Recently a friend invited me to attend a three-day camping/music festival in the mountains, an hour drive from where I live. For an introvert, three days amongst hordes of people and loud music is nerve-wracking. “Sounds fun!” I said, and then immediately began fretting.
Will there be port-a-potties? I hate port-a-potties. What will I do with my stuff: my lawn chair, my backpack, my snacks and meals and bottled water and book and writing tablet and sleeping bag and whatever comfort crap I lug with me? And then there’s the hour drive up winding mountain roads. Driving is not my forte. And chitchat. I loathe chitchat! I never know what to say.
But I told myself: it will be good for you to get out from behind the keyboard and mingle. So I bought a ticket.
Except I nixed the camping part.
And the three days.
I committed to one day. For a few hours.
Do you see how my introverted brain narrowed my experience so quickly? And still I worried! I worked myself into a nervous wreck. A weekend of fun turned into something that required me to gird my loins well in advance.
Because of the thoughts I entertained. Those thoughts were unwelcome guests, crowding the space in my mind.
I tried smiling. It temporarily lulled my body into thinking that all was safe. I tried meditating, focusing on my “third eye,” directing my gaze upwards. It eased my racing heart, somewhat. I tried engaging in soothing self-talk. The only difference between today and any other day is the knowledge that I’m going to a music festival, and the dysfunctional thinking that I’ve attached to that future experience. But in spite of all the self-talk and relaxation techniques I still felt like damaged goods, unable to look forward to an event that most people would find enjoyable.
What’s the matter with me!? I agonized.
In desperation, I turned to the book The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World. The author, Marti Olsen Laney, devotes a whole chapter to attending parties and other such events. What I read gave me new insight into myself, and changed my outlook. By Saturday morning I was eager to hit the road.
What were Laney’s tips?
Read on, fellow introverts.
First: you are not damaged goods. You’re an introvert, and crowds will suck the energy from you. Extroverts thrive on gatherings and other people; it’s how they recharge. Introverts recharge by going within. So it’s natural to feel anxious before attending a big event. Here is how to make the experience less overwhelming:
1. Relax the day beforehand to conserve your energy.
I spent the afternoon in the park reading, and after a leisurely dinner, I watched a DVD before going to bed.
2. When you arrive at the event, acclimate yourself gradually. Stand on the fringes and take it all in. Allow other people to approach you. When you’re feeling comfortable, proceed into the belly of the crowd.
When I arrived, I greeted my friend, located the restrooms (yay, no port-a-potties!) and slowly made my way to the main stage. I set up my lawn chair in the back of the crowd next to three people sitting in lawn chairs and reading books. My kind of people.
3. Take breaks as needed. Go to the restroom to escape, or step outside and take in some air.
I wandered off by myself to take in the breathtaking view of the redwoods and the fog drifting in from the coast, and then found a small jazz trio jamming in the mess hall.
4. Set a time limit for how long you’ll stay.
I decided to give myself until 6:00, so I wouldn’t have to drive down the mountain in the dark. I ended up staying until 7:00, because I was having such a great time.
5. Schedule downtime the following day to recharge your batteries.
It was back to the park for me, with a good book.
I am happy to report that the experience could not have been more perfect.
Takeaways this week:
The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney. If you’re an introvert and want to understand why you are the way you are, or you’re an extrovert who wants to understand introverts, get this book. Includes great tips on how to find balance in an overwhelming world.
Respect your strengths as an introvert (creativity, good listening skills, lasting relationships, persistence, concentration…to name a few), and the requirements needed to protect your energy. Constant activity and loud noise is a drain. That’s okay. Take breaks as needed, set a time limit for participation, and rest before and after engagements.
Conversations with groups can be intimidating. It takes longer for introverts to formulate ideas when conversing (it’s how are brains are wired), but that’s okay. A good line to use: “Give me time to think about it,” or “I’ll get back to you on that.” Or just smile, maintain eye contact, and let the extroverts do all the talking. They love to!
These are great tips! I promise myself a day to rest after as well.
A reward, for all that mingling! Ha.
I had a chuckle at your last line – extroverts really do love to do all the talking, so the more opportunity you give them for that, the happier they often are!
That book sounds very interesting and helpful so thanks for sharing about that too – I am adding it to my reading list 🙂
And they love to share everything that is going on in their heads.
Thanks for the comment Claire! Great book. I’m so glad I stumbled upon it.
This is really helpful! I’m a huge introvert, and frequently find myself regrettably at parties. Great tips, thanks!
I suspect that a lot of writers are introverts. Glad these tips were helpful!
I’m an awful introvert so this was a wonderful post – I’ll definitely be checking out that book!
Welcome to the club!
As a fellow introvert I really appreciate this post. Thanks for the suggestions as well as the reminder that there is nothing wrong with being an introvert! Have a great day!
That’s the important thing…remembering that there’s nothing wrong with being an introvert. Even though the definition of extroverts is positive “outgoing!” and introverts is negative “withdrawn.”
Ugh. I think my comment has been erased. “Error”. O_o
Anyway, basically I said what a great post this was, loved your intro but also the tips from Marti Olsen Laney’s book. I could see the “introvert” in this post but, as I was reading, I thought “anxiety!!!” and I could completely relate. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for persevering in commenting! And glad (well, not for your sake), that you could relate to my post.
If it weren’t for the extroverts I love, I’d hide out by the pond all day. 🙂 When I actually go…I have a great time so I try to override that introvert thinking.
That introvert thinking can certainly put a damper on things! I like the idea of hanging out by the pond, tho.
When you said something about your loins and the thoughts you were entertaining, I wasn’t sure which direction my brain should point towards to.
Any case, you make a good point though. I was always an introvert and in my last long relationship, the ex did all the socializing for both and the talking. Me? just drank and nodded along. Once it ended, I had to fend off for myself and threw myself out there and ended up enjoying it.
That’s the trick…throwing oneself out there. It’s like swimming. Gotta jump into that water at some point. Me? I like to hang out at the edge of the pool, dangling my feet in the water.
Thanks for visiting and sharing!
Love this! And timely as I’m currently on a camping excursion! Doing this out of love for some worthy persons, but starting to feel a little drained. Thanks for the reminder to validate and respect our unique make-ups. Have you read Susan Caine’s “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking”? Another good one.
Yes! Loved that book. She has recently published a book for teens.
Be sure to schedule some downtime the day before your trip, and plan on it the day after. Have fun!