Living Resilience

Introversion and energy management

I am an introvert. This shocks a lot of people who know me.

“You seem so outgoing!”

“You are so engaged when talking to people!”

“You do so well on the stage!”

Introversion isn’t a synonym for being shy, or socially awkward, or withdrawn. There are introvert stand-up comedians, introvert actors, and introvert party planners. No, introversion just means you get your energy from solitude, and you spend energy on public interaction. As opposed to extroverts, who derive energy from interaction and spend energy in solitude.

So, as an introvert, I can have a very public facing job. It just costs me more energy to do it than it would if I were an extrovert.

Think of it like this:

Like a lot of people who work in the so-called helping professions, I don’t make a lot of money. I mean, I make enough to support my family and to pay my bills, but we have to be careful with our spending. Extravagances are rare, and splurges are just that – a splurge.

So, for example, if I want to go out and eat steak at a steakhouse, I can afford to do it – occasionally. Like, maybe once a month, if I plan for it. But I couldn’t do it every day. I would quickly be bankrupt and overdrawn, unable to take care of my obligations.

And if that happened, the problem isn’t that steak is expensive, although it is pricey. And the problem wouldn’t be my income, although things are tight. The problem is that I didn’t properly manage my resources. Because steak is expensive, and I do have a finite amount of money.

And for introverts like me, people are expensive, and I have a finite amount of energy, and that energy is a resource I must manage.

For example: Tonight I am going to the birthday party of a friend’s son. He is turning 12, and there will be a cookout and a bonfire and lots of kids and basketball and toasted marshmallows. And it will be expensive for me, energy-wise. But the kid means a lot to me, and the friend means a lot to me, and so I’ve decided it will be worth it. The same way you might save up to treat a yourself to a nice bottle of wine for a special occasion.

But just like me deciding to eat steak at a fancy restaurant, I can’t just do it whenever I want to. I have to save up for it. I have to plan for it. I have to look ahead and budget my energy around it. I knew I had this on the calendar, so I didn’t plan any in-person meetings this afternoon, and I don’t have any planned until lunchtime tomorrow.  I’m going to spend an hour or so before we go alone, reading, and when we get home, I will be exhausted, and will go to bed. But while I am at the party, I will see people, have fun, and the people I will interact with will think I am likeable and outgoing.

Because I am outgoing. And I will have fun at this party. It’s just expensive for me.

A further thing:

I recognize that the ability to arrange my schedule is a huge privilege, one that most people don’t enjoy. It has taken me until I am almost 50 years old to have this much control over my calendar, but it is something I have been fighting for my whole life. Once you know how you best work, then trying to make your life match up to that is a huge quality of life improvement, and very much worth fighting for.

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  • Managing energy | Humidity and Hope
    October 28, 2021 at 3:55 pm

    […] And to make things more complicated – I’m an introvert. That doesn’t mean that I’m shy, or I don’t like people. It just means I derive energy from solitude, and I expend energy when I engage people. In other words, people are expensive. […]