Why ‘missing out’ feels uncomfortable for introverts (and it’s not the reason you think)

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about how ‘missing out’ can feel so uncomfortable for introverts, and how it’s not for the obvious reason.

Here’s what got me thinking…

My little boy started college recently and, probably like most parents, I have no idea how this happened so soon after him starting school, it feels like about five minutes!

This is definitely a time of absolute joy and pride, mixed with the twingey heartache of watching them grow up and away.

So, this boy-child is a lot like his mum, an introvert, possibly Highly Sensitive, mostly confident in the right places and with a varying hint of uncertainty inside. We learned a lot more about his introversion over lockdown, (check out Quietsophy if you have an introverted teen) and in my own way I’ve been helping him lean into it. 

Because honestly, the world around us is still mostly set up for extroverts. 

And it’s tempting to feel we should mould ourselves to fit… yet we know, deep down, that we don’t want to be ‘other’, just accepted and valued as we are.

One day, after college, he told me how there’d been a ”fun” fair in the college car park for all the students; he’s super-uncomfortable about rides and the music was too loud to just chat with friends.

The choices seem to be… join in and feel uncomfortable or don’t join in and miss out…

So, he sat it out, somewhere nearby, with a friend, on a bench, in the sun; showing the world there’s a third option. Most importantly, he was happy.

Obviously I gave myself a big high five (quietly in my head, it’s not cool otherwise 😉) and on we chatted. All good.

Later on I was relaying the story to my other half, who is most definitely a outgoing, “fun”-loving extrovert and gives me a great insight into the ‘other side’ of this energy spectrum*… and his automatic reaction? 

”Ah what a shame he didn’t join in and have fun” 

😳 and this right here is the problem. (Not, I hasten to add, my husband!)

No, the problem is this: whilst introverts are often very happy taking time out, skipping the boisterous meet-ups, wandering off to the edges with a book, listening before adding their insightful comments… to others, it can look as though we’re missing out, and there’s still a broad assumption that busy, loud or fun is better (office Christmas party anyone?) AND that our short fallings should be highlighted and commiserated on wherever possible.

And so yes, it can feel uncomfortable for introverts to sit at the side, to stay home, to not join in.

But not because it’s actually uncomfortable; if no-one could see us doing these things it would be blissful! But they do see, and the reaction can make it feel uncomfortable. The subconscious language patterns, the ingrained loud=better, the superiority that comes with a lifetime of being seen & heard.

More and more, I’m choosing to set aside external expectations and work with what feels right for my level of introversion and sensitivity (which will be bringing about some changes in the way I work) and encouraging clients and friends to do the same.

And so here is my invitation to you…

🤔 notice if there any day to day things you say in which you’re expecting something uncomfortable of yourself (or someone else)

🤔 next time you get an invitation you should be excited about and you just don’t feel it, check in with yourself; what do you really want to do, setting aside all external judgement? And if you can‘t do that, how can you make it work better for you?

*yes it’s a spectrum, from highly introverted to highly extroverted, depending on how we recharge our energy. And one isn‘t always quiet and the other isn’t always loud. And we move along both axis. And I’m generalising a little to make a point. But these are real patterns I see in my world!