I’m an Obliger and I Don’t Like It

Better Than Before book cover Gretchen Rubin

Dear Dumplin,

I listen to a lot of podcasts while I work.  Since I work from home, I find it helpful to listen to something productive.  If I put the radio on, I’m just going to get annoyed at the lack of real music on the radio but that’s an entirely different story.  Anyhoo, I’ve recently discovered Jess Lively’s podcasts via a Myleik Teele interview and absolutely love her style and content.  Jess asks great questions while thoroughly interacting with her guests.  She does an excellent job of triggering her guests to say things they may not have said in other interviews, and genuinely seems to have a passion for her work.  I love it!

Recently she interviewed Gretchen Rubin, author of Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives.  I love that Gretchen has a real passion for understanding human behavior.  You can tell she eats, sleeps, and lives her work.  Writing and research truly is her passion.  As Jess and Gretchen went back and forth, I heard Gretchen describe four types of people based on how they respond to expectations.  Here are the descriptions from her site:

  • Upholders respond readily to outer and inner expectations (Gretchen describes herself as 100% upholder)
  • Questioners question all expectations; they’ll meet an expectation if they think it makes sense (I think this is totally your Dad)
  • Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike (I can think of a few people like this but I won’t name them here)
  • Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves

As soon as I heard this I thought, “Oh no!  I’m an obliger!  That sucks!  I can do other people’s stuff but not my own?  That means I’m not in charge of my own destiny!  No way!  I must be mistaken.”  I immediately go to her website and see there is a quiz to better assess which type you are without reading the book.  Off I go to take the Four Tendencies Quiz.  And do you know what my results were?  That I’m an obliger!  This frustrated me so much.  I sat back and thought about various situations in my life where I KNEW I didn’t want to do something or KNEW I shouldn’t do something but I did it because someone else wanted or needed me to.  It was too hard for me to put myself first.  Horrible right?  As I listen more someone wrote into the podcast to ask Gretchen exactly what was in my head.  It feels horrible to think you don’t have control of what you do.  Can’t you just turn yourself into a different type?  Gretchen’s answer was simple:

Create an outside expectation or need for something you want to do.  

For example, if you want to work out, make sure there is someone who will be disappointed if you don’t show up like a friend, group or trainer.   Now this sounds simple but the concept still pissed me off.  Her argument is that it is much harder to change how you are hardwired.  Just work within how you operate naturally.  Yes, Gretchen.  That makes a lot of sense but it still sucks for my ego.  Gretchen then described “obliger-rebellion” where obligers just stop doing everything because they get burned out and overwhelmed.  Yep!  I’ve done that too!  She went on to talk about the difference between habits and goals.  I’ve never thought about it but in the future, I think it’s absolutely vital to make a distinction between the two.  Goals have an end date.  Habits are something we want to do forever.  Why is it important to know this?  Because..

When we change our habits, we change our lives. ~ @GretchenRubin Click To Tweet

Now I absolutely MUST read this book so that I can grasp the full magnitude of all of her research and findings.  The good news?  I have another book to read.  (Smile)

I’ll let you know what I think as soon as I finish the book.



PS- I really hope I haven’t passed the “put people before yourself” trait to you.  Only time will tell.

2 thoughts on “I’m an Obliger and I Don’t Like It

  1. This post really spoke to me — thanks for writing. I am currently in an obliger-rebellion phase and makes me feel better knowing I am not alone!

    1. You are absolutely not alone! Don’t get burned out! Take care of yourself and set boundaries. Thank you for reading my post!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *