Hear. There are plenty of introverts watching the world as it turns, quietly contributing as much as everyone else, just differently. It’s a world of extroverts, and trying to find our place within it can be exhausting to the point where a single work meeting can drive us introverts crazy, let alone a day of meetings. Add to that the inherent need to spend time with family and friends, and an introvert can be a wreck by the time he gets home.
We are told not to think of life in terms of a pie: when you take a piece of my pie, that means I have fewer pieces for myself. But when it comes to introverts and our precious energy, life is like pie, and extroverts can unknowingly leave us with crumbs after a social interaction. It’s not exactly acceptable to turn down all offers of social interaction out of wanting to keep our pieces of the pie, nor is it healthy either. So what’s an introvert to do when there are so many demands on their time where they are expected to come across as happy and outgoing, a measurable addition?
I’m not going to speak out loud because it goes against my nature, but I’m here to remind you fellow introverts to take care of yourself. It’s okay to need some alone time to unwind, obsess over all the things you said and all the things you wish you had said instead. And it’s okay, too, if your relaxation resembles a TV and a cozy blanket, a cup of tea. Maybe some snuggle with a pup.
It’s not exactly acceptable to turn down all offers of social interaction. . . . So what’s an introvert to do when there are so many demands on their time where they are expected to come across as happy and outgoing, a measurable addition?
I think it all comes down to becoming number one and while there are many other important things outside of yourself, remembering that number one comes before everything else. Here’s the important thing: I’m not talking about going for a pedicure once a month. I mean day after day, creating a space for silence and reflection, satisfying your own needs for alone time, however you want to spend it.
I have by no means mastered how introverts care for themselves, but I have learned in recent years how to manage my introversion in a world where I am expected to show up again and again with energy and charisma.
Here are some recommendations for practicing self-care as an introvert:
Create limits, then stick to them
If you need fifteen minutes between work meetings, demand that space. schedule it. Refuse to meet if it invades your time. I know it’s a lot more complicated than this, and saying that isn’t always easy (or possible), but you have your job for a reason. You are good at what you do and no one does it like you. If the people you work with want this version of you, they need to respect your needs. And your needs could well be a brisk walk or a ten-minute meditation between meetings. You will bring much more of yourself to these meetings if you take the time to really be that person.
Do your colleagues have back-to-back meetings throughout the day? They are probably extroverts. And if not, watch your energy drop throughout the day. We’re not meant to go back and forth all day with no time to pause, take a breath, and process what we’ve just experienced, but it seems like many people’s schedules are designed that way, which is why I don’t take it back. my claim (which is not unique) that we live in an extroverted world.
This is also important with friends and family. I have a small group of very close friends who hang out whenever we can. Which, now that we have ten children between the six girls, is not so often. In conversations with some of the extroverts in the group, I told them that I’m not the type of person who can have plans every night. While some of us prefer to do things one on one, when it comes to seeing my friends, I prefer them all at once. I need time to recover after a night out with them. I bring as much of myself as I can to a birthday dinner or brewery trip, and then I’m ready to lock myself in my room and let the silence and relaxation restore me. It’s not plausible for me to spend the same amount of time with everyone, so when it comes to my nearest and dearest, I always try to see them together.
We are not meant to go-go-go all day without time to pause, take a breath, and process what we just experienced.
This will look different on you, but as an introvert, you’ll probably feel drained after hanging out with friends or family, no matter how much you love them. If you set limits for yourself, such as agreeing to join your parents for Sunday dinner:Yeah your sister can come too, so you’ll be saving your energy for some of the other things you care about.
Calculate your opportunities with “profit” (or your own type of measurement)
Utils (“you-tills”) are hypothetical units that measure satisfaction, used in economics. The Wikipedia definition is flimsy (scroll down to the Functions section) and is the only one I could find. Long ago I had an associate who assigned a series of utilities to things like buying a new chair or getting up five minutes early for coffee. He would ask me, as if it were the most normal thing in the world, how much profit a certain thing he was debating would give me. We use a scale from 1 to 10; Being 1 no satisfaction and 10 the maximum. Together, we use this unit of measurement to help us make decisions. It’s surprisingly effective considering how simple the idea is.
I encourage you to give it a try. How much profit would a night out with your best friends give you? 8 useful? How many would you get one night staying at home, eating Thai food and reading? 5? 9? Your answer should help you make your decision.
I’m not an economist! Just an introvert clinging to a weird way of measuring satisfaction. But I’m telling you, there’s something about assigning values to things like meetings, dinners, and happy hours that makes this decidedly unscientific way of measuring satisfaction work.
Side note: if you are an economist and are offended by my overly simplistic explanation and use of utils, please leave a comment to enlighten us!
Measure yourself against your own success metrics, not someone else’s
Introverts are observant people. We are aware of many things that are happening around us, and that is something worth contemplating. Less impressive, however, is our inclination to compare ourselves to others. I have to remind myself literally every day as I dispose of my years-long novel in the making. I heard someone on a podcast say don’t compare your draft to other’s final drafts, and I was shocked. I have spent a lot of time observing those around me and measuring my own success against theirs, becoming even more exhausted after the exhaustion I get from social interaction.
The point of spending time with people is to fill our glasses (that, and earning a salary; that often requires being around people). Comparing yourself to other people’s success metrics is detrimental and will further isolate you from what’s going on in your community, group of friends, family, and workplace. Look at the interactions with these people lucky enough to be in your life as opportunities to fill your cup (even if you need to rest after drinking it).
Introverts: We need to take care of ourselves. And while we’re at it, let’s take care of each other too. We can create limits and we can respect the boundaries of others. We can celebrate the success of our friends and do not compare them with ours.
Whatever we do, remember which one is number one. Nothing comes before number one.
Kolina Cicero is in love with stories: reading them, writing them, getting lost in them. Other things she loves are yoga, traveling, and taking cooking, Italian, and writing classes. The first book of hers for children of hers, Rosie and the hobby farmIt was published in July 2020.