Am I the worst blogger in the whole world?? Maybe. This is up for debate. I don’t know if there are blogger olympics where we can all objectively decide who has the worst blogging habits in the world, but if there were, I think I would medal.
So I could spend this whole post complaining about myself, but instead let’s do something… I don’t know… productive and talk about this thing I’ve got going on AND a book too! Ah-ha! Books, yes, let’s talk about those, we all like those.
It has been two months since I’ve posted here on my book blog. Two whole entire months. A few things happened during those two months that prevented me from spending as much time here as I would like, but I want to focus this post on something a little more useful than that typical “life happened and I forgot, perhaps I will endeavor to do better in the future (spoiler alert! I won’t! I will write this same post at least three times a year!)” So today, let’s chat about Gretchen Rubin and her wonderful little book called The Four Tendencies. I hope you’re ready for a little self-reflection because that’s today’s special and you don’t get any pie if you don’t self-reflect first!
I ran across this amazing book at the library where I work and I finally got around to checking it out. It’s sat on my bedside table for approximately a month and I’ve just got around to reading it. Essentially, the Four Tendencies that Rubin puts forward are from her own survey of human nature. She studied and observed human beings for years and eventually her eureka! moment arrived and she began to write about the Four Tendencies of human nature as they displayed themselves to her. Her entire premise centers on how we deal with expectations, both internal and external, and she came up with four types of people based on this.
I recommend that you take the quiz, or even check out the book from your library to learn more about your specific type! If you’re like me and you love Meyers-Briggs, zodiac signs, or the Hogwarts sorting hat, you’ll definitely want to add your tendency to your Tumblr bio (unless you’re a Rebel — in which case, DON’T! See if I care! (I do. A lot.)).
We have the Upholder, who sticks to expectations set by the external world and the inner self. Then there is the Obliger, who adheres to external expectations but struggles to stick to internal ones. The Rebel cares for neither the internal nor external expectations, and we expect nothing less. Finally, the Questioner sticks to internal expectations, but often has to ask a lot of questions about why they should bother sticking to external ones. Each of these overlap with another and form a sort of circular spectrum of human habits.
After the quiz, you’ll get a small portion of info about your tendency and what it means. The book will tell you even more, with hefty chapters devoted to each type, chapters for how to deal with people of other types in your life, and how Rubin came up with this amazing idea. It’s a really engaging read, filled with a lot of personal testimonies from folks in each type which you’ll like find yourself commiserating with. You’ll also find neat ideas about how to combat the tricker sides of your tendency, especially the Obliger types!
I’m an Obliger. I was very disheartened to learn this about myself. It made perfect sense, but it still didn’t make me feel awesome. Who wants to hear that, scientifically, they can’t keep promises made to themselves or self-motivate? Rubin denotes that this type, being the largest, is also the type to dislike being their type and to want to change to a different type. Rubin attributes this to the feeling that of all the types, the Obliger can pin the downsides of their type directly upon this own failings — and no one particularly likes being reminded that you are your own worst enemy. Unfortunately for me, Rubin claims there is no changing of the proverbial stripes — our tendency isn’t related to culture, society, or upbringing, but is hardwired into us similarly to our eye color. There is no cure for being an Obliger, but I hear there are ways to live a successful life anyway…
So the reason I bring this up, besides talking about the book itself, is to explain why I haven’t been here! Being an Obliger type, it’s very hard for me to stick to resolutions I make for myself. When I started this blog, being accountable to myself was a great act of rebellion created to balance out choices I had made over the previous few months that didn’t settle well. It was a way for me to scream into the void a little, or so I thought at the time. Now, I’m thinking it was more a way for me to craft what Rubin believes every Obliger needs to create for themselves in order to meet their inner expectations — I was building external accountability. I was really adrift at the time, having no job, no school, and no other obligations in my life to keep me accountable to a goal. I also felt like I had disappointed a lot of people, which is the Achille’s heel for an Obliger. I was aimless for a few months before I made this blog, and making it was a way for me to give myself deadlines and responsibilities with the idea that I would be externally motivated by an audience.
For a while, this worked. I was producing a lot of content, both here and on my bookstagram. My best friend remarked that she was always looking forward to reading my posts, and that bit of motivation kept me going. Eventually, this faltered as I felt more and more like writing was a self-indulgence and that I was doing it just for myself. I fell off the wagon. Then a comment or two would appear out of the blue, my best friend commented that her cousin was disappointed that I hadn’t posted for a while, and then BAM! I was back on again.
I want to quickly point out that this blog isn’t for the purposes of growing my ego, nor am I only motivated by praise. Rather, I was motivated by the idea of disappointing someone who was counting on me, and the idea of letting down one commenter who was looking forward to a promised post. It has nothing to do with my ego. It’s all my Obliger tendency. I am motivated by the idea of helping someone else, or serving someone else, and even by the idea of disappointing someone else.
Rubin’s book was so insightful. I’m still not thrilled to be an Obliger, and I still feel like there is some crucial character flaw in me that keeps me from honoring promises I make to myself, but more than that, I feel like Rubin’s book and her analysis of my type helped me realize motivations behind my actions. After reading the chapter about Obligers, I thought about all the times that I had do things based on external motivation, like keeping a book from the library for two weeks and not reading a single word of it, then reading it all in one night because I realized someone else had a hold on it and I didn’t want to deprive them of the chance to read it. I even began critiquing my bigger life choices based on this model, like my choice to leave academics and become a public servant. I love writing and reading about the Gothic and Romantic literary giants, and during school I was highly motivated to perform well to impress my professors and never let them down in their expectations of me. But, once I left the academic world, I realized that I had no real future in academics because it felt so self-serving, or at least elite-serving, and that my work wouldn’t help anyone else on a broader scale. At the time, I rationalized it as being my desire to help others access literature and love learning, but now I see it was my Obliger tendency through and through, my deep need to be of service to someone else or a higher imperative. I never would have survived in the academic world, where I would eventually become nearly wholly accountable to myself (not to mention the competition!).
This isn’t to say I’m a people-pleaser either. Some Obliger’s are, but I don’t see myself that way. I like to make people happy, to please them, but that’s not the sole reason I do what I do for them. It has more to do with making them feel valued and like I care deeply about them, and sometimes my pleasing of one person has more to do with not letting someone else entirely down. Rubin remarks that there are variances in the tendencies themselves, each as unique as the person who it represents. I’m likely a OBLIGER-Rebel, that is to say that my secondary tendency is likely a rebellious streak that won’t be made to anything she doesn’t want, which makes it a tad harder to exploit me because I can better identify limits between what I feel obligated to do and what is not my responsibility. Rubin also mentions Obliger-rebellion, which comes about when (not if) Obligers feel taken advantage of by someone else. This Obliger-rebellion can appear in small or dramatic events, but it always feels abrupt and sudden, a snap. Eventually, the Obliger will have had enough and put their foot down. I know for a fact that I have let myself reach this point in the past.
At the end of the day, Obligers are the type of people that religions and civilization are built upon. They want to help, to give, and to support others. They make great leaders and are excellent team players. They are the person you rely on to help you out or to offer you a hand when you feel low. They are responsible and almost never drop the ball. Of course, this is all just talk if the Obliger isn’t externally motivated or doesn’t find a way to trick themselves into feeling accountable to someone else. They are easy to exploit and struggle to impose limits on their graciousness. They can become resentful and are susceptible to burn out.
I take a lot of pride in the cheerier parts of my tendency, like my love of customer service and my joy in making others feel like I really care about them by doing something kind for them. Customer service is my favorite part of my job, and I love to make someone’s day better or to make them feel special by going the extra-mile for them. It’s hard sometimes, especially when there are aspects about myself that I want to change or improve that I just can’t, but overall, I’m very proud of my desire to help others.
So, all of this is to say, I can’t promise that I will be a better blogger, but there are ways that you can help me! Obligers rely upon external motivation and as my readers, you can help me stay accountable to this site by commenting, following, or checking in with me. I love to see your comments and to respond to them, and they motivate me to return to my blog and write more. Help a struggling Obliger out! Take the quiz, and talk to me in the comments about your type!
I also recommend you check out Rubin’s book for more useful information about living with your type and someone else’s. Let me know what you think!