It is an interesting question that I was asked last week. I’d spent three nights of my week being social and I’d posted a picture on Instagram sharing that I would be unplugging that weekend. Ok honestly, I posted a picture on Instagram to show off an outfit that I felt really good in and the caption included that I had an overstimulating week and would be unplugging over the weekend. Who’s splitting hairs here? Anyway, I wasn’t sure how to answer the question. At first, I started by going through my list of actual plans, but I settled on “Doing things that feed my soul and help me refill my tank.”
As an introvert, being social is physically draining. It literally feels like, what I imagine, a four-hour boot camp style workout feels like. My body feels drained, my head hurts and I just want to sit still and not think for a while. In my experience, it is really hard for those who don’t feel the same way to understand this about introverts. I can be social and, when I do it, I do a good job at it, but it takes a lot of work. I am constantly reacting to the stimulation surrounding me. I am reading the room. I am reading people’s body language. I am thinking about my body language. Questioning whether I am reacting appropriately. Did I say the right thing? Was what I said stated the way that I meant? It is physically and mentally exhausting.
It took me a very long time to identify with being ‘introverted.’ I wasn’t antisocial. I liked being social with friends and family. I remember people considering me to be stuck up because I had a hard time making small talk. Well, that and being a light-skinned Black woman…which is a horrible stereotype. I very vividly remember a visit to my boyfriend at college and tagging along to his track practice. The girls on his team didn’t take to kindly to me sitting by myself and cracking open a book to read instead of chatting it up with them. I didn’t speak unless I was spoken to and I became comfortable being on the outsides of social circles. I wasn’t shy. I had no trouble enjoying the company of friends, it just took me longer to make them.
Once the term ‘introverted’ crossed my path and I learned about it, it was as if someone had handed me the key to understanding all of who I am. I am not stuck up. I am not shy. I am not antisocial. I simply get drained from overstimulating environments, which are mostly social. The awkwardness I felt about all my social quirks finally made sense. I know I am not alone. At least one of my coworkers completely understands what I mean when I say “I have peopled too much today.” Once I understood who I was, I was able to navigate my life on my own terms. I know that my career choices mean that actively engaging with people will be a constant in my life. Understanding that I know that I must schedule time to recharge, by stepping away from overstimulating environments, means that I am now capable of handling that fact. I no longer avoid it like the plague or resent it as an intrusion on my life.
So, what do I actually do that ‘feeds my soul and refills my tank?” I am so glad you asked! The easiest thing is sleep. Last Wednesday was the only night that I had no after work obligations and after the kids were in bed, I went right to sleep. There were dirty dishes all over my kitchen, clothes hadn’t been picked out and lunch had not been packed, but my body and mind were drained so I listened to them and rested. Over the weekend I spent some time with my son’s while supporting a good friend’s walk, I dropped the kids off with family members and went home to take a nap. My husband took me to dinner, then we walked and talked like we hadn’t done in weeks. I cleaned my house while listening to music and took time to review my schedule for the week. I read a book while laying on my chaise and made dinner. There is absolutely nothing special about these things. Except for the fact that they made me utterly happy.
I am now refilled for another week of peopling and I will do so with a full soul!
Yolanda Jenkins is a wife, mother of 2, and an introverted leader. She can sometimes be found sharing the good, the bad and the ugly on IG @thislibralife.
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