Listen. There are a lot of introverts out there observing the world as it turns, quietly contributing as much as everyone else—just differently. It is an extrovert’s world, and trying to find our place within it can be exhausting to the point where a single work meeting can take it out of us introverts, let alone a day’s worth of meetings. Add to that the inherent need to spend time with family and friends, and an introvert can be pulped by the time they get home.
We are told not to think about life in terms of a pie: When you take a piece of my pie, that means I have fewer pieces to myself. But when it comes to introverts and our precious energy, life is like a pie, and extroverts can unknowingly leave us with mere crumbs after a social interaction. It’s not exactly acceptable to turn down every offer of social interaction due to wanting to keep our pieces of pie, nor is it healthy. So what’s an introvert to do when there are so many demands on their time where they’re expected to show up happy and outgoing, a quantifiable addition?
I’m not going to speak loudly because it’s against my nature, but I’m here to remind you fellow introverts to take care of yourself. It’s okay to need some time alone to decompress, to obsess over all the things you said and everything you wish you would’ve said instead. And it’s okay, too, if your unwinding looks like TV and a cozy blanket, a cup of tea. Maybe some snuggles with a puppy.
It’s not exactly acceptable to turn down every offer of social interaction. . . . So what’s an introvert to do when there are so many demands on their time where they’re expected to show up happy and outgoing, a quantifiable addition?
What I think it comes down to is making yourself 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 to get a pedicure once a month. I’m talking about day after day, carving out space for silence and reflection, indulging in your own needs for alone time, however you want to spend it.
I have by no means mastered the introvert’s way of caring for oneself, but I have learned over the past few years how to manage my introversion in a world where I’m expected to show up over and over with energy and charisma.
If you require fifteen minutes between work meetings, demand that space. Schedule it in. Refuse to meet if it encroaches on your you-time. I know it’s a lot more complicated than this, and saying no isn’t always easy (or possible), but you have your job for a reason. You are good at what you do and nobody does it quite like you do. If the people you work with want this version of you, they must respect your needs. And your needs might very well be a quick walk or a ten-minute meditation in between meetings. You will bring a lot more of yourself to these meetings if you carve out the time necessary to really be that person.
Do your colleagues do back-to-back meetings all day long? They’re probably extroverts. And if not, watch as their energy dwindles over the course of the day. We’re not meant to go-go-go all day long without some time to pause, take a breath, and process what we’ve just experienced, but it seems like so many peoples’ schedules are designed that way, which is why I don’t back down on my claim (which isn’t unique) that we live in an extrovert’s world.
This is important with friends and family, too. I have a small, very close friend group who gets together whenever we can. Which, now that we have ten children between the six of us girls, isn’t all that often. In conversations with some of the extroverts in the group, I’ve told them I’m not the kind of person who can have plans every night. Whereas some of us prefer to do things one-on-one, when it comes to seeing my friends, I prefer all of them at once. I need time to recover after a night out with them. I bring as much of myself as I possibly can to a birthday dinner or a trip to a brewery, and afterward, I’m ready to lock myself in my room and let silence and relaxation restore me. It’s not plausible for me to spend equal amounts of time with everybody, so, when it comes to my nearest and dearest, I always try to see them together.
We’re not meant to go-go-go all day long without some time to pause, take a breath, and process what we’ve just experienced.
This will look different for you, but as an introvert, you’ll likely feel depleted after hanging out with friends or family, no matter how much you love them. If you give yourself boundaries, like agreeing to join your parents for Sunday dinner—if your sister can come too—then you’ll be preserving your energy for some of the other stuff that matters to you.
Utils (“you-tills”) are hypothetical units that measure satisfaction, used in economics. Wikipedia’s definition of it is flimsy (scroll down to the Functions section) and it’s the only one I could find. Long ago I had a partner who assigned a number of utils to things like purchasing a new chair or waking up five minutes earlier to enjoy a coffee. He’d ask, as if it were the most normal thing in the world, how many utils a certain thing I was debating would give me. We used a scale of 1 – 10; 1 being no satisfaction and 10 being the utmost. Together, we used this unit of measurement to help us make decisions. It’s startlingly effective considering how simple the idea is.
I encourage you to give it a go. How many utils would a night out with your best friends give you? 8 utils? How many would a night staying in, eating Thai food and reading give you? 5? 9? Your answer should help you make your decision.
I’m not an economist! Just an introvert clinging to a bizarre 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’re an economist and are offended by my overly simplistic explanation and use of utils, I welcome you to leave a comment to enlighten us!
We introverts are observant people. We pick up on a lot that goes on around us, and that is something to behold. Less impressive, however, is our inclination to compare ourselves to others. I have to remind myself of this quite literally every day as I hack away at my years-long novel-in-progress. I heard someone on a podcast say not to compare your rough draft to others’ final drafts, and it rocked me. I have spent so much time observing those around me and measuring my own success against theirs, further depleting me after the exhaustion I get from social interaction.
The point of spending time with people is to fill our cups (that, and to earn a wage; oftentimes that requires being around people). Measuring yourself against other peoples’ metrics of success is damaging and will further isolate you from the goings-on in your community, friend group, family, and place of employment. Look to interactions with these people who are lucky to be in your life as opportunities to fill your cup (even if you might need to rest after it’s drunk).
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 boundaries and we can respect others’ boundaries. We can celebrate our friends’ success and not compare them to our own.
Whatever we do, remember what number one is. Nothing comes before number one.
Kolina Cicero is enamored with stories – reading them, writing them, getting lost within them. Other things she loves include yoga, traveling, and taking cooking, Italian, and writing classes. Her first children’s book, Rosie and the Hobby Farm, was published in July 2020.
BY Kolina Cicero - September 13, 2022
Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.