In the first article in this two-part series on self-interest, we examined which personality types are most likely to look after themselves first and put others second. We found that personality types with the Thinking trait – especially Architects (INTJ) – were significantly more likely to do so than those with the Feeling trait – especially Consuls (ESFJ) and Entertainers (ESFP).
Seeking to explore this topic on a deeper level, we asked our community to agree or disagree with the statement, “You feel guilty whenever you put yourself first.” About two-thirds agreed overall and, as might be expected, the Nature personality aspect was still the most significant in this survey, with a 24% difference between Feeling and Thinking types (76% vs. 52% agreeing, respectively).
When we introduced emotion – specifically, guilt – into the discussion of self-interest, things got more complicated and nuanced, as demonstrated in the chart below.
Architects, for example, may be the most likely of all personality types to put themselves first, but they’re also the most likely of all Thinking types to feel guilty about it. What’s going on here? The Mind and Identity personality aspects may hold the key. Let’s take a closer look at the data below.
Diplomats (78% agreeing)
For Diplomats, making a conscious decision to put themselves first may feel in direct conflict with their values of harmony, cooperation, and equality, not to mention their natural motivation to make others happy. As deeply empathetic, Feeling personality types, Diplomats can’t help thinking about the negative impacts that putting themselves first might have on other people, leading to frequent feelings of guilt.
This is especially true of Advocates (INFJ), who agreed with our statement more than any other personality type (84%). Advocates care deeply for the welfare of others. These selfless personalities are always working to make a positive difference in the lives of others, and any time they put themselves before their cause, they’re likely to feel guilty, sometimes to an extreme degree.
Explorers and Sentinels (67% and 66%)
Just like in our previous study on self-interest, Explorers and Sentinels were strongly divided by the Feeling and Thinking personality traits, but they showed similar overall rates of agreement.
For Sentinels, responsibilities to their family and friends, their job, and their community come first. Putting themselves first instead can feel uncomfortable, but these Observant personalities tend to be more realistic than Diplomats about the fact that sometimes it’s simply necessary – even if the majority still feel guilty about it.
Explorers also tend to be pragmatic about putting themselves first, and they usually don’t get too wrapped up in feelings of regret about the past. But these spontaneous, Prospecting personalities like to live in the moment and are prone to acting first and apologizing later. That instinct may lead to situations where they do come to feel guilty about putting their own interests first.
Entrepreneurs (ESTP) were the least likely personality type to agree that they feel guilty whenever they put themselves first (47%). Energetic and creative, Entrepreneurs are often focused on bringing their own ideas to fruition. They also tend to be risk-takers and thrill-seekers who act without much concern for others’ emotions. It can be easy for Entrepreneurs to take things too far and, as a result, be perceived by others as selfish, and when that happens, guilt may set in.
A slight majority of Analysts agreed with our statement. With their core Thinking trait, Analysts make deliberate, rational decisions about when to put themselves first based on what is logical and effective, and they usually see little reason to feel guilty about it. As the least empathetic personalities, Analysts generally feel the least amount of guilt about putting themselves first.
Architects (INTJ), as previously mentioned, agreed at the highest rate among Thinking personality types (59%), despite having the strongest habit of putting themselves first. It’s possible that, with the frequency or regularity of this habit, guilty feelings might eventually start to accumulate. But this result may have more to do with a sense of social pressure than emotional empathy, as we’ll see in the Strategies section below.
Constant Improvement (77% agreeing)
When it comes to feeling guilty about putting themselves first, Constant Improvers face two challenges. First, as Introverts, these personalities need time to themselves to function well. In a society that values community and socialization, the act of retreating and recharging can be perceived or misunderstood as selfish. Introverts who feel that pressure (like Advocates and Architects) can experience guilt, especially if putting themselves first involves skipping out on plans or otherwise taking a step back from the people they love the most.
Second, the Turbulent Identity makes Constant Improvers prone to second-guessing their decisions. Any time they put themselves first, they may question whether it was the right thing to do and feel guilty about it. Constant Improver personalities tend to be hard on themselves, and a less stable sense of self-esteem doesn’t help matters.
Overall, Introverts were 8% more likely than Extraverts to agree that they feel guilty when they put themselves first (73% vs. 65%), and Turbulent personalities were 13% more likely than Assertive personalities to agree (74% vs. 61%).
Social Engagement (71%)
As Extraverts with the Turbulent personality trait, Social Engagers agreed with our statement in a strong majority, but at a lower rate than Constant Improvers. Whether they’re taking the lead in a group setting or they’re off on an exciting adventure of their own, Extraverts may feel less guilty than Introverts about putting themselves first because they see it as a natural part of engaging with their environment.
Even so, Turbulent Social Engagers do worry about what other people think of them. Concerns that prioritizing their own interests could make them look overly ambitious or selfish may induce feelings of guilt and self-doubt.
Confident Individualism (64%)
Independence, solitude, and self-reliance make up Introverted Confident Individualists’ comfort zone. These Assertive personalities are less likely than their Turbulent counterparts to feel guilty about putting themselves first, partly because they’re more used to it and partly because they worry less in general about other people’s opinions.
That said, even Confident Individualists can be sensitive to societal pressure, and they’re likely to feel guilty if their tendency to put themselves first creates feelings of disappointment or resentment in their closest friends and loved ones.
People Mastery (59%)
Extraverted, Assertive People Masters were the least likely to feel guilty when they put themselves first. People Masters tend to thrive in social situations and shrug off the opinions of others. They’re usually more comfortable taking the lead or otherwise prioritizing their own interests, and they can rely on their strong communication skills when necessary to help others understand these decisions.
But with a majority of People Masters agreeing with our statement, we see that even these confident personalities can struggle with feelings of guilt when they put themselves first.
Guilt is a powerful emotion. It can make normal, even healthy activities – like planning a relaxing evening at home instead of going out with friends or driving the kids around town – feel selfish and wrong.
Individuals with the Feeling personality trait, who typically get emotional fulfillment from helping others and acting selflessly, struggle with this the most, and it can be a challenge for Introverts and Turbulent types too. But as this study demonstrates, even the most logical, confident personalities can find it difficult to avoid feelings of guilt when they put themselves first.
It’s important to keep the subject of self-interest in perspective. Although consistently putting your own self-serving interests ahead of everything else, at all costs, is an ethically and morally questionable approach to life, most people don’t lead this kind of existence.
In day-to-day life, putting yourself first when you need to is often a positive thing – and sometimes even critical – when it comes to maintaining your own health, well-being, safety, livelihood, and more. Taking time for self-care can in turn be a good thing for your friends, family, and communities too. The next time you’re feeling guilty about putting yourself first, try to keep that in mind.
What about you? Do you feel guilty whenever you put yourself first? Have you found ways to mitigate or overcome those feelings? Let us know in the comments below!