Growing up, I was considered “shy” and possibly socially anxious. I often observed an environment for quite some time before engaging in conversations or play. It’s true, sometimes I was intimidated with how others seemed to easily do the dance of meeting new people, striking up novel conversations, or taking the risk of sharing themselves with strangers.
For me, it would take a lot more time to open myself up. Not just time. It took the right “feeling” to open up.
I wasn’t a loner by any means, I had my close group of friends and others seemed to like me and respect me, but I wasn’t the type of girl to flit from social circle to social circle if you know what I mean. I needed to find my peeps – those I could trust and be myself with.
The Sensitive Soul
As I grew older, I became more and more sensitive to a lot of things: sounds, emotions, energies, and environments. Was I just getting grumpy and moody as I was aging? For a long time, I really thought that was the case.
Why did I prefer to spend time alone and not in a social setting with several other people? Was I developing an anti-social personality? If I had my first choice, it would be to spend time all by myself (or with animals). My second choice was to spend time with one or two other people in a small social arrangement.
But once large groups were introduced, no thank you! Couple that situation with loud volumes of talking, music, or miscellaneous sounds, ABSOLUTELY NOT!
The truth is, I wasn’t anti-social, I wasn’t a recluse, I wasn’t aloof and snobby as many people labeled me. I was a HSP, a Highly Sensitive Person.
And yes, while some of my behaviors mimicked those of having social anxiety, the reality was that I was born with traits that allowed me to process the world around me in a much deeper way than most people. I feel everything.
Energy, Energy Everywhere
I perceive so much more than the average Joe. I don’t say this to sound pompous or arrogant, it’s the truth. I pick up on subtleties that others often miss in social settings. I literally feel energies and moods shift in a space, while others seems unaffected by it.
For me, it can be uncomfortable because my body absorbs everyone’s energy (and yes, YOU are energy). So when I absorb other’s energy, I often become overwhelmed with the stimulation and feel a whole host of symptoms (exhaustion, anxiety, “buzzing” in my body, headaches, sadness, excitement, etc.).
For people who are unfamiliar with my personality trait (and there are a lot of them, don’t worry if you’ve never heard of it before), I can sometimes be judged for being moody. Well, you nailed it! I’m moody! Why? Because I’m taking on the energies of everyone around me!
So if you’re moody, I feel it. I absorb it. If you are bringing high energy into a space, I feel it. I get exhausted by it. If you talk endlessly without giving space for silence, I am turned off by it due to my sensitivity to noise. If you wear a strong perfume or are cooking something aromatic, I smell it with such intensity that I might get a headache or feel nauseous. Ya feel me?
So yeah, I get freakin’ moody due to all of these sensations I’m processing. You’re probably thinking, “Man, sucks to be you! Who would want to be a Highly Sensitive Person?” And while I’d have to agree with you to some degree – after all, the physical symptoms are annoying and problematic some times – I wouldn’t change my personality for anything else.
You see, the world needs HSPs. We are highly empathic, often times introverted which makes us great listeners and observers, intuitive, and arguably the deepest thinkers and feelers you will ever meet! Sadly, HSPs make up only about 20% of the population, so we are a rare breed.
We make great relationship partners, but I firmly believe it takes the right combination of personalities or skill sets to deal with us. I can speak for my own marriage. I crave alone time but my partner craves togetherness. I prefer to stay at home or socialize in a very quiet environment for a limited amount of time, my partner loves get-togethers and events in louder spaces (aka. breweries, restaurants, parties/gatherings). I need a quiet sleeping environment, he snores.
You’re probably thinking, how does THAT work since you have opposite needs and preferences? Well, it takes effort and a LOT of communication.
I don’t think we have a “traditional” relationship in many ways due to our differences. We’re working on that and we don’t have it all figured out yet.
It’s not always easy. If the partner is willing to learn about the HSP personality trait (if he/she is not a HSP too), I think the relationship can be very rewarding and intimate. There will be more on this topic in future posts, for sure!
As you read this post, I want you to know, I already appreciate you so much! Thank you for sticking with me and learning about what it’s like to be HSP.
There is sooooooo much more to dive into and there will be more posts about being highly sensitive to come.
If you’re interested in reading more about The Highly Sensitive Person, I recommend checking out Elaine Aron’s book: “The Highly Sensitive Person“. She is the master on this subject and the one who brought it to light! For her, I am extremely grateful!