Once, I overheard a boss talking to a new employee about me. The office culture at that job revolved pretty heavily around gossip, so I kept to myself whenever possible. He described me as “nice to a fault, and very quiet and introverted.” I almost spit out my tea because I’d never been called an introvert before. It made me realize something: Even if you’re strongly introverted or extroverted, different people see different sides of your personality depending on the circumstances. And that’s especially true once you become a parent, and sometimes you have to put on your extrovert hat.
Around the people I trust most — friends and family — I’m my most extroverted. For many introverts/extroverts, they’re the people we’re most comfortable with, the ones who know and inspire us. We feel like we could talk to them for hours and have no problem carrying on the conversation if needed. I’m more than happy to share my experiences and encourage them if they are struggling with something. They all tell me how extroverted I am.
But I’m not like that around new people, or random strangers — and when you’re a mom, new people and random strangers come with the territory. There’s endless parties, back-to-school nights, and sports games. Sometimes we don’t know if our introverted or extroverted selves will come out. I never know what side of my personality is going to show up when I’m in these situations, but I always remind myself I am going to that party or school function for my kids. I mean, if I want them to spread their wings, have new experiences, and meet new people I do have to lead by example as hard as it is at times.
At the same time, some moms make me burst with energy within two minutes of meeting them — and I’m not alone, either. That was the case when I met my hairdresser a few years ago. I sat in her chair and within seconds I was filled with zest and ambition. We always talk nonstop and I leave her salon so inspired and usually start a new home project, craft or try a new recipe. “I’m usually introverted,” she told me once. “I hate going to parties and it takes me forever to make dentist and doctor’s appointments. My husband wishes I’d get out more but I’m a homebody.”
I told her she seemed like an extrovert to me, but I knew exactly where she was coming from. I asked, “Do you feel more extroverted when you are at work because you are doing what you love?”
“Yes! I love what I do and I love my clients. If I have someone who feels like they are sucking the life out of me I just tell them I’m too booked up to take them on,” she said, laughing.
There are certain people — like my hairdresser — who give us energy and inspire us. Even if we aren’t talking a lot around them they are able to awaken something in us and we feel more extroverted. There are also, of course, people who drain us; I call them energy-suckers. Even though it’s not always intentional, I think this type of relationship can make us feel very introverted because they are already taking from us so we don’t have a lot of energy to spare and usually end up being stoic and quiet in order to reserve some of that much-needed fuel.
Personality quizzes and memes will make it sound like you're all one thing or another. But it seems to me we can be both, just depends on our moods, who we're with and other circumstances. So if you see me, say hi — but understand if I say "gotta go," after 30 seconds, too.
Katie Bingham-Smith is a full-time freelance writer living in Maine with her three teens and two ducks. When she’s not writing she’s probably spending too much money online and drinking Coke Zero.