For introverts, when their social battery is depleted, it’s game over.
Dear introvert, how frequently do you find yourself at a social event, actually enjoying yourself, only to realize your battery is depleted? To any extroverts reading this, have you ever been witness to this phenomenon in an introvert’s life?
This is such a common occurrence for introverts, but it still creeps up on us, especially if we’re with people with whom we genuinely enjoy spending time. However, we know our social batteries are not infinite. So what do we do to remedy that?
To my extroverts reading this to understand the introvert(s) in their life better, what signs can you look for? I’ll highlight just a few ways, from my own personal experiences, that you can notice.
4 Signs an Introvert Is Socially Drained
1. You can’t find us: We’re right next to you, and then, all of a sudden, we’re not.
This is the physically-distanced approach: being there one moment, and not, the next. I do this all the time. My extroverted friends know that I’m fading fast when, after a lively game of Charades, B.S., or Munchkin (not a sponsor), I exit stage right and disappear. Sometimes, I go outside. Other times, I just hunker down in the bathroom for a few minutes. (And I’m not alone: Oprah and Amy Schumer, both introverts, have said they do this, too.)
Recently, I was at a wedding of two very close friends of mine. I had to drive a few hours to the venue, so I was already quite depleted. The wedding was at 4 p.m., and the reception started at 6. There were well over 100 guests, most of whom I did not know. My social anxiety was already on high alert before the wedding even started. There was not enough alcohol in the world during cocktail hour to calm me down.
By around 8 p.m., a mere two hours after the reception started, I was already making my way to the empty courtyard to bask in the quiet and stillness. I had been placed next to one of my closest friends, and even she could not convince me to stay and join the dance line that had formed slightly off the dance floor. When that social battery is depleted, it’s game over.
2. You can’t reach us: We may still be right next to you, but mentally, we’re miles (or light-years) away.
This is the mentally-distanced approach. Sometimes, when there is no physical escape from a social interaction, I will let myself stay put (physically) and daydream. A lot. It doesn’t matter if the TV is on, people are shouting, or there is utter chaos and anarchy ensuing around me. If I’ve reached the end of my social rope, my mind takes me somewhere else.
Just last month, I was at a rather large function. (No, not another wedding. I don’t go to any more of those than I have to.) I had volunteered to help out with directing people where they needed to go, so my job was done as soon as the event started. However, I needed to stay, because I was going to dinner with some friends afterwards. I knew I needed to save some of my social energy for them, so I immediately went over to an open chair and just sat down. There were people everywhere. I was surprised I had even found an open chair, but I was so glad I did.
Daydreaming while standing is not advised. As soon as I sat down, my mind took me to what my therapist told me to call “my happy place”: the desolate cliffs of the puffin coast in Iceland: vivid, green grass giving way to dramatic crags and plunging to ice-cold water below. Who needs a travel agent when you can go so many places in your mind?
Allowing myself to daydream has saved me from panic attacks and too much added stress in countless social situations, and I know other introverts can relate. (Right?)
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3. You can’t feel us: We tried so hard to empathize with the whole room, but our heart quit on us.
This is the emotionally-distanced approach. This may only resonate with highly sensitive introverts, but I know plenty of highly analytical introverts who at least try to empathize with those closest to them.
(Are you a highly sensitive person? Here are 21 signs that you’re an HSP.)
I emotionally take on more than I can bear on a regular basis. When I’m with friends, and I’ve reached the end of the line socially, usually the first thing to go is my natural empathic spirit. People will try to have serious and/or deep conversations with me, and if it’s the end of the night, it’s also the end of that conversation. I have a habit of shutting them down rather abruptly and harshly. None of us are perfect, and I promise I’m working on it.
The reason this happens so often to empathic introverts is that, despite being introverts, we still get FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). Maybe not on such a grand scale as extroverts, but it’s still there — because we’re human beings. When I do decide to get out of the house and go to that movie, game night, etc., I am determined to make the most of those interactions. Therefore, when I’m depleted socially, I have to pick and choose what I’m going to prioritize even more so.
4. You can’t see us: We gave up on socializing and defaulted to blending in.
I’ll be the first to come out and say it: This is purely a defense mechanism — standing out is more natural than blending in with the crowd. However, when our social battery is depleted, blending in with the “normal” people starts to look a lot more appealing.
Sometimes, this isn’t just a defense mechanism in social settings. Sometimes, this is a defense mechanism after we’ve been standing out for so long that we start to experience the burden of feeling alone. Get to know your introvert, or if you are the introvert, get to know yourself. Discover if the reasoning is based in social anxiety, being socially drained, or being emotionally drained. We all need help and support, and it’s never wrong or weak to ask for those things.
Remember, It’s Not You — Your Introvert Friend/Partner/Coworker Is Just Tired of Socializing
If you are an extrovert reading this, I promise your introvert (so to speak) is not mad at you. (Well, I can’t promise that, because I’m not there. But hopefully they’re not mad at you.) We’re just tired. I hope that this helped you understand either yourself or an introvert in your life better. Always remember, no one is 100 percent extroverted or 100 percent introverted. We are complicated, beautiful creatures capable of a wide spectrum of emotions and abilities. Learning about yourself is difficult at first, but highly rewarding. Now excuse me while I go hole up at home for a while…