December 15, 2015

On just being yourself

I've read Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin twice now.  The second time, I took notes.  I always assumed that I was a Questioner when it came to which of the Four Tendencies my personality falls under.  I don't need external accountability (Obligers). I'm not a Rebel. I don't feel a constant sense of duty to follow arbitrary rules, like an Upholder.  Questioners need evidence in order to feel that something is worth their time. They need purpose. They don't feel the need to participate in things just because.  That's me. The reason I really assumed I was a Questioner was because I'm extremely skeptical by nature.  I never blindly follow or participate.  In fact, when Scott asks me about something or asks me to go somewhere, my first response is always no. I hate that about myself. I've changed over the last year or so to nodding in agreement and asking, "Do you think that's a good idea?", "Do you want to?", or "Why?".  This can be anything from going out to dinner with friends of his on a whim or staining the floor in the basement or building a new shed in the yard, etc.  You get the idea.

Then I realized that the reason I never blindly participate is because I'm afraid of my schedule falling apart. I don't want to participate in something I haven't put into my schedule in advance. That's classic Upholder behavior.

So, when I listened to Happier podcast episode about Upholders, I thought Crap, I'm an Upholder.  I didn't want to be, but I am.

Like an Upholder would do, I made a list of evidence:
I make lists just to cross things out and prove productivity. I hate wasted time. I set timers for things, especially at school.  I'm constantly pushing myself into internal expectations that no one could keep up with. And I drive myself nuts because the internal expectations I set for myself are at a higher bar than anything an outside party could request of me.

Scott had previously listened to one of those podcasts about the Four Tendencies with me and I came home, after I listened to the Upholder podcast, and said, "I'm an Upholder".  And he said, "I thought you might be."


I should add that Scott's comings and goings when it comes to the army throw my schedule off and it always takes me a week or so to get my bearings.  So I am definitely an Upholder.

I also realized this is kind of that license I need to just be me.  I like to go to bed early.  I like to meal-plan.  I like to stick to my own schedule.  I do not like it when things get off track or I am forced to be flexible.  I can do it (especially at school), but I don't prefer it.  But it was nice to say, "Hey Scott, this is why I act the way I do....don't blame me...Gretchen says you can't change your tendency."

I'm the one who puts an enormous amount of pressure on myself to complete and control all the things I have control over completing.  I totally didn't used to be this way. After lots of self-reflection, I've realized that because our life has been so unpredictable with the military, I cling to something, anything, I can control. And that's the little stuff.  Which is why I tend to get so bent out of shape when my plans are suddenly changed.

I try to accomplish stuff each weekend, to prove that it's not just idle time.  I have an enormous problem with sitting down to read a book or watch a show without multitasking, because it seems like a waste of potential getting-things-done time.

A potential problem with Upholders is that they tend to "tighten" the control they have when they realize they have the control.  For example, I read 52 books in 2014. I HAD TO READ MORE THAN THAT IN 2015. I read x number of books in June? I'll have to beat it in July. It's that push to be better. Better, literally, than before.

It happens at work too.  I have 3 weeks of lesson plans ready to go? I better make sure I have a fourth week ready. In fact, let's plan til the end of January. Just to feel prepared.  That's my inner dialogue.


So what am I going to do about this? I can't change who I am, but I can adjust some things.  I'm working on a post about that for the new year.

Take the quiz!  What tendency are you? Are you surprised?


  1. According to the quiz I'm an obliger, which I can totally agree with when it comes to work and daily living. I am a rule follower and I would much rather let myself down than let someone down. I work better when there's accountability but I do manage to reach goals on my own sometimes. I've been looking for a book to read on vacation next month and I think this one might be the winner. I loved The Happiness Project and had kind of forgotten she wrote other books.

  2. I'm absolutely an upholder. I have learned that I can relax my tendencies in certain areas and not in others, so I don't try to force changes in those areas because that makes me feel crappy. I am who I am and I operate how I operate and most of the time I like how I do things. I need to remind myself to relax and sit and be when there are things that still need to be done and sure, I wish I didn't have to do that, but there are worse things. I really like the productive/get it done/etc side of myself.

  3. Im somewhere in the middle between an Upholder and Questioner. Similar to you I like making lists and have such high internal expectations, but at the same time I'm highly analytical and I reason with everything. Such a cool quiz, and I need to check that book out! Thanks for sharing :)

  4. I think I'm broken. I've got check marks on every single section and there isn't one that's obviously more appropriate than another.

  5. i think I'm in between both of these, like you said no need to change but adjusting can be good. :)

  6. Oh man. Some of the things you listed sound like me. I think need to get this book.

  7. I need this book - I actually prob don't, because that's just one more thing to over-analyze, but I need to download it!

  8. how interesting.. i love when i figure something out and it's the reason i am the way i am, or whatever. i'm an obliger, i think. that's what it said when i took the quiz, and i think in some ways i definitely am, but others not so much. my thing is that i hate letting people down.. so if i sign up to do like a diet bet, technically it is external accountability, but because i'm not hurting anyone but myself if i don't do it, it doesn't help. if my husband or best friend asked me to do something, and by not doing it i am hurting them or letting them down, i simply cannot handle that. so it's like, some external accountability but not all, lol. and then i have some upholder tendencies. some. maybe i am more of an upholder than i thought (letting people down, knowing what is expected of me, making commitments). very interesting. i haven't read the book though, perhaps i should.


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