Introverts often bring to mind a particular personality type: book reading, shy and soft-spoken. While there is nothing wrong with any of the above character traits, it’s not a full representation of introverts as a whole.
The world is full of social, outgoing, witty introverts who have a great time with friends but simply crave—and need—privacy and introspection as a source of energy and rest.
Introverts come in all personality types with unique sets of needs and self-care routines to stay healthy and happy. However, one very common struggle that many introverts do share is a desire for community despite naturally seeking isolation.
In other words, an introvert might feel left out and lonely when going on social media and seeing friends and family at a party that they declined to go to. Confusing, right?
But to many introverts, saying “yes” and getting involved can be a daunting task. This feeling can often lead to a series of “no’s” to invitations, potential community events, clubs or activities. And as relieved as you might feel by saying “no” in the moment and avoiding the commitment, this pattern can quickly lead an introvert from simply taking the time they need for a healthy recharge, to loneliness.
In her 2010 memoir, Lonely, Emily White explored not only her own and others’ feelings of loneliness, but extensively researched the idea of loneliness itself and what it can do to individuals and communities.
White explains, “The notion that you can lead just a private life is not true for everyone,” adding that research looks first at our relationship with ourselves, then with others and then with the “collective self”—how we fit within larger groups. “Increasingly we’re losing that collective self, focusing on ourselves and our private relationships.”
As an introvert, the common tendency to rely only on intimate relationships to fulfill a need for human connection—such as a spouse, sibling or parent—is a common one. However, this actually puts enormous pressure on those relationships. With such a small number of people fulfilling our need for human connection, any attrition leaves us susceptible to loneliness when there is no community to pick up the slack. Despite the introvert’s fear of overcommitment leading to exhaustion, community actually helps fulfill our inherent human need for connection without requiring an intensely intimate relationship.
Introverts, I know what you’re thinking: venturing out to look for that community connection might lead us right into the things we desperately seek to avoid: discomfort, rejection, awkwardness. This is true! But if we make the effort, the rewards will be fruitful.
Start this process by following a few steps:
1. Push yourself.
You want to say “no” to that invitation to a weekly small group. The commitment is crippling, and that’s ok. Acknowledging our own limits is an important point, especially for those of us who fear that joining a group or volunteering with an organization will put us in a position of being committed to something we can’t handle.
“You’re not diving into the deep end,” White promises in her book. “You start at the shallow end. ‘I could always say no.’ You can always draw your own lines.”
Push yourself to say “yes” and know that by doing so, you are not committing yourself for life.
2. Make friends with introverts.
As you venture out to make new connections and community, start by finding like-minded individuals instead of jumping into the deep end by joining a group or activity completely outside of your comfort zone. Other introverts who won’t pressure you for weekly coffee dates and constant dinners will make you feel less overwhelmed.
Maybe you can organize a monthly or bi-monthly book club that eases you into social commitment? Or maybe it’s a weekly pilates class where you can get to know other classmates and chat before and after class. Don’t set yourself up for failure by taking on something that might burn you out immediately.
3. Don’t play the comparison game.
Find your own way of including community in your life and don’t compare it to the way others might. The dynamics of some social groups, clubs or activities are a perfect fit for some and not the right fit for others. If you feel uncomfortable and out of place in an environment where everyone else appears to be enjoying themselves, don’t panic. This just means that you need to find your community, not someone else’s.
When you dedicate yourself to finding a place that feels like home to you, you will want to show up again and again—building a genuine and authentic community that gives you a feeling of belongingness.
Don’t worry. You can still say “no,” just push yourself to say “yes” a few more times.