December is a cruel month for introverts. Wall to wall work parties, excruciating small talk with Séan in accounts, feverishly looking at your watch every twenty minutes waiting for the socially acceptable time to leave.
Last Christmas on a loop, all that mingling and mixing and putting on another layer of metaphoric make-up when all you really want to do is go home, change in to your pyjamas and warm socks and watch Downton Abbey.
Killarney-based life coach, Susan Fitzgerald, says one of the inherent problems with Christmas is the expectation of happiness. Introverts are particularly burdened by all the social pressures of the "most wonderful time of the year".
“It’s the time of year when women in particular put on imaginary capes and tights trying to be all things to everyone. If you don’t go to all the parties you are asked to you are perceived to be a killjoy. But I would tell people to acknowledge how they are feeling.
“We tend to feel guilty over our own needs. It’s great to make an effort, but people shouldn’t feel guilty about hiding away either.”
Susan says it is perfectly acceptable for introverts to tell what she calls “therapeutic lies” at this time of year in order to avoid attending multiple parties.
“There is nothing wrong with a white lie as long as it isn’t damaging someone. It is about self-protection and self care. Being on antibiotics is a grand lie. Be cute; be the designated driver and you can get home faster. You can always have a dog that is nearly having its pups and of course they can be pedigree pups to make it an even better story.”
She stresses that a root canal is the best excuse in the world for an introvert looking to avoid attending a party.
“A root canal has great drama attached to it. And it’s not something you can get caught out on. It’s believable and just serious enough to work without being too serious.”
Susan says introverts need to establish boundaries in relation to the social expectations of relatives.
“Be patient with yourself. Have huge amounts of compassion for yourself. If you feel the need to leave a party for 15 minutes peace that is fine. I would say to women particularly don’t overextend yourself at Christmas. Know your limits. Don’t feel you have to go to all the parties. Don’t feel you to have to do everything you are asked. When you enter some houses at Christmas you don’t smell turkey - you smell martyrdom.”
Surviving the Festive Season
1. If you are an introvert with children consider yourself fortunate.
Children can conveniently get chicken pox on dates which clash with work events. Just keep track of the name of the unlucky child.
If you get caught out and say the wrong name you can quickly land on your feet by claiming the chicken pox ran riot throughout your entire brood.
2. Cook on Christmas day.
Peeling dozens of potatoes is exhausting. However, it’s infinitely preferable to sitting in the livingroom speaking to distant relatives who for unknown reasons congregate in your home at this time of year. Boiling Brussels sprouts or listening to your grand aunt talking about piles? No contest whatsoever.
3. Explain to your family and friends that you are not “odd”.
Tell them you were diagnosed as being an introvert. Make it sound serious. Like something they could contract if they spend too much time in your company.
4. Take control.
The key to surviving Christmas as an introvert is to to take control of the organisation yourself. Meet up with friends in a lunch setting. Lunch does what it says on the tin. It has set parameters.
You can “enjoy” the hour and skip home having met the contractual obligations of the season. Just make sure it isn’t a liquid lunch that could last all day.