Sometimes I'm an extrovert. I love being with people - talking to groups, teaching classes, laughing with my friends and family - my life is full because of these experiences and relationships.
But sometimes I'm an introvert. I have days when I need space and quiet and I crave being alone. I don't always understand why, but I try to allow, accept, and trust that there are reasons.
I used to hide the introverted part of myself. I received more kudos for my extroverted nature and I wasn't always comfortable with comments like, "what's wrong, are you OK, you don't seem like yourself….."
Being quiet and contemplative seemed to cause concern, so I worked hard to be social and talkative…basically I would just pretend.
So instead of owning that sometimes I needed space or alone time, I'd get annoyed at people who unknowingly "infringed" on my need for quiet - the person who knocked on the door, the neighbor who wanted to chat, or the friend that called on the phone.
How dare they bother me! Don't they know that right now I don't have the energy to pretend!
But really, how would they know?
I taught them that I am available 24/7, not only available, but constantly talkative, upbeat and available. I have shown them that I have all the time and energy in the world.
The inability to not accept myself as someone who needs downtime, someone who doesn't always love small talk, or someone who needs space was too much for me, so I'd pretend and then secretly blame others for forcing me to pretend.
But the beauty of age and self awareness is that I finally realize the silliness of this….it's my responsibility to offer myself authentically and teach people how to treat me.
Sometimes I want to talk with people, and sometimes I want to be by myself. Sometimes I want to carpool, and sometimes I want to drive alone. Sometimes I want to go to a movie with friends, and sometimes I want to be in a theater all by myself.
And now, after some practice, I can do this without making up excuses, or lying, or most important, without feeling that there is something wrong with me.
And honestly, pretending is just tiring and it kind of sucks - pretending to care when I don't or that I don't when I do. Pretending to be someone I am not, pretending that everything is OK when it isn't. Pretending takes a toll on energy, spirit, and overall wellness.
Which is why I take this into consideration when I parent my girls…I don't want them to "work" at pretending around me.
Like me they have many different sides, and they need space to be who they are. If they are quiet, it doesn't always mean that I have something to stress or worry about. If they are grumpy, it doesn't mean they are ungrateful or disrespectful.
To tell them they shouldn't be angry, quiet, introspective, sad, can be a real disservice to their inner processing. To expect them to always be playful or smiling isn't a realistic expectation.
But if they are happy all the time, then I get to feel good and I get to be the great parent with the constantly happy kid…..oh wait, I think I'm getting caught in that cycle of pretending again….
So really, it's a lesson in tolerance - self tolerance and parental tolerance. Can I tolerate the potential disappointment or lack of acceptance when I need to be alone? Can I be OK if my kids are feeling quiet, frustrated or unsocial?
And can we all understand that this is authentic expression, the natural balance of life, and a normal part of being a human being?
For me I guess it comes down to yet another act of self acceptance. Some days I must sit in the discomfort of not being who people think I should be, but I know in my heart this is a good thing.....because in these moments, I am fully embracing who I am.
Cathy Adams is a certified parenting coach, yoga instructor and mother to three girls.
See more of Cathy's stories here.