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Papa Bear/Mark Caruso was eliminated from Survivor: South Pacific this past Wednesday.  He was an interesting character, had a great accent, was very self-aware and fought hard to stay alive game-wise.  So what can we learn from Papa Bear’s journey and where he went wrong?

For me, I believe it was because he saw himself as an outsider to begin with and really made no headway to change that outlook as he reinforced it through his actions.

Even though he said he liked it, I believe it was a mistake for him to allow them to call him Papa Bear so early in the game.  Coming into any kind of situation with strangers, having people know you only by a nickname can help in further isolating yourself from them.  It lacks a depth of personality and is like wearing a mask.  In a familiar setting, getting people to know you first as a person is always best matched with a real, tangible name to attach with the face.  Then you can add the nickname when the relationship is already forged and they don’t just see you as that facade (whatever that may be).  In fact, it’s almost better for the relationships if you’re cohorts give you a nickname.  It forges a bond/connection between you and them.   I’m willing to bet that most of his tribe had forgotten his real name by the time tribal council had come around.

He also immediately singled himself and Dawn out as the “oldest” ones and Cochran as the “geeky guy” and just left it at that.  As far as we know or are shown, Papa doesn’t attempt to make any friendships or alliances with anyone and you’re most likely doomed if that happens.  Granted, he’s shown talking to Dawn and Cochran on many occasions but it looked more like he was talking “where we stand in the tribe” than anything resembling familiarity.

He allowed himself to wallow in the murk of “this is the way it is because of who I am”…most particularly his age.

Even after her initial breakdown it appears that Dawn is not allowing her age to be a factor in proving her worth (though she is very aware of the age differences and how that could hinder her).  Cochran’s managed to get through two tribal councils by admitting his faults and attempting to smooth things over with the others consistently.  And even self-admitted awkward-guy-at-the-table Jim has (at least in a small way) found himself in with the popular kids.  He didn’t allow his self-perceived image keep him from maneuvering himself into a decent position for now.

But poor Papa Bear….oh yeah, I mean Mark… decided he couldn’t overcome his percieved flaw and gave into it.  Even though he wanted to play the game so bad, he unknowingly sealed his own fate in it mentally.

He limited himself just like all of us can.  They won’t want me because I’m too short, skinny, fat, not smart enough, etc .  Coming into an opportunity with self-image doubts can hinder us all in whatever it is we want to do.

I have issues at times with my youthful appearance, big whoop right?  I’m 33 and get mistaken for 18-24 alot of times,  which is great for the most part.  But I feel it hinders me sometimes when I’m interviewing for management positions or other jobs which stereotypically are filled by folks who looked older and more “authoritative.”  I want to think they have an immediate bias against me because I may not look like I can gain the respect needed from employees and customers.

It’s not about what you can’t do and your limitations.  It’s about what you can do with your strengths.  Though Papa had a good head on his shoulders and a mind for the game, I don’t think we got to see much of it because of his own self-inflicted limitations.

So what do you all think was Papa’s downfall?

Oh, and mentioning Papa hiding behind his nickname and it being a facade, reminds me of the song “Facade” from the Jekyll and Hyde musical.  Great song and deep wording.  We can all connect in some way.