You have a right to claim your energy. These are the wise words bestowed upon me by my writing sister, Karla. Karla is a few steps ahead of me on life’s journey. She’s raised her kids and closed out her career (in teaching). She’s confident when declaring enough is enough. Me, I am the coin that just stopped spinning. I only recently revealed whether I was going to go heads or tails. Why did I decide to claim my energy now? I finally feel it is acceptable to create energy in quiet. It is OK to recharge by going within or by simply being present. For the longest time I thought only doing or active energy was valuable. And not only active energy, but active energy chosen by others. If I didn’t make a conscious choice to protect and grow my energy, I would spin forever.
Introverts and Energy
Energy spills out quickly for introverts in stimulating settings. It’s consumed in a flash if we feel we have to speak or act hastily, loudly and often. As I mentioned in There’s Nothing Wrong with You. You’re an Introvert, introverts recharge in solitude. We get energy from feelings, impressions and experiencing things in depth.
The dominant culture in the U.S. is extroverted. Americans are known for being outgoing, full-steam-ahead achievers who thrive on a fast pace. Productivity, public speaking and accumulation are admired.
For an introvert, it can often feel like we are constantly being drained of the energy we summon from within. It’s difficult to produce or store energy when there are so many people, tasks and possessions siphoning off fuel as soon as it surfaces. Energy and will-power are renewable resources but they must be allowed to replenish. Introverts restock images, dreams, creativity, light and energy in meaningful, slower paced settings.
As an introvert, wife and mother, I always feel selfish when craving calm time. My husband (trying to be helpful) tells the kids, Mom needs time without you. Leave her alone. I would prefer, Everyone needs time to recharge. It’s a busy world. Why don’t you give her some time to herself and then maybe she’ll be up for drawing with you later.
Space and solitude feel like extravagant luxuries. For example, I have a special place to write in my home but I still feel there are two unspoken caveats attached to it: 1. Here is your space to write and be alone. Do it here and NOT anywhere else. 2. Don’t spend too much time there.
The need to recharge is bone deep. As strong as this pull is the truth is I don’t want more and more space. I want it to be OK to renew quietly by myself or with a few people. I want more acceptance. I want to be able to rest in my own home.
How to Protect Your Energy
Three ways to ensure your energy is protected:
1. Educate your friends and family on the differences between introverts and extroverts. Assure them that neither temperament is better. They are simply different and the world needs both styles of living in order to advance. Introverts pause and advise. Extroverts leap and act. We all have both temperaments within us, just one dominates the other. We all need to recover and recharge from the onslaught of everyday demands.
2. Learn how to say, NO. It’s not easy, I know. Even my children have a hard time saying no to playmates. Their friends take it personally if they say they would rather goof around on the computer or play dolls by themselves. In her book, Introverts at Ease, Nancy Okerlund gives us guidelines for respectfully declining to do something. Nancy says, the most readily accepted way to say No is to use friendly-confident body language. Smile as you say it. This approach disarms the one requesting your action, leaving them feeling almost cheerful. Nancy believes the introvert smile can be a fusion between different temperaments.
3. Limit your time with people who cause your fuel tank to leak. You know who they are. The ones whose numbers make you wince when they appear on your phone. The ones who instantly put you on guard. Essentially, these are individuals who make you feel like your way of being is wrong. You always feel conflict when in contact with them. Conflict is especially draining. Not only do negative folks drain us of our energy but they also stifle our natural positive energy production. We don’t get those warm, rich feelings of satisfaction in their presence. Mind the company you keep.
Where Energy Grows
Over the last few years I have found sacred spaces to generate energy. I am aware of who and what cause a spark to ignite within me. How did I find these energy centers? I simply started paying attention. Instead of going through life in a hurry, always looking to the next event, I paused and noticed the effects people and places had on me. Was I calm? Content? On edge? Then as Joseph Campbell advocates, I followed my bliss. I repeated the experiences that made me glow. I noticed a carry-over of positive behavior after I spent time in a setting that made me happy. I would come home and sing in the kitchen. I had more patience with the kids and found it effortless to listen to them with my eyes. I had more energy. We ALL had more joy.
You all have people and settings that light you up. They do not have to be time-consuming or expensive. I basically made some new friends and took further steps to do what I like (play music, read, write, exercise). True, I had to burn energy initially to take action but it was repaid ten-fold. The right people in your circle can feel like a turbo boost to your spirit. They give you energy rather than take it. The right mix of down time and extroverting can lead to incredible satisfaction. Before you know it you are saying Yes! as much as you are saying No. Having a good time is positive energy. You will be energized and energize others. Claiming your energy does not have to deplete others, in fact smiles, laughs and satisfaction spread like wildfire. What are you waiting for? Get out there and claim your energy!
Do you ever feel guilty about protecting your energy? Do you let others direct your energy flow? How can you take back and create more energy?
***Further reading regarding introvert energy:
There’s Nothing Wrong With You. You’re an Introvert. (space2live)
In Defense of Introverted Parents (space2live)