Angels and Devils: Judging Our Own Thoughts by Personality Type

It’s a pretty universal idea that we are mostly responsible for our own behavior. We are often taught to do the “right” thing, to avoid being mean or selfish, and to try to be positive elements in society. But even if we understand and endorse a set of rules for our behavior, we often experience differing impulses and thoughts in our own heads. Regardless of how we choose to filter ourselves and ultimately act, how comfortable we are with our own thoughts can be a different matter. Do we judge our own thoughts as good or bad, or not impose any such scrutiny at all?

Some people may feel concerned or upset if their own thoughts do not match the rules of behavior that they believe in, and this can lead to self-judgment. Others may judge themselves by faulty criteria and erroneously approve of attitudes that actually cause problems for others. And some people might not view their thoughts as either good or bad at all, choosing to simply experience them without judgment. This latter approach could equally describe the unrestrained actions of a sociopathic murderer or the serene harmony of a kindly monk at peace with himself and the universe.

There are many ways that people can practice – and screw up – attempted self-awareness, ending up with increased arrogance, damaged self-esteem, and all manner of delusions. However, more interesting is the question of whether people try to judge their own thoughts at all. Freedom from self-judgment could be the door to divine harmony, or unrestrained selfishness. To see which personality types might embrace the challenges posed by such freedom, we asked if people agreed with the statement “You do not judge your thoughts as good or bad.”

Overall, only a minority of respondents agreed (46%), but there was some notable variance among the types. Identity seemed to be the biggest factor in this case – Assertive personality types were 23% more likely than Turbulent types (58% vs. 35%) to say that they do not pass judgment on their thoughts – though Extraversion and the Thinking and Prospecting traits also correlated to agreement. Let’s explore the different responses, starting with the Role groups.

Roles

Analysts (54%)

While they barely broke 50%, Analyst personalities showed the strongest agreement of any Role, with 54% agreeing. They may tend to rationalize their own thoughts within a framework of logic, rather than reacting emotionally to their own thoughts. As a function of the Thinking trait, some Analysts might recognize the functional benefits or risks of a thought without feeling good or bad about it: “I want to punch this person, but that may cause trouble I don’t want” as opposed to “I want to punch this person, and I feel bad about it because violence is wrong.” This kind of pure logic might result in a zen-like lack of self-judgment for some Analysts; they see cause and effect rather than taking things personally.

Explorers (46%)

As previously mentioned, personality types with the Prospecting trait agreed at higher rates than those with the Judging trait, and Explorers demonstrate this trend. Virtuosos (ISTP) (49%) and Entrepreneurs (ESTP) (59%) agreed at higher rates than Adventurers (ISFP) (38%) and Entertainers (ESFP) (48%), showing the influence of the Thinking and Feeling traits, as well as the difference between Introverts and Extraverts.

Explorers tend to prefer flexible guidelines over hard-and-fast rules, and this can also affect whether these personalities judge their own thoughts as good or bad. Their Prospecting trait may keep them from getting caught up in stern definitions, which may lead them to have a less prejudiced view.

Diplomats and Sentinels (41% and 40%)

These Roles may have shown similar rates of agreement, but they did so for different reasons. Diplomats can be affected by their emotional sensitivity, tending to “feel” responses to their own thoughts on an emotional level. Sentinel personality types, on the other hand, often have very defined views, and may base their judgments of their own thoughts on presupposed ideals.

Strategies

People Mastery and Confident Individualism (58% and 57% agreeing)

While nowhere near a strong majority, the similarity of the responses from these two Assertive Strategies indicates the strong correlation of Identity to agreement on this topic. People Masters and Confident Individualists are pretty comfortable with who they are and how they think, so fewer of them may view their own thoughts as good or bad. Instead, many of these personality types allow their thoughts to flow without much judgment.

Assertive Debaters (ENTP-A) led the pack, with 71% agreeing. They excel at understanding various perspectives, and tend to be deeply confident in their own mental output. These personalities are less likely to judge their own thoughts, and are bold in expressing them.

Social Engagement and Constant Improvement (37% and 33%)

While these two Turbulent Strategies agreed at lower rates, we can also see the difference between Introverts and Extraverts here. Whether Assertive or Turbulent, Extraverted personalities tended to be less likely to judge their own thoughts, which corresponds to a higher rate of agreement. Introverts, such as Constant Improvers, tend to engage in more internal contemplation. This can lead them to be more likely to judge their own thoughts as either good or bad. A Turbulent Identity can also drive a person to examine themselves more critically; they are less likely to inherently feel comfortable with who they are. This self-doubt can lead to questions about their behavior, and possibly even harsh opinions of their own thoughts.

Turbulent Defenders (ISFJ-T) agreed the least of all personality types, with only 27% agreeing – meaning almost three-quarters of Turbulent Defenders tend to cast judgment on their own thoughts. This personality type is not only very concerned with what others think of them, but they are also concerned about the well-being of other people. They may be extra-vigilant about their own thoughts conforming to the ideals they value and strive to achieve.

Conclusions

As we noted early on, more than half of all respondents said that they do judge their own thoughts as good or bad. So the question becomes, is this a good thing or a bad thing? There are arguments for both sides.

Those of us who have self-confident, flexible and individualistic personalities tend to be more comfortable with our thoughts as they are. It may not be necessary to constantly compare our thoughts to an established framework of rules and note where we come up short. To do so can lead to self-doubt, worry, and other negative emotions that may choke our creativity. After all, thoughts are not words or actions; they can’t hurt anyone – or define us – unless we act on them.

On the other hand, those of us who are most likely to judge our own thoughts usually do so out of a sincere desire to improve – to censor our own weaknesses, faults, and petty emotions before they show up in our words and actions, where they can hurt us and others. Most people realize that no one is perfect, and many people believe that change starts in our own minds. With that in mind, this kind of vigilant self-awareness can actually help us be better and do better, if we aren’t too hard on ourselves when we fall short.

How about you? Do you judge your own thoughts as good or bad? Leave us a comment and let us know!

You can see the full set of data, including correlation coefficients, here. Please also consider participating in our Member Surveys!

Grace
2 months ago
I think that being able to control our thoughts is a good idea, but I think I do it a bit too much. I think of something random, and usually not nice, and then I think 'where did that come from?!' :) I then sometimes start to think of myself as a bad person for thinking that. I need to realize that as long as it doesn't hurt anyone, I should not judge myself because of one thing. -INFP-
11 months ago
I really appreciated the part about "I want to punch this person, but that may cause trouble I don't want" as an analyst (INTP-A).
1 year ago
I do sometimes judge my thoughts but I don't stress about it. When an intrusive thought randomly pops into my brain, I may judge it as strange and disturbing. Then I either mentally sigh and forget about it or I may calmly analyze the source of the thought. I do think thoughts are just thoughts and can't harm anybody unless you act upon them. Everybody has unwelcome, intrusive thoughts every so often. - INFJ-A
1 year ago
I only judge certain thoughts. It depends on how important certain standards are to me. I'm an INTJ-T.
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