The Intricacies of Introvert Time

Michelle Lynn (HSP SOS)

What Counts As “Quality Time” With An Introvert?

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I thought you were an introvert.  Why do you want to spend so much time together?

-A sincere question from an extrovert to his introverted companion-

There is probably no creature on this planet more misunderstood, stereotyped, and constantly questioned than the mystical introvert.  No, I don’t really believe that we are some rare, magical breed of human that exists as a sort of ticking time-bomb, but I do believe there are many people out there in the world that have this view of introverts. Introverts often feel most misunderstood by the people closest to them, which is both unfortunate and beautiful at the same time.  

Why is being blatantly misunderstood by someone close to you beautiful?  Well, when it’s obvious to you someone is misunderstanding you, there is at least some attempt being made on their part to understand you.  They are actively questioning you, trying to define you, figure you out, and in most cases, ultimately searching for a way that they can make you happy- or at least not tick you off so much of the time.  I’m sure all introverts have an extroverted family member, friend, or partner in their lives with good intentions.  Someone that tries to do things that he or she thinks an introvert would like, but often ends up missing the mark.  Introverts and extroverts are often portrayed in an oversimplified fashion.  As an introvert, I despise the assumption that I am shy, fragile, and anti-social.  Extroverts have to deal with their fair share of negative stereotypes as well.  They are not these loud insensitive beings put here on earth to torment us introverts, but problems can arise if introverts and extroverts don’t attempt to understand their unique differences.

One area that I have had a great deal of trouble with as an introvert in my interactions with extroverts has been explaining my need for “quality time” in relationships.  Not all time is equal in my introverted mind, and if I don’t get the required amount of “quality time” with people I want to connect with, then I get cranky and can come off as demanding and needy.  Just recently, for example, I have been spending an increased amount of time with my favorite extroverted companion.  We went to Las Vegas to meet up with friends.  I have gone to several of his performances.  There was a birthday party I planned and attended in his honor.  Time was spent with the children.  We recorded some podcasts, and we sat side-by-side on the couch together posting and writing.  At the end of this stretch of time, I found myself completely exhausted, yet I still told him that I really needed some “quality time” with him soon.  

If I had a camera ready, I would have snapped a portrait of his expression.  What do you mean?  We’ve spent every day together practically?  How could you possibly see me more?  I thought you were an introvert.  Why do you want to spend so much time together? I instantly felt defeated and sad when that was his reaction, because I swore he’d be craving the exact same thing.  He wasn’t, and I was just as confused with him as he was with me.  It took me a little bit to get over the fact that I had an extrovert telling me that we have had an adequate amount of social time together.  I mean, aren’t extroverts supposed to always want to be around people?  Am I that annoying that the extroverts now want nothing to do with me?

The truth, however, is that neither introverts, nor extroverts exist as stereotypical versions of themselves.  The reality is that introverts need time with people they care about.  They don’t just need time, but they need a special kind of introvert “quality time” to feel connected.  Extroverts are energized by people, but they also enjoy time to themselves.  Extroverts use alone time to regroup and reflect, and it is an important part of the balance they need to maintain in their lives as well. When introverts and extroverts don’t communicate about how time is spent, surely there is going to be a disconnect.  After thinking about my own personal experiences as an introvert, and my definition of quality time, I put together some truths for me that might apply to other introverts out there too  It’s by no means an all inclusive list, but perhaps it can help serve as talking points in your introvert/ extrovert relationships.

The Intricacies of Introvert “Quality Time”

  1. Group time does not get to replace Introvert “Quality Time”- I don’t care if I spend two weeks traveling Europe with you and five of your closest friends, this does not equate, in my mind, to spending quality time with you.  That may sound petty and ridiculous to an extrovert, but introverts often don’t feel comfortable, or able to fully connect, when there are a lot of people around.  I am miserable with conversation and maintaining focus once a group gets larger than three people.  I start feeling like I’m neglecting someone, and I end up feeling terrible about it.  I also don’t always get to talk as long with the people I’d like to in these settings.  I prefer to get into three hour, intimate conversations with people one-on-one when I care about them, and group events are not conducive to this type of connection.  I tried to make these connections last week at a birthday party I planned, but I ended up pulling people away one at a time off into a corner to talk privately.  I’m sure I appeared scattered, and I later realized I hadn’t even spoken to one woman at the party.  I had to message her apologizing a couple days later, because I was just so overwhelmed.  This is why we still need more time with people individually after such events.
  2. Daily tasks needed for survival do not count as Introvert “Quality Time”- Being in my space is not the same thing as spending time with me.  Now, I have to clarify, because introverts do like doing separate things with someone in the same space.  It’s just that I wouldn’t necessarily count this as deep, meaningful connection time.  This is more my time to be alone while sharing space at the same time.  If I am letting you share my space like this, you are definitely a trusted person in my life.  I’m letting you in on my recharging time, but understand I will not feel like I have spent any time with you after this.  I will want to connect with you probably even more after this.  If you are sleeping, eating, doing laundry, checking your email, or other routine day to day tasks in my presence, I am not necessarily going to be excited by this.  It’s not going to feel like we were present with one another.  I am going to want more connection than that.
  3. Watching movies together may or may not count as Introvert “Quality Time”- If you come to my place, turn on what you want, and don’t talk to me, then this does not count as introvert quality time.  If we pick out a movie together, and then one of us starts getting on our computer, phone, or leaves the room multiple times, then this does not count as introvert quality time.  If we select a movie together, or you suggest a movie you want me to see, and we sit there, watch it, and share our thoughts about it afterwards, then this is definitely introvert quality time.  It’s really about making meaningful connections for introverts, and not just merely about being together in the same room.  As a side note, bringing popcorn and candy to share over conversation, will definitely earn you some introvert bonus points.
  4. Working on projects together may or may not count as Introvert “Quality Time”- Introverts, and especially highly sensitive ones, bond over mutually shared goals and outcomes.  If the time working together is enjoyable and balanced, without one person being a control-freak or overly critical, then this is precious time spent together.  Conflict and negativity, however, can zap the fun and energy out of an introvert in these situations. Artistic projects, building things, and even home improvements can be rewarding time together if both parties are fully vested and share a mutual vision.  
  5. Car rides to social gatherings count as crucial Introvert “Quality Time”- It is a myth that introverts never want to socialize.  We love people just as much as any outgoing extrovert, but in general, being social requires more energy from us than it does from extroverts.  Introverts that put themselves in social environments, and allow beloved extroverts to take them out of their comfort zone, require buffer time.  Buffer time shared with one other person on a long car ride to a social event is very important to an introvert.  This is an opportunity to have some meaningful, intimate conversations before all “hell breaks loose” so to speak.  I have found that this is a simple area in a relationship many introverts and extroverts fail to discuss, which can lead to unnecessary conflict.  Extroverts want people entertained, and if they are focusing on driving, or thinking about being entertaining to a larger group of people, they may want to bring extra people along for the ride to take some of the pressure off.  The introvert, however, may have been looking forward to the car ride even more than the event itself, because he or she was counting on some quality time together. This time is viewed very differently often, and it’s definitely a point worth discussing.
  6. Pre-planned alone time together is sacred Introvert “Quality Time”- If you even mention doing something with an introvert in passing, and they don’t immediately make a bunch of excuses and run the other direction, then it is a done deal.   DO NOT alter the plan or think it will be no big deal to just do something else.  Because of how socializing impacts us, we carefully plan out the who, what, where, when, why, and how of all our social experiences.  We know we annoy our more spontaneous counterparts at times, but we are doing this out of love for the people we care about.  If we have three social engagements, a work project, and one special night with you, then we are carefully structuring our entire week to be the best version of ourselves in each of those moments.  We don’t always have the extrovert’s gift of easy energy with people.  We know we have to work harder in our interactions with people, and we definitely want our energy reserves piled high for a special night with someone we love.  It’s probably not the best idea to plan a dinner and movie with your introvert, and then at the last minute ask if you can invite a few of your friends.  Your introvert will gladly meet your friends, but at an agreed upon time.

This is all just my perspective on how I operate as an introvert.  I don’t think that I am 100% right, and I definitely don’t think my way is any better, or worse, than that of an extrovert.  I just know that I have a lot of extroverts in my life that are constantly trying to figure me out and make me happy.  I put this together as more of a way for introverts and extroverts to start conversations about preferences and needs in relationships.  I know that there are going to be times when my extroverted companion will want to pool together a group of friends for a car ride, or maybe he will forget that he promised to spend a quiet evening at home with me and end up doing something else instead.  I have to understand that extroverts operate and think differently than introverts, and we don’t have to be adversaries.  We are people, not labels.  Personality typing is really only useful if you are using it to be a better version of yourself and as a means to better understand and interact with others.  I think the saddest thing in the world is seeing a well-meaning extrovert suddenly realize that something has gone terribly wrong.  Whether we identify with being an introvert, extrovert, or even an ambivert, common ground can be found through open and honest conversation.  Bottom line is that introverts really do like people.  We want to spend time with people, but how that looks to us might not always look the same or make sense to everyone else.  

Author, Michelle Lynn, is a podcaster on The Captain’s Pod, and she creates content specifically for HSP’s, empaths, introverts, INFJ’s, and Myers-Briggs enthusiasts.  Her weekly podcast, HSP S.O.S. (Highly Sensitive Persons Supporting Our Sensitivity), can be found on The Captain’s Pod website, The HSP SOS website, and Facebook. Also connect with her on Twitter @hsp_sos.

Mental Health Marathon

Michelle Lynn (HSP SOS)

7 Things You Should Know About Mentally “Getting Better” 

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Fortunately, people are slowly starting to realize that mental health is an important, and necessary, topic of conversation.  There is a growing effort to help people become better informed about various mental health related subjects, and articles about anxiety and depression are easily found in most mainstream news sources.  You can, for example,  find foods to fight the blues, tips for coping with everyday stressors, and even mental healthcare resources fairly easily these days.  Society seems to support maintaining balance and achieving the “right” state of mind.  Many people are seeking out avenues to “get better,” and each year even more people seek professional help.  There is something, however, that gets overlooked in this sea of helpful information and resources, and that something is what the actual process of healing is like for most people.  As we like to do in our society, we tend to glorify the process of “getting help” for a mental illness by focusing on the fan fare of taking the first step on the “getting better” journey and then fast forwarding to the arm flailing crossing of the finish line or “the cure.”  Having been on this path myself for several years, and still feeling like it is a bit premature to start popping open celebratory bottles of champagne, I think there are aspects of dealing with a mental illness that need to be looked at more thoughtfully in perhaps a slow motion or instant reply fashion.  Here is what I would like anyone starting the mental health marathon to consider:

  1. The novelty wears off.  When I was unable to sleep for three days in a row, refusing to eat, and standing in a corner staring at a wall for three hours at a time, people were more than supportive of me getting help for my anxiety.  There were constant check-ins, high-fives, and “good jobs.”  Just picking myself up off the floor was enough to earn some praise.  As you start to get better, those extremes aren’t as frequent or noticeable.  When you are actually able to pick yourself up, get yourself to work, and function during the day, that is a huge win.  What feels like a huge win to you, however, won’t always look that spectacular to the spectators in your life.  This lack of enthusiasm can be discouraging, and your unhealthy self might try and convince you that no one notices your efforts, or that nobody cares.  Your healing self, however, should take this as another win, because it means the people around you are starting to view you as more stable and functional.  It’s not out of the ordinary for you to have a good day, so they don’t act out of the ordinary when you do.
  2. People start to expect more out of you when you seem better.  Perhaps when you were at your worst, people wouldn’t even ask you for a glass of water if they were on fire, because they weren’t sure how you’d react.  Maybe you could let laundry and dishes pile up for months on end, and people kind of just left you alone.  When you start to get better, people start to expect you to be better.  They aren’t viewing you as a person on the brink of disaster, so they feel comfortable requiring more out of you.  This can be overwhelming for someone trying to heal, because the process of healing is already draining enough.   A person trying to work through anxiety or depression has to exert a lot more energy during the day to stay “in-check” than people realize.  Just because you look better from the outside, that doesn’t mean you are 100% better on the inside.  Your unhealthy self will feel unappreciated and draw the conclusion that you will never be able to do enough to please the people in your life.  It may even tell you to give up.  The healing self, however, will recognize that you are starting to look like a healthy person, and this is why people think it’s no big deal to ask you for a little more.  They feel like you are someone reliable.  They think you are someone that will be able to follow through, which means they aren’t tip toeing around you anymore.  It means you are getting stronger.
  3. The further you are on your journey the harder the fall.  You will fall.  You will fall at the beginning of your journey.  You will fall in the middle of your journey, and you will fall even after you swore the journey was over.  That is to be expected, but what is not expected is just how much more it hurts to fall the longer you have been running.  You would think that the more times you fall, the easier it would get to bounce back up, but it’s not for some reason.  This may have something to do with the fact that if feels really good when you can manage yourself better for longer periods of time.  It feels good to be in control, and once you see what you can do, and get used to the smooth sailing feeling, it is extremely upsetting to suddenly have a panic attack or a bout of depression.  Your unhealthy self will make fun of you and tell you that you are just fooling yourself if you believe you are anything but a broken, flawed person. This self-defeatist thinking is what helps keep you down even longer.  Your healing self needs to step up when this happens to remind you of just how few and far between these episodes now occur.  It is easy to lose sight of where you once were, and the progress you have made, if you are only focused on a perfect finish.
  4. Your new self will loathe your old self.  When you start to heal, you will gain a new perspective.  This new perspective often involves a bit of clarity, as well as taking more responsibility for the person you once were.  When you are having a mental crises, or stuck in a really dark spot, you can be a very ugly person.  You may have said things that hurt the people you love, and you may have done things that you feel can never be forgiven.  It may be painful to talk about the past as you heal, and you might be really angry at yourself for not doing something sooner.  Your unhealthy self will try and trick you into believing you are a fundamentally bad person that doesn’t deserve to be happy.  Your healing self will need to work overtime when this happens to remind you that you cannot change the past.  All you have is the present, and in the present moment you are trying to be your best.  It also helps to remember that the fact you even recognize you hurt people through your words and actions in the past, shows that you aren’t a bad person in the present.  You are becoming a caring, healing person that wants to do better.
  5. Your new self will envy your old self.  I feel a little guilty admitting this one, but there will be days when you will seriously feel like it would be much easier to just go back to being a mess.  It is really exhausting to actively participate in healing and self-work.  The mental strain of constantly self-regulating, practicing coping strategies, being cautious of triggers, and steering clear of emotional potholes is not for the weak.  When you are a mess, people don’t expect much out of you.  If you want to sit on the floor and have a fit, you can.  If you want to skip work and lay in bed all day, go for it.  Your unhealthy self will continually sabotage your thinking by telling you how carefree your life could be if you just went back to being your old unreliable self.  Your healing self, however, will hopefully remind you how it made you feel to constantly let people down and not feel like you were living up to your true potential.
  6. You will always be the same person to some people no matter how much you change.  There will always be those people in your life that can’t let go of the person you used to be.  They might tease you about how nervous you used to get, or they might continue to walk circles around you to avoid upsetting you.  Even though you may be a completely different person, they are trapped in old ways of thinking about you.   Again, your unhealthy self will want you to believe that you can’t win and no matter what you do people will always have a negative view of you.  Your healing self knows, however, that this journey is about you and not other people.  You can’t control other people’s perceptions of you, but you can control how you see yourself.  Focus on that.
  7. There is no finish line.  I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if you are running the mental health marathon with the hopes of it being over soon, your are going to be greatly disappointed.  Mental illness isn’t a fad or trend, and there is no magical cure.  If you suffer from anxiety or depression, you will probably need to manage your anxiety and depression your whole life.  Yes, you are always going to be running.  Your unhealthy self might want to throw in the towel upon hearing this news, but hopefully your healing self recognizes the value in building stamina and endurance for this race and your longterm goals.

Mental illness is tricky at times, but I am not in competition with my anxiety.  I am aware of what it can do to me and the people in my life, but I am continually in the process of learning how to coexist harmoniously with it as well. It may sound unbelievable, but there are aspects of my anxiety that I feel have been positive for me.  Because of my own struggles with emotional wellbeing, for example, I am very sensitive to the struggles of others.  My journey with anxiety has made me more sensitive to the emotional needs of the people in my life.  I recognize anxiety in people, and I can offer field tested strategies in the moment.  I know when someone needs me to listen, and I have great empathy for any person that is even participating in this race.  I think instead of seeking a fast and glamorous photo finish, the goal should be to stay on the track, avoid swallowing too much dust, and try to keep the sweat out of your eyes.  That seems a bit more manageable in the long run.

Author, Michelle Lynn, is a podcaster on The Captain’s Pod, and she creates content specifically for HSP’s, empaths, introverts, INFJ’s, and Myers-Briggs enthusiasts.  Her weekly podcast, HSP S.O.S. (Highly Sensitive Persons Supporting Our Sensitivity), can be found on The Captain’s Pod website, The HSP SOS website, and Facebook. Also connect with her on Twitter @hsp_sos.

Feeling Blue?

Michelle Lynn (HSP SOS)

Here’s a little graphic to remind yourself of what you can do when you are feeling a bit blue!  

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Author, Michelle Lynn, is a podcaster on The Captain’s Pod, and she creates content specifically for HSP’s, empaths, introverts, INFJ’s, and Myers-Briggs enthusiasts.  Her weekly podcast, HSP S.O.S. (Highly Sensitive Persons Supporting Our Sensitivity), can be found on The Captain’s Pod website, The HSP SOS website,  and  Facebook. Also connect with her on Twitter @hsp_sos .

I Feel Weird

Michelle Lynn (HSP SOS)

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My Christmas morning confession is this… I feel weird! I am not particularly depressed or anxious.  I am not necessarily disappointed or upset because I had hoped that things would have shaped up differently.  I am just sitting here alone in my apartment, fireplace going with a cup of mint tea by my side, feeling pretty off.  The feeling started towards the end of the evening last night, and I tried my best to shake it.  I spent time with my loved ones, and nothing transpired that would warrant a foul mood.  Still I sensed myself turning inward, and I found myself sitting quietly away from everyone else.  I could feel myself getting annoyed by being asked, “what’s wrong?”  I felt guilty for not wanting to talk.  I always appreciate that people care enough to show concern, but when I don’t know what’s wrong, I hate that people ask. It always leads to the filling in of the blanks as we try and figure out what’s going one with me.  

Am I sad that my daughter is with her father this morning instead of with me?  

Am I missing my grandmother?  

Did I forget to eat yesterday?

Am I upset that El Nino has created unseasonably warm temperatures in the Midwest, and it just doesn’t feel like Christmas?

Should I have said something to my mom about her mom not being here this year?  Was it disrespectful not to?

Have I just had too much people time, and  I need to take some time to recharge?

Did I spend too much this year on gifts or not enough?

Am I bothered by the wrapping paper, bows, and glitter strewn across the carpet?

Do I need to get some of those papers graded, so I can enjoy the rest of my time off?

Did those cookies have red dye in them, and now they are impacting my mood?

Do I want to be alone?

Do I want company?

Am I worried about attending my brother’s party?

Are the holiday decorations invading too much of my space?

Was that post about the orphan babies too emotional for me to read before going to bed?

Should I have had breakfast and my vitamins already?

Am I concerned about where I’m going to fit all of my daughter’s new toys?

Was it just not as meaningful as Christmases past?

Am I concerned that I’m ruining the day for everyone else, because I can’t get out of this funk?

The answer to all of these questions is… I don’t know?  No and yes?  The only thing I know with any certainty is that I feel weird.  Again, I am not depressed or anxious.  I am just kind of existing here in this space right now.  It’s almost like my mind and body can’t even process my emotions.  I am tempted to beat myself up.  I am tempted to put on some holiday music, down some eggnog, and force feed myself the holiday cheer.  The last thing I ever want to do is have my weird mood affect those around me.  I am almost to the point of letting a little of the anxiety in, and then I remind myself that I am a highly sensitive person.  I am an introvert.  I am extremely sensitive to everything around me, and I AM an intensely emotional person.  Weird is just a feeling like happy or sad.  The holidays are a deviation from the norm, and I’m just feeling what I’m feeling simple as that.  There’s nothing wrong, so I don’t have to invent a reason to tell other people.  I don’t need to feel guilty for not being something else.  In this moment, I think I just need to accept the fact that I feel a bit strange.  Maybe there are other people out there feeling the same way today thinking they shouldn’t?  If so, all I have to say is Merry Christmas let’s feel weird!  

Author, Michelle Lynn, is a podcaster on The Captain’s Pod, and she creates content specifically for HSP’s, empaths, introverts, INFJ’s, and Myers-Briggs enthusiasts.  Her weekly podcast, HSP S.O.S. (Highly Sensitive Persons Supporting Our Sensitivity), can be found on The Captain’s Pod website, The HSP SOS website,  and  Facebook. Also connect with her on Twitter @hsp_sos .

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