01 Oct “If I change each week of my cycle, then who’s the true me?”
I recently received an email from Bethan who posed this question to me:
“I wanted to ask you about when in the hormone cycle am I going to feel the most ‘me’? Maybe this sounds silly, but which week is the version of me that would be closest to what I may be like were I not to have a hormone cycle, for example?”
Like Bethan, Hormonology readers know that the facets that make up your overall personality–for example, your moods, desire to socialize, confidence, chattiness, energy, impulsiveness, flirtatiousness and creativity–fluctuate during the four weeks (or phases) of your cycle due to changes in the levels of your hormones. Here’s a very brief look at what I mean (you can get a more detailed idea with my free Hormonology Guides).
Week 1: Whirring to life
Day 1 (first day of period) to Day 7
Estrogen starts out at rock-bottom and rises throughout
During the first half of your Week 1, low estrogen combined with period-related aches and/or fatigue tend to make you want to cocoon at home. You’ll likely have less energy and less interest in socializing. By the middle of your Week 1, however, you may notice that you’re feel happier, peppier, chattier, more adventurous and are looking for any excuse to get out into the world and explore and socialize. You’ll also notice that your memory, verbal skills and mental speed improve day by day and your desire to look for love or reignite the passion in your current relationship rises.
Week 2: Loud and proud
Day 8 to ovulation (which is Day 14 in a 28-day cycle)
Estrogen rises till it peaks; testosterone rises at the end of this week and peaks
Throughout your Week 2, rising estrogen pumps up mood, confidence and optimism and revs your desire to seek out adventure and spend time with other people. You have romance on your mind–and you’re at your most flirtatious. Your sense of humor, recall, verbal eloquence and mental agility all peak during this cycle week, which is a good thing since you also tend to talk a lot more, so you’re giving folks a lot of entertaining things to listen to. You’re also more creative thanks to high estrogen revving brain speed while also making you more open to unusual ideas. Your physical energy, stamina and strength are at their peaks, making tasks that require more oomph easier to do. You tend to spend more money on items that make you appear more attractive or that are a bit out of your budget, such as a designer handbag. You may also be a bit more impulsive thanks to all that peaking confidence and optimism, so you might take more risks.
Week 3: Quieting down
Begins day after ovulation and lasts 8 days (which is Day 15 to Day 22 in a 28-day cycle)
Progesterone rises throughout; estrogen and testosterone drop for the first half, then estrogen rises during the second half
This is the flip-side of your cycle, which can often feel like the polar opposite of what you just experienced: Due to a plunge in estrogen and testosterone coupled with sedating progesterone, you tend to now be quieter, more introverted and prefer to play it safe and remain cautious rather than take risks or look for daring adventures. Your energy is dipping significantly and your mood is dropping from that sky-high level where it was during your Week 2, making you more somber and thoughtful. At times, you could experience sadness (due to rising progesterone) or moodiness (due to dropping estrogen). You may notice some fogginess in your brain, making you slower at recalling the exact word want or brainstorming creative ideas. You prefer to stay close to home and crave more alone-time or time with just one or two favorite people over mingling with anyone new. You’re also putting romance on the back-burner as progesterone tamps down your libido.
Week 4: Moody blues
Final 6 days of your cycle
Estrogen and progesterone drop until they reach rock-bottom
As estrogen dips lower and lower in this premenstrual week, it can ding your mood, making you more easily irritated, sad or frustrated. This plunge in hormones also has you more wary and cautious, so you’re prone to avoiding potentially dangerous situations and unfamiliar people, preferring to stick close to home and people you know. However, since even people you know can manage to work your last nerve in this touchy week, you may opt to avoid folks altogether at times. You can be a bit doubtful and negative, which makes you want to do things the proven way rather than attempt anything new or out-of-the-box. As estrogen drops, it tends to drag down your energy, though you may not feel as dog-tired as you did in your Week 3 because your level of progesterone is also dropping–and this hormone had an extra-fatiguing effect on you.
When you look at how I’ve just described the four weeks of your cycle, it admittedly can seem confusing. After all, I’ve just said you’re outgoing in the first half of your cycle, but introverted during the second half. You’re adventurous in your Week 2, but cautious in your Week 3. Your creativity peaks in your Week 2, but dips after that.
So, when you think about your personality or you’re asked to describe yourself in, say, a magazine quiz or online dating website, you may wonder, “Am I outgoing or shy?” “Do I crave adventure?” “Am I creative?”
Which cycle week is the real you???
The answer: All of them are.
Here’s where you’re allowed to sigh loudly, roll your eyes and throw up your hands–but give me a moment to explain:
Many of us tend to think of our personalities as a single dot on a line like this:But, in reality, most of us have personality traits that fall within a range on a line that looks more like this:
So, when I say that high estrogen makes you more outgoing in Week 2 of your cycle, I mean what’s outgoing for you. What fits in the spectrum of your personality. For one woman, that might mean something that takes a lot of guts, like spontaneously signing up for a networking event that happens that night, then striding into the packed room alone and introducing herself and handing out business cards to all the strangers there. For another woman, that might mean something more subdued, like agreeing to go on a date.
And when I say that lower levels of estrogen combined with sedating progesterone in your Week 3 make you more introverted, again, I mean what’s introverted for you. For one woman, the introverted version of herself can mean holing up at home all day with a good book not talking with anyone. For another woman, an introverted version of herself may be simply not joining her coworkers or classmates for lunch, preferring a quiet meal in the park instead.
When you think about it, hormones aren’t the only thing pushing the arrow back and forth between your personality ranges. For example, alcohol can obviously impact how shy or outgoing you are, but so does the situation you’re in. Personally, I’m very shy around new people, but then I’m outgoing, sometimes even brash, around people I know well and like. In my Week 2, I can be less shy around new people, even volunteering to go to new social events. But then in my premenstrual Week 4, I’ll go out of my way to avoid people, for instance, opting to do my grocery shopping at 3 in the morning.
So, am I shy or outgoing? What answer would I put if I was asked this in a Cosmo quiz or online dating site? I’d say I fall closer to the shy end of the scale. But, at times–given the right circumstances and cycle week–I can be outgoing.
Of course, there won’t be a bubble for that kind of nuanced answer. But, let’s face it, most of us are nuanced people–not robots with a single pinpointable traits applicable to every situation. We all have a range of personality traits that go from one side of our range to the other: At times, we can be either more outgoing or more shy, more energetic or more fatigued, more confident or more self-conscious, etc.
While that may not be the most fully satisfying answer, there is one positive point to make here: Just like you can predict that alcohol will change your personality, you can predict how your personality will change according to the week you’re on in your cycle due to the varying hormone levels.
As a result, you’ll be able to plan your life in a way that allows you to capitalize on these changes, for instance, you can plan to go to a networking event or on a date during your Week 2 when you know you’ll be on the more outgoing end of your personality scale. And you can use this information in a way that allows you to sidestep any challenges, for instance, do all your grocery shopping in the days before your more introverted phase kicks in.
This means that not only does knowing how your hormones impact your moods and behavior from week to week help you understand yourself better, it helps you make every day of your cycle better, too.