In a world where the majority of people (apparently two thirds) are extroverts, there are certain unspoken expectations of how to fit in and how to ‘be normal’. For example, we should see friends and family regularly, always go out when asked, engage in active hobbies and continuous professional development, support good causes, be successful, do exciting things and ideally let the world know about it by posting pictures and status updates on social media.
For extroverts this might not be a problem as many of them like being around others and don’t usually mind the general busyness and noise of modern life whereas introverts, on the other hand do! Working all day, commuting and the feeling that we then should also fill our leisure time with exciting things, tasks and people can be overwhelming, although I guess to a certain extent that is true for everyone. Perhaps extroverts just generally cope better with being busy, having full schedules and long to-do-lists and somehow still seem to find the energy to have a great social life too.
Introverts may just need more time alone, they may not want to be out and about all the time, communicate with everyone constantly about what’s going on in their life or simply do lots of different things. They like to retreat, have time to think and process events of the day, need peace and quiet to balance out all the noises, pressures and expectations they encountered. And that is totally okay! We’re all different and both introverts AND extroverts are needed and valuable.
Introverts might get fed the feeling that something is wrong with them, if they need a break from it all every now and then. Questions might pop up around them like “Where have you been?” “Why aren’t you coming out with us?” “You’re so quiet, is everything ok?” “Did you get my text?.” etc. The unspoken label ‘depression’ may occasionally float around but are people who need some alone time and don’t feel up for talks, events and gatherings really depressed?
Please don’t get me wrong, I’m neither downplaying depression nor am I suggesting that introvert people come across as depressed. It’s just that in my experience as a holistic health practitioner I’ve come across a number of clients who diagnosed themselves and thought they had some sort of mild depression, many of whom turned out to ‘just’ be introverts with no mental health problem whatsoever. So, I thought I’d write about it as I guess it can be quite a relief for anyone doubting themselves.
You don’t have to bend over backwards to fit in. It’s okay to be who you are, it’s okay to miss out on an evening with friends, it’s okay to stay in and take time out for yourself. In fact, if you feel you need it, it’s necessary! It’s important to respect our own needs and if alone time is what we need, then let’s take it. It helps to recharge our batteries and only if we look after ourselves, can we also look after others, plus if you have kids, you set a great example in showing them the importance of self-care.
Now, I’m not advocating to become a hermit. If someone is losing interest and enjoyment, feels in a depressed mood for an extended period of time, experiences increased fatigue or loss of energy, has disturbed appetite and/or sleep problems and engages in pessimistic views of the future, there might be an element of depression and getting support would be advisable. The IDC-10 (meaning: international classification of diseases 10th edition) is often used as a model for diagnosis and can be helpful. I’ve worked with a lot of clients to help them get out of their ‘down period’ and there’s lots of wonderful tools to help with that, such as Solution-focused psychotherapy and hypnotherapy and EFT.
Yet simply being introspective, reflective and observing, enjoying a bit of alone time, having quiet hobbies, not joining every social event or being a bit under the weather every now and then does not mean depression! These are qualities of introverts and it’s important to respect them in order NOT to get depressed in the future because by not getting our emotional needs met, we are more prone to mental health problems. So, take a break to daydream if you need to. Take time out for yourself and please respect others who do the same. What about you? Has this blog post been helpful? Are you an introvert or an extrovert? I look forward to reading your comments. Thanks.