Winnie the Pooh was my favorite cartoon growing up. I always liked Tigger. He was the fun and energetic one. I always wanted to be like him. You may also remember from Winnie the Pooh: the shy one, the bossy one, the mother, the smart one, the sad one and the lovable-but-not-quite-all-there one. And as you read those I bet you knew exactly who I was talking about. Piglet, Rabbit, Kanga, Owl, Eyeore and Pooh. You knew them because they are always defined by those characteristics. Everything Tigger says and does is because he is the fun one. Everything Piglet says and does is because he is the shy one.
They are stock characters, used over and over again in cartoons, books, movies and friend groups. Don’t believe me about the friend group thing? Remember a couple years ago when these were popular? (See picture above.)
This more than anything should prove that we don’t just find stock characters in fictional settings, we see them — and even worse, try to become them — in real life.
I’ve mentioned before that I did not struggle with self-consciousness when I was supposed to — in Junior High and High School. I somehow slipped right by without ever feeling much pressure to fit a mold, to be a certain type of person. I knew there were jocks, emos, geeks and preps, but I never gave much thought to where I fit into it all.
Then I went to a small Christian college and, still managing to avoid a major identity crisis, began to see more and more people fitting into a one word definition. It wasn’t by what you did anymore, but WHO YOU WERE. It wasn’t whether you were a band geek or cheerleader. It was whether you were the funny one, the spiritual one, the world-changing one, the smart one, the creative one, or the one-with-the-sweet-spirit. (I would just like to say that, after my college years, I am sick of the phrase “sweet spirit.” Every girl anyone ever talked about had such a “sweet spirit.”)
Where do I fall in here? I’m funny enough, but I don’t think I’m “the funny one.” I love Jesus, but I don’t think I’m “the Spiritual one.” I’m pretty sure that being sick of the phrase “sweet spirit” disqualifies me from being “the one with the sweet spirit.” And worst of all, I started to feel like, if I was not labeled as “the funny one,” I was not funny. If I was not labeled as “the Spiritual one,” I was not Spiritual. If I was not “the world-changing one,” I would never change the world.
The pressure continues. I’m married, and all of a sudden, I’ve got to be a certain type of woman. I’m responsible for the manners in my family, for bringing food to parties, sending thank you notes, and serving my church in all the right ways … but not getting burned out. I have to show to others that I’m a “good wife,” and a “woman who fears the Lord and will be praised.”
And with marriage itself comes more narrow definitions, because my husband and I are trying to figure out each other’s personalities. I’m an ENTJ, an otter, an “I,” my parachute is red, I’m sanguine. In terms of love languages, I’m a quality time person. In terms of being a woman, I need certain things, like love, attention, conversation … the list goes on and on. My husband is different because he’s an INFP, a golden retriever, a words of affirmation person, he needs respect and honor and … I don’t know … war or something.*
I see a lot of inconsistencies in myself. I am organized, but always late. I am people oriented, but I can lock myself into a task. I’m really self-confident, but also really self-conscious. I could go on and on about how I don’t know what I am, what group I fit into or what my style is. I could go on and on about who I want to be, how I want to be remembered, those little one word definitions that, if someone were talking about me they’d say, “Erin, you know, the one who _____,” “the one who’s really good at _____,” “the _____ girl.”
I’ve always wondered how people fill in those blanks when I’m not there. I feel like I’m not a certain type of person, I feel like I’m not a stereotype, or someone who excels at one certain thing. I don’t have this certain style or way about me and that has caused some confusion for me. I feel like I should live among really stereotypical friends and be really stereotypical myself. I’m always looking for a Kanga, a Pooh, a Christopher Robin, but I don’t even know who I am in the Hundred Acre Wood.
And I realize I’m doing to everyone else in my life what I’m doing to myself: trying to squeeze all of their personality, all of their humanness into as few words as possible. I make my friends the creative one, the tell-it-like-it-is one, the Spiritual one, the one who’s really smart.
But the truth is, I’m not the only one who can’t be contained in a few succinct words. No one can, and if I don’t want other people to think like that about me, then I have to change the way I think as well.
We’re all PEOPLE. We all have quirks and inconsistencies. Even though I’m an extrovert, I may clam up at times. Even though I’m a woman, I may desire respect more than love at times. I may be book smart, but I’m not street smart. I can bomb the things I’m really good at, but occasionally I’ll surprise myself by doing something awesome I’m usually bad at.
I am not a collection of facts and figures or a formula or a one word definition.
I am a person. And so are you.
We will do better when we realize that we, our friends, our families, our husbands and our coworkers are not a thing we can predict, something we can control and manipulate based on their general traits. We’re not Winnie the Pooh characters. We don’t have to fit into a mold or group ourselves. We are each free to be the one of six billion, the special case, the one who’s not what she seems.
So, still firmly believing in personality types, love languages and the Love and Respect principle, I give us permission not to restrict ourselves to these categories. I give us permission to figure out stuff about ourselves that’s more complex than, “she’s got a really sweet spirit,” and let others do the same.
So, without feeling the pressure to be a Tigger, I say with confidence: TTFN (ta-ta for now)!
Tigger ENTJ The smart one Erin
* Do not get me wrong. I totally still affirm personality types, love languages and the Love and Respect principle. They can definitely give generalities and make things easier to understand (especially when dealing with the opposite sex).