The other evening I had a dilemma on my hands. I had already put in a very full day of coaching, parenting teens, grocery shopping, and dinner prep, and I still had a gathering for a friends’ birthday gathering ahead of me.
Here’s the dilemma: I had used up all my energy for interaction and couldn’t imagine how I could pull off spending time in a noisy tavern trying to connect with people. I just couldn’t do it, even to celebrate a girlfriend. I was depleted.
Do I sound disloyal? Picky? Over-sensitive? Anti-social? Pathetic?
I’ve wondered all these things and more about myself. The truth is I’m a Sensitive Introvert and my alarms were all going off telling me I’d had enough that day.
I argued with myself a little bit. “You said you’d be there. It’s your friend’s birthday celebration. How can you be so lame? You really should go, at least for a while. ”
But here’s where I’ve had some personal growth in the last few years. In the past I would have beaten myself up and then gone to the gathering anyway, used every last ounce of energy, and been totally depleted the next day. And then berated myself for that.
Another possibility, I would have argued with myself for long enough that it would be too late to go and then been guilt-ridden that I didn’t show up. And then berated myself for that.
To some this behavior might sound pretty crazy, but to the Sensitive Introverts out there, this undoubtedly sounds familiar. I’ve talked to women all over the country and one of the questions I hear frequently is, “How do I manage my energy so I don’t get depleted and my friends don’t hate me for being a party pooper?”
This is a challenging balancing act for those of us who are not extroverts (and hence, not the norm) and who absorb so much from each situation that we can be exhausted by everyday life and have nothing left to give interpersonally (and so, also not the norm).
Here are my tried and true suggestions:
1. Know yourself really well. Be aware of how many tasks, gatherings, interactions, etc. you can handle without going over the edge energy-wise. Don’t let anyone talk you into a social wing-ding unless you’re really up for it.
2. Keep your calendar obligations as slim and spaced out as you can. Rather than grouping all the intense things close together, give yourself some recuperation time in between. Look especially at your weekends and make sure you're not going from one thing to another.
3. Learn to say NO. A simple No thank you, or Thank you for thinking of me, but I’m booked, or This sounds great, but I promised myself I wouldn’t add anything more, will do. No need for big explanations—because THAT would be exhausting.
4. However, let the people in your inner circle know what you’ve learned about yourself and ask them to be understanding. Tell them that you still love them, but sometimes you’ll need to say no to social gatherings so you can meet your need for downtime, quiet, solitude, etc.
5. Get over the guilt. Accept yourself for who you are and stop trying to be someone you’re not. If you’re not an extravert who can keep going 20 hours a day without a break, that’s ok. You’re human and you’re worthy of love and belonging—in whatever way belonging works best for you.
It’s taken me a long while to recognize why my needs are different, learn the patterns for SIs, research the strategies that work best for this temperament, put it all together—and practice it everyday. While my understanding of Sensitive Introverts continues to evolve with each one I meet, I’ve amassed a huge amount of knowledge, strategies, mindset shifts, tools, wins, and compassion that has already helped my private clients to accept their temperament, love themselves, and succeed in creating a life that works for them and their families.
Now I’d like to share that with you through my new program designed by and for Sensitive Introverts. If you’re a woman who resonates with the traits of Sensitive Introverts you may be a good match for Welcome Home to Your Self if you would you like to:
+ step more fully into your authentic self
+ let go of limiting beliefs that have held you back
+ gain clarity on your true purpose
+ find out how to manage your energy and create healthy boundaries
+ learn tools to curb overthinking and anxiety
+ align your everyday actions and life values
+ create a life that supports your temperament
If these are things you desire, but you’ve been banging your head against the wall trying to figure out why what everyone else is doing doesn’t work for you, let’s talk. SIs are not like “everyone else”. We have different ways of absorbing and implementing information. We have different comfort levels around sharing about ourselves. We are unique in how much we can handle before we’re overwhelmed. This program is designed to take all those little things into account so that it supports Sensitive Introverts to thrive in the ways that work best for them.
Curious what I did to address my dilemma the other evening? I checked in with myself one last time. Did I have the energy to go? No, I really didn’t. So I texted my friends to let them know I couldn’t make it, made sure my kids had everything they needed, and I walked outside with my dog.
As soon as I got outside I knew I’d made the right decision. It was a beautiful late summer evening with a little bit of fall in the air. I walked to the arboretum near my house and enjoyed the sky, deer, and quiet, and felt refreshed. Dilemma solved. I'll make sure to celebrate with that friend soon. Maybe we'll go for a long walk!
P.S. If you think you might be a Sensitive Introvert or you know someone who is, click HERE to check out the program.
Introverts have it tough in this society. We’re outnumbered 3 to 1 by extroverts and the busy social pace that’s expected is a big ol’ drain for those of us who prefer to recharge in solitude. While recent studies show that there are several types of introverts, and we’ve known for a long time that there’s a spectrum of intensity, there are some general rules of thumb that have worked exceptionally well for me and my introverted clients.
I took my first Myers-Briggs Assessment when I was 15 and learned the language for what I’d always known in my heart: I love being with people, especially one on one, AND in order to recoup my energy, I need to be alone. Decades later, I can still be swayed by the extroverted culture.
For many years I hosted a big Thanksgiving dinner, inviting everyone from my ex-husband and his mom to stray international college students, but I finally realized that the aftermath of exhaustion was bigger than my joy for it. I had to admit that I’m not the kind of person who can pull off that kind of social event—unless I’m willing to spend three days in the fetal position afterward—and that was hard. I felt like a failure.
It’s so easy for self-doubt to creep in when we feel we’re falling short of the expectations placed on us as women—especially since we are usually the glue, the connectors, of the family. If we’re honest we sometimes want to say, “No, I just can’t take on that volunteer opportunity. I need some time to hole up in my bed and read a novel." Or how about, “Thanks for inviting all the parents to stay and chat during the birthday party, but I can’t think of anything worse than trying to have a conversation while a dozen 8-year-olds with noisemakers run around.” That kind of honesty is not usually well-received and is seen as selfish.
No matter what we say to protect our need to keep from being totally drained, the message we get back is often “you are not enough”. Or, conversely, we do what is expected at the expense of our own well-being, pushing ourselves too far until we’re running on empty, and in a perpetual state of overwhelm.
We can choose to set ourselves up for success though. It’s not complicated, but it is hard. It means actually putting ourselves first. That’s not something we’re accustomed to doing. If you’re willing to take a crack at it, here’s what I’ve learned.
1. Know yourself and your needs.
No one else can tell you how much alone time you need or how much stimulation is going to fry your nerves. You need to get to know yourself and how you function best. Whether that means actively monitoring the number of evening commitments, the frequency of extended family gatherings, or the number of minutes of meditation to maintain balanced energy, only you know what makes you tick—and what ticks you off.
2. Accept yourself. You are worthy.
Having different needs can make us question whether we are worthy or if we have value in this world. We question whether we are good enough, wanted, and whether what we offer is needed. But your acceptance and worth cannot come from anyone or anything outside of you. It has to come from within. You have to decide that you are worthy. Just as you are, right now in this moment—you are enough. It’s time to understand your own worth and value.
3. State your needs without shame or blame.
It’s essential to state your needs without being ashamed. There’s no right or wrong in the human needs department, there’s only what is. Blaming ourselves for having different needs helps no one. On the other side of things, you must refrain from shaming and blaming your partner, kids, or boss for situations that overtax you. If the kids are playing a loud game and it’s too much, just say, Great game! Take it to the backyard and you can yell as loud as you want. No need to belittle them for their volume level. If your partner wants you to attend a huge company event with them, state what kind of respite you’ll need to have the energy for it—or tell them you would rather spend time together one on one. Don’t go on a rant, just state what you need and find a solution together.
4. Acknowledge that in order to be the best version of yourself you must meet your own needs first.
When we accept that we are worthy of having our needs met and that we’re responsible for making that happen, we open up space to really show up for the people and things that are important to us. When we end a friendship that’s been draining us, we have more energy to be an attentive partner. Or when we set a limit on attending end of the day meetings at work, we can show up more fully for dinner with the family. When you take your needs seriously, instead of feeling selfish, you actually grant yourself and your beloveds the gift of being your best self.
5. Raise your baseline.
We all have an emotional baseline where we normally reside. There are occasional short periods of bliss that take us way up to a peak above that line and sad events or moods that take us far below our norm, but we always come back to the baseline. Once we make it a habit to honor our needs and make having a full cup the rule rather than the exception, we raise the level of our everyday state of being. If you’ve been functioning under less-than-ideal circumstances for years, it will feel amazing to raise this up. It’s like a new lease on life to have your baseline be a place of contentment and calm serenity.
Last year instead of hosting a big Thanksgiving celebration, I chose to spend time at a cabin in the woods with my daughters. While I was a little sad not to provide a place for everyone to have dinner, it was far outweighed by the joy of recharging with a book by the fire, cooking with my kids, and long walks in the forest. It met our needs perfectly—and the world didn't fall apart because I wasn't hosting.
I hope these ideas are helpful for you!
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With warmth and love,