It’s Not Rude or Selfish to Put Your Introvert Needs First

introvert put needs first

As an introvert, there are certain things I just don’t like doing. And the older I get, the fewer excuses I feel like making for my preferences.

For example, I don’t like talking on the phone. So if you call me, there’s a 90 percent chance I won’t pick up. I just don’t understand why anyone would pick up the phone in the 21st century. Why impose your agenda and timeline on someone else, when an unobtrusive text or email will do?

How incredibly rude and selfish of me.

And can I be honest? I also don’t particularly like meeting new people. It’s not that I’m shy. I just don’t like small talk, particularly with people I don’t know. I don’t see the point in expending my limited social energy and time discussing the weather with someone I may never see again, much less form a lasting relationship with.

It’s not that I hate small talk altogether. If you overheard conversations between me and my best friend, you’d likely hear us bitch and moan about the freezing temperatures and our preschoolers’ tantrums. But it’s almost like we’ve earned the right to be shallow with each other, because we do the deep stuff, too.

And contrary to what some people believe about introversion, I’m not particularly quiet. I crave spending quiet time alone, but I’m also a very capable socializer. I can be quite chatty, and I’ve been told that I come across as confident. It often throws people when I suddenly turn down their offer to go to another social event.

How rude.

Why It’s Not Rude to Put Your Introvert Needs First

But you know what? I’d rather that people view me as slightly rude or selfish than see the aftermath of a burnout from too much socializing and external stimulation. This is a particularly unpleasant state that I’m afraid to say my family has been witness to more than once. I feel more than ever like I need to be alone. The feeling becomes desperate, and I get easily agitated and prone to anger.

So of course I’d much rather avoid getting to this place. And this is why it’s not actually rude or selfish to put your own introvert needs first. We cannot give when we are empty. We cannot love others when we have not given love to ourselves. And we cannot spend quality time with others unless we spend quality time with ourselves first.

That’s why, as introverts, we must look after ourselves. Because as an introverted partner and parent, I want to give the absolute best to my family, but I cannot do that if I don’t fulfill my own needs for silence and solitude.

If you’re an introvert who struggles to assert yourself and take the time that you need, then you might be interested in the two-pronged approach I take.

Care More, and Care Less

Step one is to care more about your needs and those of your family. Do it in that order, too, because if you are broken, you can’t fix them. You can’t be everything to everybody, so focus on yourself and the people who are the most important to you. If you don’t have children, perhaps you choose to direct your social energy toward just a few close friends.

And care less about what other people think of you. Does it really matter that you didn’t put your hand up for the PTA again this year? Or does it matter more to your kids that you spent that time with them instead, feeling fully recharged and engaged because you didn’t overload yourself?

I’ve learned how to better manage my needs as a highly sensitive introvert. I know when too much is too much, and I just need to escape for a few hours with a good book, or a pen and journal. And if this gets in the way of socializing, then so be it!

Be Brutally Honest

Step two is to not hide your introversion from people. We all know that honesty is a great virtue to uphold, but how often do you get really honest with the people who you love? It’s a difficult thing to do, because real, raw honesty makes us incredibly vulnerable. Vulnerability is hard but incredibly rewarding. I love what author Brené Brown says about being vulnerable: “Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen. Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage.”

We cannot expect people to read our mind and know what we need. We have to put on our big girl or boy pants and let the world know. “I’m pretty socially spent for the day so I think I’ll just go home and curl up by the fire.” Or perhaps to our partner: “I’m completely drained, would you mind watching the kids so I can go out alone for a bit?”

It gets easier every time you tell the real truth about yourself and your introvert needs.

If you’ve previously thought of your introverted self as selfish or needy, then I want to encourage you. Be brave. Be yourself. Your quiet gifts to the world are precious. Keep offering them in your own time, and at your own pace. 

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Emma Scheib gained her Masters in Psychology in 2013 and has since worked full-time in corporate research positions for government agencies. She recently gave up her "dream job" to pursue being a (happier) mum, living a slower pace of life. She is also dipping her toes back into her long lost love, creative writing. She writes regularly over at Simple Slow & Lovely, and you can also connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.