When I was a teenager, I did something sacred every New Year’s Eve. I collected a few sentimental items—like the school newspaper I was published in or the animal-shaped eraser my best friend and I had an inside joke about—and put them in a box. On a piece of paper, I wrote about the highlights of the year and my hopes for the future and put that in the box as well. Then I sealed the time capsule with duct tape, wrote a warning to not open it until New Year’s Eve next year, and hid it in the basement. That’s because, even as a kid, I regarded the New Year as a time of reflection. I guess you could say my “introverted” ways began young.
I don’t do this today. As an adult, I feel a year goes by quickly now. But the New Year is still a time of reflection for me as, I imagine, it is for many deep-thinking introverts. And for many people, introverted or not, the New Year is a chance to start fresh.
So, with the New Year just around the corner, here are 12 resolutions you could make as an introvert in 2017:
1. Say no to social events that promise little meaningful interaction. We’ve all been there. A coworker or acquaintance invites us to such-and-such get together. We feel obligated to attend because we don’t want to hurt that person’s feelings or appear to be rude. But deep down, we know the Mary Kay party or the after-work happy hour won’t be fulfilling. In fact, it will not only lack meaningful interaction but also drain us (introverts have limited energy for socializing). If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent a good chunk of your life saying yes to social events out of guilt—and then you paid for it with exhaustion, overstimulation, and an overcrowded schedule. Of course, there are some things we probably shouldn’t skip, like our best friend’s baby shower or our grandpa’s 90th birthday party. But this year, make a resolution to pass on any unnecessary get-togethers you feel will drain your introvert battery, not energize it.
2. Back away from one-sided relationships. Sadly, introverts can be targets for toxic or emotionally needy people. Adam S. McHugh, author of Introverts in the Church, explains why:
“Because introverts are typically good listeners and, at least, have the appearance of calmness, we are attractive to emotionally needy people. Introverts, gratified that other people are initiating with them, can easily get caught in these exhausting and unsatisfying relationships.”
Do the words exhausting and unsatisfying relationships call to mind some people in your life? Reflect on those relationships, and consider whether it’s time to back away from those people. You’ll get the bonus of freeing up more time and energy for the people who do fill you up.
3. Stop beating yourself up for that awkward thing you said…3 years ago. Introverts have a tendency to ruminate. Our overthinking may take the form of playing events over and over and over in our minds. Rumination can strike at any moment, but, as is the way with things, it tends to happen at the most inconvenient time, e.g., when you’re trying to fall asleep. Sadly, rumination can give way to anxiety and depression—and it rarely helps you solve the problem you’re chewing on. To break free from the rumination cycle, do something to interrupt your thoughts. For example: talk to someone, call to mind a positive memory, or put on some music. Try this introvert’s playlist of songs to help you switch gears and stop overthinking.
4. Build regular alone time into your schedule. I recently sat down with introverted Indie rocker Jeremy Messersmith to interview him for my upcoming book, The Secret Lives of Introverts: Inside Our Hidden World. He told me about a smart practice he’s been doing for quite some time: he makes sure he gets enough alone time by scheduling it once a week on the family calendar. That way his extroverted wife won’t feel hurt when he says he wants to be alone, and they both can work together to protect his restorative solitude by not scheduling other obligations at that time.
5. Quit pretending to be an extrovert. Research from the University of Maryland suggests that acting falsely extroverted can lead to burnout, stress, and cardiovascular disease. Turns out, embracing your introverted nature isn’t just a feel-good axiom—it’s actually good for your physical health.
6. Get over your guilt of leaving the party early. Have you ever started saying your goodbyes at a party only to hear someone say, “You’re leaving so early? We’re just getting started!” These types of statements used to fill me with guilt. Why was I the only one getting burned out and wanting to leave? Did people think I didn’t like them? But eventually I realized this guilt was unproductive. I’m the one who will have to deal with the “introvert hangover” if I stay longer, not them. Now, I proudly declare I’m tired and head for the door.
7. Have more meaningful conversations and less small talk. Research suggests that the happiest people have twice as many meaningful conversations—and do less surface-level chitchat—than the unhappiest.
8. Recognize that you can’t do it all—and that’s okay. I have an extroverted friend who always has her hand in something. If she’s not organizing a brunch with our friend group, she’s volunteering at her son’s pre-school or heading up a committee at work. Sometimes, I wish I had her energy because she really does seem like she’s doing it all. But I have to remind myself that my talents lie in deep analysis, reflective thinking, and quality over quantity—not in running around doing all the things.
9. Speak fearlessly. Speak up when a friend or family member violates your boundary—even if it rocks the boat. Share your ideas in the staff meeting even if your voice shakes and the words don’t come out as eloquently as you want them to.
10. Don’t discount yourself as being capable of leading. Introverts can be powerful leaders. In fact, it has been reported that 40 percent of executives, including Microsoft’s Bill Gates, describe themselves as introverts. Gates believes introverts can make good leaders because they know the value of being alone and focusing deeply. Speaking at an engagement in 2013, he said:
“I think introverts can do quite well. If you’re clever, you can learn to get the benefits of being an introvert, which might be, say, being willing to go off for a few days and think about a tough problem, read everything you can, and push yourself very hard to think out on the edge of that area.”
11. Spend your free time the way you want. Don’t do something just because you think it’s what you’re supposed to do. Susan Cain writes in Quiet,
“Stay home on New Year’s Eve if that’s what makes you happy. Skip the committee meeting. Cross the street to avoid making aimless chitchat with random acquaintances. Read. Cook. Run. Write a story. Make a deal with yourself that you’ll attend a set number of social events in exchange for not feeling guilty when you beg off.”
12. Embrace who you are. Above all, remember to work with your introversion instead of fighting against it.
Do you make New Year’s resolutions? If so, what are some of them?