As a child, I often spent hours in my room, getting completely lost in in books.  My room was my safe haven, the place where I could go and shut out the rest of the world. I didn't know it at the time, but it turns out I am a pretty intense introvert. People often get being an introvert confused with being shy. The difference is that introverts lose energy by engaging with other people and being in certain situations and environments, while shy people just get nervous around people. The reality is that interacting with people, even people I love so dearly, drains my energy. It really is me, not you. It's taken me a very long time to figure this out about myself, because I am what is known as an extroverted introvert, meaning I like being around people and I like having new experiences and doing new things, but it also means I need to be really discerning about the people that I interact with and the kinds of things that I do. For example, going to a large concert, despite the fact that I love music, can leave me depleted. I'm so sensitive to the noise and the smells and the presence of so many people, my energy just gets sucked up.

I noticed this recently on a trip to New York. My sister used to live in the city, and every time I visited her, I would get exhausted and could never figure out why. This time, finally, I got it. Not only had I not had time alone visiting my family in the States, but I was also putting pressure on myself  to have a good time and make sure everybody was enjoying themselves and not focusing as much on what I needed as an introvert: time and space and rest. So I had a quick trip to New York and, although I ended up enjoying myself, there were some rough patches when I was just the most irritable terrible person to be around, which I hated. And I realized I need so much time and so much space, and even if you are my favorite person in the entire world I want not to see you for a good couple of hours so that I can recharge. I’m really accustomed to beating myself up for this, but I’m finally learning to accept it as part of myself.

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I can only do so much and go so far and be with so many before I need to go back inside myself a bit. It’s really important for me to put down boundaries first and foremost for what I need, and put my people-pleasing tendencies on the back burner (Israel has helped me a lot with this one). The more I continue to fill myself up, the more I have to give, and the more able I am to receive, which also tends to fill me up. It’s been a hard lesson to learn, but I feel like I finally get it (although I relearn it often)….and can start giving it to myself.

May we all be aware of our boundaries, of what lights us up and what drains us, and surround ourselves by people and things and experiences that make us more of ourselves (or not surround ourselves by anyone and recharge on our own).

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