A Fill-In-The-Blanks Letter to Your Family

Dreading holiday visit burnout? Perhaps this letter will help.

Posted Nov 29, 2017

Alvaro Serrano/Unsplash
Source: Alvaro Serrano/Unsplash

Aside from all the other baggage that the holiday season can carry, extended visits with family can be particularly stressful for introverts. No matter how much we love our families, all that togetherness can be profoundly exhausting. Especially in families that don't understand introversion.

I'm here to help, and so I've written a letter for you--sort of like your doctor would to excuse you from gym class. All you have to do is fill in the blanks with your name and appropriate pronouns, and let me explain you to your family, as an ersatz voice of authority. 

It's my gift to you.

Have a happy, peaceful, holiday.

                                                                    ***

Dear (family member name),

I am writing to you on behalf of (your name).

The holidays are approaching, and because (your name) loves you, (pronoun) is looking forward to spending time with you over the holidays, even if it means sleeping in (possessive pronoun) childhood bedroom or on the fold-out couch with the uncomfortable metal bar that makes (possessive pronoun) back hurt like the dickens in the morning.

However, there is something very important (your name) would like you to understand so that this year’s holiday visit is more joyous than stressful:

(Your name) is introverted.

I’m introverted myself, and I’ve written about introversion for years, including two books on the subject. I’m so immersed in the topic that it’s hard for me to imagine not knowing what introversion is, especially since it’s been all the rage online recently. You can’t swing a cat video without hitting an article or meme about introversion. But I’ll explain anyway:

People who are introverted find social interaction exhausting. It drains us of energy.

This does not mean introverts are necessarily shy, socially anxious, or misanthropic. It just means that we don’t require or desire as much social interaction as people who are extroverted, and who therefore gain energy from the interaction. People who are introverted need quiet time and solitude to regain energy after a lot of interaction, even with people they love, as (your name) loves you.

So while it might feel like a rejection when, in the middle of a perfectly nice day, (your name) seems to shut down and stop having fun; or sneaks out of the house alone; or hides in (possessive pronoun) bedroom or, in desperation, the bathroom (as many introverts do); or leaves the party early, it really has nothing to do with you. It has to do with (your name).

(Your name) does not need alone time because (pronoun) needs to get away from you. (Your name) needs alone time because (your name) needs alone time.

Don’t take it personally. Really. It’s not you, it’s (your name).

And another thing you should understand: A burned-out, overextended introvert is no fun. A depleted introvert is a cranky introvert. So you know how (your name) seems to suddenly go all sour on you? It’s not that (pronoun) suddenly hates you. It’s that (pronoun) has hit the introvert wall. For (pronoun), the party is over for the moment.

But allow (your name) solitude as necessary—with no badgering, no guilt trips, no worried, whispered conversations in the next room—and (pronoun) promises to bounce back, energy replenished, ready to join the fun again.

Oh yes, and about that fun. You might sometimes wonder if (your name) is having any fun all, what with that whole sitting quietly in the corner thing while everyone else is running around in a peppermint, sugar-buzzed, holiday frenzy.

Again, please don’t worry. Don’t take it personally. Watching other people party is fun for introverts. Curling up in front of the fireplace with a book is fun for introverts. Hiking in the woods is fun for introverts. Quiet conversation over a mug of hot cocoa is fun for introverts. (Your name) particularly likes (your favorite introverted activity).

Introvert fun isn’t loud. It isn’t frenetic. It isn’t more-the-merrier. It’s … kinda mellow.

And listen, I want to stress—on behalf of (your name), myself, and introverts the world over: There’s nothing wrong with being introverted. It’s not something that needs fixing or changing. Yes, I know you worry. You love (your name) and want nothing but happiness for (pronoun). And sometimes it’s hard to recognize introvert happiness because it doesn’t involve dancing in rooms or making new friends or hugging everyone in arm's reach.

But here’s where you have to trust (your name) to know what is best for (pronoun). To tell you if (pronoun) is unhappy. To be responsible for tending to (pronoun) own emotional needs. You can’t make an introvert more extroverted by worrying, nagging, or badgering. We are what we are, and there’s nothing at all wrong with us.

We just need a little peace during the holidays. That brings joy to our world. And, given the room to be (pronoun) introverted self, (your name) would love to bring nothing but joy to you this holiday season.

Quietly.

Happy holidays to you.

Your friend,

Sophia Dembling

Professional Introvert and author of The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World and Introverts in Love: The Quiet Way to Happily Ever After.