Dear Still Socially Awkward;
I think there are two distinct things going on here. First is the question of balancing “me time” with other people time. Second is the question of following through on commitments.
The Value of Me Time:
Time with yourself is part of the path to Enlightenment. I know people who will confess they don’t like being alone. And I understand. I wouldn’t want to be alone with those people either. They are yucky excuses for humans. Just as we all need social time to be emotionally and physically healthy so too do we need alone time to be healthy.
It’s easy to feel guilty about the need for having time to yourself. You shouldn’t. Keep in mind the rule about oxygen masks. Put yours on before you help other people. If you want to be an amazing and interesting social butterfly and party down the first thing you have to do is take care of yourself. Taking the time to do the things you want to do keeps you sane (mostly at least) and makes you an interesting person (so long as you aren’t too sane).
If you spend all your time going to parties that means that after six months you’ll be able to say “I went to a bunch of parties.” If you get in ample doses of me time to concentrate on yourself and your creations that means in six months you’ll be able to say “I learned to meditate, rode my bike 40 miles and wrote my first book.” The second option is going to make you much more interesting at the few parties you attend.
Which brings up quality over quantity. Do you need to attend all these social engagements? Life is short and when it’s your life it’s even shorter. Attend the events and parties that are really important t you – for whatever reasons make those sorts of things important. Don’t feel obligations to commit to any and every invitation thrown at you. What is important to you about attending a party or other social event? What do you give to and what do you receive from a social event? Chose wisely based on those criteria. Saying “no” doesn’t make you a bad person. It makes you a better person.
Committing to Commitment:
The ability to follow through on commitments is another lost art which is quickly dying thanks to my favourite device. The cell phone. See, back when I was your age we didn’t have cell phones so if I said I was gonna meet you at the candy store at 4pm on Thursday I had to actually walk uphill 25 miles in the snow and show up at the candy store. At 4pm. Or else I’d be a dick. I couldn’t send you a text message at 3:58pm cancelling on you and (in my mind) not being a dick because I let you know “in advance.”
This doesn’t count only for commitments made face to face. An RSVP via Meetup or Facebook is still a promise. The fact that you made the commitment by clicking a button on a computer doesn’t change that. An RSVP on Facebook really does count.
“Party or party not. There is no try.”
No matter the who, what, where, when or how if you say “yes” then you should show up. If you are not going to show up just say no. Everyone – including you – knows that when someone says “I’ll try to make it to your party” that means “I’m not coming and I don’t like you but I don’t have the spine to tell you so to your face thus I’ll just respond in a passive-aggressive way which allows me to avoid confrontation.”
You don’t want to be flaky. That’s why I’m going to suggest one unbreakable rule to you. If you RSVP “yes” then you must attend. You don’t have to stay until 2am. You don’t have to be the life of the party. But you must attend. If you said you’re going to be there you must be there. No matter how much you don’t wanna go.
Why is this important? Because you need to send a message to everyone around you that you are a person who keeps her word and follows through on promises. While many people will happily tolerate flakiness in other people those folks who have their shit together will not tolerate the flakiness. The people you want to spend your time with are the people who have their shit together. Why? ‘Cause you are going to be like the people you spend your time with.
If you send the message that you are reliable then reliable people will join your flock. If you send the message of flakiness then the flaksters will cling to you.
What about those times when something really does happen that causes you to bail at the last moment? If people know you are reliable when that one day comes that something so urgent and important happens that you must bail out on a RSVP they will understand. They will know that whatever happened must be really important for you to duck out on a commitment – because you never duck out of commitments – because that’s just the sorta person you are.
Alone time and social time are both important to living a happy and healthy life. Be honest with yourself and others about how much of each you need. If you make a promise stick to it.