Many of the introvert struggles I hear and have experienced myself revolve around socializing: some people are too loud and pushy, some friends don’t respect boundaries, and networking requires too much small talk. The list could go on and on. I empathize with how uncomfortable the world can be for introverts especially since most people don’t understand why introverts like to be by themselves more often than others. But, the importance of having an active social life has many benefits for your health.
People who socialize more tend to live longer than those who don’t. Also socializing can help stave off feelings of depression and even stress as mentioned by Dr. Alex Diaz, in his post about managing stress. As difficult as getting out of your comfort zone and socializing can be for introverts, it’s nevertheless an important part of life. Here are my tips on how to have a social life on your terms as an introvert. Be sure to check out the first installment of this series, Introvert Wellness: Self- Acceptance.
1. Acknowledge that socializing is good for you
The world can be draining, especially for introverts. After a long week at work, it’s so tempting to lock yourself in your house for the next 48 hours. A lazy weekend at home can be really fun; it can also dampen your social life and well-being if you do it too much. To be honest, I struggle with this myself. But I have noticed that feel I happier when I make time to see my friends or just to get out of the house to explore.
Introversion is not an excuse to neglect your social wellness; you will only feel better if you make it a part of your life. For example, the introvert brain is like a battery in a cellphone. Introverts recharge their battery by spending time alone or in quiet environments. But just like real cellphone batteries, if you leave them on the charger for a long period of time, it can cause damage. This is how introverts should look at socializing: it’s important to recharge your battery but don’t spend too much time on the charger. You don’t have to be a socialite and attend every party and outing, you just need to make time for the people that are important to you.
2. Take baby steps out of your comfort zone
I’m sure you have many goals you want to achieve and many items you want to check off your bucket list. Chances are the goals you want to reach and the activities you want to experience are outside of your comfort zone. You may feel like you are stuck with two terrible options: you can stay in your comfort zone and never experience life or you can jump outside your comfort zone and risk being completely overwhelmed.
When it comes to getting out there as an introvert, baby steps are key. Let’s say you don’t particularly like crowds because they’re too loud and chaotic but you have it on your bucket list to go to a particular music festival. If you don’t make an effort to get outside your comfort zone and expose yourself to crowded areas before the music festival, you might end up having a bad time because you aren’t comfortable with that type of environment. In the weeks or months leading up to the festival, take small steps outside of your comfort zone: go to a crowded restaurant or movie theater or even go to a smaller concert beforehand. This way you will have ventured outside of your comfort zone enough that you won’t feel overwhelmed or out of place by the time the big event comes along.
Introversion vs. Social Anxiety
Being an introvert and enjoying being by yourself doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you. But if the need to be alone and the fear of being around other people prevents you from getting by in everyday life then there may be a more serious issue at hand. Social anxiety is a disorder where people fear being judged or embarrassed by others to the point of avoiding being in public or in social settings as often as they can. This is more serious than simply preferring not to be around a lot of people. Social anxiety can disrupt people’s lives because the fear of being around others can affect them going to school, holding down a job, or doing daily activities.
For Families: If you have relatives who are introverted, it’s important to let them socialize on their own terms and support them when they decide to get out of their comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to encourage your loved ones to get help if it seems that they are affected by social anxiety instead of introversion.
The Golden Takeaway: Socializing is great for your mental well-being even for the elusive introverts. It’s important to add some social activity into your life and slowly expand that comfort zone. If you are struggling to live a productive life because your fear of socializing is getting in the way, contact one of our resources specialists to get individualized mental health resources.