Learning when to say “no” when you’re an introvert with FOMO

A few months ago, I was invited to a staff appreciation event. It was the whole shebang: a speakeasy-themed dinner held at a fancy banquet hall on a Friday night. While most of my coworkers had RSVP’d for themselves and a plus one, I (in a moment of insanity) had decided that I would go alone, in order to prove that I was an independent woman or something.

When the day finally arrived, I had my usual introvert dilemma about whether or not I should actually attend. I seriously considered staying home and watching Netflix instead. I couldn’t embarrass myself on the couch — I could alleviate all my social anxiety by simply not moving from my living room. But I also knew I would regret it if I didn’t go. So I took a deep breath, put on my pink sequined dress and a pair of long black gloves, and hit the road.

And you know what? I actually had a lot of fun. I ate some cake, drank sangria, laughed with coworkers, and even won a raffle prize. I felt so relieved as the night was coming to an end. So when my boss told us all that she wanted to go out to the bar afterwards, my social anxiety crept up again. I thought to myself, I don’t really have any energy left. Isn’t it enough that I showed up to dinner? But once again, my fear of missing out won (FOMO is real, people), and I agreed to come along.

After several GPS reroutes, 15 minutes of trying to find parking, and half a mile of walking in heels, I arrived at the dark, crowded bar. It was too loud to talk or even hear myself think (even though most of my thinking was about how awkward I felt and about why bars never have coat checks). I drank a little, danced as best as I could with my coat draped over my arm, and eventually called it a night. I went home exhausted, the elated feeling from earlier gone.

I like to think that by age 22, I know myself fairly well. I know that I prefer spending time with small groups of people. I know that I enjoy quiet environments. I know that while I have some really fond memories of college parties and nights out at the bar, those places aren’t really my scene. I will always strive to step outside of my comfort zone and grow as a person. If I had skipped every event that came up in college or at work, I would never have met some very interesting people or made some of my wonderful friends. I never want to stop pushing myself, even just a little bit, to try to break down the walls I sometimes put up around myself.

But I also know that as an introvert, I need alone time to recharge so that I can remain bright, alert, and happy. I need to participate in self-care so that I can take on tasks of the next day and restore myself, otherwise things start piling up. It doesn’t make me any less fun than an extrovert, it just means that I need to do things a little differently sometimes.

So yes, I’m glad I dressed up and went to that staff appreciation dinner. I work with kids, and while they’re amazing, they do take up a lot of my precious introvert energy — so hell yeah, I deserve to be appreciated with some free food. But I also know that I could have gone home after portion of the night that feeling content, instead of dragging myself to the pub just to scream “What?!” back and forth to my coworkers and ruin my dress while downing two Jägerbombs.

As introverts, we often feel guilty saying “no” to invitations. We don’t want our friends to stop asking us to go places. We don’t want to seem lame. We don’t want to miss out on a potentially legendary night. But occasionally, we need to put our needs first. It’s okay to be picky. It’s okay to stay home for once. It’s okay to bail at 9PM. The thing is, your friends will understand, and there will be plenty of other nights. So go ahead. Turn down that party invite. Skip those after-dinner drinks. And sit on the couch with a smile on your face, in all your introverted glory. You earned it.

Saima Farooq is a 2015 Penn State graduate with a B.S. in Psychology. After years of writing research papers, she is now channeling her creativity into freelancing . She currently works as a therapist to special needs children in the Lehigh Valley. In her free time, Saima enjoys traveling to unique places, watching TED talks, volunteering, and hanging out with her kitty cats, Merlot and Salvatore. You can find her online here