It’s not uncommon for highly sensitive introverts to put other people’s needs before their own. Ordinarily this isn’t an issue–we love being there for our loved ones, and we take great pride in never letting them down, especially when we can help them work through their problems. We feel an incredible sense of satisfaction when we know they feel better after venting to us.
But this can have an unhelpful consequence: we care so much for others that we often forget to look after ourselves. How many times have you felt burned out and emotionally drained after helping friend after friend after friend with their issues? Needing to withdraw into solitude when the demands on our time are too great is the only way we can preserve our sanity and mental health. It shouldn’t have to come to this extreme point. We’re acutely in tune with our inner world, and we are more than aware when the drain on our energy is becoming too great. Yet we persevere, because a loved one needs us. This is especially true for INFJ, INFP, ISFJ, or ISFP personality types, who often find themselves used repeatedly as a sounding board for friends and family.
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Being an emotional sponge, especially if your own needs aren’t being met, can be difficult to deal with. You may find yourself becoming used to pushing your own needs aside to look after someone else, or being the one who always compromises in a relationship to keep the other person happy. Or you may be the friend who always referees drama to keep the peace. When this happens, you might start to think that your needs are less important than the needs of others. This is not true. Your needs are just as important as those around you, even if you typically give less priority to addressing them. It can feel like a negative, downward spiral, one you cannot escape from, leaving you with no alternative but to withdraw, exhausted, to a dark corner until you’re ready to resurface again.
To overcome this cycle, you must develop self-compassion, which turns self-judging into something more positive. It can be hard for you to ask for help. I certainly feel like I’m wasting someone’s time when I bring up my own woes, yet I’d never think that of anyone who turned to me for advice or help! I’d never put someone down for messing up a dinner reservation or a project at work, yet I’m unbelievably harsh on myself for the same slip-ups. We’re kind and compassionate to our friends, yet we can be overly critical of ourselves and our perceived failures.
A mistake is what you make of it, and failure is not the end of the world. Seeing “mistakes” for what they are (opportunities), is a good step towards self-compassion. It’s why they say forgiving is more for your benefit than the person who wronged you. Without self-compassion, you cannot forgive, and you’ll hold onto that resentment in your heart until you let it go.
So how do you recharge your emotional resources when you feel burned out and regain vital energy? Here are some tips:
1. Make your mantra “my needs are just as important as other people’s needs.” It’s not wrong or bad to do things for yourself—things that make you happy—and you should never feel guilty for it. I used to beat myself up for “wasting” a day and having a weekend where the most productive thing I did was take a shower. Now, though, I actively encourage others to do things like that.
2. Dedicate “me” time every week. Or even better, every day, but we all know life gets in the way. Even an hour to yourself can do wonders. Do things that refresh you and recharge your precious energy. Take a bubble bath. Really, take one. Treat yourself to the fancy bubbles that smell divine; the ones that were a gift, still in the packaging at the bottom of the bathroom cabinet.
3. Treat yourself. Make hot chocolate. Eat delicious food. Snuggle up with a pet or loved one. Listen to music. Watch an old movie, one that makes you laugh until you cry, preferably one you’ve already seen a hundred times over. Take a nap.
4. Get creative. Write in your journal or take a stab at that novel you’ve always wanted to start. Draw, paint, doodle, knit, or crochet. Take a stroll to a craft fair and buy something for your home—something that lifts your spirits.
Our patience is not infinite, and neither is our energy. You cannot starve yourself and expect your body to function at its peak, and the same is true of your emotional energy. Feed your soul with things that help you. Rest is a big part of it, but things that uplift you and bring you joy should definitely be at the top of the list.
Remember, we’re our own worst critic. We don’t need to make things worse for ourselves, because the world is harsh enough. Take time out when you feel you’re beginning to get stressed. Take a step back and focus on you. Your needs and desires are important. How you feel is important. We should remind ourselves of that from time to time. Whenever you’re feeling low, dedicate an afternoon or an evening to yourself. It’s amazing how strong we sensitive introverts can be, and catering to our needs every once in a while certainly isn’t selfish—it’s absolutely necessary.
Fellow introverts, when was the last time you spent restorative time alone? When was the last time you did something just for yourself? If it was so far back that you can’t remember it, or all you remember is wanting to do something for yourself but pushing it to the side in favor of what someone else wanted to do, then the time to focus on you is now. Put yourself at the top of your priority list, say yes to what you want to do, and recharge your emotional resources. You’ll be amazed at how empowering it can be when you truly look after yourself.
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