For most of my life, I’ve figured that I just won’t get what I want and need during the holidays.
I’m not talking about presents. I don’t much care about them.
I’m talking about what I want and need as an introvert.
Thanksgiving, Christmas, the rest of the upcoming festivities: There’s going to be some extra work involved for me, work that stems directly from being an introvert. It’s always been that way where holidays and their general tilt toward extraversion are concerned, and it always will be.
So I can already count on becoming somewhat depleted during the holiday get-togethers. I’m not going to get as much time to myself as I normally get. I’m not going to have as many opportunities to just sit and think and recharge my batteries. I’ll have to be “on” far more than I usually am, and it will be draining.
But you know what? You know what I’m (finally) learning? It’s OK. I don’t need to fight the holidays or resent them, as I often have — if only subconsciously — in the past. Because I’m starting to see, for the first time in my life, a picture of holiday give-and-take that has somehow never presented itself to me before.
If the holidays are a teeter-totter, it can seem like the extraverts in your life dominate one side of it, leaving you up in the air all alone, feet dangling. Stuck.
I’ve always taken this scenario as a given when it comes to the holidays. “Holidays are for extraverts,” I’ve come to conclude. “There’s nothing I can do about it.”
Wrong. Times two.
The holidays are actually for everyone. And a teeter-totter only works if it’s balanced, and the riders on both sides get not only their downsides but also their upsides.
So here’s how I can think of things as an introvert trying to navigate a time of year that is even more extraverted than usual:
[teeter] I’m not supposed to get all the things I really want and need (nor do I expect this extreme in the first place, just for the record). No one is. It’s a universal impossibility.
[totter] I’m not supposed to get none of them, either (which is exactly the extreme I’ve always expected).
[balance] I am supposed to get — I deserve to get — some of the things I really want and need. Just like the next guy.
Ahhh. Feels good, this whole balance thing.
If you too have always struggled during the holidays, please join me in reclaiming them — again, not completely, but fairly. Equitably. Here’s how:
Keep Reminding Yourself: Sure, It’s Not All About Me — but It’s Not All About Everyone Else, Either
You don’t and won’t and shouldn’t get everything you want during the holidays. It’s not all about you and your introversion. But the opposite extreme — everyone else gets everything they want, and you get nothing — is equally unrealistic and unfair, not to mention unsustainable.
Strive for the middle ground, the balanced teeter-totter. Tell yourself you’re going to give and take during the holidays. Then do it.
Communicate What You Need — and Why — to Key Players
It’s great to tell yourself that you’re going to give and take during the holidays. But the people around you need to understand that too. And they may need to be filled in on your reasons, not in the context of justification but, rather, in the context of mere explanation.
If you want and need to step out of the festivities for some alone time, for example — and you almost certainly will — you can just tell people (if they notice or ask) that you’re taking a quick break to decompress. And that you’ll be back soon.
Take Introvert Breaks
You can try to be an extravert for hours on end, but you’re probably going to fail. So instead, just keep bouncing back and forth between participating in the extraverted activities and stopping out to catch your breath and recharge. Take a short walk outside. Go read a book for a bit in the quietest place you can find. Just a few minutes at a time is all you need. Even a slightly extended trip to the bathroom will do the trick!
Find the Extraverted Thing You DO Like and Get into It
Maybe you really do enjoy playing games with your family members, or singing karaoke, or whatever it may be. Latch onto that extraverted activity and spend your energy there. Or latch onto the parts of other activities that bring you some joy, even if the activity as a whole doesn’t really thrill you.
Give Yourself Rewards
After you’re done extraverting, give yourself the gift of a half-hour sipping a flavored drink at the nearby coffee shop. Or go for a run. Or do whatever else makes you feel good. Because you deserve to feel good.
Same as everyone else on the holiday ride.