“Spend your free time the way you like, not the way you think you’re supposed to.” -Susan Cain
Introverts spend a great deal of time and energy feeling guilty. We worry that we’re breaking the unwritten rules that are largely designed by and for extroverts. We nervously teeter across the invisible line between fulfilling our needs and disappointing others.
We worry that we’re somehow failing ourselves and the world by not talking enough; not going out as often as we should; not staying until the end of the party; and not enjoying the hyped up activities that others get a buzz from.
In short, we feel bad for not being extroverted enough. Perhaps, our guilt pushes us to do things that we normally wouldn’t do. Maybe good things happen as a result. Fine. But do we really want guilt to be our primary motivator.
We should be driven by our convictions, not by guilt. Click to tweet.
I can think of countless examples in my own life that relate to this topic. It’s difficult for me to pinpoint just one to share. Since I’m currently on a literal and philosophical journey of self-discovery, I’ll lead with that.
Five months ago, I set out on an adventure that had a dual purpose. I wanted to pursue my dream of living on every continent before I turn 30 (I’m 28 ½ now) while also discovering my purpose in life. I was obsessed with finding that higher calling, which would bring my unique gifts and experiences into alignment with something the world needs.
So, how does this relate to introversion and feelings of guilt? Well, people (cough … extroverts) have a hard time understanding why I need to spend so much time alone reading, writing, creating and exploring my own mind when I ‘should’ be spending all my time exploring my new surroundings.
The reality is, developing my gifts and finding my purpose is my number one priority. Obviously, I do want to get out there and see new things and meet new people. But I need to do it on my own terms and in my own sweet time.
I might spend three days in a row sightseeing, socializing and exploring and then hole up indoors for the better part of a week. During such hermit periods you might find me working on creative projects, reading, drawing, or staring off into space while listening to Coldplay.
Extroverts are typically perplexed or appalled by this approach. They suggest (either outright or implicitly) that I do things differently.
Maybe they think I should be going out more, visiting every tourist site on the map or partying each night until the wee hours of the morning. In short, they believe I should be living my life by their terms.
I usually do whatever I feel like doing despite their turned up noses and crinkled brows. Unfortunately, I end up feeling guilty and self-conscious in the process. I think a lot of introverts share this problem.
I say it’s time we put our foot down (gently, without drawing too much attention).
Introverts have the right to make their own path and construct their lives as they see fit.Click to tweet.
Unless you’re hurting someone else, there’s no need to feel guilty about your preferences. That’s why they call them “personal” preferences; you are not obligated to justify them to anyone else.
So, lets forget the guilt and focus our energy on something more constructive … like say, finding our life’s purpose.