Say yes. Live dangerously. Dance like no one’s watching.
Get out of your comfort zone. Meet strangers. Make small talk.
When are you allowed to leave? An hour? Half an hour? What’s your excuse when you do?
Finally, you’re free! You savor the relief, stepping away from the chatter.
Yet you feel guilty. Why would you want to be alone? Are you antisocial or something? That’s just weird.
You go home, put on pajamas, and open a book.
The real fun begins.
Have you ever experienced that?
I Socialized To Exhaustion
I had moved to a different city and I needed to make connections. I said “yes” to everything: game nights, concerts, karaoke, friends’ houses, friends-of-friends houses, church groups, Meetups, “girls’ nights,” and blind dates.
No wonder I was drained. I was burned out. I got irritable, depressed, anxious. I wanted to run away and hide.
But I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t say “no.” What if people were offended? What if they thought I was unfriendly? What if I missed out on something?
So I kept saying yes.
Until I had to say no.
When It Finally Broke
A couple from my church were having a cookout, and I volunteered to bring a side dish. I thought it was just going to be our usual “group.” Easy peasy.
Then I learned that dozens of other people were invited. People I didn’t know, but I’d have to meet and make small talk with while being crammed into a little townhouse. I felt awkward and claustrophobic just thinking about it.
Two years of frantic socializing crashed over me, and I gave up.
I texted the hostess my apologies, but I couldn’t make it.
Then came the rush of relief—then, the guilt.
How I Crushed My Guilt
I already knew I was an introvert. I didn’t mind time alone, I didn’t like crowds, and I preferred one-on-one conversations with people I knew well. Otherwise, however, I knew little about what being an introvert meant.
That all changed.
Desperate to assuage my guilt over canceling plans, I searched social media and Google for others who might relate.
I found more than that. I found knowledge, a community, and a fresh perspective on life.
I stumbled upon anecdotes of people who felt the same way about parties and evenings alone. I skimmed scientific findings on the brains of introverts and extroverts. I gobbled up excerpts from Susan Cain’s book Quiet. I even whipped up a brief post on my own blog about my feelings that evening. It drew encouraging comments from others who connected with it.
I Learned What Introversion Really Means
It’s more than being quiet or shy or preferring solitude.
Introversion means listening and thinking more than speaking. It means needing time to sort out your thoughts, to “process” information before deciding what to say, do, or even feel. It explained why I hated phone calls and had trouble with casual chit-chat.
Digging further in introversion, I noticed groups of letters like “ISTP” and “INFJ,” with no clue what they meant. Curiosity led me to the Myers-Briggs Type Index—a new turn on my road of self-discovery.
I found my Myers-Briggs type and gained even more understanding of my thought processes, my strengths, and my weaknesses. I learned that many things that were “weird” about me were actually common in my type. I better understood many of my relationship struggles.
What Else Did I Learn?
I learned more than my personality type. I learned principles that almost anyone could benefit from on occasion.
- Sometimes, it’s okay to give up. You don’t always have to move forward. Even the greatest armies have to retreat and regroup at times.
- Guilt is a poor motivator. Sometimes “I don’t want to” is reason enough.
- The easiest way can be the best way. It would have been a challenge to go to that cookout and socialize that day. Some say that’s what makes things worthwhile. But if I hadn’t gone easy on myself, I would have missed out on massive personal growth.
Living In A Whole New World
For one fateful evening, I backed out. I said no. I stayed home.
And my life is richer for it.
Do I still challenge myself? Leave my comfort zone? Force myself to say “yes”?
Of course. Even introverts need to get out of the house sometimes. But now I find a healthier balance.
I was acting like an extrovert with an endless supply of “social energy.” But I was kidding myself, and others around me.
When I finally gave up and explored who I really was, it blew my mind.
I learned not only what I needed as an introvert, but learned to make peace with it. I understood other people better, thus enriching my relationships.
Fading were the fears of being weird and antisocial. Weakened was the shame of not going out.
Recharging my “social batteries” meant that, when I did go out, it was with more energy. Instead of treating it like a painful obligation, I wanted to socialize. There were still awkward or unsuccessful interactions, but I stopped feeling so burned out. I gave myself permission to leave after a set period of time—and sometimes even stayed later!
Guess what? I still meet new people. I connected with other introverts on the Internet, and made deeper connections with real-life acquaintances. I looked for clues to other peoples’ personality types and learned best how to relate to them.
What began with guilt ended with zero regrets.
Live Quiet and Free
Say no. Stay in.
Take a deep breath, put on your pajamas, and enjoy the silence.
If you’re an introvert, burned out from social obligations, you are not alone.
When you can appreciate that in yourself, it sets you free.
Free to socialize when you most want to.
Free to understand yourself and others, to build ever more valuable relationships. Free to reach out when you recognize similarities in others.
Free to say no, to regroup, to collect your thoughts. Free to exert yourself next time.
Free to live as your own beautiful self.