Extroverts get fueled being around other people. Introverts get drained being around others and need to unplug to recharge. No, we're not just wallflowers or antisocial jerks afraid of being around others. Even the most outgoing introverts can move from well-meaning participators to angry and exhausted if we're not careful. But the first step to having enough energy to spend on the projects (and people) we want starts with taking personal responsibility.
1. Take responsibility for your own energy
Before I decided to take my own work seriously and get real about how to have energy to do it I was nearly about to snap out on people for talking at me. Yes, it is annoying to be talked at. But it's no one's fault but my own that I ended up night after night sitting and listening to people talk. I did not have to keep eye contact. I did not have to even show up. I could have gone to the restroom when I was getting tired. But instead, this INFJ sat and listened, and then got mad at everyone but myself when I was exhausted. Learn your limits and learn from them. Boundaries are beautiful.
2. Get Quiet
Turn off the phone, get off Facebook. Seriously take a break. If you don't quiet your mind in this overly-plugged in world you have to blame yourself. Eat a piece of chocolate. Listen to the birds.
3. Plan to go to only one event on any given night
I know you're busy. But I've found choosing only one event to attend has made it easier to recharge the next day. Also, I try to keep at least a day between socializing. A dinner at home and some writing (or your creative activity of choice -- cat wrangling, tightrope walking, cat wrangling on a tightrope) usually feels better than several nights out in a row.
4. Be honest
Let your friends know you've got creative work to do and you'll have to play invitations by ear. Yes -- RSVP to weddings and the like and follow through on what you say you'll do (no escaping "be impeccable with your word" of "The Four Agreements.") Don't use being an introvert as an excuse to get out of plans. But really consider the plans before you make them.
Some people want to hang out every night. If you don't, that is OK. People worth maintaining longterm relationships with will understand. This is why it is pertinent you be honest. If someone is angry with you because you choose to do your life's work instead of going out for a drink to listen to them complain you're doing yourself a favor learning this sooner than later. And then gracefully extricate yourself from holding the hot potato that is their friendship (to put it diplomatically).
5. Internalize that the first person you need to please is yourself
If one of your traits is people pleasing, as mine is, do some work around this. Get into the old stuff that might explain why it's so important to please others to your own detriment. And really think about whether people who would only have you if you're pleasing them are worth it.
And for the love of your life's work, break eye contact if you've been talked at for too long! Your eye contact is a gift -- not a requirement. (Click to tweet)
6. Get real about mortality
Deciding what is truly important in our lives creates clarity of action. Look, we may not only live once (depending on whether you believe in reincarnation) but we certainly only have this life once. Knowing it will eventually end might light the fire under your butt to get real about your art.
How do you not only want to spend your time but what do you want your life's work to be? If you are sitting listening to people all night, every night, that is what your life will be about. If that's what you want -- great, do that. If not, don't do that. It's just like this old joke my Dad used to tell me: A guy goes to the doctor and says, "It hurts when I do this," to which the doctor replies, "Don't do that." Simple, true.
7. Use props
A friend's mother gave me orange psychedelic sunglasses I carried with me during a transitional time, moving from listening too much to protecting my own energy so that I could do my creative work. They were my "forcefield glasses," and I would put them on when I got tired of someone talking at me without any signs of letting me contribute to the conversation. I never wanted to be rude, so I found the forcefield shades were a comical and lighthearted way of changing the subject long enough to redirect the moment's energy. Yes -- you run the risk of looking like a weirdo, but it is worth it.
You never know when the muse will strike. Keep a notebook and do not feel guilty about using it.
Meditating can be successful even when it's hard. Even when what the Buddhists call the "monkey mind" is swinging from limb to limb I still feel better after a fifteen-minute meditation. Set a timer, close your eyes, focus on your breath, slowly touch your thumb to each finger and repeat. It gets easier.
Once you've been practicing these methods and making room for your own work your momentum will grow. You might lose some "friends" but that will be more than made up for with the satisfaction of watching your own creative work flourish. You'll have fewer people that need pleasing and the relationships you maintain will be strengthened by your honesty and authenticity. And this isn't about selfishness and ignoring others -- it is about being the best we can be in the world in order to be better friends, artists, and citizens. The more we learn to work with our own personalities the more of a positive impact we can have on a world that needs it.
Forward this to your favorite listener (or talker). It's time to continue the conversation about introversion -- and make sure there is room for introverts to be a part of it.