Extracting myself from social situations

For a very long time, I have had quite a ridiculous - yet very real - struggle. It’s something a lot of us introverts struggle with.

I've gotten much better at managing it, but it's taken some real conscious work over the last couple of years.

For some people it might seem very trivial, if you're an INFP, INFJ, or otherwise a sensitive introvert, I reckon that you'll completely understand.

Extracting myself from social situations, or otherwise leaving an event or social gathering early (as in, not being afraid to leave, and not be the last one there).

cartoon: Aaron T Caycedo-Kimura, aka INFJoe

I think it comes down to a mix of being too nice (#peoplepleaser), a bit of FOMO (so stupid), and getting carried away in the moment (being highly-sensitive, and becoming ‘hyper’ when socialising, has something to do with this). You see, once you get me talking, sometimes I just want to stick around and keep going, I can’t really help it. Or, I find it difficult to help myself.

Perhaps I've learned to be fussier with age. More importantly, I'm learning to honour my time and energy more, which I feel is one of the most important things an INF, or anyone in fact, can learn to do.

“Honouring one's energy is pretty much the most important thing an INFP/J, or anyone, can learn to do”.

Earlier tonight, there was a meetup for content writers in London. I went with the intention of making new friends in this content space (tick), and perhaps even making a connection with someone who I was interesting in working for (not a tick, but this one was a long-shot anyway).

I got there early, stayed for about an hour and a half, and then close to the family birthday meal. In years gone by, I'd have gotten swept up in the moment (as sensitive introverts can really invest ourselves in these gatherings, you know), and missed the schedule family dinner. This would have been classic of me. But not tonight. New, 30-year-old me was turning over a new leaf.

I confidently announced that I was leaving for dinner, and not long after two newbies arrived, and then I left. I was pretty proud of myself.

This was one of those small-yet-big wins for me. Really, though, it's representative of me knowing myself better (i.e. I get sucked into staying longer) - and consciously stepping up to the plate and taking action. In turn, this act represents a sense of self-importance, of self-worth, of self-love even. Hence, it was really a pretty big deal you know!

I cannot emphasise how mega-important it is. Over the years, I've become increasingly aware of my people-pleasing tendencies when it comes to hanging around with folks. It tends to manifest itself in group dynamics more so than in 1-on-1 interactions.

It would happen when I was around people I didn't even want to particularly hang out with; for example, when I worked in recruitment in the City and I'd go drinking on many Thursday evenings after work. It was just that, in that environment, my colleagues became the social creatures I yearned to hang around with, because my friendships outside of work (and, actually, after school/dropping out of uni), were non-existent. Again, it's only in the last couple of years that I've taken an active effort in cultivating friendships, and been a lot more selective in spending time with the right people.

It's taken some time and brave steps to start acknowledging my time and self-worth/importance, and therefore leave events on my own terms, rather than by drawn into sticking around until the end for no apparent reason, and usually resenting it a bit afterwards.

Here's how I've made improvements in this area of my life:

1. Deciding BEFOREHAND when I'll leave
... and sticking to it! At.all.costs. I Stick a reminder on your phone. You promised yourself, Jas, remember! Honestly, whatever it takes to remind myself and break that terrible never-wanna-leave cycle. It takes some serious conscious effort for me to zoom out whilst there, and remind myself that hey, it’s time to go now, buddy.

2. Giving myself PERMISSION to leave
Similar to the 1st one, really - or an extension of. If it's, for example, an event I am going to for the purpose of networking/making connections, I say to yourself 'I'll speak to 3 people, and then I give myself permission to leave'. I picked that one up from Beth Buelow, author of The Introvert Entrepreneur, which is a great read. Or, it's as simple as saying, 9pm is my absolute latest cut-off time. Sometimes, I even give myself an ‘earliest possible leaving time’, if it’s something like a work-related event which I’d rather not be at, and so don’t especially want to stick around for for too long.

3. Delivering the ‘bye-bye’ CONFIDENTLY to the person/people whom I am addressing
If it's just a small group, I let them know you've had a fun night/it's been nice meeting them, but that I have to be going now. If it's at a big event, there's no need to speak into a megaphone and announce that I’m leaving, or to go around and say bye to everyone... I politely use the above phrase (or similar) to the person/people I happen to be with at that moment, and I do my best to say bye to anyone else I might've spoken to over the course of the gathering/event.

4. And perhaps the most important one of all…
Reminding myself WHY I am doing this - and what it stands for. It might seem like 'oh, it's not that big of a deal', but I remind myself that it's ultimately respecting my precious time and energy - this is a much bigger deal.

So, go you, go out there and please, if you don't tend to do it already, whichever event or gathering you go to next... leave exactly when you want to! :)


PS. Can you relate to any of what I've just said (well, written)? Do you have anything you'd like to ask/share? Please do! Just leave a comment here on Twitter.

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