“Christmas gift suggestions: To your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. To a customer, service. To all, charity. To every child, a good example. To yourself, respect.“ – Oren Arnold
Every year it feels like Christmas celebrations begin earlier and earlier. In fact, for some, social calendars can be fully booked for December before the August bank holiday is over. This is great for those who love to party and revel in any excuse to get festive, but what about those who feel totally overwhelmed by the enforced “jolliness” of it all? If you’re an introvert, how do you navigate through the month-long (if not longer) barrage of endless events and gatherings without losing it completely and running off to join a monastery?
Being an Introvert
If this resonates with you, you’re probably no stranger to being told “don’t be so shy” or “let your hair down; live a little” each time you hesitate over accepting yet another invitation to a social gathering, right? Unfortunately, extroverts who thrive on the social whirl of the festive period tend to see anyone displaying any kind of introverted tendencies as being a total “killjoy” who doesn’t know how to have a good time.
Of course, being an introvert doesn’t necessarily mean you’re shy or that you don’t enjoy partying. In short, being an introvert very often means you just need a bit more quiet time to recharge your batteries, and you recognise that too much of a good thing can be a bad thing when the pressures of obligatory festive functions leave you feeling drained.
It’s Okay to Say No
Here’s the thing, being an introvert doesn’t mean saying no to every party invite you receive or steering clear of every social event taking place around your work or otherwise, it simply means not feeling obliged to say yes to every single one.
Saying no can be difficult and it’s all too easy to slip into feeling guilty about turning down an invite, but let’s just think about this for a moment – saying yes to avoid the feeling of letting someone down can’t be maintained because it means you’re constantly letting yourself down.
Never feel guilty about putting yourself first. It may be Christmas, but trying to please everyone and never pleasing yourself is a recipe for burnout – both physical and mental.
Honesty is the Best Policy
There may be times when telling a white lie to get out of going somewhere you don’t want to go is acceptable but, on the whole, honesty is always going to be the best policy. Making excuses such as your child has chicken pox, or your dog needs to go to the vet will only ever shift the responsibility onto someone or something else – you’re not being honest with yourself.
Being true to yourself may take practice, but you will soon discover that other people respect honesty. Instead of spinning a yarn and potentially getting yourself caught up in a web of lies, try giving a truthful reason for turning down an invite. Perhaps you’re saying no because you’ve already been to three lunches this week and you just can’t face another one, or perhaps going to a party where you won’t know anyone and you’ll be forced into making small talk with strangers for an entire evening is just not something you have the energy for right now.
When you know who you are and you respect yourself, other people will respect your authenticity.
Do What’s Right for You
There will always be events that can’t be avoided and there will no doubt be family gatherings that don’t fill you with as much Christmas cheer as TV ads portray. The hyped expectations created by marketing campaigns have a lot to answer for, and they can lead to yet more feelings of guilt when you find yourself on the verge of exploding rather than revelling in the Christmas spirit of togetherness.
Avoidance isn’t always appropriate, so what can you do? The answer lies once more in recognising your own needs. When you feel the pressure building, take time out – and don’t feel guilty about it. Be honest with yourself and do what you need to do to help alleviate the stress. If it’s a family gathering, maybe going for a walk or sitting quietly with a book can help, and if it’s a social event, simply leaving when you’ve had enough.
It’s all about knowing yourself and knowing your limitations. Don’t be a martyr and endure a situation simply because the extroverts around you are having a great time. Limit the number of parties you go to and limit the time you spend there, and in this way you can enjoy the festivities, knowing that you have time to recharge your batteries in between.
If you believe that Christmas is a time of peace and goodwill to all , then remember that it includes YOU.
Don MacNaughton is a High-Performance Coach.
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