Honouring Our Introvert Needs in an Extrovert World
Do you ever feel that learning to honour your needs is a lifelong task? The older we get, the better we know ourselves, and yet we stumble at times trying to even understand our thoughts and desires. Many of us grew up learning to suppress our introvert needs or at least feel bad for having those needs. If you live in a country where extroversion is preferred and introversion is greatly misunderstood, it was bound to happen. But now that there's more talk about introversion being just a personality type instead of a flaw, there is room for hope.
I'm from Spain, one of the most extroverted countries in the world. The majority of my family members are very loud extroverts. Most of my friends are extroverted too (you know what they say: one day an extrovert comes and adopts you and that's it, you're friends for life). In our gatherings, I observe and listen for the most part and I like it that way, but for the longest time, I felt guilty for it and thought I had to be different. So I tried. I tried to act differently and enjoy what others enjoyed. To fit in the mould.
I remember one of those times when I tried. In Spain, the night is always young. We have late dinner and if we go to a bar or a club, the "fun" only starts after midnight. That kind of fun has never been fun for me but I have tried and tried and tried again. On that occasion, I had plans to have dinner with my coworkers, but of course, after that, we went to a bar. Okay, no big deal. One drink and then home. Only they wanted to go to a club after the bar. Personally, I hate clubs (and bars, to be honest). But for some strange reason, I joined them that night... only to leave twenty minutes later after confirming I hated that place.
I wasted my money and my energy that night, but I vowed to myself I wouldn't make the same mistake. I would honour my needs hereafter. After that night, I would go for drinks with them after work only if I had the energy for it and we weren't working the next day. That was my rule.
I didn't only have to learn what my needs were, I also had to learn how to communicate them effectively, tell people I love spending time with them but I need to rest. Extroverts typically recharge when they spend time with other people, so they often don't understand that alone time, for us, is essential. It all comes down to finding balance: We need nourishing relationships just like anybody else, but we meet those needs in different ways.
Overtime I've learned what I enjoy, what I tolerate and what I loathe. The only way to know all this for sure is to try new things, but once we're certain a specific setting or situation makes us feel miserable, we should respect that, and those close to us should respect it as well.
I recently spent two weeks with my family, fully immersed in loudness and chaos. When it became too much, I retreated for a few minutes in the solitude of my room, went for a walk or made quiet plans with friends. I also made sure to not make too many plans because that quickly gets overwhelming. The result? Instead of coming back drained, like I usually did in the past, I felt full. My interactions had been nourishing and I had enough time to rest in between. I achieved a balance I never thought possible.
It helped to know I was coming back to my quiet life. When I arrived home, I welcomed the peace, the silence, the quiet presence of my partner, the nature surrounding us. It made me realise more than ever how much I need this. Not all introverts love a quiet life; some do prefer big cities, but this is what works for me. In the end, it's all about figuring out where you feel at home. I wish everyone on this planet could enjoy that feeling.
A new year has begun and all I ask for is more of this. More of this peace, this beauty, the simple joy of watching birds flying across a blue sky and goats looking at the horizon from a cliff, of touching the velvety moss on the bark of trees, of ending my days with a movie or a book. The simple but great joy of being true to myself and choosing what's right for me, no longer feeling guilty. This is the joy that comes when you honour your needs. This is the joy that comes when you accept who you are.