The Introvert Dilemma

As my kids get older, I’m basically forced to interact with more people more often:  at parent-teacher conferences (and thanks to my oldest son, I get to participate in a lot of these…), parent meet-and-greets, school volunteer activities, play dates, etc. In small doses, these interactions are fine, even welcome (ish). But sometimes it gets to be too much.

Last week was one of those weeks when I had something going on every single day. For me, that’s a lot. I usually try to limit our social commitments to one or two a week–as in, one of my (three) kids gets to play with a friend, or I’ll read stories to one of my kid’s classrooms, or we participate in one extracurricular activity. I know I probably won’t be able to keep up this limited schedule as my kids get older, but so long as I’m the one who has to shuttle everyone around, I’m really trying to keep our family schedule simple.

The point is, last week I had way more than my usual level of stuff going on. I volunteered to read to both of my kids’s classrooms, I had a Mom’s Night Out event, and, most stressful of all, my husband and I went to a fancy-pants cocktail party fundraiser thing for my daughter’s preschool. (Did you know that fundraisers for preschools actually exist? Because I didn’t.) I was freaking out the whole week. I was stressed, nervous and irritable, snapping at everyone over the littlest things. And all because I was so tense about…talking to people.

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Credit:  Bored Panda

Of course, when this happens, when I start panicking about having to interact so much, instead of saying soothing things to myself to stay calm, I go the opposite route and unleash the Beast of Self-Loathing. For example, I remind myself of all the shitty criticisms my stepdad used to lob at me. “You’re too quiet, Lorilin. Too judgmental, too emotional. You don’t say the right things. You ask too many questions. No wonder you don’t have any friends. You should have more friends. Nobody wants to be your friend.” And yikes, the list goes on.

Also–and please don’t judge me too harshly for this even though I know it’s pathetic–I do this super counterproductive thing where I (lightly) Facebook-stalk the people I think I might see at a future party or whatever. I look at how many friends they have compared to me (I’m sure you’ve already accurately guessed that I don’t have a ton of Facebook friends…), and then I quickly note if they are all already friends with each other. It’s my own special way of reinforcing the negative idea I have of myself in my head:  that I am always an outsider, and everyone else is an easy-breezy insider. And then I really bring it all home by telling myself I should be more like them. I should have more friends. I should go out more. I should want to go out more. I should thrive in the company of others because that’s what functioning humans do. Ad nauseam, etc.

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But the truth is, when I stop to think about what I actually want–and not just what I should want–I remember that I like staying home. I like being alone and reading books, feeling relaxed, and knowing I’m not weighed down by people-saturated obligations. Honestly, I’m miserable when I experience too much social interaction. I get stressed out and anxious, weepy and melancholy. It exhausts me, both the anticipation of it and the actual chit chat bullshit itself. Afterward, I feel like I’ve fought a major battle–kind of like in Diary of a Wombat, only with less satisfaction. Or cuteness:

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But at the end of last week, after I finally sat down and thought about everything, I had to remind myself that there’s a whole wide range of normal behavior and personality. And even if I happen to lean (heavily…) toward one side of the spectrum, I’m still normal enough. At the end of the day, I just happen to be someone who needs a lot of human-free downtime.

I feel this strong pull sometimes to analyze my introversion, to try to think (well, criticize) my way around and past it, but the truth is that that critical voice inside my head doesn’t change or add anything. It’s just an unhelpful dick, no further analysis necessary. Ultimately, I can choose to tell myself I’m “lesser than” because I can’t walk into a room and immediately make twenty best friends. Or I can accept the fact that I am naturally an introverted person, that it takes me some time to warm up to people (and since I’m not my best, most at-ease self right out of the gate, I know it takes others some time to warm up to me, too). I can be shy and reluctant to trust people, but I do genuinely care and want to connect. I just have my own pace for doing that.

So when I feel that negative, judgmental voice getting stronger, I’m going to remember to gently command it to calm the fuck down. And I’m going to rely on a different voice instead (a voice I sure wish I had heard when I was younger). It’s a voice that says:  Quiet is okay. Party for one is okay. Slow and steady is okay. You are you, and you are allowed, and that can be enough.

 

42 thoughts

  1. Your article sums up my life in a nutshell. I even find social media to be a huge drain on my energy levels. I think that’s what makes a great writer, unfortunately, it does not sell books. Having a blog is my huge effort to fit into the social world. I have a lot to say, but people drain me, social events drain me, there must be a comfortable place in the world where we fit.

    I am a very happy person who lives and works alone. There is nothing wrong with me, I’m not depressed just because I don’t want to go to your party. I don’t like parties, I like people one at a time.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I’m the same way: I like a limited amount of social interaction, preferably with just one person at a time. And, honestly, I don’t think that would be considered such a big deal if there weren’t already these crazy expectations for people to be social, social, social! Especially in the States, good Lord, if you express a preference to be alone or keep things chill, you’re labeled a curmudgeon or misanthrope or whatever else. It’s so odd to me.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I really love your post. It’s well- written, thoughtful, caring, insightful. It helped me to not feel strange for wanting to be alone by my happy self most of the time. I’ve always felt odd because I don’t really want to go to parties and events where there’s a bunch of people. My happiest moments are when I’m alone at the beach without anyone around and listening to the silence.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This kind of makes my day. Thank you for what you said. It basically fills me with joy that you connected with this post and maybe feel a little less “odd.” I completely understand what you are saying about being happy when you are alone. Connecting with people in small doses can be fine, but I’m pretty much always stressed in those situations–which makes it hard to feel positive, good, etc. But when I’m alone (I prefer being outdoors, too), that’s when I feel relaxed and calm enough to also feel happy.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I love that, and thank you! It makes me feel a little less weird, too, to know other people can relate, ha. 🙂 Also, I checked out your blog a bit. You just started, right? It looks good! Good luck with reading those classics… I feel like I knocked out most of them as a teenager–although, ironically, I have never read Emma! I hope you enjoy it. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi there! I am hosting a writing competition, and I stumbled upon your blog and thought you might be interested! The winner gets two free James Patterson books. All the details and rules are in my post! Please feel free to share my post and spread the word!😊

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That makes two of us. (Or four, seeing the comments before me) 🙂
    Your post is therapeutic and I feel less terrible about being wanting to be in my own space living in the pages of the book I’m reading. Blogging is best of both worlds where I can control and calibrate my interaction.
    Thanks- I enjoyed your post like some others since I “Discover”ed your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! 🙂 I agree with you about blogging–it really is a nice way to achieve that balance of interaction vs. solitude; you kind of get to take things at your own pace. Also, I checked out your blog, and wow, I love your photography! Really beautiful photos! I’m looking forward to your new posts. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh thank you for checking out my blog, Lorilin. I am an amateur photographer at best. Like, I don’t even use proper equipment, and make do with my iPhone.
        I have always admired readers. In a perfect world, I’d be reading as much and diverse as you are and writing that well, too!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. This all sounds pretty familiar to me! The older I get the more comfortable I am with who I am, and the less I care what anyone else thinks. Also, good news, the older my kids get the less social interactions have to happen because of them. I don’t volunteer at the school as much and they make they’re own ‘playdates’. Maybe the same will happen to you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, that makes me feel a little better, actually. It’s nice to know there will be an end to (or decrease in) this flurry of activity and expectation. I wish I felt less pressure to interact and be involved with the school stuff, but I hope you’re right that over time I’ll get more comfortable in my own skin and just kind of do what I want to do. You’re giving me hope, though. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow i love your post! You wrote so beautifully exactly how i feel. My grandma thought i couldnt talk when i was 7, and my family usually pitied me as i always chose home and a book over a nights out. I have two amazing very outgoing sisters, and i always felt like the odd one out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh man, that breaks my heart a little. I’m sorry, because I know exactly what you mean. I was always considered the quiet and boring one in my family. It sucks to feel like the odd one out. Well, I say ain’t no shame in a quiet night at home with a good book. That’s pretty much my ideal right there. So if nothing else, at least you know you aren’t alone. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I really enjoyed the honesty of this piece. Before I end up sounding like a book reviewer you kept it real, and now I can sleep better tonight knowing that I am not the only one who loses my shit at times when I over-do and over-plan which causes me to overcompensate until I burn out.

    Something like that,
    JR xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha, something like that… Well, I’m glad I’m not the only one, and I’m glad you aren’t either. Hopefully we’ll both get better at recognizing our limits and then actually chilling out. 🙂

      Like

  8. Hi Lorilin! Feeling totally identified right now and shared this post with mey closest friends who I knoe feel the same way!

    I always say I tend to absorb everything around me, too emotional, too sensitive. So, as you said, If I have a very socially active week I feel really really exhausted! But thats just they way I am and I have come to accept it!

    So just having the right doze (dont know if I spelled it right) of social events a week is ok with me, then I go back to my books and Netflix 😛😛😛😛

    Have a great weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. jajajaja I know!!! The only bad thing about Netflix in Perú is that we are so far behind most of TV Series 😥 ! I just starte with Jane The Virgin and found out that we only have ONE season up on Netflix. How bad is that??? jajaja Well hope you have a great week!!!!

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I had a friend visit me this weekend and it was wonderful and lovely, but also exhausting and draining. I’ve spent the last few hours since she left hiding in my room. I get this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad to hear that. It really is a turning point when you can come to terms with who you are and accept it. Of course it’s an ongoing process, but self-acceptance is so important. And so calming. 🙂

      Like

  10. Aaah! Parents. It’s the one job that can literally ruin someone’s life for years because it’s so common to replay that “parent” voice over and over and over again. Glad you’re getting to be more comfortable with who you are.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. And you’re completely right! It’s amazing how we internalize those voices we hear as a kid. Even as adults it can be difficult to change what we “know” about ourselves. But, yes, over time, it gets easier to sort that stuff out. One day at a time… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I can so relate to needing downtime. And, it’s not wrong to want that–it’s necessary to be alone to recharge and be there for my family. Sometimes, I have to go beyond my limit of social interactions and there are usually consequences like headaches, irritability, and lack of energy. I’ve often wondered what it must be like for extroverted people who actually get recharged being around others.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know, the idea of someone actually feeling rejuvenated after being around a lot of people is so foreign to me. I can’t even begin to imagine… And I’m the same way if I don’t give myself enough downtime–I get irritable and tired. I’m trying really hard lately to not push myself too hard. Glad I’m not alone in feeling or reacting this way. 🙂

      Like

  12. This post is exactly how I feel. I get completely stressed out for social events, period. If I had a week like the one you just described I would be totally miserable. I used to let it bother me and being on social media, in my opinion, makes it worse because you are consistently observing others. Now, I accept the fact that this is me and that’s that. Everyone’s different, right?

    Great post and I’m so glad I found your blog. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I agree with you about social media, too–it’s so easy to compare, which makes it hard not to. On the one hand, it’s nice to have a low-key way to interact with other people online, but it’s also tough to see others rack up the likes, retweets, friends, etc. Sometimes I do feel like I’m falling behind or not hip with the kids or whatever. But like you, I think I’m finally getting to a place of acceptance. Everyone is different, and there’s room in this world for the introverts, too. 🙂

      Like

  13. I loved your post! I commented on your site, but I’ll just say again here, that I completely agree with your observations. And it’s nice to know I’m not the only who feels like this. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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