Be selective about your activities, but do the important ones anyway

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Sometimes we’re accused of being snobs or disliking society in general. “OK, just be that way! You’re antisocial!” We’ve all heard that when we say no thanks to the fourth lunch invitation that week or to yet another party with coworkers. Of course there’s nothing wrong with us, any more than there’s something wrong with someone who has a different blood type or hair color than the majority of a group. And of course we don’t necessarily dislike people, or most people… – we just can’t do everything everyone wants to do with us.   We have to be selective.

When I go to my favorite restaurant for lunch, I usually have quite a pleasant dilemma because I really want this dish, yet I am sort of craving the taste of the other one… but everyone understands that I have to pick just one.  The same is true for activities that involve other people, too, although everyone may not understand that! We have to prioritize and do the things that will matter most in our lives. It seems obvious, of course, but when we’re busy living life sometimes it’s easy to forget, just like I did over the past month while I became overwhelmed with Christmas and plumbing disasters at home.

I’ve finally reminded myself that I am going to have to deliberately allocate my precious time and energy so that I get the most “bang for my buck,” so to speak, and keep my life moving in the direction I want.  If I look like crap when I don’t get my hair cut, then obviously I need to make an event on my Google calendar reminding me to get it trimmed every 6 weeks.  Likewise, if I’m ashamed to have family and close friends over to my house, then it’s time to bite the bullet and have that maintenance done.  Those are important to my quality of life now and in the future, so I’ll have to say no to some less important things in order to make them happen.

So what can I cut out?  Well this past weekend a really nice coworker got married and invited our whole group.  I like him very much and wish him well, but I knew that would be an energy-draining affair that no one would really care whether I attended or not – so I sent my regrets plus a nice gift. It felt great to do that, freeing up several hours of a treasured Saturday, plus avoiding the small talk hell of a wedding. Now of course if it were my sister getting married, I’d have to suck it up and go, or at least think of a bulletproof excuse!

Sometimes, like during Christmas time, we can’t seem to catch a break. There’s no avoiding the crowding and a lot of the craziness. So during those times, I’m still going to deliberately do the things that are important to the general quality of life, even when I’d prefer to have the good old routine instead. It’s just going to be a matter of self discipline, just like we all have to use in other areas of life, whether it’s saying no to another warm brownie or going to bed before we want to just because we know we want to be sharp the next day. I hope that since I’m learning to relax and just be myself, a normal, happy introvert, maybe those detours to the hair salon or to talk to a handyman won’t “cost” me so much and I might even learn to consider them just part of the bigger routine we call everyday life.

Photo credit: Jo Jakeman

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25 Comments

  1. I don’t have all of the work-social invitations that you do, but I find work draining enough on its own, at least partially because it’s a pod situation in an office that used to be a warehouse, so even when people aren’t interacting with me, I hear constant conversation. And then there is the bike commuting, which puts me in the public space and might drain those reserves further (as an introvert friend recently pointed out). I make no plans during the week, and only rarely make ones on the weekends. I guess part of it is that the people I’m close to aren’t in the city I live in, so it’s not like I’m turning down plans either.

    When I do hang out with friends, I enjoy it, but I go kicking and screaming inside. I hate making plans on my weekends. Other than the half-day volunteering I do on Saturdays.

    And the thing is, I know I used to enjoy making plans more often, I would look forward to hanging out with friends and seek opportunities to do so. I still really enjoy interacting with people online, but I have little motivation to see people in person. I don’t know exactly what has changed to make me crave this much alone time. I swear I sometimes feel like if it wasn’t for work, I’d become a recluse. It’s not something I really like. I feel like there is a balance that I’m not finding, but for me it isn’t like trying to choose two yummy sounding dishes at the restaurant, it’s like eyeing two giant vitamins, knowing that they’d be good for me and feeling obligated to take at least one, but not looking forward to the experience at all.

    So, I suppose what I’m getting at in this long winded comment – could it be true that the more time we spend not being social, the less social our inclinations become? And, despite being introverts, is it possible that we could end up erring on the side of too little socializing? Maybe this is just me. I want to want to be around people more than I actually want to be around people.

    • Deb, I love your vitamin metaphor! It really fits how I feel about social events too (at least some social events–some I just don’t want to go to at all). I know I’ll be glad I went, but that doesn’t mean I’m looking forward to it…

      • Hey Clare, yes, I have a lot of those things where I’ll be glad I went or even happy enough once I get there, but I really, really, really don’t want to leave my happy routine at home. 🙂

    • Hey Deb, I totally identify with that vitamin thing too! 🙂 Sounds like your weekdays from the time you leave home in the morning ’til the time you get home, are saturated with people-time, then you are wonderful and volunteer half days on Saturdays. You are really being with people a lot, even though a lot of it is not your choice. Seventeen years ago, I was a stay-at-home-mom with two little kids. I actually initiated getting together with other mothers during the day all the time – was craving adult companionship! But man, after getting a full time job, I started using up all that people-energy involuntarily on coworkers, traffic, etc., and almost “dreaded” going out with friends. I’m still trying to figure out a way to work from my own home (haven’t yet) so I can once again truly seek out others and want to be with them.

  2. Well said; or written for that matter. I think a lot of people have created this idea that taking care of yourself is selfish, and that you only please people around you. Way back in history these people were referred to as slaves.

    I have no problem saying no to people. I will pay attention to people around me when I have finished my things and feel I have the energy to do it. It is kind of like refusing to fill up your car with gas because you are afraid to get late or miss out on something. Give your car some time to “recharge” with some gas and you are good to go on that long road trip.

    • Thanks Xen! Very nice – you’re right. We have to have our time in order to take care of ourselves. I’d sometimes found that as others TAKE my time then I ignore other things I should do for ME, like the home repairs. So I have to learn not to let people just TAKE – so I can deliberately allocated my own time and energy.

  3. I can agree. Being in college, someone is always passing something out to come to a meeting or think about doing this. I kind of screwed up this semester and the courses that I’m taking most of them require a discussion that I scheduled all of them on Fridays. I’ve never been very good with classroom discussions because I just don’t want to talk right then and want to listen to someone else’s opinion about the issue. All of my teachers throughout middle and high school repeated the same thing, she doesn’t talk enough. The only teacher who didn’t tell my mom that was my government teacher, I love politics and the news.
    So usually I end up returning back to my personal Hell of living with three wannabe socialites, completely exhausted from taking in all of the information and talking from the classes. The only thing I do is homework and unwind by watching TV or listening to music. It’s exhausting being an introvert in college, but I have learned to essentially pick and choose my battles. Will those same social events every weekend make a difference or will the homework and preparing for next week’s lectures make a difference? I can only do so much.

    • Oh Brianna I’m sorry to hear it! I really wish you could have a private place to live. Then at least after discussions in class you could come back to some peace and quiet and really recharge. You’re right – you do have to pick and choose – and I really hope you’ll be able to find the things from each “category” that will make you the happiest. Now and in the long run.

  4. I have made some tough decisions where I declined something that I felt like I *should* have gone too because it was just too social. But in the end, after I got over that pang of guilt, it turned out to be worth it. I realized that the way I would have felt afterward if I went would have been ten times worse than the way I actually felt when just said no.
    .-= Kristi´s last blog ..Who You Are Meant To Be =-.

  5. There was a time when I said “yes” to everything and all that did was drain me. I learned over the years to say “no” and I’m happier that way. For instance, my work is conducting a Disneyland trip next month and all my co-workers are all excited about it but I’m not that thrilled about it. I spend my work week with these people already so why do I have to hang with people I don’t really like on my day off. Its just not logical. I’d rather agree to something that matters over something that will waste my time any day.

    • Jennie – oh I’m with you 100%. Yet I’ve found so few coworkers who feel that way (or ADMIT to feeling that way).. when we are “offered” team building exercises in another city or a social evening for coworkers. To me, heck, just give me some work to do if I’m not free to do what I want! I’d rather do work at my desk than have some artificial social event.

  6. There’s sooo many times where I just went someplace I didn’t want to go at all because people won’t stop badgering me about going. I have some very pushy co-workers…

    So now I do a 50/50 thing, go to some company events and say no to those that I absolutely cannot stomach. It’s not ideal, but what can I do? I also have some handy excuses ready, including family obligations and babysitting. 🙂
    .-= lazygirl´s last blog ..Lazygirl 1. Pizza place 0. =-.

    • It’s a shame and a waste of some of our lives when we go somewhere we don’t want to if it’s no benefit to us at all! Although being invisible at the workplace sounds very appealing to me, I understand it would not be good for my wallet. But I think it’s great you’ve set limits and are able to avoid the events that are just too much!

  7. Hello
    This is a nice post for introverts.I agree with your whole post.I was also like this but I think that sometimes you have to change your view in some situations.Its not like to please people but it is just for you.Thank you for this thoughtful post.

  8. Pingback: Does budgeting our people-time mean introverts are snobs? — Introvert Zone

  9. When my co-worker inviting in her Birthday in their house, she was expecting me to go their Birthday Party but in so tired in my work earlier and i want to rest. But my co-worker waiting and then I go to the Birthday party so that she never upset or disappoint with me if I’m not go in their Birthday Party even I’m so tired.

    • Yes, to the birthday person, it just seems terrible if someone doesn’t go to it unless there’s a “good reason.” Sometimes it keeps the peace (or the relationship) to just go on to the party for a while.

  10. So as the saying “no man is an island” . We will not survive without the other people. Introvert people may think that they can be happy with their activities alone, but just like what happened to you , eventually they will learn to open up themselves and socialize more often. So go out,pamper yourself and meet other people. Nice read.

    • Thanks Jean. We introverts don’t want to be alone ALL the time, but on the other hand we just can’t do everything with everybody. We have to have our alone time and there’s no way around it. Therefore we just have to be careful to go to the things that are important – whether because of the relationships involved, our careers, or simply the enjoyment. 🙂

  11. I have a problem,When I do hang out with friends, I enjoy it, but I go kicking and screaming inside. I hate making plans on my weekends. Other than the half-day volunteering I do on Saturdays.

    So thanks to this post,I gain new information that will improve myself.Thanks a again!
    seph from college spring break trips´s last post ..Hello world!

  12. “You’re antisocial!” Is it selfish to want your own time and only share it when you want to? Do i have to do things that i dont want to do just so others can be happy? sometimes the right balance can be hard to find.
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