Mmmmm how bout THAT for a titlating title, huh!?
Don’t worry, we’re keeping things PG here on the spoon. Just doing some thinking out loud.
So the other week I was going into a coffeeshop to spend an hour or so doing some writing, as I often do. I’ve mentioned many times that coffee shops are my happy place. They are where I get the most done and also where I take myself out for self care and relaxation. It is where I feel most safe, comfortable and motivated.
In this coffeeshop there were two rooms. One was just off the main ordering counter and was nearly full of people. It was quite alive with noise from the cash register, steam wands, music and chatting amongst customers. The other room was down a narrow hall, completely away from all noise, in a space with only one other woman working peacefully away at her laptop.
It was lovely. There were windows, nice bench seating, perfectly quiet. Yet when I went to this back room, assuming this is where I would want to settle in, I immediately realized it did not feel right. In fact, it felt awful.
I walked back and forth between the two rooms, unable to decide where I wanted to sit. I knew I was here to relax. I was feeling tired and internal. But… I realized I felt way more comfortable in the room where there would be people around me.
Did I want to talk to these people? No. But that didn’t mean I wanted to be alone.
In Susan Cain’s, “Quiet,” she writes:
“Once you understand introversion and extroversion as preferences for certain levels of stimulation, you can begin consciously trying to situate yourself in environments favorable to your own personality – neither overstimulating or under stimulating, neither boring nor anxiety-making. “
I am an introvert. But a very certain type. Sometimes it makes me feel utterly dichotomous.
Small talk stresses me out, but deep talks one on one feel wonderfully comfortable.
I like being in groups of people… as long as I feel I can be at the back, on my own, stay quiet, and leave right away.
I perform on stage to crowds of hundreds. Just don’t make me come out afterwards to greet the crowd.
I like to be on my own, but I don’t like being alone.
…. There is a difference.
I think the reason I feel so good in coffeeshops is that they offer me my perfect level of stimulation. I get to be on my own, in my own thoughts, without the pressures of engaging with or entertaining anyone else. But I also have a hub of energy around me and a sense of connection that I do not need to speak to anyone to feel.
When I had to decide where to sit in that coffeeshop, I realized that I have a pretty solid sweet spot when it comes to stimulation. Choosing the quiet empty room would have been far too under stimulating for me. Much like being at home, I actually wouldn’t have been able to work and focus as well, and I would have felt lonely. I am far more creative and work much more diligently when I have a cloud of noise and action in my periphery. I feel inspired when I exchange silent smiles with another solo person sketching or writing away, and I feel happy when I say my few words of camaraderie to the barista, knowing that that’s where the conversation will end.
If a group of people I knew came in together, saw me, and decided to come sit down with me? I would have been taken out of my sweet spot. Only this time it would have been because I was over-stimulated. Then I probably would have had to go somewhere more quiet in order to recalibrate myself.
That’s the thing I’m learning. We will never, ever always be in our sweet spot. But if we are aware of what our sweet spot is and when and how we become over or under stimulated, we can learn which side of the teeter totter to step on to rebalance ourselves. When I start to feel sad because I’ve been home alone for too long, I crave the comfort of a morning at a cafe and know that after just a couple hours, I will be feeling back in balance. When I’ve been out being social with others for a whole day or a few nights in a row, I know that a quiet night on my couch will recalibrate my sense of grounding.
In thinking about why I chose to sit where I did in that coffeeshop, I’ve come to realize why I love living in the city. It – t00 – offers me my perfect level of stimulation.
Surprising eh?? For an introvert who always lived in a small town, you would think the big bad city would be far, far too over stimulating. And for some, it really really is. And that totally makes sense. But for me, being in a city means I can go out and be on my own, but always with the hub of other people around me. I can people watch and observe the actions of others without needing to speak or get involved. I can get out of my house without the worry of seeing 10 people I know and having to stop for small talk. I don’t have to be lonely, but I also don’t have to be the star of attention.Where Is Your Stimulation Sweet Spot? Optimal Levels of Arousals for Introverts and Extroverts.… Click To Tweet
As Cain writes,
“… Imagine how much better you’ll be at this sweet-spot game once you’re aware of playing it. You can set up your work, your hobbies, and your social life so that you spend as much time inside your sweet spot as possible, and thus feel more energetic and alive than ever before.”
The city offers me places where I can do this.
Where is your stimulation sweet spot?
What brings you out of it – above or below?