“Jung was the first to propose the model of psychic energy, suggesting that for introverts, energy flows inward, while for extroverts, energy flows outward. Introverts tend to embrace this definition. It feels right for us because we know exactly what it feels like to have our energy depleted when we have sent too much flowing outward.” ~ Sophia Dembling, The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World
One of the misunderstood parts about being an introvert is that we need to be alone most of the time. While most of us do need some time to ourselves, often we prefer quality time, deep conversations, and time spent with few close friends over time spent with many people.
Rather, we need alone time or time spent with someone close because overstimulation is draining to us, we crave deeper connections, we value authenticity over substance, and we need to recoup our mental energy so we can perform optimally.
It’s hard to do any of this at a large party or club, but we often try by interacting with one person at a time; however, the distraction of the environment makes this difficult to do. No one is exactly sure why this is the case, but it is theorized that introverts either do not get or are overwhelmed by dopamine that is released during socializing. Extroverts think of this as a reward or enjoy it.
Here are five important self-care tips for introverts to live our life fully, regardless of what we do.
1) Learn the Difference Between Introversion and Social Anxiety
Introversion is not a complete removal from society, but rather a preference for depth, growth, reflection, and focus. As the quote from Sophia Dembling above points out, for introverts being out in the world depletes our energy and we need to have internally focused activities in order to bring that energy back.
While extroverts have a tendency to get energized by being in public. Many introverts can give a speech perfectly fine, but afterwards they’re probably going to need some alone time or want to spend time with a friend or partner to recenter.
An extrovert will probably excitedly go out and network with people after giving a public talk. Both of us will be tired, but introverts will also feel emotionally drained. Whereas if someone has social anxiety, they feel a tremendous amount of stress or anxiety about being in public, being around other people, being noticed, etc. And this anxiety or stress will drive them to not want to express themselves or be seen in public.
Social anxiety can affect people who have extroverted personalities too. So, something to keep in mind is that if you constantly feel like you can’t speak in public and you don’t want to be seen by other people, etc., it may be worthwhile to explore whether or not you have social anxiety.
Many people confuse introversion and social anxiety in this way and it does the world a disservice because people with this issue can get a lot out of working on their social anxiety. Introversion is not social anxiety. There are many introverts that have careers in professions that cause them to be in the public spotlight or to have to deal with other people, particularly one-on-one.
2) Make Self-Care a Priority
Without self-care, introverts have a tendency to start to feel mentally unwell, grumpy, exhausted, anxious and depressed. This is because the way that we recoup our mental energy is by doing activities that we love, working on personal development or a personal project, or just spending a quiet relaxing moment to ourselves.
“People empty me. I have to get away to refill.” ~ Charles Bukowski.
We also feel normal in calm, relaxing activities, and overwhelm in social situations. So, not only do we recoup our energy this way, it’s also just our natural mode of being. We would rather be calm than excited. There are of course outliers to this, but this is true of many introverts.
This is why many times at the end of the week, introverts who haven’t taken enough time with their self-care routines will find themselves canceling plans and hanging out at home, even if they were looking forward to meeting friends.
This might be true, especially for those who spend a lot of time working in public or doing things out and about and feel drained by too many interactions with other people and just need a break.
As long as this isn’t social anxiety or fear-driven, this need for alone time is very healthy. Make sure to make self-care a priority, but also make sure not to do so at the expense of having a life. As with many things, balance is key. A lot of the mental burdens of an introvert are from a lack of balance with personal and social time.
Some of the best ways to pursue self-care are meditation, self-hypnosis, taking relaxing baths, reading a book that you like, exploring personal development or self-help, enjoying time with a pet, taking a few minutes to breathe, listening to music, working on passion projects like writing, or anything that you find personally rewarding and recentering.
These activities can be challenging, difficult, or frustrating, but the real key is to discover what refreshes you and makes you feel actualized as a person. Writing, for instance, can be very challenging or frustrating, but if you’re a writer, it’s also an expression of who you are.
3) Work On Personal Development
Personal development is incredibly important for most introverts. I’m not sure exactly why this is, maybe because we’re in our own heads so much that we highly value authenticity, or because we spend so much time thinking about the ramifications of our actions on others and ourselves.
Regardless of the reason, developing ourselves is usually very important to introverts, and if you’re a person that finds personal development important, then make sure to make it a priority in your own life.
4) Plan and Do Things that Make You Happy Whether or Not they Involve Others
It’s important to make sure that you focus on planning time to do things that make you happy. Many introverts actually have extroverted hobbies, enjoy things like playing sports or going to concerts, or have passions that involve other people like being a musician.
If you have a good balance of personal time to recoup your energy and recenter, then you should be able to make some of your extroverted hobbies a priority too. Balance recouping time with these hobbies, and you should be able to do them with little strain.
5) Discover and Respect your Limitations and Learn to Say no Without Guilt
“Our culture made a virtue of living only as extroverts. We discouraged the inner journey, the quest for a center. So we lost our center and have to find it again.” ~ Anais Nin
Something really important for introverts to explore is their own personal limitations and learn to say no without guilt. Many introverts are people-pleasers (especially the INFx types in Myers-Briggs). If you’re a people pleaser, it can be very difficult to say no.
But until you’re really willing and able to say no, it can be difficult to find the alone time that you need because you’ll take on tasks and activities that you may not want to do but take it up anyway, in order to please other people.
Until you can learn to say no without guilt, you’ll be shooting yourself in the foot. Once you discover your limits, then you can know what you really should and shouldn’t say yes to, and what you should say no to and why. And don’t feel guilty about alone time because it’s something you need.
A caveat here is that until you really know your limitations and how much extraverted time you can take before you absolutely need solitary time, it will be hard to actually plan your time effectively. Something that’s really good to do is to explore just how much time you can spend with others before you feel completely spent.
To do this really you just need to take a week and push yourself to the limit of time spent out and when you get to a point where you feel like you can no longer do it for one more second, then you know what your limit is.
It’s probably best to either let the people around you know what you’re doing or explore this in situations where you can easily leave. And the best way to do this would be to plan a day at the end all to yourself to recenter.
For some of us, it makes sense to have some alone time in the morning, a little bit in the middle of the day, and some at the end of the day. It will be different for everyone. This is also going to depend on your lifestyle, career path, and living situation.
For instance, if you’re a parent of three and have a newborn at home, you’re probably going to have to find different ways to find alone time than somebody who is single and lives alone. Same if you have roommates or live with your partner or family.
But you really never know your limitations and really how much recuperation time you need for until you start to explore your actual limitations. I encourage you to do that so you can see what they actually are. Then, to plan accordingly and make it sacrosanct because you need it.
In short, introversion is not social anxiety or avoidance of others. It is the mode of being that prefers calm, internal focus, depth, authenticity, and time to think. Alone time allows us to recoup our mental energy, to feel normal (because being alone or with a few people is our normal and what we crave), and to work on the things we’re passionate about.
Discovering the limits of how much extroverted time we can take and how much solitary time we really need to grow as a person, and achieve our personal goals is a key to a life well balanced. If we pair this balance with the activities that bring us the most fulfillment, we’re well on our way to living our best life.
Photo by Anthony Tran