So today I thought I’d talk about something a little bit deeper than beauty products and food. Don’t worry, they will be back with a vengeance (obviously) but as you can probably tell from the title of today’s post, this is about something a little different.
I’m not quite sure how to start this… so I guess I’ll just jump right in!
Have you ever had a friend or a loved one tell you they need time alone? Maybe it seemed odd, maybe you didn’t really understand because you just wanted to hang out, but that was what they said. Well, I am that person. Recently it’s been something that’s been playing a big part in my life, because when I don’t get that time, things start to get a little bit cray. Inside my head.
If you know a thing or two about introverts, you will know that we aren’t antisocial weirdos (well, not necessarily) and that we have a lot of interesting things to offer the world. Creativity, a keen perception and thus a greater awareness of what’s going on at any given moment – which can lend itself to kinder, more caring interactions with others. However, the whole interacting with others thing can also be really difficult. In high school, I was guilty of denying this label to myself and trying to (crazily) label myself as an extrovert. Because I thought introverts hated people, and that’s really not the case with me. I love people – I just can’t be around them all the time. Or even much of my time.
Before you start to get worried about me, let me just say that I have fantastic relationships in my life. Friends, family, boyfriend… they’re all solid as a rock. But since I’ve started this full time life (at a Korean kindergarten aka playtime errday) I’ve found it a little bit difficult to manage everything.
Because I give my all in my job, to those cute, naughty, adorable little children who mean the world to me, when I come home there’s not too much left. As I’m traditionally not a morning person in any way, shape or form (although that is changing – it’s currently 8am on a Saturday!), this means that I give my best morning energy at work… and keep going until the night time. Then I’m pretty much spent. It’s not because it’s hard or because I don’t like it, because I absolutely do. I wouldn’t be there if I didn’t. It’s because I care a lot, and the school environment has these ridiculous open plan offices which really don’t work for me. Noise, noise everywhere, let’s all get a headache!
It’s at this point that I would like to introduce you to a cool (*cough*) new acronym I found a little while ago that has seriously helped me to understand myself. And that is Highly Sensitive Person (HSP).
Ok, so what exactly does this mean? And is it a ‘cop out’?
Well, for an HSP, everything is amplified. And I mean everything. We have a highly tuned nervous system (seriously) which makes our experiences of the world different to most people’s. I always thought I was just a bit weird and ‘oversensitive’ (which is what people may tell you when you’re like this), but it’s actually just your genetic make up and it’s how you experience things. There’s nothing wrong with it – you just need to realise that it’s different to a lot of other people’s. And they won’t necessarily understand this.
So what are the good things about being a highly sensitive
cat person? I am pleased to say there are lots, and these are what I’m trying to focus on more and more every day. One of the most important things is that these people are highly creative. As this type of person is very similar to an introvert (but they are not the same thing – although I do tick both boxes), we have the advantage of perceiving a lot of subtle differences in our environment and in interactions that other people may miss. Granted, sometimes this leaves us sounding ‘paranoid’ or ‘neurotic’ to others, but I can’t tell you how many times I have gone with my gut instinct, off some little weird ‘hunch’ and it was right.
Because we take a lot in, this gives us a lot of material to work with to express ourselves. And because we often have difficulty doing this in words or face-to-face interactions (because sometimes my head is a very confusing place and I can’t get it all out in one sentence), making things and creating things gives us an outlet to do this and is sort of a relief to me. Because if you don’t get all this energy out and put it somewhere else, it can drive you a little bit cuckoo.
So what is the difference between an introvert and an HSP?
Introverts: someone who gets their energy from being alone (not, as Google would have you believe, ‘a shy, reticent, self-centred person’. Thanks for helping the cause, guys!). These people reflect deeply, and there is often much more going on behind the scenes than it seems. Highly perceptive, creative, need a lot of time alone to recharge. This trait refers to the sociability of someone and how they prefer to interact with others. Extroverts get energy from being around others; whereas introverts use up their energy in social settings.
HSP: this is an innate trait and an individual’s nervous system. An HSP has a lower threshold to stimulation, such as light, noise, crowds, stress, etc. This can quickly lead to overwhelm and exhaustion until they (we) retreat to a safe, quiet, calm place. We pick up the moods of those around us which can be exhausting in and of itself. We have keen perceptive abilities, are very detail-oriented and also process things on a deep level. This often leads people to misunderstanding them (me) as being distracted or spacey when really we’re considering the existence and meaning of humans and so forth!
Apparently HSP’s make up 15-20% of the population, which was a huge revelation for me because I often feel like I’m the only weirdo who lives, thinks and feels like this. More surprisingly is that only 70% of HSP’s are said to be introverts – which leaves 30% that are extroverts. Whaaa? This would be someone who is highly sensitive to their surroundings, but takes their energy from other people. To be honest, I can’t really imagine this because in my experience, the two are so interlinked. But everyone is different, and that’s okay!
There is this quote I really like, which goes a little something like this:
“The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanely sensitive. To them…a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death.”
This is pretty much how it is. I seem to have a lot of weird, wonderful ideas come to me at any given moment, which can either be dismissed or I can go with them. And the thing with ideas is that they are so fragile, wisps of almost-nothingness, that the difference between these two actions can come down to your mood on the day, good or bad, or a loved one unknowingly giving you a tiny bit of encouragement to spur you on. While HSPs are full of a lot of creative potential, I have to be cautious not to be too cautious, so to speak. The most frustrating feeling is thinking that you could have done better, could have done more with your life, and I do think HSPs run a real risk of this – if they don’t fight the urge to be too comfortable and take the necessary risks to grow.
Besides, risks are fun! Right?!
One of the main things that HSPs have to be aware of is overstimulation. Because our nervous systems are so finely tuned, it doesn’t take much to overstimulate us, which leads to overwhelm. I have experienced this in spades, and it is really unpleasant. If more than one person is talking to me at a time, I find it really intense and I just can’t deal with it. Then I get rude and snappy and it’s just not pretty.
Also, in group situations the amount of ideas and chatter that gets thrown about is difficult for me to keep up with. I really like my own time to think and mull things over, and this just isn’t possible in these scenarios. This explains why I have always worked best with one-on-one situations, and why I always will. I promise I have friends – I just can’t see them all at once!
I wanted to bring some awareness to this concept because it is something that has really helped me to understand myself. I keep bandying this term about to Gav (lol) but it seriously has changed my life and brought me a lot of relief. When you begin to understand such an inherent part of yourself and realise that you’re not weird, just different (and that it be a good thing), everything gets easier. I’ve learned things I can and can’t (or shouldn’t) do and it has helped make my life smoother and a lot more fun.
I hope I can help even one person out with this knowledge, as it has really helped me.
For more information, check out Elaine Aron’s book The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron (I am reading it right now) or have a click around online to learn more about this unique personality type.
Thanks for reading! And of course I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments 🙂
Until next time,