Do you find yourself losing friends every time you choose yourself first?
I used to be a chronic people-pleaser. I loved making those around me happy–even if it meant losing a little bit of myself in exchange. If my friends were meeting at the library for a group study, I’d be there. Even if I got flustered in groups. If my friends invited me to hang out, I’d be there. Even if I was already peopled out from classes.
Once I started putting my personal goals first, I saw my friends slip away. I still made it out to big events, like birthdays and the occasional party. But my friends were hanging out almost every day. By the time I mustered up the energy to hang with them, tons of inside jokes already accumulated. I felt like an outsider.
It was hard for me to grasp how they had the energy to chase their goals & still see their friends all the time. Why couldn’t I be there for my friends as much as I wanted to? I didn’t want to choose between my friends and my future.
I now know this guilt is not unique to me. Choosing yourself is a huge life transition for everyone, introverts & extroverts alike. Although it could be isolating for introverts.
Unfortunately, I haven’t found the secret sauce to preserve every friendship I’ve made. Some of those friends slipped away & remained out of touch. Thanks to social media, I’ve reconnected with a few others.
In this post, I’m sharing what I find helpful in my current friendships (and what I wish I did in the past) to create lasting friendships.
Understand the difference between introversion & extroversion
Extroverts find energy in catching up with friends or meeting coworkers for drinks. Ambiverts can create a balance between solitude and socializing. And both are able to bounce back after being around others.
On the other hand, introverts require solitude to recharge after a long day at work or school. Going out can mean pushing themselves past their limits. Often having a social hangover and taking a full day, if not days to recover. Not to mention the time it takes to mentally prepare themselves before going out.
Determine your social limits
As introverts, our time with others is precious. In order to show up for the ones we love, it takes great effort and energy. We can have so much love to give, but so little energy in another’s presence.
Your energy can become drained by any type of social interaction, including:
- Hanging out with friends
- Communicating with coworkers/customers/clients/patients at work
- Spending time with your children/parents/extended family
- Going to class or working in a team
- Getting groceries & running errands
- Going to a networking event or social
If work/classes exhaust you, save hanging out with your friends on the weekends. Do you have family over this week? Invite your friends over to meet the family. If that’s not your thing, plan to hang out another day.
First, show up for yourself and respect your needs. Your mind & body will thank you. You’ll also be your happy & energized self for your friends instead of a peopled-out zombie.
- Embrace Being an Introvert – 5 Ways to Let Go of Guilt That Does Not Serve You
- Dating Mistakes I Made: An Introvert’s Perspective
- How to Not Be A Pushover: A Guide for Introverts
Don’t be a flake
If you know you won’t have the energy to hang out or go to a party, don’t say you’ll be there.
Unintentionally, I became a flake when I started putting myself first.
I would say to my friends, “Yeah, I might go to the party!” Or, “I’ll see you at that networking event!”
I knew I was exhausted, but I didn’t want to let my friends down. Later, I would tell them I didn’t feel well. And honestly, I didn’t. But I got their hopes up. And that wasn’t right of me.
Now, I say, “I’m not sure if I’ll be up to it after work,” or “I’ll let you know if I plan to go.” It may be disappointing at first, but they’ll appreciate your honesty. Or at least they’ll be more aware of your social limits.
Get creative with hangouts
There are plenty of ways you can hang out with your friends while still maintaining energy. You just gotta get creative. This is especially helpful when your friends are spontaneous and ask to hang last minute.
If I’m running errands, I ask them to tag along. A Marshall’s run is always more fun with a friend.
If I’m studying, I ask them to go to the library with me. If you sit in a quiet section, you’ll be forced to work. And food & snack breaks are always better with a friend.
If I’m tired from work, I ask if they want to see a movie. For me, watching a movie feels like solitude. And you can enjoy something new with a friend.
If I’m in the mood to reflect, I ask my friend to take a walk or go hiking with me. We reduce stress together and usually end up out of breath, naturally ceasing conversation altogether.
Show up in your own way
I have a friend that sends me hand-written letters when she lives 5 minutes away from me.
My other friend knows I’m an introvert. When I’m having a rough week, she comes over to my apartment to eat. We have deep conversations for an hour, then she leaves.
I also have an extroverted friend that I go out with once a month. We do anything from going clubbing to having a fancy dinner. I know they’re likely to want to spend the whole night together, so I make sure to pick a free weekend so I have time to recharge.
The ways we show up for each other are different but loving in their own way. You don’t have to sacrifice all of your time & energy to keep friends. But you still need to show up.
Whether it be through texting or social media, you’re showing up in the best way you can. And if they know you, they’ll know your introverted language of love.
Make sure your friends know you’re an introvert
I’m sure you saw this coming, but this is essential. This is not an excuse. It’s who you are. And true friends need to know who you are.
You may think they already know this about you. But you’ll be surprised. Many people confuse introversion with shyness. But you can be a shy introvert or an outgoing introvert.
Even if you are shy, your friends might not even know. They might see you as loud & outgoing because you’re comfortable around them.
Here are key introvert traits that you can bring up if they apply to you:
- Drained by social interaction
- Research before making decisions
- Prefer deep conversations over small talk
- Enjoy time alone
- Listen & observe more than speak
- Typically dislikes phone calls & unexpected visitors
It’s important that you don’t bring this up when your friend is asking you to hang out. It will seem more like an excuse. Also, don’t casually bring it up as a joke. Your friend won’t take it seriously.
Instead, I recommend initiating a deep conversation. Start with, “I’ve been meaning to talk to you about this…” or “There’s something I really want you to understand about me…” It may seem too serious. But if your friendship is important to you both, then it’s also important to have this conversation. And it’s best to set it up as an open & honest conversation.
Help your friends understand what your introversion means for your friendship
After you tell them you’re an introvert, many questions will be flowing through their heads. Here are some questions they may want answers to:
- Does that mean we can’t hang out every day anymore?
- Does that mean I won’t see you at parties?
- Do you hate it when I gossip?
- You really don’t like it when I call you?
- Can I still show up at your house uninvited?
You need to address any doubts they may have of your friendship. At the same time, don’t cushion it. Be honest. Your needs as an introvert are just as important as their needs as an extrovert/ambivert.
Don’t forget to make it clear that you feel drained after social interaction even when you’re having fun.
Remember your worth
You probably have some friends that you can’t fathom having this conversation with. You might even laugh at the thought of them listening to your feelings & needs.
If you’re looking for a lasting friendship, one that will grow with you. Then at least try to initiate an honest conversation about your needs. Who knows. This could be revolutionary for your friendship.
Buuuut there will be some friends that just don’t understand. I’ve heard so many times: “If you care enough, you’ll make your friends your priority.” Personally, I keep those friends at arm’s length. If they’re not willing to consider your needs, what kind of friend are they?
Surround yourself with friends that only want to see you succeed
Since social interaction drains introverts, we need to be careful with who we spend our time with. If the only people you hang out with are always competing with you or bringing you down, then that’s all you’ll know outside of solitude.
Surround yourself with people that see the best in you. Of course, your friends will joke around with you & that’s completely normal. But make sure they want to see you succeed.
Life is constantly changing. And you want to spend your time & make sacrifices for those that love you for who you are.