Live & Learn

Know Your Personality

If you know your personality, then you can better identify your triggers and your soul-soothers.

The other day my friend and I volunteered for our kids’ high school band program by helping out at a dog show. We walked laps around the building and chatted. We are opposites on the social spectrum. M’s personality is extroverted and I’m, well, for this intro let’s go with introverted. I’ll explain better a little further down.

The point is that we both know what feeds our soul and what kicks our shins. We have learned over time.

Being on the socially active side, M knows that she feeds her soul with large groups of people and busy activities. She joked that if we don’t see her for a while there’s a problem and we need to get her out to a lively event STAT.

Once she mentioned that I realized how important it is for us to know our personality.

A Functioning Hermit

I used to think, and even agreed with others, that I was an introvert. And part of that fits. I do enjoy people and I love learning new stories, but I’m more of a one-on-one kind of person. I prefer calm and time to talk with a single person.

Also, like an introvert, I can do parties and big groups and it’s fun. But I can only do so many of those events before I crash and need to recharge.

Unlike an introvert, I tend to go beyond the normal pull back from social engagements and swing into full-on hibernation.

Which is why I believe I’m more of a functioning hermit.

The closest example would be a functioning alcoholic. They drink so much so often, that they can do normal everyday tasks, that most people with the same BAC (blood alcohol content) can’t.  When you read about people getting arrested with abnormally high BAC levels it’s because they are alcoholics. But they’ve drunk so much, so often, and so long that they can walk a straight line, where most of us at a .08 would be slightly off-kilter.

I’m a functioning hermit. I’m not a full-on hermit locked away in a cave, shunning family and friends and society. I know I must get out and socialize, I love my family and friends too much to walk away from them all. But in all honesty, there are days where functioning in society is tremendously difficult.

The Defining Moment

I realized my unique status when, after the holidays my husband and I discussed who would run to the store. I was beyond my social capacity. I couldn’t function well. My husband, who is also an introvert, said, “You don’t have to talk to anyone.”

Yes, I could use the self-checkout and avoid speaking, but the problem was, I didn’t have the energy to even look at someone else’s eyes. When shopping, it gets crowded in some aisles and, in an effort to navigate smoothly, you need to make eye contact and convey your direction. Even that minute social interaction was too much for me at that point.

I needed to hibernate. But I do so in a healthy way: Surrounded by (albeit maybe not talking with) my family while I recharge.

Since I have no plans of running off to a secluded (and comfort-packed) cave I have had to learn my triggers and how they affect me. Knowing that, keeps my life balanced and keeps my family from hating me.

Triggers

Events, activities, um, basically daily life that I know I need to plan ahead for:

  • When my schedule gets loaded and I don’t get solitude. Whether this is from social engagements like doctor appointments, work, school activities, volunteer positions, etc….
  • The months from October through December when holidays and family birthdays abound.
  • A weekend conference, workshop, or family fun day.
  • A trip to visit family or friends or just a weekend vacation.
  • Events that last longer than anticipated.
  • Events where I run into a lot of people I know and feel the need to say “hi” and catch up. Because I do care about people.
  • Events that push me late into the evening.

Symptoms

When I near the point of over-doing it, my body lets me know:

  • I get flustered and unorganized (beyond my normal organizational issues)
  • I forget simple tasks
  • Impatience creeps in and I get short in my speech.
  • Headaches begin, they start small and increase in sharp jabs.
  • I get shaky
  • I get light-headed
  • I get manic when I hit the proverbial wall. It’s a complete 180. I begin to ramble, say stupid things, speak faster, my hand and arm movements get bigger and more dramatic. I get really hyper. Obnoxiously hyper.
  • And if I reach the hyper point, I will crash hard. Which means no talking, none, nada, zippo, zilch.

Coping Mechanisms

Clearly, the first order of business is prevention. I work my schedule daily, trying to find a balance between work and school and family. When I’ve been overly socialized I will schedule all my accounts into three days (yes, this means long, trying days in which I use a litany of pep talks) and take the next week off. When I have a conference to attend (or vacation or workshop or weekend visit) I plan for downtime prior to the event and immediately following the event. Planning is absolutely key.

The next set non-professional skills I employ are a series of pep talks “okay, this is the last event. Tomorrow is the first day of my solitude week.”  “You can do this.” “Almost done.” “Two days left, one day left.”

And then I let my family know that I’m going into bubble-mode. They usually know just by watching me that I need that solitude and that I won’t be speaking much. The kids know this is the time to ask for something they’ve been wanting. Crafty little buggers…but they’re cute ones.

Timing is imperative. I need to know when my day is over. This means I may need to drive to events myself and meet people rather than carpool because I will leave much earlier. And I don’t want to ruin anyone’s fun by dragging them out before they are ready. This means life gets tricky when we have a person we care about over-stay a visit.

The Payoff

Knowing your personality keeps you sane. And your loved ones know what you need, whether that be a night out at a boisterous event or a book and a quiet corner. Your friends know when to check on you and when to leave you be. Plus, if you’re like me, your friends know that you’re not mad or sad, you’re just you.

What’s your personality? What are your triggers? What are your coping mechanisms?