I’ve been reading a lot lately about personality types and their differences. I’ve had discussions with friends about this, trying to figure out my 4-letter code from the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, or my title from the Keirsey Temperament Sorter.

I think the main thing I’ve learned is that it’s not so much of trying to nail down your personality into one particular description but more about identifying your strengths and figuring out how to put them to good use. I feel so many of my answers in these assessments could vary, depending on the situation. Without a context I have difficulty predicting how I would act. I also think it’s unlikely that everyone fits into one discrete category. If we look at traits or tendencies then I think we will have more serviceable information.

I think many times we experience anxiety and/or depression it is due to feeling like a square peg in a round hole. It is when we try to be something we’re not in order to fit in with a group of people that causes us stress. Certainly we are adaptable and can modify our behavior when needed. But I’m talking about when you have to suppress your personality for a long period and don’t have an outlet in which you can be yourself.

To use myself as an example, I’ve been feeling lately that I have been traumatizing all the introverts of my acquaintance with my intense personality. (Since this happens so often I wonder if I should list that as one of my hobbies.) I feel like this loud yellow duck with big weird feet, making a mess and splashing around all these swans who are trying to protect themselves from getting wet. Then I met someone who pointed out the obvious: I just need to meet more ducks. Luckily, as a fellow duck, she knows the way to the pond.

Compared to this woman, I felt like one of those little fuzzy ducklings you see on greeting cards. She, however, is a full-grown mallard. She was coordinating a storytelling show (called “Storyzilla,” if that’s any indication of her personality). I met with her twice in her home so that she could coach me to help draw forth my tale. I was nervous but I really wanted the chance to share my experiences. I was wondering if I’d have to be medicated in order to be calm enough to participate in the event.

But then I showed up for the rehearsal at the (metaphorical) duck pond. What does it have that I didn’t know I was missing, that makes it so attractive to ducks like me? A microphone. And a chance to use it. All of a sudden I was having fun. The actual show was even better; I was able to let out all that energy that in everyday life gets me branded as being too hyper—but in this situation I was considered an animated performer.

I’ve done a few activities like this before so it wasn’t completely new for me to be in front of an audience. What was unusual was how comfortable I felt in the moment. Other times I’d spoken in public had been more stressful and I didn’t really enjoy the experience until afterwards, looking back with a sense of accomplishment (and relief that it was over).

I think part of what made this such a great evening was discovering an appropriate venue to express aspects of my personality that I have felt a need to keep hidden lately. It was also eye-opening to meet people who weren’t overwhelmed by me. I think if I regularly got a chance to get up on stage and do my thing then I might be better able to fit in with normal society and not feel so much like a circus freak in my everyday life.

I’m not suggesting that everyone run out and sign up for some sort of opportunity to put themselves on display as an antidote to their problems. I realize many people would rather clean out the basement or do some other odious task to get out of a potential speaking engagement. But I do think if you’re feeling like a fish out of water (because maybe you’re a fish, not a duck) then you need to find an avenue where you can be a fish, and hang out with other fishes, in your own fish pool.