtain.

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