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:~: Wednesday, March 21, 2007 :~:

Personality Masks

I've been fighting off the blues lately. For about three weeks. Maybe it's just spring malaise, maybe it's PMS, maybe it's an overload of stress. But it's here and it's clinging to me as if the air were charged with static.

Although I hate to admit it, I think it's simply part of my personality. I tend to be a half-glass-empty type of person. I was raised in a very half-glass-empty household. The roots were laid long, long ago and try as I might, I haven't been able to completely shake free of them.

I'm not a downer--I'm actually very positive and supportive to friends and family and coworkers. I'm not a slug--I've always got more irons in the fire than anyone else I know. And I've been rather successful in spite of my constant self-doubt. I'm just...rather Eeyore-like.

Which got me to thinking that I can't be completely Eeyore-like if I've accomplished so much and others find me such an upbeat, positive influence. So, I thought about the other characters in Pooh's world: Pooh, of course, Rabbit, Tigger, Piglet, Owl, Kanga...

And I've decided I'm a blend of Eeyore and Christopher Robin.

The Eeyore part of me drifts around like a cloud--What's the use? Why am I wasting my time? What made me think I could do this? Another rejection--this will never go anywhere.

But the Christopher Robin part of me is constantly combating my old Eeyoreish tendencies. You've come a long way. Keep it up, it'll pay off. Your writing is as good as anything you've read in the past few months. Perseverance is everything in this business. You can do it!

It's my experience that most people try to hide their negative sides. Bad moods, impatience, pessimism...while not all that appealing, are very real everyday issues for most of us. Yet, I feel as if I’m constantly trying to stay perky for the benefit of others, to look the part of the inspired writer--pretending I never have an off day, that I never think about quitting, that I'm always thrilled and inspired when I sit down at the computer, that I don't let rejections throw me off and just get right back to work.

And I decided recently, fatigued from the constant struggle to maintain a "mask", to embrace my Eeyorish self. Celebrate my natural tendency toward glass-half-empty, and use it for what it's worth. I feel lighter and funnier and more comfortable in my own skin. I've also found that there's more depth and variation to that darker side than I thought.

So, tell me--which member of the Hundred Acre Wood most resembles your true personality? And do you find yourself putting on a face for others--in writing or in life?

Pooh himself would tell you he is a "bear of little brain," but he also has an uncommon, clear-eyed wisdom. His friends, their happiness and feelings are Pooh's chief concern, and there is no better friend than Winnie the Pooh.

Tigger acts on every impulse, and his boisterous manner often leads him to leap before he looks. Tigger's bouncing is a pure expression of his utter zest for life -- a joy he's always eager to share with his friends, even when sometimes (especially with Rabbit), they don't want him to share it!

Eeyore is every one's favorite delightfully dismal donkey. But Eeyore doesn't see himself as gloomy -- he just has low expectations. He expects nothing from anybody, so whenever his friends do come to his aid his expectations of the worst are overthrown, and he is sincerely grateful. Eeyore's tiny bright pink bow on his tail, the one hint of color against his gray, is a perfect symbol of the kernel of joy that occasionally surfaces in Eeyore. Though he may pretend he's helping because there's nothing better to do -- make no mistake, Eeyore is always there for his friends.

Rabbit is perhaps the smartest of the Hundred Acre Wood friends (at least he thinks so), and often the self-appointed leader of the group. Rabbit can be stubborn about his viewpoints. Although Rabbit often quickly overreacts, his friends know that underneath his sometimes bristly exterior is a good heart, and his know-it-all attitude is tempered by his ability to admit when he's wrong.


Piglet is a soft-spoken and skittish little fellow whose generosity and humility far outweigh his meager size. Still, he considers himself just "a very small animal." His fastidious movements, anxious wringing of hands, and occasionally stuttering voice ("Oh d-d-d-dear"), convey his nervousness and fear of the unknown. But inside Piglet's small frame is a big heart.

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12Comments:

Blogger Linda Winfree said...

I'm Eeyore with you, baby! However, I'm more of a realist than a pessimist -- my eyes are usually open to the facts and pitfalls of the publishing industry and the foibles of others (comes from teaching, I think).

I read an interesting op-ed article (that I can't find the link for now, LOL) the other day on optimism and pessimism. Loved the writer's comment that often optimism flirted with delusional. Very wry, very funny.

Again, I think it comes down to personality types, like you said. Some traits are ingrained, others are inlaid by our upbringing and environment.

My grandmother was a realist, too. :-D

3:54 AM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

I love this post, J. Have always loved the 100-acre woods.

I'm a cross between Christopher Robin and Tigger. I'm generally a glass-is-half full kinda girl. Pollyanna as someone once called me. ;) My mouth tends to get me in trouble sometimes (that's the Tigger in me) so it takes a great deal of effort to keep myself in check - esp. online as things written tend to come across way different than they do when spoken (esp. my snarkiness). But for the most part I'm an optimistic person. Sure, I get down - who doesn't - but at the end of the day I know I'm doing the best I can and good things will eventually happen.

I love that you're embracing your inner Eeyore. Imagine how boring the world would be if we were all Eeyores or we were all Tiggers or all - gasp! - Rabbits.

9:03 AM  
Blogger Edie said...

I'm a combination of all these types. I'm actually listening to a tape about optimism. You admit that you came from a glass-half-empty background. The psychologist (whose name I don't remember) actually talked about people whose pessimism is a learned thought pattern. He said you can change this way of thinking. One suggestion he made is to put a rubber band on your wrist, snap it every time you realize you have a pessimistic thought, and rephrase the thought. (Ex.: Instead of "I suck", think "I made an error and next time I'll do better".)

I'm a glass half full person, but I'm also a realist.

Joan, if you're interested in this tape, email me and I'll go out to my car and see who the author/speaker is.

10:46 AM  
Blogger Liz Kreger said...

Great blog, Joan, and certainly thought provoking. I'm really not sure what type of personality I am. I'm definitely a half-full sorta woman and I certainly don't let things get me down for long. But I'm also not one of those obnoxious, perky sorta person.

I'm with Edie. A little bit of everything.

1:43 PM  
Blogger Joan Swan said...

Lin, I can't profess to be a realist...reality just kicks off my pessimism. Maybe that's why I'm such a great escape artist (see my post on my personal blog: Escape: the good, the bad, the ugly)

2:41 PM  
Blogger Joan Swan said...

E-

but at the end of the day I know I'm doing the best I can and good things will eventually happen.

I do the same. It's the supportive, down-to-earth Christopher Robin influence, and considering my Eeyore side, the thing that keeps me going.

2:43 PM  
Blogger Joan Swan said...

Edie-

I love self-help tapes and books, I've been a junkie for many years and have gained valuable and life changing input.

That rubber band deal is also used for panic attacks. If someone with an anxiety disorder feels an attack coming on, they snap that rubber band to short circut the thoughts.

Interesting stuff.

2:45 PM  
Blogger Joan Swan said...

Liz,

That's the type of balance everyone strives for.

Awesome.

2:46 PM  
Blogger Maggie said...

Has someone been reading the Tao of Pooh?

I'm a cross between Rabbit, Tigger, and a little bit of Pooh Bear, depending on the day.

I think I'm a natural glass-half-full kinda woman, but life often seems to force me into the glass-half-empty camp.

4:26 PM  
Blogger Paty Jager said...

I think I'm a combination of Pooh and Tigger. I tend to get to enthusiastic about my writing and try to push it out for everyone to see before it is really ready. But I have a zest for life and covet my friends.

4:40 PM  
Blogger Joan Swan said...

Maggie,

I think I'm a natural glass-half-full kinda woman, but life often seems to force me into the glass-half-empty camp.

Wow! I think you've nailed my problem!! That's why I do the escape routine from reality, why I don't watch the news or read the paper. It's rough out there.

7:30 PM  
Blogger Joan Swan said...

Paty --

Pooh and Tigger -- what a great personality mix!

7:31 PM  

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