When I saw two friends at the end of the grocery aisle, my stomach clenched. I hadn't seen them in months, so I should have been grateful for a chance to catch up. But I was picking up supplies for the afternoon of cooking I had planned. I find bulk cooking saves me effort during the week and builds up my introvert energy reserves. I hadn't allocated energy for social time that day, and I feared the minutes spent in conversation would risk the energy reserves I was trying to accumulate. I didn't want to make that trade.
It's easy to see how introverts might get accused of being antisocial. I just revealed a time where running into friends caused minor anxiety. It would be easy to assume I shun people and social time. But that's not true. I cherish quality time with friends. I value meaningful activities. I enjoy surprises, and most of the time adapting comes easily to me. If I come across as antisocial, it's because my energy levels are threatened or low.
The feeling when my reserves are depleted is raw and desperate. I avoid it at all costs. When my energy levels are threatened, my brain jumps into a scarcity mentality. I calculate the bare minimum actions I must do. I drop pleasantries and ignore social cues. My primary goal becomes protecting my reserves.
Running out of energy is a daily fear. I know there are much larger concerns in the world, and I have no intent to diminish those. But on the small-scale, personal level, running out of energy is my greatest fear. To protect myself, there's a constant calculation in the back of my mind about how much energy remains.
So no, introverts are not antisocial. But yes, next time I see you at the grocery store, you might find me behind the cereal boxes.