Some of my happiest and most vivid memories are moments that I spent by myself. A snowy weekend when I reread my favorite book series. The first time I made dinner in my new apartment. A morning where I snuck away from the rest of the group I was vacationing with to watch the sunrise alone. Of course, I have many happy memories with other people in them, but something about the calm of those moments and the peace those things brought me has lodged in my mind with clarity.
With the advent of social media, everyone with a computer has become familiar with FOMO (fear of missing out). This isn’t a term used exclusively by introverts, but the feeling can often be far worse for us when it is accompanied by another feeling—guilt.
Am I Lonely, or Is Society Just Telling Me to Be?
As an introvert, I have often felt guilty for choosing to stay home on a Friday or Saturday night, rather than going out and spending time with other people. This guilt occurs even if the thing I choose to do is something I was looking forward to, like reading a new book or watching one of my favorite movies. It occurs even when the thing that everyone else is doing—like going to a karaoke bar or attending a noisy football game—is something I know I wouldn’t enjoy.
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Yet there’s still that little voice in my head. It whispers to me that it’s abnormal that I like to spend so much time by myself. Yes, I am an introvert, but surely staying in on a Saturday night is crossing some kind of line into unhealthy territory. What would my peers say? What would my coworkers think? Often, I find myself embarrassed and making up excuses to stay in, like I have a lot of work to catch up on or I need to spend time with my family. Sometimes I even straight out lie and say I’m not feeling well.
The thing is, the last one isn’t as much of a lie as I used to think it was. The more I’ve come to understand what it means to be introverted, the more I realize alone time is something I need for my own mental health. This shouldn’t make me feel ashamed or guilty, but for some reason I’m afraid people will think less of me if they know what a loner I am.
I live by myself, and I love living by myself. Yet, I feel the need to constantly convince people that I’m okay with this. I’ve spent so much time fending off questions like “Don’t you get bored?” or “Don’t you get lonely?” that I began to believe there was actually something wrong with me. Maybe I really am lonely and need to change. Maybe I am stuck in my comfort zone and need to shake up my life.
Society tells us that people who willingly spend weekends at home watching TV, reading books, or cuddling their pets are lame. We should all be weeping into our couch cushions and loudly singing “All by Myself,” at the thought of spending Saturday night alone. However, those quiet moments that everyone else seems to fear like the plague are often the best parts of my week. A huge breakthrough came for me when I started to ask myself the question: “Am I really lonely, or is society just telling me to be?”
I began to realize it wasn’t those quiet moments alone in my apartment that I dreaded, it’s that moment on Monday morning when my coworker asks what I did over the weekend—and I have to say “nothing.” It’s the explanation I feel the need to give someone I barely know who invites me to a party, and I need to come up with an excuse that’s not “I don’t want to go.” Those are the moments I hate. But curled up under my favorite blanket with a new book and a cup of tea and a row of candles lit, I’m perfectly at peace.
What Feelings Are Motivating Your Plans?
According to Susan Cain, introverts make up about one-third to one-half of all Americans. However, because we are quieter and often try to pass as extroverts, we are still seen as the minority. We are the “other.” Therefore, we need to be fixed. We need to go out more. We need to feel guilty for every Saturday night we don’t spend surrounded by other people.
No one should tell you how to live your life—not society, not your friends, not your nosy coworkers, not even your family. If you are happy staying in, living alone, and doing your own thing, it’s okay. We don’t have to feel guilty for who we are just because we are different than the extroverted idea of “normal.”
Being introverted is part of who I am, yet I’ve heard people whisper the word as if it were something to be ashamed of. Everyone always wants you to be your own unique self, as long as that self is loud, vibrant, and outgoing. Sometimes I can be those things too, but only if I get enough rest and have enough “me” time in between.
If you feel guilty about not going out enough, it’s time to ask yourself why. If it’s only because you fear what other people think, than that’s not a very good reason. The less you care about what other people think, the more confident you will become.
When you can confidently and happily respond to the question, “What did you do this weekend?” by talking about the book you read or a movie you saw or all the errands you checked off your to-do list, people will realize you are happy and stop feeling the need to ask if you are lonely or bored.
Some people look forward to going out and spending time with friends all week long. Others look forward to those quiet moments they spend unwinding and recharging for the upcoming week. You aren’t missing out if you prefer the latter, any more than the extrovert who does the former is missing out. Both are equally legitimate ways to spend a weekend.
You don’t have to spend every Saturday night alone to identify as an introvert. Introverts enjoy spending time with friends too. However, before I postpone my plans with my favorite book for a walk on the wild side, I always ask myself: “What feelings are motivating my plans?” If the answer is guilt or embarrassment over someone else’s expectations, you will find me curled up on the couch building my own memorable Saturday night.