Doing the thing!
December 1, 2017 1:02 PM   Subscribe

I would like to choose "take the social risk" over "conserve energy by spending time alone" more often -- and it makes me happier in the long run. How do I motivate myself to make this choice more consistently?

Here I'm defining "social risk" as any social activity that feels scarier than, say, getting lunch with my super close friend, and is something I genuinely want to do (like try out a tabletop roleplaying group, go on a first date, meet friends for trivia, etc.) Like the version of myself I aspire to definitely does some combination of these things regularly!

One thing I've realized lately is that I'm actually kind of wrong about myself when it comes to introversion. I've internalized the idea that I'm somebody who loves solo pursuits and I should push back against social things to make space for this part of me. In reality, those social activities almost always give me the good relaxed energy that I can then in turn choose to spend on enjoyably hanging out alone with a book. When I choose to stay home on Friday and then play games all Saturday because I'm feeling worn out from the week, I actually end up feeling much more tired and oftentimes sink into sad frustrated feelings.

I guess my question is, how do I reset my in-the-moment decision meter so that when I'm feeling tired on a Friday, or intimidated before a date, or whatnot, that I override my rationalizations and actually decide to do the thing? Also, how do I kind of shift how I understand myself and really, truly believe that, while I tend to think "8 times out of 10 I'm going to choose to work on a project alone and that works for me!", I more consistently remember the inverse -- 8 out of 10 times it would be great to go to that party/movie/concert/date, and then I will enjoy time by myself much much more? I have been struggling with a version of this question for years, but now that I'm so clear on it internally, and maybe facing some new opportunities/relocating, I'd like to really put this into action.

Any suggestions would be lovely. Thank you!
posted by elephantsvanish to Human Relations (11 answers total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
I promise myself that I just have to show up for half an hour. If I'd rather be at home after that, I'm free to excuse myself and go back home to work on my projects. As far as my own social inertia goes, that's usually enough to get me out of the house, and once I'm out, I'm good. Your mileage, as usual, may vary.
posted by redsparkler at 1:12 PM on December 1, 2017 [14 favorites]

I have a quota of yeses I have to meet each month, because like you, though I love and need and will always choose alone time, I go flat and lonely if I don't have that social time as well-- for connection, for fun, to re-energize and define my free time.

The quota works because if I'm on the fence about something, it pushes me over to yes, but if I'm REALLY wanting to be cooking and watching nflix, I can choose that and not feel bad.
posted by kapers at 1:20 PM on December 1, 2017 [3 favorites]

Say yes but always have an exit strategy is how I handle it. I make myself go, but if I'm not enjoying it I quietly leave. My friends have gotten used to me just leaving. Knowing I can leave at any time makes saying yes so much easier. You might have to train your friends a little as you'll get some "oh no don't go" push back the first few times.
posted by wwax at 1:46 PM on December 1, 2017

When I have been at points in my life when I'm feeling this way, I set a policy for myself of a default "yes." That is, unless I have a true conflict or reason to say "no" to an invitation (i.e. another event happening at the same time, I happen to legitimately dislike the person making the invite, I've got the flu, etc.), my default is to say yes and do the thing. If I see an event on Facebook that looks cool and I don't have anything else going on at that time, I go ahead and do it. Etc. I find that after a couple of months of this, I get in enough of a habit of saying "yes" that I don't really need the rule and can be a little more discerning -- I don't think I'd live my entire life this way (as it can get exhausting), but it's a great reset for those times when I've gotten in a rut of doing things solo and turning down social activities, and am feeling too hermit-y.
posted by rainbowbrite at 1:57 PM on December 1, 2017

Sign up for an art class that costs enough money that you wouldn't want to waste money by skipping a class. Try to get one on Monday or Tuesday so you don't have the excuse of "It's been a tough week at work".
posted by blueberry at 3:07 PM on December 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

[H]ow do I kind of shift how I understand myself [?]

A possibly helpful construct from my life... People always think I’m an extrovert because I can talk to anyone, regale people with funny stories, etc.; conversely, they assume my quiet husband is an introvert. But the reality is that he’s a shy extrovert and I’m a gregarious introvert happy to stay home. Meanwhile he has to conquer shyness to venture out but loves being with people. Could you be a shy extrovert?
posted by carmicha at 3:29 PM on December 1, 2017 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Could you be a shy extrovert?

Yes! I think this is likely a part of what's going on -- more often than not I'm just afraid to be around other people rather than not wanting time together. I also spent a good amount of my solo time chatting/writing things online (hi!)/setting up video calls with friends/having a constant stream of podcasts running, etc. I pretty much always pursue ways to be in the presence of others, and prioritize safer/more passive versions when I can't get myself out there in meatspace.
posted by elephantsvanish at 3:41 PM on December 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

An analogy that I use to understand meditation is that meditation is like a reset feature for the brain. So you can use meditation to reset your in-the-moment decision meter!
posted by aniola at 5:46 AM on December 2, 2017

I'm an extrovert and I have social phobias. If things are in my calendar with notifications, I'm more likely to go. And I remind myself that I will have fun, and that if I don't have fun, I can leave.
posted by theora55 at 7:23 PM on December 2, 2017

I like to have things scheduled in advance so that I can get used to the idea of going a few days ahead of time. If someone invites me to something last minute, it is much harder to make myself go because I'm already settled into my comfortable space so I make an effort every week to have a few things on the calendar.

When anxiety was more of an issue for me, I tried to look at it as an experiment. I'd predict how much fun I thought I would have, went to the thing, and then later recorded how much I had actually enjoyed it. This really brought home to me the fact that I almost always enjoyed myself much more than I thought I would.

Another thing that helps me personally, although I can't really recommend it as it's not that healthy, is to drink soda or coffee before I need to leave for something. It gives me a bit more energy to overcome my inertia and get out there.
posted by seraph9 at 8:36 AM on December 3, 2017

Can you sign up for things in advance? I'm thinking like a trivia group where a friend or two is expecting you. For me, making plans with friends who'd be disappointed if I cancelled really helps me get out there. That, and scheduling things for right after work so that way, I don't go home and then have a hard time getting off the couch again.
posted by spicytunaroll at 8:49 PM on December 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

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