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A Black Introvert’s Guide to a Healthy Social Life

Apply these professional tips to situations when you’re the “only” in a room.

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A graphic of a woman standing on a rope bridge alone.
Islenia Mil
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Sometimes I wonder what being the life of the party feels like. You know, saying a toast to commemorate time well spent with other socialites, joining in on the latest dance craze, everyone calling your name for a picture. When I imagine this alternate universe, I’m zapped back to the reality that I’m a social introvert and it would be the death of me to receive that much attention.

Over the years, I’ve realized just how much it takes out of me when I’m around too many people too often. This is especially true when it comes to being an introvert and being the sole representative of my race in social settings. Things can easily get more uncomfortable than usual. After some soul searching and re-evaluating the way I’ve been trying to balance pleasing others and myself, I finally found a way to have a healthy social life and “me time” to recharge.

It took more than a decade to master this level of Zen, but it ultimately boils down to three key factors: scheduling, types of events, and racial representation. I spoke with Michel Rosario, a licensed graduate social worker in Washington, D.C., to get practical tips to help introverts navigate social settings that lack racial and cultural diversity.

1. Be yourself and own your introversion.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being an introvert. “The introversion spectrum is incredibly diverse and it’s not necessarily synonymous with being shy. You can be an introvert and prefer to keep your human interactions to once a quarter or you can be an introvert and still be the life of the party. You just need a few days to recover from being said life of the party and that’s OK,” said Rosario.

It’s also important to avoid performing for others’ benefit. Be who you are. “The world will have you believing that the only way to display your intellectual prowess or talents is to be outspoken or “the life of the party.” Don't try to be anyone else but yourself,” she adds. “Own it, relish in it and be ready for the look of surprise on the faces of people who expected you to be everything other than the Black, intelligent, well-spoken, woman that you are.”

2. Prepare by doing your homework.
No matter how much you try to maintain a low profile, you’ll stand out simply for being the only person who looks like you. People may be curious and ask questions to get to know you. To make that time easier, be clear beforehand on why you’re at an event, who’s going to be there, who you want to meet and what you want others to know about you, said Rosario. You’ll generally receive the same questions throughout the event, so it can help to have a short elevator speech to refer to while you’re there.

3. Find your tribe.
“Don't try to carry the burden alone. Facebook groups and Meetups can be fantastic starting points in finding supportive communities in areas where representation is scarce,” Rosario advises. “Introverted Girlfriends has chapters in various cities throughout the country that can provide safe havens for introverted women of color."

4. Aggressively practice self care.
Light a candle and meditate, get a massage, read a book, turn off your phone — just do what you need to do to take care of yourself.

As an introvert, I finally have people around me who don’t take it personally that I often need solitude to recharge. I challenge each of you to set realistic boundaries and worry more about pleasing yourself than others. Be intentional about what you schedule and with whom. Choose events that bring you joy or at least a sense of adventure. As we all move toward practicing a higher level of self-care, protect your energy and remember that making time for yourself is never selfish. Balance is the key.