When introversion became a thing – when Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Won’t Stop Talking was published, and the internet started filling up with memes like “Introverts Unite… Separately… In Your Own Homes” — I felt a sense of relief. The modern definition of introversion as someone who simply needs to be alone to recharge one’s batteries fit me to a T. I no longer felt apologetic about wanting to leave a party early. Others, too, were coming out of the introvert closet.
Then I had a crappy year. The details are not important here — I’m not claiming mine was worse than yours… who knows? – but I found myself withdrawing even more than usual. I worked less with clients, networked less, and socialized less. Eventually I realized I wanted to do more virtual organizing than hands-on organizing, and took steps to make that happen, which was fantastic except for the part where I was slowly becoming a hermit.
My friend, and occasional houseguest, Jane, is a writer. She writes novels. She also has been an art teacher, worked with preschool kids, and done any number of bohemian part-time jobs to supplement her income. But she’s always been a writer. I, on the other hand, was an engineer at the phone company for 20 years prior to my 10-year stint as a hands-on professional organizer. It’s only been recently that we’ve realized I’m a writer too! I write blog articles and informational products, social media posts and website copy, e-books and action plans, meeting minutes, procedures, checklists, emails, and newsletters. This is becoming more apparent the less time I spend in person with clients and the more time I spend alone at my computer.
And what do writers stereotypically do? They keep to themselves and they write. They often neglect themselves and others in the process. Now, as you know, introverts usually enjoy being with others, for a little while at least. Being a hermit is no more a necessary characteristic of introversion than shyness is. So I’ve realized I need to get out more and spend more time with others. Since I have less time with others built into my routine now, I know I need to build some back in. And it’s not going to happen by itself.
I should probably mention that I live alone and love it. I see my aunt (and the other library volunteers) weekly; and my dad, brother, and I have a standing weekly breakfast date. Monthly activities include book club, a meeting of my fabulous professional organizing colleagues, and a business networking luncheon which I can’t just blow off because I have a job to do when I get there – one that forces me to talk to at least a few newcomers each time – which is to take photos of the event and post them on Facebook. I also cashier at the library used book sale once a month.
So that’s 12 out of 30 days where I spend time with others for a few hours (which is plenty) on a predictable basis. And 18 days where I don’t. Sure there’s the occasional spontaneous lunch date, get-together, or activity, but I think I need a little more.
So what’s my plan? I think the solution for me is to schedule at least one breakfast, lunch, or dinner date per week with a friend (rotating among several candidates). This is easier to work into my current working from home schedule than it was during a day of three-hour in-person appointments that I had to drive across town to get to. And I need to find an exercise class or physical activity that involves other people. I think those two things would get me back into my sweet spot.
What about you? What is your socializing sweet spot?
Are you getting just the right amount of me-time? Too much? Not enough?
And what are you planning to do about it?
Please share with us in the comments below!
Hazel Thornton is a professional organizer and genealogist based in Albuquerque, New Mexico; creator of The Clutter Flow Chart Collection; and author of Go with the Flow! The Clutter-Clearing Tool Kit for an Organized Life. Visit her online at www.org4life.com.
Hazel, I can totally relate to this! I’ve also noticed a dwindling in the amount of time with other people over the past 15 years or so:
2004 – Left my job to work full time in my business
2008 – Gave up on site work with clients
2011 – Stopped attending networking breakfasts when I got a dog who needed to be walked in the morning
Fortunately, I do have my VA network (once, sometimes twice a month), my book group (every six weeks or so) and weekends at my sister’s about once a month, but that’s nowhere near your 12 days a month!
The more settled I get in my routine, the harder is becomes to engage in activities that will take me out of my comfort zone. I’m generally okay if someone else initiates them, but that happens less and less often because everyone has their own regular activities and social circles, and I’m not part of that. This is a real struggle for me!
This is a long comment, but I really just want to thank you for asking the question and making me think about it. Maybe what I’m doing is enough for me… but I have a feeling it’s not.
I’m glad I made you think, Janet. Let me know if you decide to take action, OK?
My socializing sweet spot is the same as yours, Hazel. I find that if I have breakfast, lunch, or dinner with a friend once a week I feel terrific and not drained! I also make sure that I take a 5 minute break a few times during the day to spend some time alone. This routine helps me stay balanced and I feel on “top of my game”. I also take a 2-mile walk with my dog at the end of each day and as I pass other people, smile at them and say hello, etc. Sometimes these people stop and exchange a few kind words.
I used to have tension headaches in the back of my head that no amount of medicine would get rid of. When I really started understanding about being an Introvert, I stopped “pushing” myself so much and made sure I take a little “alone” time out each day – several times a day. The headaches went away and they’ve been gone for 25 years now!
Thanks for commenting, Pam! I find it fascinating (in a good way) that you credit the disappearance of your headaches to the acceptance of your introverted nature.
Pam, I walk my dog every morning, and I also enjoy having a chance to say hello to people in the neighborhood. Sometimes I join another dog walker, and sometimes I make an excuse not to go with them.
Hazel, I suspect you have identified something which applies to many of us who have benefited from the introversion movement.
My ‘coming out’ as an introvert, came after many years of trying to behave like an extrovert. Understanding introversion better, helped me to accept and value my true nature. I finally had permission to be myself.
However, a few years of wallowing in the comfort of ‘being an introvert’, hasn’t been all positive. I’ve become a little too reclusive – loosing touch with friends and family, narrowing the spectrum of experiences I have, and letting my social skills retreat, like a muscle that hasn’t been exercised. Anxiety has crept up on me, and things which were once awkward have become more profoundly challenging.
I’m sure it’s different for each of us, but I’ve come to recognise that positives things come from pushing outside of my comfort zone (albeit for the right reasons). And introvert or not, everyone needs human connections, engagement and validation.
To be fulfilled, we need to not just accept and value our nature, but also learn how to nurture and cultivate ourselves.
I think you make a really good point, Tom, that social skills must be practiced in order to remain useful!
I just moved to a new location and I live (really) far from any family members. I don’t have any friends in my new location or a job (yet). How do I go about getting out of the house and meeting people when I’m an introvert. Also, I’m not very confident speaking the local language.
Putting myself in your situation, I would Google, check local newspapers, flyers on bulletin boards, and such, and ask around for the following: 1) A newcomers group, 2) an ex-pat group (others from my country, or who at least speak my language), 3) a group that shares an interest I have (gardening, reading, hiking, etc). If you are lucky there will be all three, and a mix of people who have a variety of interests. If you make friends that extend outside the group right away, great! If you don’t, the group itself is a good start. Another thought: 4) Find a teacher of the local language. Take a class and meet others in your same situation. Good luck and report back, won’t you?
This is no different from any of the other ineffective advice I’ve received. Everyone suggests that I join a “group.” As a SHY introvert, I might just as well face a firing squad than walk into a group of people that I don’t know.
Ah, in that case, at the risk of sounding flippant, my answer is: I am an introvert, not a therapist. Here, according to Psychology Today, is “The Difference Between Being Shy And Being Introverted”: http://knowledgenuts.com/2014/03/07/the-difference-between-being-shy-and-being-introverted/. Being shy sounds painful. I wish you luck.
I would also check MeetUp.com – I’ve seen groups that are specifically for introverts!
That would be soooo amazing! Where I live there’s only one Meetup group that does all kinds of activities. That’s where I found my current book club and am still ambivalent about that.
Mostly activities are hiking, camping and the like which I’m not keen on.
What a timely post, Hazel!!! Your thoughts are the ones that have been rolling around in my head for a while. I haven’t worked out how many hours I spend alone at my computer and out with others, but will certainly track this now.
As for meeting new people, this can be quite difficult for those (like me) who don’t have a dog to walk, children to take to school and play dates, etc. I sort of meet with a book group every few weeks, but it’s a newly formed group so I’m not comfortable with the other members (yet).
It’s certainly a challenge to get out and away from the computer to practice those social skills. And, I might add, keep my vocabulary.
Some weeks, I chat more with online colleagues than with real face-to-face people. Gotta change that!
Hi Moreen, I’d love to know what you end up adding to your social schedule! Meanwhile, have you read my post “Is Facebook a Godsend to Introverts?”?
Hazel, I’m working at meeting someone once a week for lunch or coffee. First one tomorrow. I need to get over the feeling that I’m wasting time when away from my computer!
Even enjoyable activities such as genealogical research is computer based. 🙂
Good for you, Moreen! I’m not pushing for any particular amount of in-person socializing. But I do think we all need to get up and step away from our computers from time to time!
This post rang so true for me as an introvert who is becoming a little more extrovert with age (but just a little!), I’ve discovered that I like connecting with people while doing something.
So tea is nice but a walk together is better.
I love hands-on organizing because it’s social contact while we’re most definitely doing something.
I have two friends a have a standing early morning walk date with each week as well as a weekly choir rehearsal (it’ll turn into two rehearsals a week later on in the year and I’ll start to feel like it’s too much.)
Summer is always tricky as choirs stop and I lose not only the joy of singing with others but also the just right amount of socializing that goes along with it. I have to make a concerted effort to find ways to come out of the cave in summer and ways to retreat into it as the school year starts!
I’m a little jealous of your standing walking dates. I’ve tried, with a few friends who seem amenable, but there is always something wrong — too far away from each other, schedules don’t mesh, etc. And then I find myself using them as an excuse for my not exercising. Which is ridiculous!
I can so relate. I too am an introvert and find that I can go only so long with all the socializing, networking, working long hours and then I need to take a break and be by myself. But I find that when I take a break, I am back on my computer doing work. Really, I need to find more time to spend with my family and balance it with me time. That would be nice.
Hi Kathy, I see you are a professional organizer. But I don’t see Time Management listed among your services. So, if you’d like my help making time for the things you really want to be doing, you know where to find me, right? 🙂 (Hint: You will never “find” time. You have to get clear on your goals and priorities — including yourself — and schedule time for them!)
Thanks for the offer Hazel and what you said is very true. I am usually pretty good with my time management and do offer those services to my clients, but have had a few crazy busy months with the business combined with other things that came up unexpected. Haven’t had much free time lately but things seem to be getting back to normal so all is good : )
Ah yes, there are any number of situations that throw us out of our comfortable routines, at least for awhile, aren’t there?
What a thought-provoking post! I guess I’ve always used the word homebody to describe myself, but introvert is really more accurate. Since having my son 3yrs ago, I’ve found it pretty difficult to get used to all the socializing. I’m trying to be a good role model for my kiddo (conversations, manners, etiquette in social situations, etc), but some days I’d just rather be home. I’ve found a nice balance of having only a few mommy friends instead of moving around like a herd as most SAHMs do and that suits me fine. I just attended my son’s preschool open house and there’s only 4 other kids in his class. Needless to say I was ecstatic at not having to chat up droves of other parents!
Sounds like you’re finding great ways to socialize your son while also maintaining your introverted sanity!
Hermit Alert for me… and I’m good, no, downright happy with that. 😉
Amy, sounds like you’ve found your socializing sweet spot!
Great piece Hazel,
I think I am coming at this issue from the other direction.
I am a middle school teacher, but I’ve really developed a desire to write and blog. Obviously, teaching middle school involves a lot of interaction with people (middle school-aged people, who I love) which drains my battery considerably.
I’d like to write full time, but until I can, I have to try to reserve enough energy to write and work when I get home. I’m not doing a great job of it currently, but I’m trying.
All the same, I’m trying to find the same socializing sweet spot as everybody else, and it seems like the only way to reach it is through a job change.
Thanks, John! Yeah….I have a good friend who is also a teacher/writer/introvert. For her, the writing simply does not happen with all-day teaching jobs. It only happens with split-shift before- and after-school program jobs, which allow her to write for a few hours each day in between, but which, demanding less, also, of course, pay less. I hope you figure out a way to write more!
[…] Why? Because introverts are sometimes prone to over-isolating themselves. And I think I’d be happier if I connected a little more. I need to re-find my connection and socializing sweet spot. […]
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