Retreat Inward vs. Escape Outward — how do you spend your time?

I’m very rarely bored. I have tons of books, notebooks, journals, sketchbooks, etc. and I constantly have projects I’m working on. I am quite content to stay at home creating art, expressing myself, and learning new things. 

I am not a people person and interactions with others make me very nervous. I am always self-conscious about my hands. I have muscle tremors from taking lithium so whether I’m anxious or not, my hands shake. I always think people are looking at them, thinking I’m scared, which makes me even more nervous. I don’t know if others even notice, but I feel incredibly awkward.

So I retreat inward. I’m just happier by myself.

It’s not like I hate everyone. I have a few people in my life who really know me and I feel comfortable with them. I often crave conversations with my husband. We get off work at the same time and I can’t wait to see him. But even when spending time with these special people, I still look forward to being alone.

Then there are the people who escape outward – the social butterflies, the “people” people. They find their solace in spending time with others. I can’t imagine what that must be like.

Of course, I’m sure they’re thinking the same about me. 

I spend so many days frustrated and confused by the words and actions of my family, friends, and coworkers. Why would I want to expose myself to even more of that? Sometimes when I’m around others I feel like my body is in fight or flight mode, and I’m just tired. 

I want stillness and quiet. I want peace. 

Plus there’s so much I want to do. I want to go home and write and draw and paint. Is it wrong if I don’t want spending time with others to take away from that?

I promise you I’m not an ice queen – just an ambitious loner exhausted from anxiety. There’s so much I want to do and so much I want to avoid.

So what about you guys? Do you retreat inward or escape outward? To the “people” people – do you ever just get tired of people? Do you ever get anxious? Does being alone make you nervous? I’m really curious. 


  1. sonofrojblake says

    I escape inward, outward. When it all gets a bit much, I’m happiest alone hanging off a rock outcrop part way up a mountain somewhere. The nice thing is when you’re on the trails, if it’s one of the popular ones, you can fairly regularly come across people coming the other way who will greet you with a cheery “hello”… and nothing more. Or if you choose something more remote, you can spend the day entirely without interaction of any kind. “Bad” weather is a good way to minimise (although not eliminate) these contacts if you wish. I’ve been on many a summit entirely alone in a howling wind and driving rain, happy as a clam. Another advantage I find to this approach is that I do appreciate interaction when I’m done. It was a concentrated year of this kind of voluntary enjoyable isolation that nudged me, nine years ago, towards the realisation that I wanted a family, rather than spend the rest of my limited time on earth doing what I’d always been doing.

  2. Katydid says

    It sounds like you’re an introvert, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. There have been some great books written about introversion. In short, introvert/extrovert is all about how someone gets their energy. As you noted, some people get their energy from being in a crowd. Some people find that exhausting and get their energy alone or in small groups, as you do. You also seem to get your energy from being creative–writing, painting, drawing, etc.

    I also think there’s situational introversion: when the people around you are such jerks that you’re far happier by yourself, not having to deal with their toxicity. You can read about emotional/energy “vampires” (not actual vampires): in short, people who suck the life out of you. Pro-tip: avoid those people because they are a black hole of need that will never be filled even as they drain your energy from you. When they’ve drained you dry, they go on to their next victim.

    • John Morales says

      False dichotomy in the post title, of course (there’s a continuum), but I too am basically an introvert.

      I can handle social situations, but I’d rather avoid them unless it’s a group of actual friends, not just acquaintances.

      Anyway; beware the binary; beware the excluded middle.

  3. antaresrichard says

    I’m pretty much a homebody. My sibling, a private individual with whom I reside, still manages to go out of the house, far, far more than I do. I’m as just happy to remain at home to work on my various personal projects and other such amusements. Like right now, it’s closing on three a.m., my favorite part of the “day” for solitude and diversion.
    Don’t worry, I don’t bite.

  4. Katydid says

    I posted again yesterday and it never showed up–does anyone else have this problem?

    I agree with John Morales that it’s a continuum. I’m very close to the middle of it; I can go out in a group and be perfectly happy and energized, or I can stay at home (like in 2020) and be perfectly happy and energized. I find it depends more on the situation.

    • ashes says

      That’s really strange. I saw your comment yesterday and approved it. I don’t know why it didn’t show up and now it makes me wonder about other comments.

  5. rockwhisperer says

    Serious introvert here. I did a 7-hour drive on Wednesday, got home, and engaging with my housemate (who had experienced some misfortune in my 5-day absence and needed an ear) was almost physically painful. I wanted nothing more than a cup of tea and the gentle company of cats, though the housemate is a dear friend and I did have a long conversation with her.

    But engaging with others is an energy drain, even when those engagements are themselves wonderful. It isn’t that I don’t value other people, I do. I have a few very good friends, and some extended family and in-laws that I love dearly. But me, cats, writing or beading, and tea…that’s my idea of happiness.

  6. billseymour says

    I’m definitely an introvert.  When I started working from home when COVID became a thing, I was happy as a clam hardly ever leaving my apartment except for runs to the grocery store twice a week.  I retired at the end of June, shortly before reaching 76 years of age, and I’m perfectly happy writing code and reading Freethought Blogs. 😎

    There’s one exception I make to the introvert business:  I serve on an ISO standards committee for the C++ programming language, and attending the meetings gives me a chance to hang around with folks who are smarter than I am, which is like candy to me.  The first face-to-face after COVID was in Kailua-Kona, HI in November, but I wasn’t able to attend that one. I’ll be at the meeting in Issaquah, WA in February; and I’ll be happy to just hang out in my bedroom on Amtrak’s Empire Builder for the two days it takes to make the trip, except for meals in the diner and walking around on station platforms during long stops.  (I’m also a train riding geek.)

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