It’s today, isn’t it? The holiday party. And there’s another one next week. A red and green glitter bomb of social obligation has exploded all over your calendar. You love your family, friends, and co-workers, but you’re an introvert so all that socializing sounds exhausting. Frequent partying isn’t something you do. But the holidays only happen once a year, so you’ll rock around the Christmas tree anyway. But of course you’ll have thoughts like these:
1. Do I have to go? Saying yes to the party seemed like a good idea when your friend/co-worker/family member asked you to go. But that was two weeks ago when today seemed like an impossible blip in the not-so-distant future. You’re scolding Past You for getting you into this mess, but if you don’t go, you’re afraid you’ll disappoint everyone. Do you feel a headache coming on? And that might have been a cough. Looks like you’re too sick to go!
2. I’ll only go for a little while. Yes, that’s it. The perfect compromise. Why didn’t you think of that earlier? You don’t look antisocial but later you can come home and put on your comfy pants and do nothing.
3. I’ll arrive late. You don’t want to be the first or second person there. You don’t even want to be there at all. But if you’re going, you’re at least not getting stuck making awkward small talk with the host or people you barely know. There’s no escaping draining chit chat when there are only three people in the room.
4. I’m here, now what? You arrived fashionably late but already the party is an extroverted mob drunk on the thrill of socializing. It’s loud because there are so many people here. You can’t hear what anyone is saying. (If you’re a highly sensitive introvert, the noise and activity level alone sap your energy and make you feel irritated or overwhelmed.) You feel self-conscious and wonder if everyone notices your awkwardness.
5. I’ll find the host. Perfect. Someone you know. Besides, you forced yourself to come when you could have spent the night at home doing introvert-y things. Things that actually recharge you, not drain you — like watching Netflix, reading, or gaming. You need to get credit for enduring this energy-sucking misery.
6. Great, the host is gone, now what? She’s a social butterfly and she already moved on to the next guest.
7. I’ll make a plate of food. Yeah. You’re at least doing something then, even if it’s just eating. Participation points.
8. I suppose I should talk to someone. You ate your food, but now, with nothing else to put in your mouth to prevent you from talking, you feel awkward. How about talking to that guy over there? You did that thing together once and it wasn’t awful. Okay, here you go. Approach slowly. What’s your opening line? Smile. SMILE.
9. So then this happens:
10. How do I end this conversation without seeming rude? You’re done. You literally can’t pretend to care any more about his weekend bro trip to Las Vegas or make any more small talk. The conversation has become a black hole of fake chit chat that is destroying any possibility of intelligible communication or authentic interaction. You want to change the topic of conversation but the small talk has unleashed its brain-melting poison of meaninglessness and it’s impossible to think of anything real to say.
A drink. You need another drink. You excuse yourself and walk away.
11. The cat! The cat is your new best friend. The cat has found the only calm corner of this audacious hellhole of human interaction. The cat will not bore you with small talk. When you and the cat dreamily lock eyes, you feel a sacred camaraderie pass between your souls, as if you and your spirit guide are walking hand-in-paw on a plane of quiet infinity.
12. Weird, I’m actually having fun! When another harried introvert came to pet the cat, the two of you exchanged silent glances of understanding and struck up a conversation. The small talk was minimal and there was actually time and space in the conversation to develop your thoughts. Your conversation was interesting and thoughtful, and you feel like you’re a little bit better of a person for having met Introvert Party Guest. Surprisingly, as you rejoin the party, you feel energized.
13. Ugg. Here comes that person. She is Unaware Extrovert. She won’t stop talking. Every inconsequential thought that crosses her mind, she says. She doesn’t listen to you – she’s just thinking about what she’ll say next. Unaware Extrovert will drain your energy reserves completely. Here she comes. SHE’S COMING THIS WAY.
You slip away to the bathroom just in time and stare in the mirror for a few minutes, enjoying the quiet.
14. Can I leave yet?
15. Can I leave yet??
16. CAN I LEAVE YET?! Because this is how your brain works:
17. I’m exhausted. After emerging from the bathroom and surviving one more round of small talk, you feel foggy and out-of-it. You’re so worn out from socializing that you actually feel physically tired. This means your social “battery” is dangerously close to empty and you need downtime now to recharge. It’s time to escape!
18. I’M HOME! Alone in your bedroom, you finally relax. It’s not that you disliked the people at the party, it’s that you feel more free when you’re on your own. This is how coming home after socializing looks vs. how it feels:
P.S. To the extroverts in our lives: introverts don’t hate people, but socializing in large groups — especially with people we don’t know well — tends to overstimulate us and make us feel drained. Also, for many of us, our introversion is compounded by social anxiety or high sensitivity, which means parties can be nerve-wracking and overwhelming. We need quiet downtime to feel better. Please be kind to your introvert and understand their needs this holiday season.
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Read this: 21 Undeniable Signs That You’re an Introvert