It’s me, not you

Introverts are not what you think. I am an introvert, but most people would not believe that. I’m social when I go out. I like people BUT, I don’t get energy from other people… not usually. What I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt, is my energy is definitely not zapped when I spend time alone. Never! I can be alone for days, weeks, months (okay, maybe not months), and I feel GREAT! I’m not saying I’d like to be the last (wo)man on earth, but solitude feeds my soul. It’s my time to reflect. On the other hand, when I go out, I sometimes find myself drained of energy, like vampires, some people suck it right out of me.

Don’t get me wrong, I can socialize with the best of them. But, I do find myself losing energy if I’m around people for too long. I’m great at a party. More often than not, I am the life of the party, the last one to leave, the one who never wants to sleep. BUT, after a night like that, I usually find myself wanting to stay home for a few days to regenerate. Not because I’m hungover, but, because after a night with a lot of people, I like to be alone.  I’m not one of these people who desire a full social calendar with plans beginning on Thursday that leave me breathless by Monday. I’m usually good with one planned event per weekend, but sometimes that’s even too much. It depends on my state of mind. Overall, my lack of social planning coupled with my desire for solitude tends to get me into trouble with friends. I felt guilty, I felt the need to explain, I felt like a terrible friend, until I read an article recently about introverts and extroverts, and it shed some light on my behavior, why I need to recharge, alone, and it’s not about anyone else, it’s about me.

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There are a few theories about the differences between introverts and extroverts, and some recent research has even shown that our genetic makeup has a lot to do with which tendencies are strongest in each of us. And unlike my theory about how outgoing or shy we are, introversion and extroversion actually relate to where we get our energy from. Or in other words, how we recharge our brains.

Introverts (or those of us with introverted tendencies) tend to recharge by spending time alone. They lose energy from being around people for long periods of time, particularly large crowds. Extroverts, on the other hand, gain energy from other people. Extroverts actually find their energy is sapped when they spend too much time alone. They recharge by being social.

Yep. I’m an introvert. After a night out, I find myself craving time at my house, alone. When I say alone, I am including my immediate family. I never run out of things to do during my alone time. During these times, I might watch old Jack Nicholson movies, soak in the bath, read a good book, swim, cook a meal, draw with my kids, write the greatest American novel, the list goes on, and it’s not about anyone else. During my times of regeneration, I generally ignore my phone and email. I don’t like to be disturbed. Sidetracked, if you will. You see I have a boundary problem, and I find it hard to say NO. I know this about myself, and I’m working on it. But as a lifetime people-pleaser it’s a hard habit to break. It’s easier for me to just ignore my phone and email, that way I’m not tempted to say yes or chat away my day.

However, ignoring my phone and email upsets some friends. You see they take it personally. They don’t understand how I can be social one minute and then not respond the next. I’m not consistent. It frustrates them because they have expectations, and when I don’t meet those expectations, they just get mad at me. Then they send more texts. “Everything okay?” “How are you?” “Hello?” “Are you ignoring me?” “What’s going on?” They go from a casual “Hey, what are you up to today?” to WTF? in a matter of one weekend. Sometimes they go to the trouble of writing a big, long email about how I’m not a good friend or go on about how I’m personally upsetting them and how I should be more considerate of their feelings. I tell them; it’s not you, it’s me. I feel kind of like a guy when I say that, but it’s true. It’s not personal. I repeat. Don’t take it personally. It’s not personal. I have a lot going on. I didn’t purposely ignore you. I wasn’t even thinking about you. I was wrapped up in myself as you are now when you made it all about you. I say, I was busy. You weren’t on my radar. We just saw each other. Or the weekend just got away from me. Or I lost my phone. Or I ignored my phone. Or, or, or. … but it’s not about you.

Bottom line, I no longer have the time or inclination to placate people, even friends. If you are dying, I’ll be there. If it’s an emergency, you can count on me. If you just need to talk, well I may or may not be available. Not because I don’t want to talk, simply because I may be in the middle of something else. Don’t get pissed at me for not responding to texts fast enough. Don’t get pissed at me because you can’t figure me out. Don’t get pissed at me for spending time with someone else. Don’t get pissed at me for your insecurities.

I have to say one of the most valuable lessons I have learned in life and still work on every single day is… no one else is responsible for my happiness. PERIOD. AND I’m not responsible for yours. So, when my friends say or do things that may or may not upset me, I let them slide. I don’t take them personally. I don’t send long-winded emails about how they’ve disappointed me. I have asked my friends to show me the same courtesy because this too shall pass.

You see, I let go of expectations awhile ago. I stopped expecting others to make me happy. I stopped expecting others to make me feel better. I stopped expecting others to stop their life, to focus on mine. I stopped.

Then, I turned and looked inside. I realized that I was always letting everyone else upset me. I was controlled by other people’s moods and reactions. I was allowing other people to drain me.

But, then I started dealing with my insecurities. I realized that it wasn’t my husband’s fault, it wasn’t my friend’s fault, it wasn’t my mom’s fault or my dad’s fault. It wasn’t my sister’s fault or my brother’s fault. It wasn’t my dog or cat’s fault. It wasn’t my kid’s faults. It was me! I’m responsible for my reactions. I’m responsible for my feelings. I’m responsible for my ACTIONS. I’m NOT responsible for my friend’s or family’s reactions. I wasn’t put on this earth to PLEASE. I was put on this earth to live my life, not the life others expect me to live. Not their expectations at all, but mine. What I want and need for myself. Not what they want and need from me. Only my children get that and maybe my spouse and aging parents. I realized as long as I continued to try and please everyone and meet their needs; I had no time for my own needs. I had no time to be selfish. I felt guilty for being selfish. I felt bad that they felt bad. I felt like I was a bad friend. But, then I realized, I wasn’t. I have a lot of good friends. Friends I’ve had since high school or before. I realized that those old friends, they were more accepting. They didn’t think our friendship lived and died with a few months of missed conversations. You see they weren’t insecure in our friendship. They knew our friendship was there to stay. I don’t get upset when my friends don’t call me back. I know they are busy. I don’t get upset when my friends don’t respond to text, I know they probably didn’t see it or whatever is, it’s not about me. They will write when they can. I don’t judge them. I move on with my life. I used to get upset. I used to take everything personally. I used to be a lot more insecure about everything. But I have been doing the work. My focus is on me now, not them. I’m responsible for my life. My feelings. My happiness. My self. Not them. And they are responsible for their lives. I don’t need to take on that responsibility. I just have to deal with my feelings. And I know, that when I feel a certain way, based on something that happened, it’s never them, it’s me… I’m responsible.

I’m not a victim. I’m my therapist. I’m proactive. I look in the mirror and say, “Hmm. Why do you think you are feeling this way? What triggered that?” Then I turn it inside. I reverse it because I’ve learned that what upsets me the most is usually the thing that I need to work on. And then I do the work. And I move one step further, away from my insecurity. I heal. I move on. And with each step toward healing, I move further away from the people that get mad at me for not living up to their expectations because that’s not my problem.

And, yes, I sometimes hibernate, to reflect, to do the work. That’s what works for me. And, if that doesn’t work for my friends and family, here are some words I might say …

I’m sorry if that doesn’t work for you.

I’m sorry that you feel that way.

I’m sorry that I can’t give you what you need in a relationship right now.

I wish you all the best.

And then I take time to reflect. I take time for solitude. I take time for me. Because, if I don’t take time for myself and regenerate, I’m no good to anyone.

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