I’ll preface this by saying I’m not qualified to take on Gretchen Rubin. I just do not have the credentials or background or correct personality type. But I do feel like I need to say something.
I read The Happiness Project and I remember thinking that it was an excellent, well-researched collection of things you can do to make you happier, but I also remember thinking it was entirely unreasonable to keep all those things going at the same time. A great many people whose opinions I respect hold up her Four Tendencies book as the new Myers-Briggs and are comfortable explaining their entire identities using her framework. Gretchen Rubin says the book is about how you respond to expectations- and that all people fall within one of the four tendencies she lays out. I took her quiz back in the fall and found out that, according to her, I’m an “Obliger.” This means that I will always do what someone else expects me to do, but I will easily break my own expectations of myself (goals, projects, breaking bad habits, etc.). I also learned that the majority of people she polled were also Obligers.
She’s an Upholder and sorry, but if you read her book, it’s pretty easy to see that she thinks that’s the best tendency. If you look at her diagram- she puts Upholder at the top, even though Obligers are more common. Upholders get the first profile in her book. Upholders are motivated by external expectations and internal expectations equally. These are the people who regularly set goals and achieve them. They’re the “self-starters” that all the employers want and the employees who climb the ladder and have a “tendency” to end up in leadership positions. They don’t need to be micromanaged in order to be productive since they have their own expectations of greatness…… or whatever.
Oh god I’m really trying not to be snarky. But since the snark is out a bit- can I just say that her subtitle “The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (And Other People’s Lives Better, Too)” is SO ARROGANT! Indispensable according to who???? The person SELLING THE BOOK?
So fine, yes. I’m an Obliger- I am highly motivated by what others think about me. I am crushed to smithereens by criticism and I am kept awake at night replaying my conversations with people in my head- not only when they went wrong but also when they went right. I am addicted to Facebook- not just because it was intentionally programmed to be addicting, but because it’s an electronic external validation machine and that is all I want all the time. (GRADE ME!) I used to avoid interaction as much as possible because I was terrified I’d make a mistake which would set me reeling for months. It has kept me from getting raises I deserve and it has kept me from making and keeping friendships. I was afraid to ask for help- even when it was entirely reasonable. I did not prioritize taking care of myself. It took years- YEARS- of therapy to break out of this. And I’m not cured- I’m not the Upholder personality that we all strive to be- but I am different. I have improved. Therapy taught me to give more weight to my inner expectations/wants/drives/needs etc. And I continue to work on it. Every day.
Because, GROWTH MINDSET, people. Please. YOU CAN CHANGE. What rubbed me so wrong about this book was this sense that I just needed to roll over and accept that I’m an Obliger and the only way I’ll ever get anything done is if I create a social obligation to make it happen. And I just say a big fat NO to that! INCORRECT! Maybe if it’s something like joining a book club to make you read books (like I did) or something- but if you are struggling with taking care of yourself on a basic level like I was… I mean exercising, eating healthy, staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, paying your bills on time, getting oil changes, going to the dentist- just STOP! Go talk to a therapist. Make yourself a priority.
And just think about this- someone who is motivated by social obligation is going to change themselves by constructing their own social obligations- but who is obligating them to set up those social obligations? They are! The Obligers! And we’ve all been told that we don’t uphold our own obligations! So how is that going to work out for us?? How are we ever going to be motivated to set up social obligations for ALL THE THINGS we need to do to live healthy, productive, meaningful lives. GAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!! That’s an Upholder telling an Obliger what to do in the most Upholdery-Upholder way EVER. JUST STOP! STOP. IT.
So again- I have no credentials and nothing to throw at Gretchen Rubin besides my anger…. and years of therapy… But I think she’s written a book about sorting people into four categories and has described them all through the lens of her own Upholder perspective which she thinks is indispensable.
UGH she has so many good things to say. But people like me could be very hurt by this book. So take it with a grain of salt. Then make a dentist appointment.