I’d Rather Be Home, and I Don’t Feel Bad About It

An introvert at home

Introverts, staying home doesn’t mean you’re giving in to a weakness; it means you’re in touch with your needs and practicing self-care.

“I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.” ―Henry David Thoreau

As an introvert, I’m a huge believer in JOMO, the joy of missing out. While there are definitely occasions when I enjoy a big night out celebrating with loved ones, it doesn’t take much to fill my social cup to the brim (one event per month tends to be more than enough for me). Nine times out of 10, I’d prefer to pass on an engagement in favor of a mellow night at home all by my lonesome, relishing the silence. When I’m alone in my own space, my “introvert zen zone,” I’m most comfortable and truly and utterly content — a commonality among introverts. 

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t appreciate and thrive with real human connection; it’s just that being in social situations can be extremely draining. In stark contrast to extroverts, who feed off of the energy of others, quiet introverts like me actually lose our energy from socializing: It leaves us feeling drained and exhausted. If we’ve already had a busy week without enough opportunities to recharge our batteries, a full social calendar is the last thing we need. And, oftentimes, we beg out of an event because we quite literally don’t have it in us. The introvert hangover is real, and we try to avoid it at all costs.

Why Introverts Sometimes Cancel Plans at the Last Minute

“Spend your free time the way you like, not the way you think you’re supposed to. Stay home on New Year’s Eve if that’s what makes you happy. Skip the committee meeting. Cross the street to avoid making aimless chit chat with random acquaintances. Read. Cook. Run. Write a story. Make a deal with yourself that you’ll attend a set number of social events in exchange for not feeling guilty when you beg off.” ―Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking 

If you’re an introvert, canceling plans at the last minute is probably an all too familiar reality. Though I try my hardest not to bail on friends on the day of a planned event, I’ll admit there are times I absolutely must (and when it happens, my fellow introverted friends are always the most understanding). 

Introverts aren’t anti-people: We really do like people and enjoy connecting when we’ve got the reserves to do so. When we’re feeling “on,” people might even have a hard time distinguishing us from our extroverted companions. The tricky thing is, however, that we don’t know in advance what our energy level will be the day of a big (or small) event. 

Often when I say “yes” to plans, I’m feeling great in that moment; my energy is robust and socializing doesn’t sound the least bit tedious; on the contrary, I’m overly excited about the event I’ve agreed to. Sometimes, those introverted stars align, and my plans work out as I’d hoped. Other times, the big day arrives and I’m not feeling up to going out, and I drag myself to the event purely out of a sense of obligation. When this happens, one of two scenarios will play out: I have fun despite myself, or I’m a total drag. 

In the past, I was much more likely to force myself to go out (despite my reluctance) because I felt like I was letting others down. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become much more in touch with my needs and am finally willing to accept what my body and mind are calling for. If I want to stay home, I do, guilt-free (as long as I’m not bailing on a wedding or other such monumental event). 

If you’re a fellow introvert, don’t shame yourself into going out when you really aren’t up for it. Staying home doesn’t mean we’re giving in to a weakness; it means we’re in touch with our inner voice. I consider my time alone as self-care.

Still, even though I’d prefer to stay home most of the time, I don’t take the decision to cancel plans lightly, reserving the option of bailing for moments when I just don’t have it in me. Those days, when I’m already exhausted, being around people (even people I know and love) would just be too much. If I cancel plans, I’m doing it because my energy is already depleted and I’m in desperate need of a recharge. From experience, I know that forcing myself to endure a social event would be a mistake. And I’ve come to appreciate that putting my own mental health needs first is the only option (even though I hate letting anyone down, especially those I care about). 

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Staying Home Isn’t a Bad Thing, so Don’t Feel Guilty About Your Very Real Need to Be Alone

“Introverts live in two worlds: We visit the world of people, but solitude and the inner world will always be our home.” ―Jenn Granneman, author of The Secret Lives of Introverts: Inside Our Hidden World

There’s nothing inherently wrong with preferring time at home with a good book or movie instead of a buzzing room full of people. The need for space and alone time isn’t a character flaw or deficit: it’s a very real and basic need for introverts. Research shows we process stimuli differently than our extroverted peers due to different neurobiological processes in our brains. Because of this, introverts are more sensitive to stimulation from our environments, and ultimately, we require downtime to de-escalate from even mundane activities (like a normal work week). Meanwhile, while extroverts thrive on social stimulation (the more they talk, the better they feel), all that interaction can be a bit much for introverts, and we turn inward to restore our sense of well-being. 

Parties, no matter how fun, are rife with overstimulating elements for introverts — lots of people and lots of noise competing for our limited attention send us quickly to a feeling of sensory overload. All that excess stimulation can stress and overwhelm introverts, and we feel an intense need to escape to the solitude of our own homes

While at home, we introverts may read, paint, or bake something delicious, or even just watch TV (never underestimate the power of a good old Netflix binge), depending on how much energy we have and what it is that fills our cups (a very individualized thing). My favorite way to unwind in solitude is taking a long, hot bath with lots of Epsom salt — I feel like I’m weightless in the water, and my worries fade away.

If you ever feel overwhelmed from socializing (or from the pressure of socializing), be honest with yourself instead of faking it. Don’t feel guilty if you need to call it a night earlier than everyone else; just thank your host and graciously bow out, because your real friends will understand. If you’re an introvert and struggle keeping plans, try to RSVP with “maybe” whenever possible. This way, you’re not obligated to attend when you’re not up for it, and no one’s feelings will be hurt in the process, a win-win. You can enjoy the quiet comfort of your own company, guilt-free.

The next time you feel obligated to go out and socialize, but it’s the last thing you want to do, try to remember how important it is to accept and satisfy your very real needs (after all, introverts require alone time to charge our batteries; it’s not a selfish indulgence) and don’t feel any shame in choosing to fulfill them. If you’d rather stay at home, let go of that guilt and be true to yourself: You deserve it.

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