Our personalities: do we like ourselves, are we shy and is 'British reserve' a real thing?

Camilla WaldenYouGov Daily Editor
Milan DinicDirector - Content Strategy and Innovation
November 12, 2019, 10:49 AM GMT+0

YouGov's personality study explores how the British think and feel about their characters and traits - how happy we are in ourselves, our personality types and areas such as shyness

A person's personality can have a huge bearing upon their life. Many are extroverts, others shy, while some do not like who they are. YouGov has studied British people's personalities to see how many fall into each group and how each trait plays into others.

Feel free to use the Crunchboxes (interactive charts) below to explore the data - comparing results and filtering them with other questions and crossbreaks to take a detailed look at Brits' personalities.

How much do we like ourselves and how happy are we with ourselves?

While almost three quarters (73%) of Britons say they like themselves, one in four (23%) don't. Younger people are much more likely than older people to say they are not happy with who they are, with three in ten (31%) 16-24 year-olds saying they don't like themselves most of the time compared to just one in ten (10%) of those aged 55+.

Our data suggests that people's employment and relationship status plays into how much they like themselves: 43% of those who are not in work or education say they don’t like themselves - this is almost twice the proportion of those who are employed (23%). Similarly, while three in ten (31%) people who are not in a relationship say they don’t like themselves, this figure shrinks to just one in five (20%) among people who are.


A quarter (25%) of British people are not happy with themselves, split between one in six (18%) who would not like to be like anyone else and 7% who wished they were like another person. Again, there are big differences when it comes to someone's age, with younger people being more likely to say they are not happy with themselves and older people being more content in their own skin.

While over a third of 16-24 year-olds are not happy with themselves (divided between 25% who would not want to be like someone else and 12% who would), this falls to 15% among people aged 55 and over (split 12% and 3% respectively). However, while 37% of over-55s are generally happy with who they are, this declines to just 17% among those aged 16-24.

'Strong' or 'soft' character?

The study also asked whether people thought they had a 'strong' or a 'soft' character (the question left the definition of these terms to the respondents' own interpretation). The results show that while three in ten (30%) say their character is either 'quite (26%) or 'very' (4%) soft, six in ten (62%) say it is very (14%) or quite (48%) strong.

Those from the ABC1 social groups are more likely than people from C2DE backgrounds to say they have "strong" characters (66% versus 58%). Mirroring this, those classified in the C2DE bracket are more likely than ABC1ers to say they have "soft" characters (33% versus 28%).

Outgoing or reserved?

The study seems to support the idea of British reserve. Six in ten (60%) describe themselves as being ‘reserved’, while three in ten (31%) describe themselves as 'outgoing'. Men (63%) are more likely than women (56%) to say they are reserved, while women (35%) are more likely than men (28%) to be outgoing. Similarly, older people are twice as likely as young people to be outgoing (20% of 16-24 year-olds versus 40% of those aged 55+).

While people who are generally happy with themselves are equally likely to be reserved or outgoing (46%), people who wished they were someone else are overwhelmingly more likely to be reserved (83% versus 10%).

Shyness and confidence

Our research reveals that the majority (57%) describe themselves as shy. Bashfulness is more prevalent among the younger population, with six in ten (66%) describing their character as ‘very’ (17%) or ‘somewhat’ (49%) shy. By comparison, among those aged 55+, just under half (48%) say they are shy.

People with soft characters are far more likely than those with strong ones to be shy. Among those with very strong characters, 34% say they are shy. Among those with very soft characters, this rises to 88%.

To find out more about the YouGov Personality Study click here.

Image: Getty

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