I remember the day I came close to burnout as an introvert. I was seated with someone, who was sharing his problems with me.
I thought to myself,
I don’t care. I really don’t care.
Can you stop talking about yourself for a moment?
And listen to me?
I was at the moment where I wanted to be by myself, and wanted to withdraw from the world. For a long enough time to recover.
If you’re an introvert who feels on the verge of burnout, read on.
As introverts, we aren’t naturally comfortable talking to others.
Large groups tend to drain our energy, rather than build our energy. But how do you tell the difference between whether you’re just tired, or whether you’re burnt out?
You don’t even want to be 1 to 1 with someone
As introverts, large groups drain us. Individual conversations tend to be better.
But the sign of you being burnt out is when you don’t even want to be with someone else. You’re tired of wanting to socialise and interact in relationships.
That is dangerous. All of us are built with an innate desire to connect and relate with people. It’s why in Jonathan Haidt’s great book, The Happiness Hypothesis, he asks whether you’ve bound yourself to others.
Some degree of solitude is important for you to reflect, recharge, and reenergise.
But all the time? That’s not healthy. It can bring you greater misery.
As a student, I was driven and ambitious. That meant that I spent many weekends in the library, reflecting on where my life was going, and building out this 10-year plan about how I could make that happen. Rather than spending time with people, I would spend time with myself.
It made me miserable! I was tired, angry, and sad. I wondered why life seemed so unexciting. Why there didn’t seem to be much passion in my work.
There were no people in my life.
When you’re close to burnout as an introvert, you may feel that you want to even avoid individual conversations. It can result in a vicious cycle of pain, where you feel even less sociable, people find you a bore, and you are shunned even more greatly by others.
Take an effort to socialise, even when you don’t feel like it.
You don’t enjoy what used to bring you joy
You’re struggling to feel excited again over your hobbies? You may be too burnt out to even bother about things that nurture your soul and excitement for life.
Do you live to work, or do you work to live?
Answer carefully, because your answer reveals how much of your life’s identity is placed in work.
This is important, especially for introverts. Introverted as we are, we may not feel that comfortable mixing with people. There’s the tendency for introverts to spend great amounts of time at work, thinking that we don’t have to spend as much time with people.
But when we do that, you end up burning out too, because you work more than you need to.
You lash out at your family or loved ones
I knew I needed to change my job the moment I started to lash out at my family.
There would be minor triggers, and I would start shouting at them. My job required me to interact with clients on a daily basis. It required me to be sociable, smiley, and seeking to first understand others. I was tired of listening to people’s problems daily.
When you lash out at your family or loved ones, it’s a sign that it’s an overflow of your frustration from within. Sometimes, if you can’t observe this in yourself, observe it from your family.
Do you see your dad screaming at people after a long day at work? Or your mum scolding you for a small reason? If you have observed that, you may be seeing yourself in the mirror. If you find yourself reacting to small slights, that may be a sign that you are on the verge of burnout.
You want to take revenge
Revenge… its tempting, isn’t it? It’s interesting how twisted the human heart can become when you feel that you’ve been the subject of an injustice. You fantasise about doing evil things to people who have mistreated you, and making them pay for what has happened.
When I was burnt out, I was angry. I wanted to lash out at the people whom I felt had caused this pain, and wanted them to pay for it.
But I realised that revenge wasn’t the answer. It only made me more miserable. Forgiveness is the answer.
How do you resolve it?
Accept your introverted nature
The biggest step to resolving your burnout is…
Accepting that you’re introverted. I used to spend much of my life worrying about why I couldn’t seem more extroverted, funny, and sociable. It made me feel that I had to act to be more sociable than I really was.
It was like putting on a mask.
I hated it.
Accepting that you’re introverted means being able to say no to occasions where you have to network, spend time with people, and be sociable.
I remember the time when I was at a networking event. As I spoke to people, I could see their eyes peek over my shoulder at other ‘more famous’ people walking behind me. They weren’t that interested in me as a person.
What did I do?
It was the first time I truly owned my introverted nature, and realised that if people weren’t interested in me, I didn’t need to pretend to be interested in them.
Burning out less as an introvert means fully owning who you are and stopping the pretensions of who you’re not.
It means accepting that who you are as an introvert, is a gift, and not a curse.
Don’t put on another mask
It’s never nice to burn out as an introvert. But knowing that you’re on the verge of it is the first step towards resolving it. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not.
If you’re introverted, don’t put on an extroverted mask, pretending that you’re enjoying people around you….
When you want to get away from them.
That way, you build the stamina to do this for the long term.