Happy Holidays…But Please Leave This Introvert Alone

IntrovertDear.com introvert holidays alone

The holiday season is for getting together with loved ones. So the more the merrier, right? Wrong. When family members get together under one roof, they bring accumulated grievances, grudges, and all-around discord with them. Am I the only person who thinks this might be a ticking time bomb?

While their thinly veiled “keeping it together” facades may fool one another, they don’t fool me. As a highly sensitive introvert, I can feel the disharmony like a disturbance in the air that keeps prickling at my imperceptible energy fields.

Don’t get me wrong. I want everyone I love to get together, have fun, and enjoy one another’s company this holiday season. But if I had it my way, it would be authentic or nothing at all.

Humans Crave Authentic Community

This is the age-old quality vs. quantity debate. Would you rather have a bunch of insincere friends or a few genuine ones? I won’t bother addressing the former; we’re all like-minded here.

Research into longevity suggests that frequent involvement with family and friends is one of the keys to a longer, healthier life. I don’t disagree, but I think that fact needs some qualifying: frequent, authentic involvement is the key.

So what is authentic when it comes to social communication? For starters, these Tiny Buddha tips don’t disappoint. But at the heart of it, authentic communication is:

  • Nonjudgmental
  • Cooperative and collaborative, not competitive
  • Open minded and receptive
  • Unstructured and spontaneous
  • Acknowledging, not steamrolling

It’s also an energy exchange. Since I got Reiki certified and attuned, my highly sensitive person (HSP) superpowers seem to have been turbocharged. Now every interaction, whether verbal or nonverbal, gets filtered on a subconscious, bioenergetic level. Before I might have sat through a family dinner, grimacing my way through the charade with a migraine by the end of it; now I leave when I feel an introvert hangover coming on, or I don’t go in the first place.

Some may say this is melodramatic. I say it’s self-protection. I’m literally protecting myself from energy vampires and conversations that make my inner love-starved roses wilt.

I Prefer the View From Out Here

The expectation to socialize is something I battle every holiday. If you’re not an introvert or HSP, you may not understand this struggle. In fact, it might seem silly to you. You should feel the safest and the most authentic with your family, right? They love you no matter what. They’ve known you the longest. But does that mean they truly know me and understand what I need? ‘Fraid not.

This is why I stand up for myself. This is why I moved out of my family’s house to live on my own—the environment they provided wasn’t conducive to my personal growth. This is why, during the holidays, I’m a little bit more of a hermit than usual.

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I love the view from out here. In fact, I get more joy from jogging past homes and glimpsing the dainty presents bunched under the tree, ripe with jubilant anticipation, than I would get from stuffing presents under my own family’s Christmas tree. No matter that I’m only targeting the positive emotions and not seeing the stress behind those dainty presents. I don’t need that negativity. Nor am I being an energy vampire and taking it from them. I am simply basking in their holiday glow, an outsider who is getting a positive peek at what it can ideally feel like on the inside. As Kurt Vonnegut once wrote, “I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can’t see from the center.”

It’s Not You, It’s Me

It’s definitely me. All me. And I’m owning that.

I understand that when I decline a holiday get-together, it may seem like just another millennial-minded act of rebellion. I have tried to explain my need for solitude, in many shapes and forms, but at some point, I just have to live and let live. There is beauty to letting go, and while I wish other people understood my need to be around authentic energy, I respectfully understand their need for tradition. I’ve just never been one for tradition. As Dan Millman explains, “It is better for you to take responsibility for your life as it is, instead of blaming others, or circumstances, for your predicament. As your eyes open, you’ll see that your state of health, happiness, and every circumstance of your life has been, in large part, arranged by you—consciously or unconsciously.”

Call it delusions of grandeur, but I rather like thinking of myself as a unicorn. A unicorn with a lot of other unicorn friends. Sure, we millennials have been getting awards for showing up to things since we were toddlers, but I’ll take an award over the unknowing mental abuse, aka “gaslighting,” of grating social interactions.

To my family and friends, please understand that I like and love you. But I like the unadulterated, pristine image of holidays I hold in my head more. In this image, holidays are unlike every other day of the year. Because every day, you support me, both with your words and with your hugs. Every day, disagreements are met with emotional intelligence and compassion. Every day, our communication is open and cooperative. Every day, we strive for authenticity, not perfection.

How do you create authenticity in your interactions? On the flip-side, how do you say no to insincerity? Leave a comment below so we can learn from one another.

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Read this: 4 Ways Introverts Can Stay Sane During Family Holidays


  • Laurie says:

    This describes my family holidays in the past – actually any time my family got together (or still does, though we no longer do so at Christmas or Thanksgiving). The observations about authentic communication – so spot on. And so missing in any conversation I have had with many of my relatives, for a very long time. So sad.

    I find I almost have a desperate, but glowing joy, when I really connect with another person, and we “get” each other. It helps me to know I am capable of meaningful, positive social interaction. Because I have always blamed myself down deep for the adverse reaction I had to the competitive, superficial conversations I had with people who supposedly love me, but who all too often seem to not only not understand me, but need to put me down to make themselves feel better about themselves , or even superior to me and others.

    I always feel judged, scrutinized, and that it’s a good thing for them when I come up short by their standards – standards which are quite different than mine. It has been a relief to stay away, though I am getting to a point where it does not suck the life force out of me as much as it used to. I have come to see the absurdity and pettiness of it, once I can get away from it, and have time to consider things objectively.

    Of course, I am “too sensitive” and “overthink things all the time”. But at some point I realized those traits have gotten me to where I am, they are not “good” or “bad”, and I do not need to “get over them”. All the stuff going on inside rarely impresses anyone, but the long term results are not too shabby!

    From Albert Einstein: “I live in that solitude which is painful in youth, but delicious in the years of maturity.”

  • Wow Laurie, I completely feel you. It is sad but at the same time, a certain closure, wouldn’t you say? Since, on the part of my family, those negative social overtures were repeatedly returned, I’ve learned not to expect it anymore. In fact, if they were to read this, they would probably be surprised; it’s just a different language we’re speaking.

    I love the glow! Totally know what you mean. As for the being ashamed part, it’s rough whenever you don’t fit into that expected role in society, family, friend circles. It makes you think something is inherently wrong with you but it’s the polar opposite. The same thing happens on the introvert vs. extrovert debate. Like, how could you NOT be an extrovert! That’s so appalling! 😛

    Great quote. I once asked my teacher that as I aged, I was beginning to limit my circle and be a lot less social than I was in high school-was this normal? (yet another testament to the prejudice of being an introvert in an extroverted world). And he just chuckled and nodded saying, yes, very normal. That’s a sign you’re growing up.

  • Jerry says:

    Can I contact my best friend Introvert who slammed the door to wish her well and make an effort for recovery? I’m still devastated after over 6 months of not contacting her. I need some help on this sensitive matter–please.

  • Laurie says:

    Jerry, I think it’s hard to give advice based on little knowledge of either of you, or of the situation. I don’t know what her issues are/were, or her reasons, or if she has a legitimate issue. I can tell you as an introvert, I do not like to feel pressured or crowded. The one time in my life I told someone I was “DONE” – she kept coming back to “resolve” things. What she really meant to do was to continue to confront me, argue, and debate or tear down whatever I said when she pushed me to engage. I came to feel trapped, and as if it was a situation she intended to WIN – and that I would therefore have to LOSE.

    She never said she was sorry, even after I did try to explain why I was walking away, she just “gaslighted” me. She eventually wore me out, and though there were many fine things about her, I could no longer live with having to do all things on her terms, and to deal with my own problems free of all the drama. I wanted and needed to be alone. Ultimately, whether this was a reasonable response or not, I did have the right to do that, and I exercised that right. So, whether your friend is right or wrong, she seems to have made it clear that is her preference for now. I see no harm in a card, or some other low-key contact to let her know she is in your thoughts. But I would discourage coming on too strongly, or of having high hopes and expectations you try to promote. I know in my case it made me want to run away more than ever.

    Thing about my advice is – I don’t know you. You are not my former friend, maybe none of this even remotely applies to you. But as a retiring sort, I can tell you that pushing her too hard might not be the best approach at this time.

  • KarlaAkins says:

    I just think friends and family feel rejection and when they feel rejection they feel fear and fear leads to anger and hurt feelings. I don’t know how else to do this life, though. I even empathize with their feelings of rejection and then I feel even worse. No easy answers. But no one is going to take care of me but me. I’ve learned that.

  • I share that sentiment completely, Karla. It may be considered selfish, but taking care of yourself is anything but. No one knows you better than you.

  • Hi Jerry, I’m an INFJ and I ‘slammed the door’ on my ENFP best friend this year. Actually, she was the one who stopped talking to me after I gently confronted her about problems in our friendship, but she still blames me for it 🙂 I don’t know your situation, but I do know this: choosing not to involve myself in her life was not a reflection of her, but it had everything to do with me. I love her, I still am cheering her on from afar, but the dynamic of our relationship had become unhealthy for me. People grow, people change. That means sometimes friendships don’t last or they go through a dry spell.

    My former best friend contacted me after six months of not speaking. I assured her of my love for her, but told her I was not ready to resume our friendship. I was not upset that she contacted me at all, but I needed her to respect my decision. She pushed, and that was her mistake. I just didn’t respond to her last message because I had said everything I needed to say. So I guess what I’m saying is this: proceed with caution. Let your friend know how you feel, but also be prepared that he/she may not be ready to come back to you yet. It’s been nine months since I had a real conversation with my best friend. I miss her, but I also don’t want to go back yet.

    I know you posted awhile ago, but I hope you see this!