The Struggle of My Life

Hi everyone,

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.

Me in my natural habitat <3
Me in my natural habitat <3

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,

Steph x

15 comments
    1. Thanks Brian! That’s quite a compliment, I am very touched by your kind words. Glad you enjoyed it 🙂 I really loved that comic, it certainly rings a lot of bells! To be honest I was a bit nervous about publishing this post, but hearing that others can relate to this experience makes it all worth it. Thanks again for your lovely comment xoxo

    1. Oh my gosh it’s such a relief isn’t it?! The moment I found out about this, a lot of things clicked and I immediately felt better. It’s so good to know other people are like this and to learn more about it, without judging it as ‘better’ or ‘worse’. I’m glad there’s more of us out there too! Thanks for your comment 🙂

    1. Hehe no problem missy! It’s important that people can understand where you’re coming from, although honestly I am only just beginning to understand this myself. You should never feel bad about yourself <3 And thank you! This photo was taken by Gav on a Sunday morning in my pyjamas, with my mocha by my side, my computer at the ready and the laundry in the background. My real life 😉 xoxoxo

  1. Yes so true! Me and my husband are both introverts and HSPs and it is really difficult to explain it to people. With me its even more difficult since I dress very extravagant people automatically assume I am outgoing and want attention. My fashion style has nothing to do with that, but that is what people first see unfortunately. But since I know about introverts and HSP it is much easier to communicate and explain the whys and hows of our personalities and needs.
    Thank you for bringing awareness!

    1. That’s really interesting to hear. Firstly, I am really glad you can relate and I am happy to fly the flag for us HSPs 😉 My boyfriend is also an introvert, although tbh I think I am the more hardcore one lol. Out of interest, how long have you known about this? It’s a pretty recent discovery for me but it’s changed my life. It definitely makes it much easier when your partner is similar and intrinsically understands your experience 🙂

      Also, I understand what you mean about dressing certain ways causing certain preconceptions. I’m not the most outlandish dresser, but when I do dress up a bit I can feel the attention and it actually makes me really uncomfortable. It’s hard to articulate, because I know it’s not personal and it’s probably a compliment, but because I’m so sensitive I get really funny about it and it sorta pushes me to dress down a bit more.

      I’ve also taken to wearing a cap and sunglasses everywhere, as the stares in Korea are a bit more intense! Again, it’s not personal, I just look very different – but it still feels the same. I’m big on personal space, which isn’t really a thing in one of the most densely populated cities in the world… so it’s definitely all a learning curve!

      Thanks for your lovely comment, it makes me really glad to hear other people can relate 🙂 <3

      1. yeah it helps to have a partner that feels the same. in our case he is more hardcore then me. We went to a street festival the other day and got so drained that I had a headache the whole day afterwards and we couldnt go to an appointment the night after because my husband felt so sick and drained from the festival. We had fun though but when you come home you collapse!

        I have know about this for maybe 2 years now, but before that I was diagnosed with a personality disorder so I was already accepting that I was different and needed to live differently to be happy. But finding out about introverts and HSP made me realize that that is often more the culprit then my personality disorder!

        I know what you mean with the clothes. My mom always dressed me very differently when I was a kid so I never knew how it was to blend in, being a WoC in a white country also made me stand out just like you do now. So it is something I just grew up with. But when I got older people simply assume I am arrogant instead of shy just because I wear crazy clothes but don’t speak. Its quite sad, but I don’t mind so much anymore since now I know why that happens and it is easier to make friends.
        Sometimes I feel like dressing down, but I still get stares, not so much but I seem to look weird no matter what I wear ( my husband is the same by the way). But when I dress up I get compliments and smiles and at least I know I get stared at for my clothes and not whatever other reason stare at me when I am wearing a shirt and jeans….

        And yes every time I go to a northern european country I appreciate the personal space!

  2. I love that quote. It’s just so apt. I was just saying to someone the other day that I wouldn’t give up being highly sensitive, because you can’t feel the highest highs without the lowest lows. Thanks for this post!

    1. That’s so true. Whenever I start lamenting it for feeling too overwhelmed and for making my ears ring (without any particular loud noise), I remember that it has a lot of good points that I wouldn’t want to sacrifice. I love being able to perceive lots of little details and feel a whole rainbow of emotions 😉 I think it brings a lot of enjoyment and I would feel weird without it!

      That quote immediately resonated with me as well, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of being completely understood. I’ve realised there are definitely a lot of benefits to being an HSP, and I am very glad you agree ^^ Thanks for your comment!

  3. I never knew there was a term for it ô_ô

    I know this feeling so well, to just be drained of energy when being among people and it’s sometimes just so exhausting when everyone talks to someone on a party and I feel like I literally hear everything. Always worrying about other people, if they are okay or not and I so get the feeling that you are tired and need alone time after you get home from work (especially difficult with an extrovert husband who looked forward the whole day to see me and wants to talk with me and go out).
    I really found myself in your post and I will definitely read up on HSP.

    Thank you for this very interesting post!

    1. Oh that’s great to hear that I could help! Yes I find it exhausting, especially with little children who just desperately want your attention. Everyone starts talking at once and then I just have to tell them to stop because “there are eight students and one teacher and teacher doesn’t have a million ears”. Lol and yes I feel exactly the same in group situations, even if people aren’t talking to me I still pick up on everything going on around me, which takes its toll.

      That would be difficult with an extrovert husband, how do you manage it? My boyfriend is also an introvert which is convenient, although I think I am more so than him lol. So we have still had times where I have to just have time by myself otherwise I turn into a bit of a dragon haha. But he understands it, which is the most important thing.

      Definitely have a read of ‘The Highly Sensitive Person’, I feel like it’s like reading about myself! I’ve also started on ‘Quiet’ by Susan Cain which is all about introverts, and I find that incredibly interesting/relieving/inspiring as well. I’d love to know how you go, thanks for your comment 🙂

      1. In the beginning it was very difficult with my extrovert husband, but I think that was mainly due to the fact that I myself didn’t know exactly what the problem was. Especially since I started working full-time I noticed that I am grumpy and snap at him for no reason and then feel bad about it.
        It took some restraint on his part but he now manages to completely leave me alone when I come home from work until I come to him and then our evening together can start. I need about half an hour for myself to recharge a bit ^^”
        When I’m not feeling well he now suggest by himself that I take some “alone time”, he really is the best (^_^)

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