The experience of being human involves so much shared experience.
Certain aspects are common to us all: We’re born, we live, and we die.
But other aspects set us apart. I don’t mean skin color, gender, or socioeconomic status—though all of those factors impact our lives. I’ve been thinking about it in terms of personality.
And as an introvert, I often find myself having to explain—to those who have never experienced what it is to require solitude and space—what I need. In light of that, I offer this brief primer for the uninitiated.
1. Introverts find alone time to be restorative. While extroverts thrive on social contact, introverts recharge with solitude. Just having space and time to ourselves helps us stay centered. It’s not optional. Our personalities demand that we have this space, or it’s difficult for us to function (think high stress levels and illness). I love to be social, but I find it 100 percent necessary to have time alone to think, process my feelings, and recharge. When I’ve done so, I’m perfectly happy to resume social interactions.
2. Introvert doesn’t mean socially awkward. Merriam Webster defines it as to turn inward or in upon itself. Just because someone identifies as an introvert doesn’t mean that he or she doesn’t enjoy a party or time spent in groups. It just means that this person also needs solitude to refuel.
3. Being shy can be an aspect of introversion, but introversion isn’t something that needs to be overcome. There’s no need to try to push an introverted person outside of their comfort zone because there’s nothing wrong with being shy or wanting time alone.
4. Introverts may need more personal space than the average human. Extroverts enjoy having people around and interacting, but introverts really need time and space to go inward and explore the self. This isn’t narcissism or self-absorption. It’s a different way of processing the world and is just as valid as extroversion.
5. If you’re dating or married to an introvert, know that they love you, but they simply can’t maintain their energy without time to recharge. Introverts are often intensely loyal and focus on the few close relationships that they choose with all of their love and energy—but to have that energy, they need regular solitude and space.
This is a short guide, but the most important thing to remember is that introversion is a personality type. It’s fixed, and it has less to do with preference than natural inclination. It’s just how we’re built, and we are truly able to thrive when our family and friends understand our need for space and solitude, and freely give it without guilt trips or misunderstanding our intentions.
And for the introverts reading this, here are some quick restorative reminders:
1. Most of the people we know aren’t mind readers, so when we need space and solitude, we have a responsibility to communicate it. We need to speak up and let others know that our energy is waning, and restorative time is necessary.
2. There are times when we have no choice but to be social. Work is a great example of this. Busy vacations and other activities can also present challenges. Even though we may be required, at times, to have more social time than we prefer, we can make sure to schedule in breaks to recharge ourselves. We can choose to take short breaks for ourselves, like going for a walk or squeezing in a mini meditation. We can work time into our busy days and business trips for a little bit of alone time and space. We have to prioritize this because there’s no guarantee that space will be provided otherwise.
3. We often need to be patient with extroverts. They don’t think in the same ways and have different needs. They may not consider our needs because they don’t understand them. We can gently explain where we’re coming from to avoid any misunderstanding.
4. We need to stop feeling guilty. There’s nothing wrong with introversion. We can be shy. We can enjoy being alone and having nothing but our own thoughts for company. There’s no reason for guilt or discomfort. It’s simply a part of who we are, and it’s one we can embrace. We can return to our responsibilities and our relationships once we’ve recharged; they’ll still be there. And if they aren’t, we may want to realign our lives to make sure they allow us our necessary space.
5. We need to find the time and then take it. I enjoy sitting in my garden. Sometimes I’ll take a good book, and sometimes I just want a cup of tea and the sound of the birds. I want to soak in the smell of herbs and watch a honeybee dance on the tips of flowers that I tend. At other times, I enjoy hiking in a scenic place or taking a walk in the beautiful town I have the good fortune to call home. Regardless of where or how we recharge, we need to make it a priority, find the time, and take that time. Our bodies and spirits will thank us for it.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Image: David Sprankle/Flickr
Editor: Catherine Monkman