Stay Busy Working on Yourself, Not Just Socializing

introvert work on self

Do you frequently find yourself wondering why there are never enough hours in the day to do all the things you want to do? If so, you might be an introvert.

But, you might wonder, how is this possible? By society’s standards, extroverts are considered the busy beavers, packing their schedules with different social events every night of the week. Introverts are the ones who stay home and never have any plans.

However, most introverts I know, myself included, are just as busy as everyone else — sometimes even more so.

Instead of packing their schedules with nights out on the town, introverts are busy pursuing their own personal goals. Introverts often take what others would consider just “hobbies” very seriously. Whether it’s cooking, gardening, writing, or even memorizing movie trivia, introverts take pastimes others pursue in their “free time” to a whole new level.

Instead of just being hobbies, these are things that introverts consider part of their identity, and time spent away from these pastimes can often feel like a loss — not just of free time, but of yourself.

So when an introvert tells you they are busy this weekend, believe them. While an extrovert might prioritize hanging out with others and fit personal hobbies into whatever windows of free time they have left, introverts are more inclined to do the opposite. They prioritize working on their personal projects, and therefore themselves, and see the occasional social event as something to occasionally fit into an already very fulfilling schedule.

While their priorities are different, both introverts and extroverts could be said to be equally busy, and it’s important we acknowledge both of these ways of life as equally valid.

Define Yourself by What You’re Doing to Better Yourself

There was a time when my social life was basically nonexistent. When I first moved to the town I now live in, I knew no one. The people I spent the most time with were my coworkers, and I never saw them outside of the 9-to-5. I spent my evenings and weekends often entirely on my own, cooking, exercising, writing, and reading. These hobbies consumed my time, and I never considered myself to be bored.

In fact, this period was one of the most productive of my entire life. Every bit of free time I had was used efficiently. I lost the 50 pounds I had gained from stress eating my way through college and my previous job. My savings account grew by the thousands. I taught myself how to cook healthy meals. I produced a piece of writing almost every week.

In a lot of ways, I was the most physically and emotionally healthy version of myself during this time. It didn’t matter that I didn’t have big Saturday night plans. I had a list of personal goals I wanted to work on, and I was steadily checking them off my list.

Some might say that I was losing out on life by spending a large chunk of my early twenties on my own, but I don’t see it that way. Those two years were one of the most formative periods in my life so far. It was a time I defined myself not by my relationship with someone else or what I was doing with my weekends, but by what I was doing to better myself both mentally and physically.

Put Yourself First, and You’ll Have the Energy to Be There for Others

While keeping busy on my own kept me from feeling bored or lonely in the absence of a social life, I did eventually feel I was ready to put down roots in my no-longer-new town. I was ready to meet new people. And when I did, I began to have less time for myself.

It happened so gradually that at first I didn’t notice it. I returned a couple of library books unread. I canceled my Hulu account. These weren’t huge losses, as I reasoned there would always be time to catch up on books and TV later.

However, as my schedule continued to fill, I realized I no longer had time for many of my hobbies that double as self-care rituals. There was no time for stretching exercises or Pinterest recipes, and missing out on these things was leaving me feeling stressed.

While I definitely wouldn’t trade any of my new friends for a couple of extra hours to spend making homemade meatballs, I do find it necessary to carve out time in my schedule to do my favorite things. By myself. Sometimes that means just saying no. Sometimes it means saying I have other plans — even if those plans don’t involve other people.

Some might say that spending time on self-care goals or hobbies instead of with friends or family is selfish. I disagree. I put myself and my needs first, so when I do socialize, I know I am my best version of myself. I want to be well-rested so I can contribute to the conversation. I want to limit my social circle, because I want to be there for the friends I do have 100 percent.

And the real friends, who know that I love them and that I have let them into my life regardless of my introverted tendencies, also know I need my downtime and won’t take offense at that.

Too Busy? Let the Social Life Go

I still clear days in my schedule to read and write. These chunks of time are now carefully planned instead of routine, but I think that makes them even more important. I believe these hobbies make me a happier person and a better friend. Likewise, while part of me misses curling up in a coffee shop for hours on end with no social responsibilities, I know making new friends was yet another self-care goal that was good for me in the long run.

I consider myself a pretty busy person. Maybe not by society’s standards, but by my own standards. I’m busy balancing my social life with my self-care time and personal hobbies.

And I have a bit of advice for any introverts who might be struggling to balance those things: Let the social life go.

Don’t be afraid to withdraw for a while and focus on the things that matter most to you. These might be personal goals, or they might be what others would label as hobbies, but don’t be afraid to pursue your own interests. Don’t be afraid to sort out your own feelings before spending time with others. You’ll soon find that you are so busy working on the real you that you won’t have time to worry about what anybody else thinks.

There aren’t enough hours in the day for that.

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