So you know you are a highly sensitive person (HSP). You have read about the typical traits. Traits like extreme sensitivity to crowds, lights, sound, and pain. You pick up emotions easily, need to withdraw often and dislike doing too many things at once. Well, that’s me too. I am definitely a highly sensitive person. I have many traits of an HSP, including the ones I mentioned just above. However, there are many “self-test” lists on the internet that include characteristics I don’t have. Traits I really don’t resonate with. In fact, I might just be the exact opposite. Are you the same? Have you seen any of these common traits and felt they really didn’t apply to you? Here are 3 ways I am not like a typical HSP.
#1. I’m not a people pleaser.
All highly sensitive people are people pleasers and avoid conflict at all costs, right? Wrong. The way I deliver my thoughts and opinions to others can be somewhat harsh. Okay, really harsh. Or so I am told. In my mind, I’m just telling the truth the way I see it. A cut to the chase kind of girl. You see, as a highly sensitive person, I automatically see past surface facades. I am a feeler, and use my intuition and gut feelings as my primary source of processing information. In other words, I can see and understand things that other people can’t. Particularly when it comes to people and their behaviours, motivations and beliefs. So I find myself blurting out what I see and understand, like verbal diarrhea. They must want to hear my amazing insights, right? Um, no. This is where things always get sticky for me. First off, I know I am not always right, as much as I don’t care to admit it. But even when I am right, it takes an extremely open and mature person to hear about their inner complexities from somebody else. If I have learned anything from this unfortunate trait of mine, it’s this; when a vulnerability has been exposed, or a deep inner truth sees some light, people are not opening their arms to embrace it…or me. I know when my issues are exposed, I do not congratulate the people who helped reveal them. Nor do I hang around and ask them to tell me more about it. But I often feel compelled to say things even though I know it will create tension. I am learning how to shut my mouth a little bit more, and starting to practice active listening instead. But it goes to show you, not all highly sensitive people are people pleasers and aim to avoid conflict. I am the perfect example of that.
#2. I’m not an introvert.
All highly sensitive people are introverts. Well, that’s just not true. I can be an extrovert a lot of the time. I have come to learn that the subject of introversion and extroversion is not as black and white as I thought. I used to think shy people were introverted and outgoing people were extroverted. Now I know this is not necessarily true. Picture a spectrum with introversion on one end and extroversion on the other, with a whole lot of grey in between. Most people reside in the grey area. There is something called the Ambivert Personality Continuum Scale that illustrates this theory. This scale shows a third personality type called Ambivert. The Ambivert has equal qualities of introversion and extroversion. Carl Jung once said; “there is no such thing as a pure introvert or extrovert, such a person would be in the lunatic asylum.” Since it’s not about being shy or outgoing, what is it about then? Introversion and extroversion actually refer to where we get our energy from. It’s about how we recharge our bodies and minds. Introverts recharge by withdrawing and being alone while extroverts recharge by being around other people. I do feel the need to withdraw to recharge my batteries often, so I must have some introverted qualities in me. However, there is another side of me. I sometimes crave company and different environments. I like going to concerts and shows, and I can draw a lot of energy from a group of friends or a new experience. These things recharge my batteries also. I find I am constantly walking a fine line of needing to be alone versus needing to be around others. So there you have it! Maybe your like me, not an introvert or extrovert, but an Ambivert after all.
#3. I’m not uncomfortable with change.
Highly sensitive people really dislike change and can’t handle it. I have seen this trait on many HSP lists. You know what? I love change! Absolutely thrive on it! Monotony brings me down and makes me feel uninspired. Though I understand why highly sensitive people may not like change. When there are so many things in the world that trigger us, the potential to feel bad is heightened when we enter new territory. There are many unknowns with change, and that means we have less control over how we feel. And let’s face it, we already feel like we have no control in the first place. I’m not sure why I am okay with change. It might have something to do with my artistic side. I love to write and create, and enjoy design and DIY projects. Art and inspiration go hand in hand, and I know that routine does not help me feel inspired. I like to feel the freshness of new. There must be more to my love of change than just my artistic side though. I don’t wake up and proclaim “I must CREATE” every morning! I’m not that artistic. I think I have accepted the uncomfortableness that comes with change. My tolerance for the uneasy feelings has grown over the years. I have an inner belief that the payoff is worth it. That in the end, change will make me feel better in the long run. Change will help me to grow.
Not all highly sensitive people are the same. I know when I first started to read about the term HSP, I felt relieved. I finally felt like there was an explanation for everything I was experiencing in my life. I also felt good knowing I was not alone and that there were many other people who struggled like I did. This can be life changing. However, I try not to get too attached to this label. It can be very limiting when we get stuck in the parameters of a label. We can too easily not challenge ourselves to move past our comfort zones. Knowledge of our traits is a great thing as long as we don’t allow that knowledge to define who we are or what we are capable of. I want to think of myself as a unique individual with many sides. I know that the HSP community is one that contains many similar experiences as well as many different traits.