My Need for Alone Time Is Not a Reflection on You

IntrovertDear.com introvert need for alone time

On one particular afternoon at work, I sat in the farthest part of my office kitchen, reading a book. I was on my lunch hour and, as always, I was determined not to waste a single minute of it. This was my one precious hour that I get every day where I come as close as I possibly can to being alone.

As I was sitting there, I couldn’t help but overhear a couple of my coworkers talking about me at the next table. The only thing I heard clearly was, “She’s so quiet.”

That’s very true, as an introvert, I am quiet. There was nothing bad said, and I believe human curiosity about others is a very normal and innocent thing. That being said, it never ceases to amaze me how personally people take things. In particular, the times I choose to spend alone.

My Need For Alone Time Has Nothing to Do With Anyone Else

If I turn someone down for a get-together or hang-out session, I know I’m going to be in for, at best, some teasing or, at worst, a fight. Of course, my response is always the same — that I just need some time alone — but that is usually followed up by a look of hurt or rejection.

I cannot seem to win in these situations. Sure, I could push myself past my limits and spend more time with people even though I don’t want to. But who does that really benefit? Not me, because I’ll be looking for every excuse in the world to leave. It won’t benefit the other person either, because I will be anything but fun and energetic.

My need for alone time actually has nothing to do with anyone else. It has to do with only one person — me.

It doesn’t mean I don’t value your company, or I don’t like you, or I’m rejecting you. There have been times when I wanted to say yes, because hanging out with friends can be fun, but I regrettably said no simply because I knew I was at my limit.

My Need For Alone Time Is Not a Choice

Another thing to remember is that my alone time is not a choice. It’s really not. What makes me so sure? Well, science says so. According to Dr. Marti Olsen Laney in The Introvert Advantage, introversion and extroversion mainly boil down to this: dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in your brain that helps regulate your pleasure center. Simply put, it helps you feel good. Whenever something makes you experience a positive emotion, dopamine sounds the alarm to urge you to get more of that.

Here’s the thing: introverts have a higher sensitivity to dopamine. We don’t need quite as much to become stimulated and can become overwhelmed rather easily. By contrast, extroverts need a larger dose in order to really feel good, and they get that by seeking out as many people and exciting situations as possible to really get their “buzz” going. And we can’t blame them, because who doesn’t want to feel good?

Also, think of it this way: extroverts can soak up stimulation and just keep going back for more. Introverts? Not so much. They reach their limit and then need to back off, even when they’re having fun.

Understanding Introverts Better Will Lead to More Acceptance

For me, overhearing people ask or wonder about me, like my coworkers did, is pretty normal. I happen to have been raised in a family of primarily extroverts, so I am very used to others being baffled by me.

I also don’t mind, because I know it’s normal to wonder about something that you simply don’t understand. Honestly, even though I know the science behind it, I don’t quite understand how extroverts manage to operate the way they do. It is just so foreign to me.

However, this is why I enjoy writing and contributing the things that I do, because I believe more knowledge and understanding will lead to more acceptance over time. More acceptance on both sides means that, eventually, I won’t have to feel guilty and the people in my life won’t have to feel rejected when I decline a social invitation. We will both understand that it is all part of the natural order of who we are.

I’m not going to lie. Most days, it feels like I live in a world full of extroverts who are destined to misjudge me for the rest of my life. But I know that’s not true, and I know that I can help spread the word.

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Read this: Introverts Don’t Hate People, They Hate Shallow Socializing  retina_favicon1

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  • LT

    Thank you so much for sharing!! It’s nice to know that other introverts experience the same perspective with the need for alone time to recharge our batteries while experiencing too often how our society misinterprets our need for nurturing ourselves. I too have an extraverted family, but in my case they make me attend social outings and family gatherings with them to bond and because it’s family traditions. When I move out of my parents house, I plan on limiting contact with family and put taking care of myself (especially time alone) as a priority above them; otherwise they get to see my cranky side. It bothers me how many extraverted people or societal pressure to praise extroversion can get away with misjudging us as “antisocial” (my mom) and other labels when we have every right to ask extroverts why they talk too much, have to be the center of attention often, etc. For a society that looks down on introverts as a detriment, I am learning to speak my mind to my family to give them a piece of my mind and stand up for my introversion with love, peace, and joy. What a difference it makes to accept ourselves as we all uniquely are instead of pushing each other to fit into other’s expectations of us. Striving to live more creatively and genuinely~

  • Layla Griffin

    I completely agree with all of this. When I need alone time, people think I’m mad at them or that they did something wrong. Really, I just need time to recharge.

    • Jerome

      I think it would be a really good idea then to clearly communicate this to other people. otherwise they might misunderstand you and think you’re not interested in them anymore …