Never before has it been so easy to see all the interesting things your friends are up to, day in and day out — a quick scroll through social media can show you the wide range of events and activities that have no real place in your own introverted life, but seem to make your friends feel awesome. Before you know it, you feel crappy looking at this march of extroversion, because you’re at home in mismatched jammies, eating a microwaved enchilada. If this sounds familiar, you, my sensitive creature, may have a case of the introvert’s fear of missing out.
Though you know in your heart you’re happier in your nest, your propensity for solitude may still needle you. Why can’t you be more fun? Why isn’t your phone ringing with social invitations? Why haven’t you hosted a party for the past 12 years? You deserve to be on the D list, at least!
This condition can torment you, if you let it. Because hey, maybe if you left the house more, you would run into Dave Matthews at a coffee shop, like your friend did. Maybe you sort of wish you lived a life that would allow you to serendipitously meet a mover-and-shaker who is looking to hire someone with your wondrous skill set for a seriously cool job. Or (and this is the painful one), you may intuitively know you have something valuable to share—wisdom, experience, compassion, love—that the world really needs, and yet, you can’t puzzle out how you’re going to fulfill this, because putting yourself out there takes so much damn energy.
So while you want to shine like an extroverted diamond, doing so requires that you plan things (also strenuous), and then exit your abode. And when you don’t, you can’t help but feel like magical lives are being lived out in the world, without you. Introvert’s FOMO sidles up, challenging what you know about yourself. It makes you second-guess your day- and life-planning decisions. And it leaves you feeling less than — as in, “less than an extrovert.”
What’s especially annoying is that this fear appears to be one-directional. You’re pretty sure there are zero times when an extrovert is out stirring things up and suddenly thinks, “I wish I was at home grooming my Lhasa Apso.” It’s true, of course, that extroverts need blips of peace and quiet, in the same way that introverts require stimulation in encapsulated doses. But the difference appears to be that extroverts grab some down time and move on, seldom feeling bad about the fact that they need more social stimulation. Introverts, meanwhile, can sometimes wish that they had more stamina, more social energy, more ready aptitude for navigating a loud crowd with ease.
Why? Where does this discontent come from?
“I think many of us are fully aware of the internal conflict we have between enjoying quiet times and believing that if we aren’t wearing sequins and a party hat, we’re not really having fun. It’s been modeled for us our whole lives—and explicitly. (We’ve all been called party poopers at some point.) But whether conscious or unconscious, it’s something we have to constantly push against,” Sophia Dembling, PsychologyToday.com blogger and author of The Introvert's Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World, tells Bustle.
The mainstream portrayal of what constitutes a "good time" doesn’t help. We still have “social sightings” pages in our newspapers and magazines, for Kardashian’s sake. The idea that one can have fun alone is still a fairly underground one.
Another theory is that, like all people, introverts have a fundamental need to be accepted and loved, but it’s harder to engender that type of connection when your primary posse is yourself. Dembling notes that introverts most likely do have deep connections, but with just a few, carefully selected friends. “I think we want to be wanted — we want to be invited to things,” she says. “We just don’t necessarily want to have to go to them.” She adds a cautionary note: “We also have to recognize when we honestly and truly do want to be with people — when solitude is becoming isolation. Sometimes that nagging feeling of FOMO means that we are becoming lonely.”
Perhaps the discontent stems from not wholeheartedly embracing your introversion. Plain old (and purely undermining) resistance to yourself. Heck, maybe it’s even just that you like to dress up, and it pisses you off to see all those killer outfits in your closet collecting dust.
No matter what elements keep making you feel like you should be out there, leaving a trail of glitter in your wake, there is salvation. Or, more aptly, a way back home.
1. Utilize Social Media Breaks
And unsubscribe from things that fill your mailbox with party pictures, event listings and meetup groups. In this situation, intentional ignorance is freedom. Or, as Dembling observes, “Maybe we should start taking couch-party selfies and post those. Ourselves, on the couch, alone, with enormous party-worthy grins.”
2. Reach Out To Someone You Genuinely Like
Get in touch with a person with whom you enjoy both long conversations and dead air, and make a dinner date.
3. Love Yourself
Love yourself HARD. Go on. Put your hand on your heart, shut your eyes and say, “I love you.” Repeat tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that.
4. Let Go Of Your Preconceptions
Check if you’re holding on to an unchallenged belief that one activity or career is superior to another, e.g., going out to the big New Year’s Eve bash vs. streaming a rom-com and singing Auld Lang Sine to Norbert, your iguana. If you are, loosen that death grip and let it go. Write some words about it on a piece of paper. Burn the paper.
5. Don't Wait For A Special Occasion To Do The Things You Enjoy
If you love wearing party dresses, but don't particularly enjoy attending parties, don't think that you have to completely rearrange your life in order to have fun. Wear a fabulous outfit when you venture out to grocery shop at 11:30 pm. It will totally make the cashier’s night. Double points if you add a feather boa.
6. Don't Feel Guilty About Your Introversion
Acknowledge that what you have to share—your wisdom, experience, compassion and love—will shine through a hundred ways on a thousand days. Escaping to your quiet zone when you need it isn’t going to block your gifts. They are like moles: irrepressible.
Image: Gorica Poturak/E+/Getty Images; Giphy