I spent last week vacationing and staying with people I had never met before the trip. We went out to seafood restaurants and gorged on oysters, shrimp, grouper and key lime pie. We lounged on the beach and inadvertently swam with sharks and sting rays. We sat around the kitchen table and shot the shit. It was fun and engaging and tiring.
I spent a lot of time listening during this first time visit. I defaulted to introvert mode — observation and keen attentive listening. They had a lot to say and I would have had to interrupt to get a word in.
No, not interrupting!! It’s too hard.
After a couple of days, I was reminded of how I felt as a high school senior when I spent a week in Spain with a Spanish family. By the end of the first day, my brain was throbbing/numb from all of the intense absorbing and concentration I put into deciphering what the heck they were saying to me in rapid-fire Spanish. I couldn’t wait to collapse in the pink frilly twin bed they provided for me.
Back in Florida…
I can’t remember if it was the second or third day of our visit (this is how muddled my brain got) but one afternoon my man asked me to go to the beach with him. My introvert energy tank was hovering just above empty, yet I hated to miss out or disappoint my guy and his family. I didn’t want to be lame or boring but I knew I needed a nap or reading time. I got all wishy-washy. It took me a while to make the decision to read and lie down. I didn’t really rest all that well as I felt bad for needing the downtime. I wanted to keep up with the fun and energy of everyone else. No one else took a nap.
I was told not to worry about it. If I wanted to take a nap someone else would go with my man to the beach. In other words, if you can’t go, someone else (with more energy) will easily take your spot.
Why can’t you just say, No, I need downtime?
I have a fear of melting down if I don’t get the rest I need but I also dread not being outgoing, well-liked or respected because of my listening vs. talking tendencies and my need to recoup after bouts of socializing. As I waffle between pushing myself and caring for myself, I appear indecisive and that is bothersome. Not only am I incapable of carrying on like an extroverted warrior, I am also hesitant to own my way of being.
How to own your needs and choices
I know if I would have stated I need a nap and excused myself for an hour or two no one would have cared. In fact, they probably would have been completely supportive and admiring of my forthrightness. They would have seen a woman who knows herself and doesn’t give a fuck, but when my battery is low, my defenses are down and my emotions are high. The trick is to recharge before I get to a weakened state. I need to speak up (even if it means interrupting and using precious energy) and declare what I need. In the long run, it is self-preserving and self-sustaining. It also helps relationships run smoother.
Every experience like this, teaches me it is OK to own my temperament. It is me who feels the shame or inferiority of needing recovery time. Others either understand because they have similar temperaments, don’t understand but don’t care or want me to be happy and confident in whatever I decide.
Where the introvert shines
By the end of the week, I managed to have a few one on one conversations with the lovely relatives. I managed to contribute what I believe were valuable insights to a talk or two. I relaxed and felt more in my element. They seemed to relax too. It turns out it is OK to be who I am. Just like the experience I had in Spain, by the end of the week I had learned a lot from the people I met and felt more confident about myself.
How are you at declining social invitations? Meeting new people? How do you own your personality?