Time alone is a non-negotiable for introverts because we need it for our very survival. Too dramatic? Not at all.
Whether a full-on retreat or time scheduled for ourselves throughout our regular weekly routine, introverts need to be alone if we want to fill up our energy tanks so we can share our goodness with the world.
Alone time, solitude, offers the gift of “disengagement from the immediate demands of other people“. The amount of alone time you create is up to you. Only you know how much you need.
I can already hear your “ya but’s”.
Ya but: I’m too busy. My family needs me. My business needs me. I can’t afford to take time off work. If I took as much time alone as I wanted, people would think I’m a hermit. I should be spending my time with others. What will people think?
I’m going to ask you to stop making judgments about yourself (and stop listening to judgments others might make of you) and just create space for alone time. Just do it.
I understand the guilt. I understand the criticism. I also know from personal experience that the best thing you can do is trust your intuition and give yourself the time and space you need for self-care. Forget about what anyone else thinks. In the end, it doesn’t matter.
For me, this has been lifelong learning, but it finally sunk in over five years ago when I was feeling exhausted from my stressful job and also torn because I really wanted to be living a different lifestyle. My choice to go go go without self-care led me to burnout (again – although I didn’t know it at the time). I thought what I was doing was “proper”.
It was clear that my idea of what “responsible” and “committed” looked like had to change. I had to become central to the equation.
It shouldn’t take courage to commit to alone time. But it does.
How will you build more alone time into your life?
An hour to yourself at the end of the day?
A daily walk?
You don’t have to feel like an empty shell just going through the motions of life trying to live up to norms or expectations. Do yourself, and everyone else, a favour and find the courage to schedule the alone time you need to be your best self.
My hope for you is that you will put systems into place so that adequate amounts of alone time become the norm rather than the exception (an afterthought, if it’s convenient).
And when those ya but’s start showing up, just imagine a mini-me sitting on your shoulder, nudging you to trust your intuition.
I’ll be whispering – Make your need for alone time a priority. Connect with your wisdom. Show up for yourself. It’s necessary.
P.S. Just so you know that I really walk the talk, my husband and daughter (an extravert and an ambivert) usually fly to Ontario to visit both our large families for what has become an annual face-to-face. I love them all and enjoy our time together, but sometimes, I stay home instead. Alone (well, my cat is here). And I can’t tell you how happy I am to commit to myself this way, even though I miss them.
Go ahead and criticize. I know what I need most. Space and time to move to my own rhythm. My introvert rhythm. To tap into clarity, creativity, strength, and re-connecting with my self. Permission to say no (to others/yes to myself) has become a non-negotiable. My radical act of love.
How about you?
11 thoughts on “Why Time Alone is NOT Negotiable for Introverts”
I’m a true introvert (like most writers, perhaps) and like you pointed out, need some alone time. Caring for an aging parent and with three grandchildren ages 7, 5, and 3, it’s a challenge, but you are absolutely right. We need that time to retain our sanity as well as our strength.
You mentioned your daughter being an ‘ambivert’ … I’ve never heard that term but I totally get it. That’s me! An extrovert who deeply needs her introvert solo-time to renew + refuel + reset.
A Libra craving balance, as the astrologers would say.
I totally get your glee at having the house to yourself … I take myself off to a secluded corner of my local coffee shop to get away from my two work-at-home men.
It’s all about balance + self-care + doing what nourishes + delights us … no matter what others might say.
A big yes to your final point Jacqueline. Thanks for taking the time to comment 🙂
So I’m an Introvert – of the “Extreme” variety if Myers Briggs is to be believed. Normally I don’t read articles about Introverts because so many people get it wrong that it pisses me off. But I think you’ve done a great job of explaining the need for alone time. Even before I understood what an Introvert was I used to joke about taking a break for “closet time” and I really needed that because for 30+ years I made my living in the highly Extroverted world of travel industry sales. Thanks for the great read!
Thanks for your feedback Marquita. Yes, I feel the same. What I find most disturbing is when introverts themselves perpetuate negative stereotypes of what introversion looks like – as if extreme social anxiety & isolation, chronic depression, inability (or unwillingness) to engage in small talk for the sake of being friendly is the norm. Even us ‘extreme’ introverts are quite capable of making a positive difference in the world – and we’ll have the energy to do it by making sure we have adequate ‘closet time’. 🙂
I’m highly introverted, but don’t slip into depression – it’s a totally different thing. I get totally refueled by being alone – walking, thinking, sitting. But take me out to dinner with friends and I scream inside to get back home.
At work though? Watch out, I’m on fire, on a mission and happy to talk to whomever will listen – but that’s a focused passion.
And there are plenty more introverts like you Michelle! I’m sure many of my readers will see themselves in you. Thanks for sharing 🙂
For sure.. something I know I need as an introvert.
Very often misunderstood word though isn’t it.. People don’t always see me as an introvert but I am enervated by being alone.
Thanks for your comment Terry. Yes, it’s very possible for an introvert to genuinely show up in the world as confident, well spoken and friendly. That’s why myth busting is so important. It comes down to what increases and drains our energy. The more aware we are of that (whether an introvert or extravert), the more effective we can be in creating a lifestyle that works for us.
I am an extrovert and know that introverts are not fuelled by being social as I am. What I’ve observed in my friends who are introverts is that they slip into depression and withdraw even more and don’t know it. Then they want to be rescued and pulled out- lots of wishful thinking going on. I just told a friend who lost her job, she MUST call me on bad days. I won’t know the days she needs to connect and given my busy life it is not top of my list. She heard my request was coming from love and wanting to support her. I will pay attention to her and our relationship and I think its good for her to take action.
Thanks for your comment Rosalyn. As you’ve pointed out, it’s sometimes hard for extroverts to understand introverts. We have a lot of inner workings that we often don’t share with the world (introverts tend to value privacy and intimacy and need solitude to process information for decision making). It can take time for us to work through life’s challenges.
What I will say is that introversion is not synonymous with depression, which is a mental health issue. And needing time alone is not the same as social isolation. In fact I wrote a blog post about the need to connect that you might find interesting: https://wiseintrovert.com/withdraw-into-yourself-fear-choose-connection/
Unfortunately (and I’m sure it’s not your intention, as I believe you when you say that you’re coming from a place of love), your observations feed into some common negative stereotypes about introversion – that it is somehow a problem that needs to be fixed – a defect – a weakness. These stereotypes suggest that extroverts know better than introverts what’s “right” or “proper” or “best”.
Ultimately, each one of us is responsible for our own happiness and well being. As difficult as it can be to stand by and watch the people you care for struggle, trust that your friends know what they need (I believe in intuition and personal wisdom) and will take steps, in their own way, to get it when they’re ready. All you can do is be a patient and open friend; continue to let them know you’re there for them but don’t push.
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