As an introvert, I need a good bit of alone time to feel my best. Solitude helps me restore my energy reserve and organize my thoughts. Without time to myself, I turn tired, cranky, and impatient – even depressed.
Even though I know spending time alone is a necessity for me, it still makes me feel a bit selfish and indulgent. To get this need of mine met, I inevitably have to say no to other demands on my time.
When it comes to saying no to people outside my immediate family, I’ve just trained myself to not care. I can’t be everything to all people at all times. Boundaries have to exist. I’ll be present when I can, and when I can’t, well… That’s just the way it is.
It’s a lot harder for me to talk myself out of the guilty feelings when it comes to my husband and kids. But here are five things I try to remind myself of when I’m feeling guilty.
1.THE SCIENCE BEHIND INTROVERSION
There is scientific research backing up the introvert-extravert difference. For an introvert, needing alone time is a need just like other physical needs – eating, drinking, sleeping.
2.REVERSE THE SITUATION
In the United States, we live in a very extraverted society. Extraversion is rewarded and praised to the point where it’s taken as given that one person’s need to talk and get a response almost always takes precedence over another person’s need for quiet. It would never occur to us to ask an extravert to stop extraverting.
But imagine how an extravert would feel having no interaction with anyone for a day or two. Would you ask your extraverted family member to completely stop interacting with others just for your convenience? You wouldn’t.
And just as it’s not ok to ask extraverts to stop extraverting, it’s not ok to ask introverts to stop introverting.
3.QUALITY OVER QUANTITY
The recharged version of me is a lot better for my family to be around than the drained one. If my battery is not fully charged, I’m like a radio-controlled car that can’t get to full speed. No matter how much you push the button, it just won’t move like you want it to. But put it in the charger for a half hour and it’ll zoom around the living room like straight out of the box on Christmas morning. 🙂
If I’m feeling spent, it’s better for everyone if I take a break “to introvert” before hanging out. So many times, I have forced myself to be with people when I don’t have the energy for it, and I end up being sleepy and absent-minded at best and a total grouch-ball at worst. If I force myself to take a break first instead, I’m able to be much more patient and fully present.
4.LESSONS FOR EXTRAVERTED CHILDREN
I’m teaching my extraverted children that people have different needs that deserve to be respected. They will learn that people’s brains are wired differently and they won’t just assume that everyone in the world operates exactly the same way they do. My 6-year-old extravert already understands that her Mom and sister are more reserved and need more quiet time than other members of our family.
5. EXAMPLE FOR INTROVERTED CHILDREN
I’m setting an example for my introverted child to meet her need for alone time. I’m teaching her it’s okay to take a bit longer before joining the other kids. I’m teaching her it’s okay to say no to the ruckus and go read a book if that’s what she prefers. I’m teaching her it’s okay to retreat. Maybe she won’t suffer the same guilt I do.
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