My Fellow Upholders: Do You Experience “Tightening”?

For my book Before and After, about habit-formation, I’ve been developing my framework of the four Rubin Tendencies. I’m obsessed with understanding these tendencies. (If you want to be notified when the habits book is available for pre-order, sign up here.)

In a nutshell: the Rubin Tendencies describe how people tend to respond to expectations: outer expectations (a work deadline, a “request” from a sweetheart) and inner expectations (write a novel in your free time, keep a New Year’s resolution).

Your response to expectations may sound slightly obscure, but it turns out to be very, very important.

  • Upholders respond readily to outer and inner expectations (I’m an Upholder, 100%)
  • Questioners question all expectations; they’ll meet an expectation if they think it makes sense (my husband is a Questioner)
  • Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike
  • Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves (like my friend who said, “In high school, I never missed track practice, but I can’t make myself go running now”)


I’m an Upholder — which, it turns out, is a very small category. Rebel is the smallest category, but Upholder is also very small. So many things became clearer to me when I realized that fact.

Today, I have a question for my fellow Upholders, based on my own experience:

Upholders: Do you experience what I would call…tightening? That when you uphold expectations, they sometimes tighten on you?

I get the impression from other people in other Tendencies that often, as people try to meet expectations, they start off strong, but then slacken over time. They look for loopholes, they find exceptions, they become less conscientious.

This definitely happens to me, too, with some habits. But sometimes, I find, I experience a kind of tightening. It becomes harder for me to make an exception, to loosen up, to loosen an expectation. And that can be good — but it can also be bad.

For instance,  an Upholder friend had a lot of muscle pain, and I convinced her to try my strength-training gym.  She exercises regularly, but I thought this regimen might help. So she did try going, and she cured her pain, and now she wants to stop going — the gym is in a very inconvenient place for her, and she gets regular exercise elsewhere.

But, a trainer at the gym told me, although she keeps saying she wants to stop, and that it would make her life easier to stop, she can’t seem to stop.  Ah, her Upholder nature has locked in, and won’t release! Strength-training is on her to-do list, and now she can’t cross it off, even though she wants to.

I’ve seen this happen with myself. My eating habits are a long story for another day, but the bottom line is, I eat low carb. (Read Gary Taubes’s book, Why We Get Fat, if you want to know why.) Here’s the odd thing: when I started eating low carb, in the zeal of the first months of it, I was much less strict. Now that I’ve been doing it longer, I’m more strict. The rules have tightened. Which is helpful in some ways, but a bit of a pain in other ways.

In some situations, being more vigilant about an expectation is good — but sometimes, it’s not good. But maybe other Upholders don’t really have an issue with this.

Or Questioners, Rebels, and Obligers — do you face this tigthtening? or some version of it, depending on your Tendency? I’d be very curious to hear from people, about how their response to an expectation changes over time.

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  • Penelope Schmitt

    Not an upholder, a questioner . . . but I wonder if this might be what my son was observing several weeks ago when he said that I was too rigid about my ‘little routines’. Having worked SO hard to establish some habits, I get anxious when I get derailed. But then, as a questioner, I also have a history of ‘losing the bubble’ of an ongoing accomplishment by once, fatefully, asking myself ‘WHY NOT’? So yeah, I tend to cling tightly to routines until / unless they are SO much a part of me that nothing would stop me from resuming my habit at my first opportunity.

    I totally get your friend’s attachment to the gym where she established her habit. I went to a gym I really like for three years. It went through a succession of ownership changes, declined, and closed. I have never found another facility where I have established a workout habit since. I have bought memberships at two other places, and just didn’t stick it out with them.

    • AmyE

      I am an upholder, without the luxury of being able to establish routines due to an endless and varied travel schedule. Tightening for me is about discipline and personal accountability to accomplish my aims. Life throws challenges as well as temptations our way. I find It easiest to make changes cold turkey, which I notice is not the case for most people.

      • Penelope Schmitt

        Cold turkey has ALWAYS been my pathway to real success, actually. I may not always be able to stay on the wagon, but gradually whittling down a bad habit does not work for me at all.

  • Rebecca

    Hi Gretchen!

    As a rebel, I find that MOST of the time, I become more lax over time…

    But — sometimes, I do get the tightening. This is caused when I see that there is a clearly positive correlation with how I feel after doing an activity.

    For example, when I started the habit of making my bed, I didi it maybe 15% of the time. Because I didn’t really want to do it. It was all willpower muscle, so it didn’t happen very much.

    Now, I know that making my bed makes me FEEL so much better. Especially around bed time. For me, its just so nice to come in and get into a made bed — makes me feel cared for — so I do it almost religiously.

    Of course, there is the off day when I REALLY don’t feel like doing it. 🙂

  • Jamie J.

    I am an upholder, and I definitely have this problem. My daily routines become more and more rigid over time. Once in a while I will complain about having to wash white clothes on Monday when I don’t have quite a full load, for instance. Often it won’t even occur to me that I can just wash them on Tuesday instead (unless my husband mentions it). It seems silly, but my brain gets so set that it’s hard to step back and see that I really can do things differently.

  • Kim

    Oh, yes, I definitely have this–I’m an Upholder. Recently I changed the time that I exercise (at my husband’s request), and now I am becoming rigid about always exercising at that time, even when it isn’t convenient and doesn’t “need” to happen.

  • Martina

    I would say that I’m mainly a questioner, but I have experienced this “tightening” as well. I’m usually pretty good with my exercise habits, but this past month I’ve been completing a workout calendar, which keeps me especially consistent. At the end of last week I had a few days when I was experiencing really low energy, and I found it difficult to allow myself to skip two days even when I knew I needed the recovery time. I spent a fair amount of time on those days debating whether or not I should workout.

  • Lynn

    Oh Gosh, yes! I am an Obliger and find this to be true. It seems to happen when associated either with an expectation from a person of authority at work or when I feel too ‘externally obliged’ and need to create a little space in my life.

    Most of the time when I see this tightening I
    raise it to my family and friends so that they can help me figure out
    the root cause and work with me to help me loosen up. Or, well, ok, often they notice it and then wave a flag in front of my face until I see it. 😉 I definitely find that the hardest part of the tightening is actually seeing it and standing up to it. I can relate to your friend!

  • TJ

    I am a questioner, and I am a little bit jealous of this “tightening” phenomenon. My problem is the reverse. No matter how enthusiastic I feel about something or even how well I carry out the new habit, I will invariably lose focus or steam about something due to “life circumstances.” This means, if I want to maintain a habit, it feels like I have to devote that beginners’ energetic surge to it again and again. Tiring.

  • cruella

    I’m an obliger and I NEVER get this tightening thing, ever. I have very strong slacking tendencies to counterweight my commitment to deadlines and outer expectations. It makes sense to me. Most of the stuff I do concerning food and exercise, which seems to be the areas most people struggle with, is completely day by day. I don’t exclude anything from my eating list and I normally end up exercising and/or taking long walks two or three times a week without any sense of routine or “shoulds”.

    • Ana

      Same here, obliger, and always in the process of “loosening” and needing to reset because all good intentions eventually wither away…

    • PolarSamovar

      Another obliger here, and tightening has certainly never happened to me. I have seen this phenomenon in others, and been mystified by it. Now I have an explanation!
      I hate deadlines and outer expectations, but meet them nevertheless. Then I compensate for my frustration at meeting those expectations, by never setting expectations for myself. If I start establishing a positive routine, like making my bed, I’ll tend to *not* do it at least once a week, to prove to myself that I don’t have to. It’s foolish and tiring, but I’m used to it now. In my mid-forties, I’m *still* trying to find a way to motivate myself to do things that would be good for me, but that I don’t want to do, like exercise. I seem to have an infinite capacity for self-sabotage, and suspect that I have only my rather rigid upbringing to thank for the fact that I have healthy eating, drinking, work, and social habits.

      • gretchenrubin

        This is the rebellious streak that runs through Obligers. So interesting!

    • Lynn

      I hadn’t thought of this in terms of externally or internally generated. My tightening only happens from externally generated habits. Most successful habits have been absolute, but it’s always been related to an external expectation, usually work.

      Oh, and yes, I can completely relate to being frustrated and exhausted by the outside expectations. I spent years being frustrated by questioners and rebels who seem to so easily discard the rules, mostly because it doesn’t even occur to me to do that. As I have gotten older I have learned to put rebels and questioners around me in life to poke and prod me so that my world is bigger. I regularly remind myself that I need them so that I don’t just blindly follow rules, just like they need me to smooth things over and keep everyone happy.

      I’m actually working hard right now to figure out how to develop and keep the habits that I value. How do we go against our nature? I’ve been taking the Brene Brown class on wholehearted living and through that came an idea I’ve just started trying out. I’ve recruited two friends plus my family. I told them my goals and asked them to help me by embracing those goals too so that I have external input to help me stay on track. If I can’t change being an Obliger then I need to find ways to make my nature work in my best interest. The best part so far is that everyone has been delighted to hear me explain my dilemma to them and has jumped at the chance to help.

  • Carolyn

    I have definitely experienced the “tightening” thing and look at it as a good thing for me. It means I’m feeling more comfortable with the routine and more committed to it. I also completely agree with cruella in that balancing slacking tendencies with strong commitments in other areas seems to explain a lot. But here’s my question. There are difficult times in life when the obligations overpower personal routines and I turn into an obliger when my natural tendency is probably to be an upholder. I then find myself becoming resentful and angry (which usually comes out as some kind of physical problem) and I have to fight my way back to what feels more natural for me. Do others observe this problem and how do you keep yourself on an even keel if you do?

  • rubyratt

    Upholder here. Yep. I know the “tightening” effect but will call it “strangling”. I can even remember this as a child. Had to make my bed the same way every morning. As a teenager it was walk the same 6 mile route every day. Now as an adult get to the gym every morning at 5 am, AND my workout must be as gruelling as the day before or my day is ruined. I eat nearly the same food everyday healthy and “safe”. I hate this”strangling” because it keeps me from reaching out and trying a new routine. And the people around me find it threatening because they can’t uphold the same behaviors.

    • cruella

      Interesting. Do you feel anxiety at the thought of “cheating” at all? If you have to skip routine for some reason, how long does it take to restore the sense of equilibrium? Does the strict routines have a tendency to spread out so that you add more and more must-dos to your life?

      • rubyratt

        I feel anxiety all the time. I know that if I keep my routine I have less anxiety in most cases, The time it takes me to restore a sense of equilibrium depends on which routine I have to minimize. When it comes to eating and exercise it can take weeks(I blame this on my eating disorder days, it never really goes away, you just deal with it in a different way.) I am constantly criticized for this “strangling” behavior, which only adds to my anxiety. One example: I realized that if I continue to exercise as vigorously as I do, I am going to get injured, and then won’t be able to exercise at all. So, I started doing hot yoga “occasionally”. Hot Yoga is a lot harder to frequent because they have a set schedule and its driving me nuts that I can’t find a consistent routine to attend classes. Did this help or did it hinder? I’m still trying to decide!

        • Laurie

          Is extreme upholding really a mild form of OCD?

          • Jill Douthett

            Thank you, Laurie. I’ve been waiting for someone to ask this.

          • Agnes

            I notice that a lot of these sound like OCD, and I say this as an upholder! But I think similar behaviors can result from different frames of mind . It’s the difference between gradually giving more and more money to charity because you get a boost and feel grateful for all you have and enjoy spreading it around, vs. because you’re worried you’ll go to hell if you don’t. Perhaps same behavior, but very different mindset.

          • Jill Douthett

            Thank you for that thought, Agnes. I’m a little uncomfortable with the idea that it’s OK if the behavior is for a “good” reason . . . Some of the descriptions of this behavior strike me as a striving for an extreme (and unobtainable) perfectionism and a marked rigidity that disturbs me, particularly when directed to diet and exercise.

          • Agnes

            I totally agree with you about diet.

          • gretchenrubin

            I don’t think that OCD is an outgrowth of the Upholder tendency.

            It comes from a very different place.

            Upholders don’t feel “compulsion” in a clinical way.

            It’s interesting to me how judgmental tendencies become of the other tendencies…it’s easy to see why people run into trouble working and living together. If one person’s joyful embrace of discipline is another person’s rigid compulsiveness…and one person’s authentic embrace of the moment is another person’s disregard for commitments…well, there will be arguments!

          • Jill Douthett

            Gretchen, questions are simply . . . questions. Not judgments. I hope you don’t want your readers to be afraid of asking questions for fear of being labeled “judgmental.”

    • youonlylawonce

      Yeah I hear what you’re saying even if my situation isn’t the same as yours. Honestly I stop thinking about what is right or wrong, trying to stop anticipating and avoiding harms, and just do what feels right in the moment. Also, this is more of a gut feeling as what to say to you. I don’t want other people to read this and start twisting my words.

  • Goldberry

    You say “It becomes harder for me to (…) to loosen an expectation,” but I wonder whether it is really about meeting an expectation, or perhaps about being used to a certain routine and not wanting to give it up or change it, about being set in one’s ways.
    I am an Obliger (maybe with some Questioner tendencies), and I do experience being rigid about my ways. Sometimes it is just plain being used to a routine. And sometimes it is because I find the routine valuable. If I have a valuable routine interrupted, I feel upset and resentful, esp. when it happens for some external reasons that seem trivial, or when it is my own fault (e.g. bad organization, insufficient communication).
    At the same time, every now and then and for certain habits, I experience the need of a break or a change. It is as if I was getting tired of the same-way-all-the-time. A small break (1-2 days) works best for me – long enough to get refreshed, and short enough to not forget the habit. I think it works a bit like a vacation, or a weekend – it refreshes me and it gives me more energy to continue with the habit.
    There are also cases where my routines do not matter because there is something important happening and I give up my ways willingly and happily, but it has to be something really important (good or bad). So I guess a lot depends on my internal motivation for a change.
    There is probably some balance to be had between routines and habits that keep us going on daily basis and help us accomplish things our usual way, and about being flexible and open to new ways, where new opportunities or discoveries may arise…

  • Judy

    As an Obliger, I identify with your friend who finds it difficult to run by herself. It would be a novel feeling to experience a “tightening” in my eating and exercise routines. Right now I am wondering how I can get out of going to the gym… (but I’ll probably end up there)

  • Paige

    Ahh…tightening. As the owner of my own small business I tend to be the “framer”- the one who designs the frameworks in which all of the staff works. My problem is, when it comes to handing off the framework to a staff member whose job it is to maintain. I tend to hang onto tasks much longer than necessary because I want them done perfectly (my way) not just good enough (what happens sometimes when you give it to a staffer).

  • caroltreegirl

    Gretchen, every time I read about the “Rubin tendencies”, I flinch inside. Not because I think they are not worthwhile or helpful (they truly are), but I really, really wish you could think of something else to call them. The use of a last name does not describe them in any way, and honestly, it feels a bit self-serving to name them after oneself (sorry). I know– now you will ask me for suggestions about what they should be called! It should be something that will be more descriptive– how about something like the 4 Compliance Tendencies? As you have probably guessed, I am a Questioner!

    • gretchenrubin

      I think the term “compliance” has negative overtones – and I say that as an Upholder! I can’t imagine what a Rebel would think.

      Does it bug you to use Myers Briggs? Or the Maslow pyramid? Is this an objection to frameworks being named after people?

      I’ve pondered for MONTHS about the name, and just can’t come up with anything that does the job. So went with a name.

      A friend has a clothing store, and she worked for months to come up with a good name, and in the end, used her own name. There’s a simplicity and openness to that solution, when there’s no better obvious solution. It’s not limiting, because it’s just a personal name. though of course, as you point out, that’s a drawback too.

      • Penelope Schmitt

        I think it is a ‘natural’ because in scientific taxonomy, plants and animals are VERY often named after the person who identified them. Poinsettieas, for example, were named after a person called Poinsett or Poinset . . . does that bother anyone? I don’t think so. If the naming convention is widely adopted, no one really thinks any longer about the person who is behind the naming, but about the taxonomy. No vanity there.

      • gilcarvr

        as a rebel… compliance is anathema… ;~)

      • caroltreegirl

        No, I don’t object to the Myers-Briggs Inventory or the Maslow Pyramid, but my guess is that these weren’t named as such by their own creators at the time they were written or published. Over time and use, people probably began to refer to them as Maslow’s pyramid, etc. By then, the concept was well-known enough that a more descriptive name wasn’t needed. Perhaps, post-humously your work will be described as “Rubin’s tendencies”, but in the meantime, what about the “Four Response Tendencies”? P.S.– when I say post-humously, I mean many, many, many decades into the future! 🙂

        • Shannon

          Myers-Briggs was actually named by (and after) Isabelle Briggs Myer.


        • gretchenrubin

          Hmm…good point.

          I will try to come up with something good – but it has eluded me thus far.
          I suppose the four Character Tendencies is too abstract?

          Problem is that the word “expectation” is tough…

          • caroltreegirl

            I actually don’t mind the Character Tendencies. It’s less of a mouthful than “Expectation-Meeting Tendencies”, for sure! I was looking at synonyms for acquiesce, like accede, concur, conform, accomodate, etc. and trying to make them fit into a title. But the Character Tendencies could be fine.

          • BKF

            I don’t like Character Tendencies somehow because Character sounds like something permanent, while tendencies are not….

      • youonlylawonce

        In this case, Gretchen, I personally support your decision to call it the Rubin Tendencies.

      • lady brett

        unrelated to the naming, i find it funny that as an obliger, “compliance” doesn’t seem at all negative to me =)

  • mims

    I’m a questioner, and a naturopathic physician. So I am going to chime in about low carb instead. I’m a fan, with a caveat. The “whole hog, paleo, healthy fats” are good for you does not work for everyone. Clinically I see many people (especially women) who have to watch their fat intake too or they gain weight. Not everyone feels sated by fat, and it is sooo easy to pack on the calories eating handfuls of nut and lots of grassfed butter on your veggies or another spoonful (half cup more) of guacomole. By all menas cut out all the processed refined carbs like bages, bread, cookies, etc, but stict with leaner proteins and remember portion control.

    Strength training rocks!

    • Deb

      Glad you mentioned this. You are very right. Fats are not always satiating, and I put on a lot of weight on lower carb paleo. Sadly, I think that Taubes’ (and most low-carb/paleo experts) idea that calories don’t matter is flawed.

  • Deb

    Yup, I call it “moving the goal post”!

    • Paige

      That is a great way to phrase it Deb!

  • gilcarvr

    a pure rebel here, I delight in rebellion… so much so that my other half has coined a phrase for me when I’m deliberately misbehaving and disobeying… he says “there you go dis-behaving again”

    never serves me well when police have pulled me over for what are invariably irrelevant infractions where no crime has been committed… as I see it, seeing as no one has been harmed…

    Personally cannot fathom people who obsess about routines… I despise routine and will go out of my way to avoid them. I get bored by repetition and can’t find enough ways to change or alter the tedium.

  • phoenix1920

    Not an upholder, but I feel this tightening from fulfilling outer expectations. When dealing with outer expectations on me, some people seem to tighten expectations on others, as well as they do themselves. I work with a person who does this, and now, I feel very apprehensive about ever fulfilling these expectations, which clearly isn’t a good thing. For example, this person sets a high bar for a time sensitive project and when I do well on that project, the expectations seem to tighten up, which makes me very resistant to fulfilling outer expectations. Not quite on point, but I like that term. I feel there are times I almost sabotage myself to get the expectations reduced. ,ugh.

    I wonder if the people who do this are upholders, who perhaps tighten expectations, including those imposed on themselves and on other others . . .

  • Jeanne

    Wow, you really use the words “obsessed” or “obsessive” a lot. Part of being an upholder I suppose. As a questioner, I never get the tightening, but then I don’t believe I need to carefully restrain myself, because I’m also a moderator. I have a friend who is a raw vegan. Sometimes I envy her her discipline until I remember that she is basically an obsessive person who obsesses about a lot of things in life, not just diet. I usually only half jokingly say that I am far to lazy to be obsessive about anything (let alone a lot of things). Obsession burns up way too much time and energy. Excited and enthusiastic is as far as I’m willing to go. A true moderator at heart.

  • Agnes

    Upholder as well, and, yes, I’ve noticed this tendency in myself. Part of it, I think, is that I get a bit of a boost by fulfilling the expectation, so then I want to do it more. So “stop going out to eat so much because I’m spending too much money in restaurants” becomes “stop going out to eat, period” becomes “clip coupons to save money on groceries as well” becomes “eat for as little money as possible”… The hedonic treadmill, in its way.
    (And, sorry, I had the same negative reaction to naming the tendencies after yourself…)

    • gretchenrubin

      It has been really helpful to hear that other Upholders experience this – and to hear about the “loosening” that others experience.
      So interesting.

  • Paige

    I find that once I set up a system for something, I start to tighten. For example I know my kids’ schools like us to clip Box Tops on food packages. Once I designated an old bottle to hold my Box Tops, I became obsessed with collecting them. Even clipping them on vacation where they would live in my wallet until I could place them in their bottle. These things are worth only 10 cents a piece, but by the way I upheld my commitment after I had a system for them, you’d think they were worth $100 ea.

    • HEHink

      Thank you and bless you for collecting Box Tops! Trust me, those of us who work at under-funded schools feel like they are worth $100 each, too.

  • rubyratt

    I find it very interesting the “upholders” talk a lot about exercise…..

  • Anna Kate

    I am an obliger and a rebel. It is very hard to get me to do any habit. I find that it is useless to try to get me to do it just for myself. I do things because of others being happy, or sad because I do them. But, I do feel this tightening effect. Because others feel stronger about me doing something after doing or not doing that thing. So after starting a habit, or stoping a habit and having a negative consequence result there are many things others have a strong attachment to me doing. And so I after having done something get a tightening of the urge to do a particular habit and am more likely to do it. Or am obliged because of others reactions to not stop doing a habit. I becomes more important to me and others it gets done. So weather I want to or not I more rigidly do the habit.

  • Laurie

    What about people who only meet INNER expectations? Thoreau types…What category do they fit into?

    • gretchenrubin

      Those are Questioners. Questioners make expectations inner expectations.

  • upbeat mom

    I am an upholder — but also a bit of a questioner. I used to find that I experienced tightening at the worst possible time. (I.e. under stress!) For instance, at times of high stress, with a crazy long list of to-do’s, would be the times that I couldn’t let myself cut any corners at all even though that could save me time. Once I recognized this tendency, I guess the questioner kicked in. It’s obviously illogical, and so once I identified this tendency I don’t do it any more.

  • jenny_o

    I am mostly a questioner, with some rebel and obliger. I do experience this tightening, and I think it’s because I find it hard to start to do things that are good for me but that I don’t want to do. Once I do get started, I’m afraid I will “fall off the wagon” if I make any exceptions to my routine. If I say “just this time” it becomes easy to do it again and again and undo all my previous work.

  • theshubox

    I would say I am mostly an upholder and have experienced tightening. However I usually (when major life circumstances change, like with having children) eventually reach a breaking point and tend to quit something all at once rather than loosening. Is this a pattern you have seen?

    Also some of the above comments on eating and exercise rub me the wrong way. The rigidity suggests disordered eating patterns , not just good resolve . (Not referring to the low carb which definitely works well for some. Just the mindset implied in some of the comments.)

  • gretchenrubin

    Love it! thanks for letting me know!

  • Lynne

    I would bet most “upholders” are rigid with almost no spontaneity or creative impulse. Our society needs all types of people to function best.

    • gretchenrubin

      As an Upholder, I would take issue with that!

  • Shelley

    I would definitely have said I am an obliger – been a people pleaser all my life, go well out of my way to ‘keep peace’. That said, a few years into retirement I’ve become aware of how important it is to keep the promises I make to myself. I make commitments more carefully and I’m finding that once I’ve settled on something – a frugality binge or a fitness plan – I do it for me, not for anyone else. I also know that in any are of my life I really need to feel I’m making forward progress in some way. So this ‘tightening’ you describe sounds vaguely familiar. What is the point of running 2 miles – I should work toward three – or six or 13. When 100 crunches is do-able, it’s time to add weights or make it harder in some way.With some effort, I can feed us for £100 a month – could I shrink that down and still maintain my nutritional ‘rules’? I’m thinking people don’t really fit neatly into categories, appealing as that might be. I’m definitely an introvert, but people who know me say they think I’m extroverted. At work I did what I had to do and got relatively comfortable with it. I think I major in obliging but I have a minor in upholding.

  • Nancy

    I am an upholder in her late 50s. After reading your two examples, I think the tightening idea is a habit, actually almost an easier way of dealing with your life because it doesn’t question the why of what you are doing anymore. You just do it and to the extreme. I think I have found myself in this position numerous times over my lifetime….then you get to a point where perhaps you don’t want to continue so you start over on a different path to achieve the same end, as in diet or exercise or spiritual growth, the list is endless. Happy figuring out your life!

  • NJ Darling

    As a mostly Rebel (but with a strong People Pleaser , Obliger side) I find myself rebelling so strongly that I hesitate to even try to set a new habit or protocol for myself because I know that the minute I decide to, say, work out 2x a week, that I absolutely won’t do it. In fact, there is almost a reverse tightening effect. For example if I decide to cut down on chocolate then I find myself actually eating more of it. This makes any progress toward a goal very difficult but I don’t know how to change.

  • Janeen Daftary

    I’m an obliger, but have definitely had this tightening occur in my life. It is funny that you mention the Low Carb eating in your example for that is exactly the thing where tightening has occured in my own life. I was so pleased to see and feel the difference that Low Carb eating made in my life, I don’t even want to go back to the way I ate before.
    For awhile going to the gym daily also had a tightening effect on my life, but due to the bad winter and other things the past couple of months, this has recently loosened. I never thought it would and in fact I am not happy about it. I don’t want to fall back into being too relaxed about how often I exercise because exercise has made such a huge improvement in my quality of life. Hoping it does indeed tighten down again 🙂
    But for most things in my life, I am very relaxed and not obsessive, unless an outward force is pressing on me.

  • Suzy

    I am definitely an upholder. It was enlightening to read about and understand my tendencies more. It’s also comforting to know I’m not the only one!

  • Nichole Persing

    I think this actually goes back to your discrimination between “abstainers” and moderators.” You are an abstainer & what I think you are reflecting back is that as being no carb became more of a habit for you, you became more of an abstainer from carbs. I think this way about lots of stuff; I typically only drink 2 glasses of wine when I drink, but I am actually an abstainer instead of a moderator. I abstain from 1 glass of wine (I would rather have none than 1) and any more than 2 glasses of wine (or things get crazy).

  • Rebecca

    I’d love if you’d share more sometime about your journey into low carb eating! I’ve read Gary’s books and found them interesting, but know few people in real life who manage to maintain a low carb diet long term, so I’m intrigued by the little bit you’ve talked about it. (I, too, feel better when I eat low carb, but struggle to actually do it.)

    • gretchenrubin

      Yes, I’ve been meaning to do this. I have a lot to say!

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