I like people and, though best not to put it to a vote, I think I’m likable. I used to stuff every nook and cranny of our lives with people like a never ending game of sardines. Meals very often included other families. Leisure time, movie nights, and game time were rarely just with our family. I kept the fridge stocked just in case there were visitors, made extra helpings of every meal and snacks were always available. My children learned that their home was alway open to others and at any time their parents attention would be shared with whomever showed up. It was a busy but dizzyingly communal and satisfying.
However, of late I have become a fairly unsociable person. It can take me hours to talk myself into socializing. I know that once I’ve conquered the anxiety of being around others, I will inevitably enjoy the company. It just takes me a lot of self talk to get there. A part of me misses being a social butterfly, but the uninvited pressure on myself to be “on” is exhausting.
So which am I? The social extrovert or the isolated introvert? For several years I have struggled with the unwanted decline in my social calendar. I feel guilty. Like I have failed friendships and relationships because I no longer invest in them to the level I did before. Prioritizing my own comfort and self care over the needs of others has me wondering if I am living wisely or selfishly.
While this conundrum creates endless introspection I have discovered some things about myself. When I do manage to get out I can invest all of myself without distraction because I have allowed myself time to be calm and take care of my own soul. Some friends have stayed close, even though I’m not as present as I used to be in their lives and I treasure those relationships deeply. I enjoy my time with people more than I ever used to because I am intentional and strategic about how much time, what time of day and locations of where I gather with others. I make those choices deliberately so I can enjoy interaction with people on terms that fill my soul rather than deplete it.
The truth is, I am both extrovert and introvert and by intentional self care I can celebrate both sides and love people and myself with a depth I didn’t know I had.