Who are you? (Whoo hoo hoo hoo)

I think it’s an almost universal truth that people act differently when they’re with other people.  It’s part of the reason that “mixing the worlds” can be so nerve-wracking.  If you’re always “fun-loving Fred” with your college friends, but “serious Sally” with your work friends, it can be so awkward when your work friends meet your college friends, and you become Fally, the person who doesn’t know what to say or do.

It’s also disconcerting when you get down to some introspective thought and try and figure out who you are if you always change from group to group.  Normally, I think of myself as an averagely nice person, but if I’m a little tired and cranky and Birmingham comes around, I can get really mean to him because we once achieved that level of intimacy that allows us to forgive each other when we act out.  But we’re not together right now, so I feel bad when I’m mean to him out of habit.  I should really only agree to see him when I’m in a super good mood, otherwise it might feel like we’re dating again.  (he he)?

The reason I’m thinking of all this right now is because even though I think of myself as a confident person, I recently realized that I have this weird habit of being highly self-depreciating when I’m around people who intimidate or impress me.  I caught myself doing it the other day, and while I was making people laugh, I was really bringing myself down needlessly.  Once I realized I was doing it, I couldn’t stop, either.   Eventually, I just stopped talking about everything except swimming, because that’s one thing that makes me feel really confident.

So now it’s got me thinking, and I’m no psychology expert or anything (see, there’s that self-deprecation again!), but is personality fluid like that?  Am I a sympathetic person around some people and judgemental around others?  Am I funny and witty when I’m comfortable, but incoherent when I’m intimidated?  What personality should I bring out when I get comfortable with people that I should be more respectful towards?  Are the extremes of the flexibility of my personality actually who I am?  And in the end, who exactly does that make me?  Is it normal to have this many “deep thoughts” on a Monday morning after spending Sunday afternoon watching James Bond?  And why didn’t my rye bread didn’t rise properly on Saturday when the French bread came out great?  We may never know.


22 responses to this post.

  1. And then there is always how other people perceive you which could be totally different than the way you see yourself. Makes my head spin sometimes, but psychology can be so interesting.

  2. This seems to be more of a Sunday afternoon deep thought, but maybe your timing’s off because of James Bond.

    Tailoring your personality slightly to fit your company and the environment you’re in makes you an intelligent, well-rounded person. I wouldn’t worry too much about it. Having different faces for different people is pretty normal. At least I think so.

  3. Posted by nancypearlwannabe on November 17, 2008 at 11:33 am

    I would be totally mortified if my co-workers saw me being mean to Chris. Does that mean I shouldn’t be mean to Chris, or that my co-workers don’t know the real (evil) me? Shrug.

  4. I think personality is totally a fluid thing. One of my worst fears used to be connecting people from different aspects of my life, because I had a very strong sense of needing to be everything to everyone, which doesn’t work well in a crowd. I’ve gotten a little better about that, and I don’t fear that anymore. I even hung out with a friend from childhood and a friend from college at the same time last week without spontaneously combusting.

    I think it’s an innocent thing. Maybe like how wearing green brings out different things in your skin tone than wearing red. We just adjust to the people we spend time with. And the ones who provoke the least adjustment are maybe the best ones to be around.

  5. I agree with Allie — I think it’s normal to tailor your behavior to the people you’re with. Other people do the same thing when they’re around you. I guess there is no one personality for any of us.

  6. You better be funny if we ever meet, otherwise I’ll punch you.


  7. In How I Met Your Mother, they refer to personality switching around people from your past “revertigo.”
    I’d say it’s okay as long as you aren’t conciously trying to be someone else around the people you most often interact with.

  8. I know I’m definitely a different person around my family than around my friends, so I definitely think your train of thought makes sense. Of course, WHY I’m not the same person with my family is something I can’t really answer, so I don’t have the answers to any of your other big questions any more than you do.

  9. i’m with allie, too. there are just some people who bring out the best/worst of you.

    personally, i absorb accents and manners of speaking depending on whom i’m around. you should hear how interesting my accent sounds after i’ve been in India.

  10. Very interesting post. Very deep…

    I think sometimes you have to be different depending on the situation. If I’m like I am in front of my friends in front of my boss, I might get fired. And we’re human, so sometimes we’re going to be intimidated or cranky and act differently in certain situations. That’s just how life is. But I think deep down, no matter the situation, there always has to be a part of you that is really you.

  11. oh i get ya! it all depends on how comfortable i am with the situation, or, the person. i hate feeling like i cannot be myself simply because i’m worried about what the other person might think. i can be pretty awkward to the level where i feel scared to give a simple “hello!” i also have a hard time hiding my true feelings. like, if i find someone particularly annoying — or generally dislike them altogether — it’s REALLY hard for me to be faux nice just to get by. while my words may be OK, my facial expressions and body language always reacts to my gut. since it’s easier for me to be cold, than myself — i give off quite a snobby first impression. : (

  12. The consensus is obvious by now and I’m not going to disagree.

    Now who the heck does the rye bread think he is and why can’t he fall in line like the rest of us? What a jerk.

  13. ACK! I’m baking bread right now and trying not to jinx it! I think we do have a tendency to shape shift to some degree around different people. For myself, I find a high degree of changability when I am around them and I don’t like that, so I tend to spend less time with them. My Mom is one of them. She has an uncanny ability to make me feel insecure and self conscious every single time. She is also somewhat unhealthy herself so this is no surprise.

  14. Posted by elizabeth on November 17, 2008 at 5:36 pm

    Great blog and comments.

    I feel interesting people have lots of facets and have the common sense and intuition to know when and where to emphasize each facet.

    People who aren’t multifaceted are known as BORING.

    People who don’t know when to use the appropriate facet are known as CLUELESS.

  15. I have multiple personalities as well. Although I think I keep a general tone – I do tend to be a littler cattier when I’m with some friends, a little nicer and optimistic with others and quiet around people that intimidate me (when I’m normally pretty outgoing).

    I always vow to change it but I just fall back into my comfort zone.

  16. I’m totally with you on this one. However in the recent years, my worlds have been colliding on a basis that is far too frequent to my liking. So I sort of made a conscious decision (so is that a semi-conscious decision?) to start being “myself” more around, well, everyone. That means I’m more relaxed at work now, less stand-off-ish in social gatherings, and more outspoken around family. I feel much better actually now that I’m making my own inner worlds collide. True ‘dat.

  17. i get you on the self deprecating bit. i am the queen of it. you know, rather make fun of yourself before someone else gets a chance?

    it’s not good. we need to stop it.

  18. i’ve just realized that I do that self denigrating thing too…totally need to stop.

    sometimes I also just want to compare how I see myself and how others see me, but it seems like a conceited thing to ask and hold a conversation on. It’s not…but it has a taboo sort of.

  19. I am all about deprecating myself for a laugh. It’s a role that I am comfortable with.

    I understand behaving differently with various groups. I tend to become either over bright, or extremely shy. And heck if I know who I am.

  20. Posted by Sarah on November 20, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    You always amuse and entertain me via the internet. I’m sure that you would do the same if we were ever to meet in person.

  21. Sometimes at work, I catch the “real” funny, sarcastic and slightly weird me come out, and it occasionally elicits strange looks. A couple months ago, I made a joke about something, and my boss was all like, “Wow, you’re funny today”, and I was like, “but I always am…oh”.

  22. While I definitely do act differently around different people, I think a lot of it is my level of comfort with them/the situation. I have my “nice face” and my “real face” – and my real face is a lot bitchier.

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