Do you consider yourself introverted? If you’re unsure if you are an introvert, feel free to check out this blog post – it discusses some of the main criteria that is often used to describe an introverted person. Introversion is on a spectrum and everyone can be more or less introverted/extraverted depending on the situation – the criteria mainly serve as a guide and general rule for how you would define yourself.
If you believe yourself to be high on introversion, like many introverts, you may feel low on self-acceptance and thereby struggle with setting boundaries around your particular introverted needs. You may feel as though you are the anomaly in your social group and because of this don’t believe you deserve to have your needs be met and respected.
If the above is true for you, I am here to tell you that you are wrong. Your needs, boundaries, and preferences matter. They matter so much for you and for others. If you are not taking care of your own need for time and space by yourself, to reflect or let your mind wander, to space out and just process the day’s activities, then you likely are experiencing increased stress which oftentimes can come out in problematic ways (see this blog about different ways our bodies respond when we are stressed). These problematic manifestations of your increased stress likely negatively impact you and those around you. Thus, despite it being difficult to go against previous habits of undermining your own intuition of what you need and deferring to others’ needs, it is in your best interest to communicate your needs to others and to really make it a priority that you get this time to yourself (or whatever your idiosyncratic needs may look like).
I have had many clients tell me that they feel ‘dumb’ or ‘weak’ for even thinking that they need time to themselves away from others to reorient their minds, make sense of things, and process information. This is very unfortunate because when some of these same clients have told me that they finally asserted to their partner that they needed some time to themselves, and their partner accepted and supported this, they often reported that although they could have taken three hours on their own, just by having a sense of permission from others and from themselves to be alone, they didn’t actually need the full three hours. And what they found is that after having time to themselves, they felt more energized, more effective at communicating other needs and emotions with their loved ones, felt more engaged in life, and generally more social.
For instance, let’s say you work at an office and every time you have to do a task that involves directly (i.e., talking with someone, group meeting or project, interview, talking on the phone, video calls, etc.) or indirectly (i.e., walking together somewhere, sitting right beside someone without a barrier between you, etc.) interacting with someone you are given a piece of paper to hold onto every minute. Every minute you spend time with someone you get another piece of paper to hold onto. So, after an hour-long work meeting, you have accumulated 60 pieces of paper. Maybe right after the meeting you have to go talk with a colleague for 20 minutes. So now you have 80 pieces of paper that you are holding. You can’t put the paper down until you are alone. The definition of being alone varies per person. Perhaps you are able to isolate yourself from others when in a meeting by withdrawing psychologically into your mind and daydreaming. Despite the obvious potential consequences of not remembering what was said in the meeting, you might have been able to forgo collecting those annoying papers. But, the work-related consequences now show-up and are a completely different issue to tackle – so add that to the mix of inevitable paper carrying.
The point is, that it is hard to carry around the social experiences (i.e., papers) that accumulate every minute, and it is really only when the introvert is alone that they finally feel like they can put the papers down and begin to look them over, process, and understand them. Until this happens, they are just fumbling and trying to carry numerous papers. In case you haven’t held papers before, they may not be heavy, but once there are a few in your hands it is hard and awkward to carry them without wrinkling them.
So, although perhaps a strange analogy I believe it works for helping to understand (and perhaps explaining introverted needs to others) how introverts really benefit from having their needs met and how much more of a positive influence they can be in the workplace, at home, and in loving relationships when they are able to get some well deserved space.
Let’s put this into action. If you resonate with any of the above, then I encourage you to reflect on the following questions/prompts to prepare yourself for asserting your need for time and space to yourself.
- What are you most afraid of by setting boundaries around your needs? Is it rational? If not, how do you think the person you are asserting yourself to would respond?
- How much time do you think you would need? How frequently (per week, day, hour, etc.) do you think you would need time to yourself?
- How would you spend your time? Would it cost money? Does it need to? What would you need to do during your time to take full advantage of it?
- If you reflect on your current situation, how much introverted time do you get? If nothing changes in your situation, what might be the consequences to your health, relationship, career, etc.?
- How might your new found introverted time rub off on the person you are asserting yourself to? Would they experience positive benefits from it? A happier, more relaxed, present version of yourself?
- What’s the worst thing that could happen? What’s the best thing? What’s the most realistic thing that could happen?
If you found this helpful, let me know in the comments and provide any feedback as I would like to support you as much as possible. If you resonate but still struggle with the idea of asserting yourself, you can reach out to me for a free consultation here to see if counselling is a good fit for you.