If this is who I am, do I have to stay this way?
I’ve been dwelling recently on “what makes the difference?”. What is it that takes a mundane, killing time waiting to die life to one of happiness, contentment and the strength to strive?
All things being equal, what is the difference between Eeyore personality types and Piglet personality types? Are our personality types set in stone?
I have observed two successful strategies so far.
- people who extend themselves in service
- people who look for the good.
So let us look at the strategies listed above.
Firstly, people who extend themselves in service. When someone is going through a bad patch, perhaps they’re feeling blue or perhaps they are really being put through the wringer – either is equally valid, it is easy to get caught up in thinking they are the only people who are having difficulty, it is all about them, the focus is continually drawn to their distress, their problems or sadnesses are perceived to be insurmountable.
Have you heard the little story about the size of a pebble? How if it is on the ground it looks small but if you hold it to your eye it is all you can see, obscuring all other vision?
Looking for service opportunities requires the individual to move the pebble – representing their troubles – away from their own field of vision to look for others who need a hand. The mere act of looking out for others is an immediate blessing and benefit to the individual who starts to re-gain a sense of perspective. Looking out for others, or even forcing oneself to be interested in their conversations no matter how bad things feel or how mundane to the first person brings immediate relief. Perhaps only momentarily and perhaps only slightly, but feeling solid ground under their feet for the first time during an episode is blissful relief.
Next, people who look for the good. Birds of a feather flock together, goes the old phrase. If a person is perceived to be a constant complainer, always seeing the bad and never suggesting options to resolve the concern, they’ll be joined by other complainers and people who don’t follow the same philosophy will begin to avoid them. Thus, a person who always complains without fixing the problem will become surrounded by like minded people. It is a synergy creating a doom loop in a downward trend.
However, I have observed that those who notice something good about a situation will be rewarded with a moment of internal respite and also will start to gather likeminded people into their life. If a person says “I have an awful cold but I was so happy that Emily stopped by with a little pot plant to cheer me, how thoughtful of her”, plants the seed in the listeners ear that kindness is recognised and they’ll likely become a good friend like Emily in this example.
As well as gathering likeminded people, even if nobody were around to speak with or share good news, the act of mentally registering the nice moments adds to an almost imperceptible tally of how ok life is. This is a difficult one to explain. We can be pragmatic and acknowledge that there’s no petrol in the car and the kids are squalking like parrots but the person behind the counter smiled at you creates a moment of ok-ness. If you smiled first and they reciprocated, there is the act of smiling releasing endorphins and then the happiness of a shared moment adds to the experience. Tiny things are powerful.
I was raised as an Eeyore, overly pragmatic, not looking for the good. It did not bring me feelings of contentment or happiness but I was very clear on what was right and wrong in the world.
Then I met lots and lots of women who were, in the nicest possible way, Piglet people! The Relief Society (look it up! Here ) is filled with a couple of Eeyores who are loved but mostly people who are looking out for others and looking for the good. It was a revelation but I was still definitely overly pragmatic for my own contentment.
But then, I was blessed to become the mother of a funny, bright, sharp as a tack, beautiful child who is on the Autism Spectrum, specifically Asperger’s Syndrome. My strategy of noticing how difficult things were rubbed off on her. My signals that I carried through life was picked up by the beautiful daughter and I saw her learning unhappiness. If I walked in to her room in the morning being stern that we were running behind in the getting for ready school schedule, she’d get up but distressed and antsy.
So I changed. I changed one morning after deciding to change. Poof, easy as that.
I would wake her each day with a smile and greeting. I would continue to be nice when she rolled over to go back to sleep and I had to insist we start our day. Out went yelling, out went criticism, out went negativity. She responded likewise. Piglet-ism became our life outlook. At first it was an effort but now we notice the little things that combine to create a lovely life.
Forgetting about ourselves for a while and serving others, combined with looking for the good has proven to me to be an immeasurable blessing for which I am thankful. I am thankful for the older sisters who had me sit with them in Relief Society even in my Eeyore days and who just went through life being themselves and being a great example of how to build a reservoir of ok-ness.
Try it out. If you’re having a difficult period, pay attention to your friends, find out what’s going on in their life, make a nice comment occasionally and see how you feel thereafter. In the Winnie the Poo stories, Piglet and friends always loved it when Eeyore joined in the adventures and always acknowledged when Eeyore made a positive comment. It can’t hurt.