Very well said, Sylvia! For me, solitude always felt enriching, partly because I genuinely loved doing solitary things (e.g., reading, writing, singing, taking contemplative walks in nature), but also largely because I had a lifelong tendency to assume the role of nurturer or emotional rescuer when I did interact with others. Hence, socializing tended to feel draining because it wasn’t often very equitably balanced in my life, in terms of give-and-take. As I’ve grown older, however, I encounter increasing numbers of people who have truly “come into their own” with respect to their relationships with themselves. It is a beautiful thing to find and connect with people who are so emotionally self-aware, because this sort of maturity translates into much healthier dynamics. For many years, however, I needed to withdraw into my own companionship— even if that meant being alone for long stretches of time — in order to finally recognize that 1) it was okay that I was as reclusive as I was (i.e., I shouldn’t judge myself for liking to hang out by myself, much less for drawing firm lines about boundaries in my preference for balanced, equitable relationships) and that 2) I didn’t need to extend myself so far to “rescue” people in order to find real happiness in my days.
To the extent of feeling anxious about socializing nowadays, those feelings are effectively “runoff” from a lifetime of feeling socially drained; that is, my social anxiety tends to be, at its core, a knee-jerk, instinctive fear of, “Oh, gosh, how much is this going to demand of me, and how will I be able to ‘recover’ my own energy and peace afterwards?” (Especially when I’ve gotten caught up in the throes of work and other adult life stress; that’s when I need the balance of being around others, as well as when I feel least inclined to “risk” draining my energy further at social functions.) That said, I’m truly thankful that I’m at a point in my life wherein the friends I meet do tend to be mindful of their own emotional needs and processes, so that we can all meet in a balanced, mutually nurturing place. The ability to do that is a beautiful gift, and I admire anyone who’s done the work to get there. ❤