The first two times I took the Myers Briggs test, I scored a clear E for Extravert. The first time was in high school to help determine what jobs might fit my personality best, and the other at my first job, to see perhaps if I’d selected the right one. I’ve always described myself as an extravert and most anyone that knows me well would too. But this last time I took the test, in preparation for a staff retreat at my previous employer, I scored an “I” for introvert. I was surprised and assumed the test was flawed. I changed the I to an E for the final report out to my colleagues. That was last year, when my daughter was about 16 months old. Now she’s almost two and I just came to the realization that the test was right.
Myers Briggs describe extraverts as drawing energy from active involvement in events, being around and energizing others, and taking action to make things happen. Extraverts are seen as a “people people”, have lots of friends and are comfortable in crowds. On the converse, introverts draw energy from working on ideas inside their own head. They prefer doing things alone or with one or two others they are comfortable with. They are seen as reserved, like things they can accomplish on their own and like to know fewer people well vs. have lots of friends they know less about. (source) I’m clearly part both, but as I reread the descriptions, I realized I’m naturally inclined to most of the introvert tendencies.
So why am I suddenly an introvert? Truth is, I think I’ve always been one, but my life always lent itself to bringing out my extraverted qualities. I had extraverted parents, participated in theater and sports, established a career in public relations, married an extravert, dined out and traveled in groups, and kept a full social calendar throughout my 20s and very early 30’s. I played an extravert well and enjoyed it. But during that time, I also had time to myself, something from which my true introverted self drew energy to prepare for an extraverted public life. When I was young it was making jewelry, painting, doing homework, reading or making mix tapes. As I got older it was reading, college schoolwork, going for solo runs, rearranging the house, and window shopping. Then I had a kid, and all the time I had to myself disappeared. (This blog is an example of my introverted activities. Writing centers and grounds me, and as you can see from my infrequent updates, I don’t do it enough.)
So while I play a good extravert, I’m an introvert at my core. I finally realized that this past week. It was at a party to celebrate the opening of my husband’s third real estate office. While I talked to only close friends and hung in the corner, I watched my extravert husband mingle with clients and friends. He was energetic and had no problem being the center of attention, talking with dozens, maybe a hundred people throughout the night. Watching him, while struggling to make small talk with people I’d just met, I thought “I really am an introvert”.
Like I said already, my inner introvert has taken over because I no longer have the time to myself that allows me to be so extroverted the rest of the time. I get up, work out, go to work, get dinner ready, put my daughter to bed, finish emails for work, and head to bed. On the weekends my “free time”, aka while my daughter is napping (if she’s napping), is spent cleaning the house and doing other chores that can’t get done during the week. Chores from which I do not draw energy from.
So what do to about it? I’m clearly never going to have the amount of free time I did before, or at least not till my daughter goes to college….countdown 16 years. So knowing that, I’m first off going to be OK with being an introvert and tell myself it’s OK that I’d rather read a book instead of watching a movie with my husband, it’s OK that I’d rather have a quiet dinner with a few close friends instead of hosting a dinner party, OK that I’d rather play with my daughter at the park vs. attending large mommy and me play groups, OK that I write another blog post instead of picking up the house, and so on and so on. I’m not going to retreat inward and stay in my house or anything…I’m just going to respect the fact that I need time to myself and try to find it.
So join me, and try (it’s hard) to take time for yourselves parents, especially my fellow introverts.