Can introverts ever have too much alone time?

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Can introverts ever have too much alone time?

If you’d asked me this question a few years ago when I was still in a crazy busy full time job, I would have said no. I craved alone time with an absolute passion and would hold on desperately to every single moment of solitude that I could find.

However, these days life is a little different. Now that I work from home full time (most of which is spent on my own), I would say that yes, there is such a thing as too much alone time, even for someone as highly introverted as me.

If you hang out on the online world for too long, you could soon be led to believe that introverts are hermits who don’t require any human interaction whatsoever. And although I can’t speak for every introvert across the globe, certainly for me, living the ‘hermit’ life isn’t the life I want to live.

Yes, we can laugh about how we hate small talk and love cancelled plans but ultimately we are all human beings. And I would suggest that as human beings, interaction and connection with others is crucial for a happy and fulfilling life – no matter who you are.

When alone time stops being energising

When my partner, Ollie, (who I live with) recently went away for 2 weeks to ride the length of the UK, I found myself spending huge amounts of time on my own; working from home all day and then spending most of my evenings alone. Yes, I met up with friends and family during that time, but mostly I was all on my tod.

In theory this was going to be a hugely productive and reflective time. As much as I love Ollie, I also love my alone time. I had plans to get stuck into new projects, explore ideas, find clarity and direction. But in reality after a couple of days something very different happened. I started to feel a bit lost. My mojo left me, I became lazy, a bit numb, and completely lacking in energy. It seemed that after a while the alone time stopped being energising. I had reached my peak and now it was going the other way.

Why is it important to connect with others?

It can be very easy to fall in to the trap of believing that because you are introverted you will be happy being on your own all the time. However I’ve discovered that the reality can be quite different. We all need people in our lives in some form or another. And here’s why…

1. To feel loved and valued

After the basic human needs of shelter, food, water, safety etc, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs puts love and belonging next on the scale of importance – and it’s not hard to see why. Whether or not you are an introvert, humans are social creatures who create lives around family, friendships and connections; we have an inbuilt need to feel loved, valued and accepted. Even if you rarely meet up with people face to face my bet is that you spend a lot of time on social media connecting with others and seeing what people are doing. Spending time with people, nurturing friendships and caring for others brings us a sense of belonging. It helps us find our place in the world and in turn helps bring us happiness and energy.

2. To share ideas and experiences

Through the journey of life there are ups and downs, twists and turns, highs and lows. I love giving myself time alone to process the world around me and reflect on the situations that I find myself in. However there are also times when I need more than my own thoughts. When I need support from others, a comforting hug, some advice, a soundboard to bounce ideas off, someone to celebrate with or give me a motivational boost when I need one. Having people to share our worlds with can bring inspiration, courage, comfort, joy, clarity and energy. We’re all in this world together remember, so let’s share the beauty and fun times rather than keeping them all to ourselves.

3. To simply get out of your head

One of the things I missed most when Ollie was away was simply having someone to get me out of my head. There is only so much continuous thinking you can do before the thoughts run dry. There needs to be a break, moments when you step back, interact with others, talk about the lives of other people, laugh, be entertained, rest and relax. I’ve found that I have a point where the quiet reflection moves from creative, natural daydreams to unproductive thoughts that seem to lead nowhere. Too much alone time = too much time in my head = creativity and inspiration running dry. Energy doesn’t just come from the quiet alone time that I have so often craved. It also comes from the world around me, from the people I love and from the daily activities that distract me from having my head in the clouds.

Finding the balance

You’re an introvert, and that’s a wonderful thing. But spending time with people is an incredible part of life too. My advice to you? Find your balance, spend time with those you love, give yourself space to have your head in the clouds any time you desire, and remember that being an introvert doesn’t mean never leaving the house. You can be an introvert and still love people and adventures. So let’s ditch the ‘hermit’ life and embrace being with people too!

OVER TO YOU…

What are your thoughts on this post? Have you experienced the same lack of motivation when you spend too much time alone? Or are you actually completely happy being by yourself all of time? I’d love to hear about your experiences so leave a comment below!

Kathryn x

PS: If you’d like to connect with other introverts in business there is lots of positive support going on in The Sanctuary. Head here to join this free online community.

 

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28 thoughts on “Can introverts ever have too much alone time?

  1. As a sociable introvert I really related to this! I love spending time by myself, and often find myself being pleased when plans get cancelled or I end up with unexpected time to myself. But I also work at home by myself, and am currently trying to work out some strategies to get more face to face interaction into my days – but on my own terms….

    • I think ‘on my own terms’ here is key. I definitely have a need for control and small groups, 1:1 contact works much better for me than large groups. Thanks for your comments Nina!

    • I love term ‘sociable introvert’, Nina. Since discovering (and loving) The Business of Introverts (and I’m really enjoying the Full Disclosure Course right now too) I’ve been struggling with the idea that I really am an Introvert because I love being sociable too… And like Kathryn says in this article, too much alone time means the creativity and motivation dry up.

      So now (thanks to your term ‘sociable introvert’, I feel comfortable with being an Introvert – I have seriously begun to recognise that I really do need productive alone time and am still trying to figure out ways of managing that when there are people around. Conversely I can struggle to find friendship and companionship having just moved into an area I’m completely new to. Getting the balance right is easier said than done.

      • Yes, I agree the term ‘sociable introvert’ is really handy. What I find myself though is that although I can be very sociable sometimes I very much need to be in the right mood for it (and sometimes it’s very unpredictable!). There are some many different types of introversion – it’s always interesting to hear different people’s experiences. thanks for your comments Jo and I’m pleased to hear that you have been enjoying Full Disclosure 🙂

  2. I loved this post. If I spend too many days completely alone then I lose all conversational ability and come across as awkward and off-message when I finally do start to interact with others – even though I think I’m expressing myself perfectly clearly.

    It’s rather like the problem of the only child, who when I was growing up would often be seen as solemn and “old-fashioned”, probably because they didn’t spend enough time rough-housing with their sibling peers. Does this happen to only children now, in our modern age of social media, or are they more relaxed and streetwise?

    • Interesting Prudence. I’m definitely the same – too much alone time and it’s like I forget how to hold a conversation! Interesting what you say about only children. I grew up with a younger brother so I always had that level of interaction.

  3. I have been living on my own now for 2 years, after separating from my ex-wife. I love it, love it, however sometimes I love it too much. I find myself refusing outings and feeling almost “anti-social”.
    I love ebing on my own, cooking, going for walks, food shopping, doing my errans, watching Netflix, being on my computer, emails, facebook, etc…I am single and want to meet other women, I actually want to meet the one. I am ready and willing, however I find myself forcing to organize outings to be able to go out and mingle, because even though I would absolutely adore for my soul mate to come and knock on my door, I have to go out there to meet her. I have done the online dating and it was a big waste of my time.

    I also work from home. Yes, I am almost an hermit and I don’t want to! Like you said, too much is too much. It’s like I need to keep my social skills up to date and be able to be in a crowd, like a music show, and comfortable, so I can actually enjoy my time out with friends. A drink or two always helps! 😉 Balance is the right word. Thank you for this. Christine

    • It seems that making sure you have variety in your life really helps to keep the energy levels ‘up’ even when you are on your own for too long. I’ve found that music and dancing is great for me – it can really help to give me a motivational boost and can get me out of my head when I need it.

      Finding the person you want to spend your life with can be a tricky business can’t it?! I actually met my other half online. I really had to push myself out of my comfort zone to do it and went on a few car crash dates before meeting Ollie but he arrived eventually – 5 years on and we’re still going strong. I’m sure your lady is out there Christine, she’ll probably arrive at your door when you least expect it 🙂

  4. I have to disagree with this post. Maybe part of the reason is because I’m probably older than the author, but another reason is that I’m also probably much more of an introvert. I’m in my late 50s, semi-retired, and live alone. I socialize very infrequently, so most of my days are spent either at home working on various projects, watching films, etc., or out walking in nature, shopping, or running errands. That little bit of social contact out in the big world is plenty for me. After 30+ years of a busy career and loads of international travel, I’m delighted to at long last have time to myself. I doubt I’ll ever get enough.

    • Interesting Quinn, you’re certainly not the only one who feels that they can be on their own all the time. I wonder whether life experience and age do make a difference…thank you for your comments.

  5. I started working from home awhile back and was shocked to find I miss certain interactions. For instance, as an introvert I had a couple of co-workers that didn’t drain my energy. I miss popping into their office for a quick chat or a little office gossip. I miss camaraderie. However, the pros of working from home still outweigh the cons. I do worry that the isolation may be making my introversion more pronounced though. Interacting at work used to make me stretch myself more.

    • Hi Kay, yes it’s an interesting one this. I think what I’ve found is that since being fully self employed I have to make more of an effort to see people socially, whereas before I was always happy to have every weekend in. There is definitely something to be said for camaraderie with people that you connect with and feel comfortable around. Like you though the pros for working at home far outweigh any cons!

  6. Oh, this is so me. I work from a home office, and it’s so easy for me to get stuck inside my own head and just forget how important it is to get out and interact in person (as opposed to using the Internet or a phone). I’d never want to go back to a normal office setting, but I can always tell when I’ve been having too much alone time — I just get kind of fuzzy and start thinking in circles.

  7. Hi Kathryn,

    Thanks to you following me on Twitter, I saw and was intrigued by your bio, followed you back and ended up here, reading your wonderful blog! I’ve been reading through various posts the past few days and so much of what you have written really resonates with me.

    As with everything in life, I suspect different people – including introverts – need different things. I love alone time but I also need to to have interaction, it just depends on what’s going on in my life at the time as to how much I need to feel connected. So, if I am busy with work and having contact with people every single day, then mostly all I want to do is go home and be by myself. If I haven’t had much contact with others, then I start to feel quite lonely.

    I don’t have to say much on this, I only recently realised that I am an introvert and then suddenly so many things started to make sense in my life. I agree with your three points, but I think that the people we seek love from and who we share ideas and experiences with have to be the people who genuinely love us and ‘get’ where we’re coming from – otherwise if people are saying what they think you want to hear – it’s even more isolating.

    Thank goodness for husbands – I also have a good one!

    Esther.

    • Hi Esther, thank you so much for your kind comments – so glad you’ve found us here and that the blog has resonated with you.

      Couldn’t agree more with your comments on needing to be around people who really ‘get’ who you are. This blog has been a bit of a journey for me. Not only has it allowed me to express how I feel but it has also allowed those close to me to really gain a deeper understanding of who I am and what I need. Ollie in particular is incredibly supportive and understanding of my need to be alone sometimes. He doesn’t take offence and instead embraces and loves me for who I am which in turn lifts my confidence – I think that’s more important than anything 🙂

  8. They say that you can have too much of good thing, and I think that can apply when it comes to working on your own. I like working on my own, but a complete lack of interaction can mean you miss out on opportunities that would not otherwise have presented themselves. Whilst we may find excessive socialising draining, short bursts of meaningful interaction can open up new ideas, lead to new contacts and ultimately the chance to increase potential income. The trick, I think, is to keep the socialising focussed, and to keep control of your time – some people will just keep talking to you if you let them – and that’s not good, so always make sure you have an escape route for when it starts to feel like a drag!

    • The word ‘control’ has come up a couple of times in this blog discussion and I agree that’s really important. Even just an hour of interaction with a good friend is all I need. I certainly find it difficult when the control is taken from me, for example I just got back from a 2 day wedding. I love all the people that were there and I did have fun, but I also felt completely and utterly exhausted by the end of it – I now need a quiet week this week to recover!

  9. Personally, I don’t feel as though I can have too much alone time… BUT… I do need to be careful what I do with that alone time!.

    When I’m starved for solitude, it feels like any alone time is good alone time, and it doesn’t matter what I do, as long as I’m on my own when I do it.

    But when I actually start allowing myself to take as much time as I need, and I get mindful about it, I notice that some activities that I thought were relaxing and recharging me are actually just allowing me to numb out.

    I’ve been making a point of taking more time off over the past couple of weeks – getting off the computer earlier in the evening and refusing to keep working the post-midnight finished I’d got into the habit of a month or two back.

    And it’s absolutely freaking AMAZING how much of a difference it makes in terms of what I feel drawn towards doing with my alone-time!

    Blessings

    TANJA

    • Interesting Tanja, within this discussion there definitely seems to be a need for variety of activities when we are on our own for great lengths of time. Like everything it seems to be about having a deep sense of self awareness. Thanks for your comments!

      • Kathryn, coming back to this post a couple of weeks after initially reading it, I’ve realised that I might need to amend what I first said 🙂

        I totally recognise the value of connection, which I didn’t mention above; and I know that when I’m connecting with other people in a way that honours my introversion, it’s a wonderful feeling. So based on the fact that I *do* want some connection in my life, it follows that there must in theory be such thing as “too much alone time”.

        I’ve just never hit that point in practice in my life yet – which is why my initial response was “no, there’s no such thing for me”!

        Thanks again for a great article – I’ve shared it over on my Conscious Introvert business owner Facebook community, and it’s already started prompting some great conversation over there 🙂

        Blessings

        TANJA

  10. Ah! This is what’s going on with me! Thanks so much for the insight. Six months ago I left my job to try and start a few freelance businesses from home. When I left, I definitely felt I would never get enough of all the alone time.

    Lately though I am experiencing what you said – encroaching laziness, numbness and lack of energy. Even about projects I really want to do! I’ve been thinking that maybe I just wasn’t cut out for being self-employed. That I didn’t have the discipline and self-starterness for it.

    Now I’m thinking I just need to get out more and talk to people about what I’m doing and what they’re doing. I need the energy of connecting with people to re-energize myself too. It didn’t occur to me that as an introvert I would need balance my alone time and spend more time with people.

    New to your blog and really enjoying it. Thanks again!

    Kristen Black

  11. Kathryn, I agree with everything on your list, especially the third point! This is really a weak spot for me. I have come to realize that, when I am left too much on my own in terms of time, not only do I spend more time on the Internet – which is not a bad thing in itself – but most of all I start comparing myself to those same people I see on the web. And, as we all know, what we see online is never the full story. Anyway, this often really gets me in a bad mood, because it makes me forget that there are far more “normal” people than these “successful” ones.

    This is what happens to me. I like to think that my friends and colleagues have a grounding effect on me, and make me see things in the right perspective. After all, as you wrote, we were born as social animals! I would like to know your opinion on this, and whether there are other introverts who share this “grounding” idea:)

  12. Oh I so recognise myself in this – most of the time I can’t get enough alone time, but when I am left home alone, after 3 days I go a bit stir crazy!! I think humans need interaction as well as time to themselves. It is a question of figuring out what ratio works for you. So if I am home alone, I make sure every 2-3 days I get some people time…not just being out in the world, but being with people I can talk to. Great article. xx

  13. I am definitely an introvert (although I do cherish the times when I am social). I am an only child and so growing up (when I wasn’t at school), I got so used to keeping myself occupied while my parents were at work. Don’t get me wrong, there were times when I got really bored and did crave to get out and see friends (but if wasn’t very much because my friends lived in other neighborhoods and it was hard for me to reach them). I guess I just grew into being an introvert but I knew too much alone time for me was when I started to get antsy about getting out of the house.
    I guess the question on how much alone time is too much is relative to the person and how they’re feeling.

    It’s hard to balance though because I try to juggle school work (that I need solitude for), trying to socialize with friends, and having my me time. So while sometimes it may feel like I’m spending too much me time, it’s most likely because I’m trying to get homework done and I’m not actually treating myself. Then when I go spend time with people, I reach a point where I’m like “okay, I’m ready to be done now”

  14. This article was very useful for me. It indirectly saved my life. I used to be a happy introvert but problem started when I started a business from home. I stayed at home a lot all alone. Eventually I lost all my energy. I became lazy and numb. I lost interest of going out. I EVEN STARTED “HATING” PEOPLE. I thought it is a mental disorder but now after reading this article, it is clear why it happened like this to me. Tomorrow ill go out and meet people who loves me 🙂

    thank u so much Kathryn.

  15. I have always felt lonely, despite having plenty of people around me and being married, because I feel like I can’t really connect to anyone well on the same level as me. I have tried turning online, to religion and even trying to be happy being alone since I am the only person who is able to understand myself exactly, but none are fruitful.

    Balancing me time and social time is tricky for me. When I am with extroverts, I get burned out easily and want to be alone. When I am with introverts (such as my husband), I find that our companionship time isn’t enough and I have too much alone time and crave for more time together when he wants to be alone, and vice versa. I think what I crave is a connection, and not just spending time together but someone who actually listens and communicate on the same level as I do, which may be very difficult or impossible, so that’s why I am trying to find a compensation to get rid of feelings of loneliness.

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