Introverts don’t lack energy, they just spend it in different ways.
If you have introverts in your life, it can be difficult to understand why they sometimes present themselves with little energy. Though they may have started the night with a great attitude, suddenly, they had a complete mood switch. What happened?
This is nothing out of the ordinary. Here’s why introverts frequently appear tired in social settings — and why we shouldn’t hold it against them.
Introverts Have Low Energy, Right?
Wrong. A common misconception is that introverts have low energy levels, and the levels of extroverts are high. This is not necessarily the case. Introverts build up and release their energy in different ways, so just because you see someone in the corner at a social gathering does not necessarily mean they’re like this throughout the day.
Unlike extroverts — who may be the life of the party and participate in anything they can get their hands on — introverts aren’t because their energy may have already been spent on their interests. Before the party, perhaps what you didn’t see was they were inspired and furiously typing away on their laptop, while an extrovert was bored at home watching TV. When recharged, there are unlimited activities we introverts put our energy into, such as our work, our creative projects, caring for children, school, our partner and home life, etc.
By the time introverts get to a party, it’s likely they’ve already given a sizable portion of their energy to necessary daily tasks. When this is the case, there’s a limited amount left to spend on socializing before they go home and R&R. Or in introvert language, “recharge and re-energize.”
It’s not that introverts lack the energy that extroverts naturally seem to have — they just spend it in different ways.
Why Introverts Slowly Stop Participating
Once an introvert’s energy is getting close to E, you may see a switch in their behavior. Introverts may slowly retreat and start listening rather than actively participating in conversations. Or maybe we focus on grabbing some food rather than playing cards with everyone at the table.
Whatever they may do, it’s not necessarily because they’re always tired or lacking confidence, but they’ve endured their maximum amount of socializing for that time period. If this is the case, let them have their time on the couch or in the corner before inviting them over to the group again. If they’re not given time to re-energize, you won’t see their full potential.
This is true of all introverts, but especially students. It shouldn’t be expected that introverted students be lively in their last class of the day. Most of the time, they’re looking at the clock, eagerly waiting until they can go home and spend time alone in their bedroom. While in the morning, they may have been raising their hand and having small side conversations with their peers, by the end of the day, it’s unlikely that the same behavior will occur.
Why Introverts Get Overstimulated
Overstimulation is very common, and often happens when an introvert is the center of attention. Whether this is giving a presentation, at their own birthday party, or in a meeting, they may come across as tired rather than what they’re actually feeling. Some signs of overstimulation are:
- Shrinking back
- Not talking
- Feeling uncomfortable
- Appearing to zone out
- Feeling burned out or overwhelmed with sensory input
- Difficulty thinking
- Potentially feeling a burst of anxiety or panic
My third grade teacher, a very warmhearted woman, unintentionally presented me with my first experience of overstimulation. It was my birthday, and after eating lunch with a few friends, we came back to the classroom where I knew exactly what was about to happen.
As a former Applebee’s waitress, my teacher knew their ritual for birthdays and implemented it in our classroom. After spending all day dreading this single 30-second event, I was already in a state of panic. My 10-year-old introverted self was too scared to speak with her beforehand, so the birthday festivities commenced. She dragged a chair into the middle of the classroom, instructing me and my shaky legs to stand on it while everyone in the class surrounded me and sang the birthday song. I was so overwhelmed that she had to hold my hand while everyone sang.
After what felt like an eternity, my teacher helped me off my chair podium and actually took me to her desk to ask if everything was all right. All I could do was quickly nod my head because no words would come out of my mouth.
To some children, your peers showering you with birthday wishes is the highlight of the school year. For introverts, it can be severely overstimulating to the point of exhaustion. Unwanted attention can push us past our comfort zone. Unfortunately, when in an uncomfortable situation, introverts tend to shrink up and become reserved, which ultimately can make them appear tired.
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The Drain of Surprise Interactions
Let’s say a friend FaceTimes you while you’re hanging out at home. As an introvert, this unexpected intrusion may be bothersome, even though you like the person. An extrovert, however, may be happy and excited to hear from the friend because it could lead to an invitation to socialize.
If the person you called seems tired or exhausted, it might be because you just interrupted their recharge time. Don’t be offended if they offer few words or don’t initiate conversation. In order to be our full selves, introverts need time to get there. Our tired, expressionless faces on your screen aren’t necessarily directed at you, but may simply be due to the fact that our short (but necessary) hibernation hasn’t been completed.
It may be a good idea to note this is if they answer. Understandably so, in their recharge time, they may prefer to shoot you a text than to partake in conversation.
Why Introverts Leave Events Early
When someone gets to a party they’ve been looking forward to, introverted or not, it’s exciting! Most introverts look forward to certain social events, even if it involves a fair amount of people.
Knowing this, it does not necessarily mean they’ll want to stay as long as others or interact in a certain way. If someone leaves at 9 p.m. rather than midnight like other guests, it’s not necessarily because they go to bed early. It’s also possible it’s not due to them being tired, but rather they got their dose of socializing and need to settle in for the night.
This does not make someone a Debby Downer or prove they can’t hang out. It solely is their preference. Sometimes you feel like you’ve had enough, and go home at midnight, so you should support someone who feels the same at 9 p.m. Other people’s limitations might not align with your own, and that’s totally normal.
Don’t Judge Introverts for Appearing Tired
Do introverts get tired? Absolutely! Who doesn’t?
The main thing to understand is that introverts use their energy differently — and socializing easily drains it. Some introverts may be extremely personable at the beginning of an event but need to call it a night sooner than those around them. Others may become overstimulated or haven’t had enough time by themselves before socializing.
So don’t judge introverts for having “low energy” — there are very real reasons behind their behavior.