We all need to establish boundaries in order to feel comfortable around others.
This helps us to protect our well-being and create limits and conditions on our energy, time, and feelings.
For us introverts, the way we do this can be slightly different from extroverts.
1) Expectations have to be clearer
If people don’t know what to expect, they can all too quickly mislabel introversion as something it isn’t.
You are seen as shy for hiding away in the corner of a party all night.
You are judged as being rude, for needing to make a hasty retreat.
You are labeled as flaky when you have to cancel last minute because you just can’t face it.
You may be told you are selfish because you don’t have the energy to give to someone else right now.
Whether we like it or not, it’s still predominantly an extrovert’s world.
It can be very difficult for people who have different energetic needs to understand how introverts are wired differently.
That’s why when setting expectations introverts have to make it really clear what they can and cannot give.
When making new friends I will tell them things they may need to know, such as:
I don’t always text back straight away, it’s not personal, I just find too much chatting over technology exhausting.
That way we avoid the discomfort of misunderstandings in our relationships and in social settings.
Because for us, taking time alone isn’t something nice to indulge in, it’s a non-negotiable.
2) Recharging isn’t a luxury, it’s an essential
We all lead busy lives.
Many extroverts as well as introverts can find themselves craving some extra time all to themselves.
But for an introvert, carving out this time is vital to functioning in a healthy way.
I’m not being melodramatic. It’s true.
That’s because there are neurological differences between introverts and extroverts that many people to not realize.
We handle stimuli differently and it takes introverts longer to process information because we have longer neural pathways.
So what does that mean in practical terms?
We have to allow ourselves more time for the process to take place, otherwise, we will quickly become overstimulated and overwhelmed.
That’s why quiet time is a non-negotiable that we must factor in when creating our boundaries and putting together our schedules.
3) We have to be more protective of our energy
I’ve just mentioned how we’re more prone to becoming over-stimulated.
Well, it’s not just other people’s company that can become too much.
It can be things like loud music, clanking plates in a cafe, or chattering voices around us.
Introverts can find it harder to concentrate when faced with a lot of noise, sights, and sounds around them which flood their system.
So we have to be extra mindful of our environment and how it impacts us.
4) We need more space than extroverts
People who quickly get bored alone or feel lonely unless they are surrounded by loved ones simply don’t get it.
It’s not that we don’t like you. It’s not that we’re anti-social. It’s not that we don’t want to hang out…
But we also need our space.
It’s not personal. It isn’t about you, it’s about us.
Heck, I know plenty of introverts who wish they could switch off from themselves and not just other people!
When we turn you down, we are not rejecting you. But we have to have very firm boundaries around protecting our space.
That means turning invitations down…
5) We may need to say “no” more often
Saying no to people can feel tricky to many of us.
Nobody likes to disappoint someone, especially when they care about them.
It can be extra difficult for conflict-fearing introverts who are highly sensitive to muster up the courage to mutter that two-letter word.
But introverts who haven’t managed to find their voice are setting themselves up for a fall.
Introverts need to say “no” more often in order to protect our energy and time.
Otherwise, we’ll over-commit and end up regretting it later.
6) We understand the difference between privacy and secrecy
Introverts can be thought of as a bit of a closed book.
It’s true that extroverts may be more free-flowing when giving away details about themself. It may take more time to get to know an introvert.
But there may be aspects of them that you will never know, and that’s okay!
Introverts are not especially secretive, but they can be more private.
The two are very different things.
We don’t have a right to know absolutely everything about someone. It’s okay to keep some things to ourselves.
It doesn’t mean you are being sneaky or stealthy.
Introverts inhabit this inner world more often than extroverts do, so they can be slightly more guarded with shielding their sanctuary.
7) We let our boundaries be guided by our internal compass rather than external pressure
Perhaps it’s because they spend more time alone than extroverts, but research has noted that introverts are less swayed by external events.
So when it comes to creating boundaries they are less likely to follow the crowd and more likely to follow their internal moral compass.
“The higher the pressure, a larger number of conforming responses are given by extroverts.” But when it comes to introverts “there is no difference in conforming responses given to high- and low-pressure levels by introverts.”
There’s no denying that boundaries aren’t always easy to make.
But perhaps this means that introverts are more likely to stick to their guns when it comes to upholding their boundaries, rather than caving in to outside pressure.
8) We need to accept that we’re different instead of fighting against it
For me, creating any kind of effective boundaries has meant I’ve had to deal with the discomfort of people “getting me wrong”.
For years, I ran myself ragged trying to keep up with others’ expectations of how I should be.
I didn’t like the antisocial label that was often thrust on me.
Neither could I stand the thought I was being seen as rude for not making enthusiastic polite chit-chat.
Until one day when I finally understood, I was actually pleasing nobody by trying to please everyone else but myself.
I wasn’t doing a very good job at fighting against my naturally introverted nature. Because it’s not a lifestyle choice, it’s our biology. And that we cannot fight. It only leads to burnout.
So instead, I allowed myself to be a little bit “selfish” by putting my own energetic needs first.
The funny thing is, that this gave me more (not less) to give to others.
Sure I lost some people along the way, but only the ones who were never a good fit for me in the first place.
When it comes to personal boundaries, I learned that it’s okay to create them based on your own individual needs.
After all, that’s what they are. They are simply your club rules that everyone has to follow, and you get to decide them.