Recently I went through that dreaded phase I suspect all introverts go through at times: “Trying To Keep Up”. Let’s call it TTKU for short, shall we? I’m sure you know what I mean as soon as I say those words, but I’ll explain.
In a two month span, I overbooked myself beyond…far, far beyond what my introvert battery could manage. I burnt myself out terribly. And I did it because I had convinced myself I could be “normal”.
My closest friends are all fairly outgoing extroverts. I love them dearly. The friendships were built introvert style – one on one, quiet coffee visits, deep conversation. Natural connection.
I am amazed at the extroverted energy they have when we are out. I can actually see an impact on them when they interact in that “social out” way. It is noticeable.
I can feel the energy build in them. It is as though I am watching their battery recharge as the hours pass. They usually end the event with more energy than they had when they arrived.
I, on the other hand, am more limited. Even by the end of the most enjoyable group event with the closest of friends, I feel completely drained.
As an introvert, my energy “battery” is drained quickly by large groups of people. However, I am a very social introvert with a need for interaction that feels connected in order to recharge my battery.
This bothers me sometimes. I’ve accepted my introverted nature, and overall I enjoy the positives of it, but there are still times I feel frustrated with myself for being different than the majority of those around me.
I look at them when we are out together, having fun and gaining energy. I find myself thinking thoughts like “if I just try harder..” or “if I just push through…”.
It never works. I always end up exhausted, but I fool myself into thinking that I can ignore my energy needs.
My latest Trying To Keep Up experience began when one of my friends hosted a home shopping party. I knew in advance that I didn’t want to buy anything, but I still wanted to spend the evening with these friends. I didn’t want to miss out, so I went.
A few days down the road, another friend called, inviting me to a craft night. We would be making laundry soap. “Ooooo…” I thought. It interested me. I said yes, and went.
A few more days passed. Through the weekend (busy, with kids home), and into the next week.
At the beginning of the week, I got a text from yet another friend. Now she was hosting a home shopping party.
Different product, different house, same group of ladies, and, same idea: snacks, wine and company. I said yes…somewhat willingly.
The problem was, my energy battery had not yet recharged. I was still feeling the effects of the previous week’s extra social outings, and had not been diligent over the weekend to make sure I had rested well enough.
I was still feeling more tired than usual, and more mentally frazzled.
I had been looking forward to a week of regular routine in order to recharge fully. But the instant the invitation came through, I felt caught in a dilemma.
I didn’t want to miss out. And I thought: surely, I could push through. Mind over matter, right?
So again, I said yes. I was trying to keep up.
Under normal circumstances, I don’t think this TTKU experience would have had as much impact as it did, but unfortunately I had picked a poor moment in time to get caught in trying to keep up.
I had forgotten about a number of upcoming events which I could not miss – band performances, school concerts, a birthday supper…and also the most important event: a ladies night supper.
This ladies night is a once a year thing. It’s a supper, a dance, and entertainment – usually a comedian or something similar. I’ve gone to it with my small group of friends for the past few years. It has become a tradition, and it is something I look forward to.
By the time the ladies night rolled around, I was exhausted. I didn’t really want to go anymore. Physically, I was tired. And mentally, I was worn down.
I was deflated, mostly due to my own berating thoughts.
When I get caught up in trying to keep up I become very hard on myself. I become critical of my need to recharge, so much so, that I eventually stop taking the time to do it.
I compare myself to the extroverts in my life. I start to feel like a failure for not being able to keep up, so I push, and push, and push at myself to ignore my exhaustion.
But in reality, I can’t keep up with the extroverts in my life, and will never be able to match them in this capacity. Not because I’m a failure, but because the way my energy recharges, and drains, is different.
It’s like comparing apples to oranges.
I did go to my ladies night. I enjoyed myself, but I knew in advance that it was the last extra outing I’d be doing for a while. I crashed afterward, mentally and physically. I was exhausted.
I spent the next two months in regular routine, doing very little extra. I continued to be invited out, but my answer became ‘no’ for a while.
“Keeping up” and “missing out” had lost their grip on me again. I leaned back into the trust within myself that the people in my life don’t love me because I attend every home shopping party.
My friends and family love me for who I am. Introvert battery included.
And even if they don’t accept my introverted need for less “out” and more recharge time, I still need to give myself both the respect and permission to be authentic to who I am.
The first step in this authenticity is to recognize that there is nothing wrong with my recharge needs. It means that I need to make smart choices.
As a young parent I had to learn to ‘pick my battles’ with my children. When I got upset about every little “wrong” thing, it caused conflict where it was not really necessary.
This same wisdom can be applied to our energy needs as introverts.
The yearly event that I was really looking forward to attending was far more important to me than two last-minute home shopping parties and a craft night. If I were to pick wisely between them, I would pick the yearly event.
My introvert energy needs demand that I “pick my battles” in what I commit myself to doing. Prioritizing is important. It’s important for our energy, and also for our attitudes towards ourselves, too.
When I consciously decide to make smart choices about where I expend my energy, I subconsciously create a positive attitude within me. This attitude makes it easier for me to prioritize to get the rest time I need.
I cannot guarantee that TTKU will never get ahold of me again.
But when it does happen, it’s a huge help to prioritize the rest and recharge we need even in the midst of extra social demands which sometimes come our way.
And, it keeps those pesky feelings of shame for having different energy needs at bay, where they belong.
A bend in the road led me to embrace my introversion, and to discover my identity as a highly sensitive person. As I have moved along the path in learning more about who I am, how to take care of myself as an introvert, and how to handle the challenges of life as an HSP - my love of writing has been rekindled and embraced once again. It intertwines with the journey I am on, and is reflected in what I write.