I thought I was better at parties.
My husband and I have a number of “couple friends”, i.e., other couples who are our friends. We’ve known them for years, we hang out regularly, and I enjoy spending time with them. Whenever we went to parties, inevitably, some of those same couples were there. Good times.
But recently, one couple moved away and another had twins. Suddenly our group of close friends was much smaller.
We went to a gathering at a friend’s house the other day. This is a not-so-close friend–so I’d never been to their place before. I knew hardly anyone at this party.
That meant small talk.
This party brought back all those feelings of social inadequacy–you know the ones I’m talking about. These past few years, I’d done so well at parties! But now I was reminded that I actually am NOT good at parties. I hate small talk, and it takes a ton of energy to pretend to care about the details revealed during small talk. But I do listen to people intently and try to have a good conversation. It’s so, so tiring.
After only an hour and a half, instead of listening to the people talking to me, my thoughts drifted away. I thought, “I can’t do this any more. I want to get out of here.” But I knew it was too early to actually leave the party.
I killed some time playing with a guest’s dog.
Finally, I walked over to my husband and quietly said, “Give me the keys. I’m going to go sit in the car for a while.”
“That’s weird,” he mumbled, as he handed me the keys.
As soon as I walked out the front gate into the dark, quiet night, I took a huge breath and felt awesome. I got into the car, put the seat back down, and started to play with my phone. Even that was too much. I put my phone down and closed my eyes and thought about how happy I was to be able to take this break. I mentally patted myself on the back for having this great idea to come to the car! What a brilliant plan!
After about 30 minutes, I rejoined the party. No one noticed I was gone, of course.
My little party-break-in-the-car made me happy because it gave me some control. I wasn’t trapped at the party–forced to be social or feel awkward about not being social. But I still felt disappointed that parties are so hard for me.
But what makes me feel better is knowing that honestly–lots of people don’t like parties. I’m not the only one. Neither are you. 🙂
photo credit: princess toadie via photopin cc
So familiar, thanks for putting it into words so well. I just happened to think…when we were small, mom would step out for a cigarette or leave to ‘check on the kids’ or check on the coffee, all that. Now, all that was true, tasks needed to be done but…how often did she really just get a little recharge quiet time? The phone…yes, rude to need to take a call in a party, I shall have to step outside…:)
Never doubt your hard-earned self awareness, Kelly. You did the right thing for yourself, that is why you felt at peace. Coming back to the party was an awesome move.
It’s the little coping skills we learn that make a big difference. After a while you get so used to needing to take a break from a party or gathering that it doesn’t even seem weird anymore. Even 5 minutes can make a huge difference. And really, is that so weird at all? I no longer think so. It’s a matter of really tuning into what your body/mind needs and honoring it whenever possible. Sometimes it’s not possible and then I have to remind myself that it wouldn’t be proper to take a break now but that I will give myself one in x amount of time. Usually knowing there is an end in sight is enough to keep me going and then I really enjoy my break as I feel I have earned it. Yes, there is a lot going on in our heads, and that’s ok. I have to take things slower than other people so I can be mindful of how I feel. Is that selfish? If a little self-centeredness helps me function to the best of my ability and be there for others, I think it’s ok.
Here, here! very well put. I personally don’t think it’s weird to take a break, but I know others might. So as long as I can do it on the dl, it’s all good 🙂
My gosh! I thought I was so weird for needing a break from social interaction at parties. Great to know I’m not the only one who feels drained and weird at parties/social gatherings! Thanks for writing this and putting into words how I feel so often.
I used to do the same thing at work during staff meetings. They were so boring and so little was accomplished that I couldn’t stand it. I’d doodle for awhile, looking like I was taking notes 🙂 then I’d take a bathroom break even if I didn’t need one and just walk around until I felt better. Then I could go back to the meeting refreshed and tolerate it. Doing it at parties is a good idea.
Omg. It’s the small talk. I get crazy anxiety from these situation. I always blamed it on social anxiety. But the truth is I can’t lie about what a waste of time it feels like. If the conversations really mattered I’d be all over it, but really what is the point of chatting with people just to chat. Very awkward. I need to have a purpose or I don’t want to be involved. People always say ” You need to relax”. That’s the last thing I would do to relax. The crazy thing is … I own an event center and restaurant. I entertain people every day. Thousands a month. I can do this successfully because I have a purpose for being there. Otherwise I never attend parties and avoid them at all costs.
Oh my gosh, I totally hear you about needing a “purpose”. I was talking to someone about this the other day–how we hate the feeling of “wasting time”. I don’t know how that ties in with HSP… I haven’t thought about it deeply enough, but maybe there is a connection. I totally agree with small talk–it’s so meaningless, and both people in the conversation know it! Ahh, well, what can we do! 🙂
Not wasting time is a complete obsession for me. I wonder if there is a link as well. Every move I make, every word spoken, every job I do I obsess about whether the time was properly spent. I even obsess about how often I have to take time out to do necessary functions like using the bathroom. I consider eating and using the bathroom to be a complete waste of time that could be much better spent, but it’s necessary for life and it frustrates me. Probably odd, I was skeptical of even posting this. I do honestly spend time being upset that I have to take time out to pee. It interferes with whatever I’m absorbed in, and I’m always absorbed.
Not a party person either. When I was a kid, at all of my family parties I would just sit at a table with people and read. My family used to think I was weird, but hey, they still love me anyway.
Parties are high-stiumli environments to begin with, given crowd noise, sometimes loud music, etc. It’s quite easy for our brains to become ovewhelmed with all that’s going on around us. Add to that the anxiety of not “fitting in” with the crowd (especially if you don’t know the crowd that well), and it can be very exhausting. I tend to seek out people I know and stick close to them – makes the situation a little more comfortable. Still, whenever I get home from a party (and I rarely go to any these days), I feel wiped out!
I’ve done the hide in the car thing during a party, too! Thought I was weird/unusual for needing it but, boy, I’m glad I followed that instinct and pursued the option.
Glad that I’m not the only one! I think it’s such a great option because chances are, no one will notice you are gone!
I can really recognize this feeling, however, most of the time I really really just AVOID parties. Because of this ‘behaviour’ of me, I do feel I have lost friendships over the years. I was always the partypooper, or boring, or dull if I would leave earlier than the rest.
But I just feel wiped out after such occasion, and I need hours at home to rewind myself – and then ending sleeping wayy too late.
It’s really not easy to be highsensitive. I do feel I miss out a lot of things.
I also feel like I need a purpose when engaging in conversation with people. (Referring to Janna Viscomi and Kelly’s comments above) As for small talk at parties, the way I find myself dealing with these situations helps me feel like it’s not so much small talk, but rather a chance for connection. As an empath, I often feel deeply connected to others, strangers even. I know this doesn’t go both ways, and I’m okay with that. So when the official small talk starts, I find myself internally focusing on who this person really is. Not the facade or phony persona they are putting forth, but I try to see right past that. Their “human-ness.” This usually allows me to talk with them in a more meaningful way, which is what I need. Purpose. And I noticed when I am very real with others, they tend to let their guard down and get real with me. How refreshing! As for needing to get away for a break while at parties, well yeah, that’s a given for me. If I can’t get away but still feel the need, I visualize a large bubble of white light around my body and roots growing out of my feet into the earth. That usually works.
Thanks Nicole, what a great way to approach this!