In a previous post, I talked about the fact that many introverts are highly sensitive. Highly sensitive people (HSPs) tend to notice more subtleties in their environment and in themselves. They are overwhelmed by strong stimuli, such as loud noises, assaulting smells and chaotic environments. Most HSPs have a deep appreciation for introspection, spirituality and philosophical endeavors.
If you are an introvert who is highly sensitive, you have probably been chastised for your sensitivity at some point. People might have told you to “toughen up” or “loosen up”. You might have found that your sensitivity to other people’s emotions, as well as your own, was seen as a weakness.
Consequently, you tapped into society’s collective fear of being vulnerable and began trying to hide, “cure” or numb out your sensitivity. You lost sight of the fact that being highly sensitive is not a liability. It is a strength. Here’s why:
The seat of intuition
Being sensitive to subtleties within our environment and our own body/mind/spirit is the key to activating our intuition. There are all sorts of scientific and spiritual explanations as to what exactly intuition is, but for our purposes it’s enough to know that intuition is the act of knowing without rational processes. Many people think of it as a feeling, rather than a thought. No matter what form it takes, our intuition is usually subtle.
When we choose to ignore our sensitivities by steeping ourselves in overwhelming environments, ignoring our desire for introspection and numbing our emotions, we loose the ability to access our intuition. We no longer notice the quiet inner voice, or the nagging feeling in our gut. Thus, we become slaves to logic and reason. Albert Einstein expressed this unfortunate phenomenon very well:
“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
A source of connection
Being aware of the subtleties that surround us in all aspects of our lives helps connect us to our environment, other people and ourselves. When we decide that our sensitivities are unacceptable, we essentially build a wall against all those potential connections.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in our emotional connections with others. Many of us learned from an early age that very few emotions are “appropriate” for expression. Ironically, sensitive people are more susceptible to this cultural message because we pick up on it quickly. We notice the implicit ways that our society condemns certain emotions. We begin to think there is something wrong with our feelings, something wrong with us.
As a result, we not only hide our emotions, we lose connection with them completely. We can’t express our feelings because we can’t even identify them. How can we have deep and meaningful relationships when we are out of touch with our emotions? We can’t.
One thing that really helped me to reconnect with my own emotions was learning not to label them as “good” or “bad”. All emotions are beautiful and worthy of expression. If I sincerely express my emotions (a.k.a become vulnerable) in front of another person and they run for the hills – great – that is one less unneeded superficial relationship in my life.
By now, you’ve probably already noticed that I’m a fierce advocate for authenticity. Being who we are is infinitely more powerful than trying to be someone else. Or trying to simply fit in. If you are a highly sensitive person, embrace it. After years of hiding your true nature, this might be easier said than done. Simply becoming aware of your sensitivity is a great first step towards unlocking the power that comes with it.
Gosh! Have you been following my adventures in surviving the world of surgery these last 21 years? If I had a dollar for every time someone told me to toughen up, I’d probably be a thousandaire! Haha!
I’ve always been told that I should get “thicker skin” and be less affected by others. I seem to read and over-analyse everyone’s reactions to me, even strangers. That then leads me to try and show an apathetic front, but I know that’s not exactly healthy…
Love your articles!!!!
Thanks Trung! 🙂
All through my childhood, I was told not to “carry on,” “don’t make a spectacle of yourself,” and “you can’t possibly feel that way” (because I was obviously “too young” to feel the emotions I was feeling). I would see a movie that was sad and I would cry about it for days. The result: I grew up feeling that however I was, it wasn’t okay. It’s taken me a lifetime to even come close to accepting who I am. Thanks for your article.
A great article … but please don’t forget that 30% of the 15-20 % of highly sensitive people are Extroverts … and we experience all the same things that the introvert Sensitive does.
I so resonate with this. I got in to such a state of overwhelm that I had a breakdown. It caused me to pay attention to myself and reassess my relationships.
I’ve always been an introvert but somehow became more extrovert. Recently I’ve stopped a few activties and dropped a few friends and my life is much more peaceful. It’s okay to prefer your own company.
I get told to toughen up almost everyday and when I voice my Feelings or thoughts on certain things or topics I get completely shut down with ” you’re stubborn ” or ” hard headed ” funny how I’m the sensitive person and the others are the ones who become so defensive
Wow this really hit home! I’ve been trying to be more accepting of myself and my personality for the last few years. It’s a very gradual process but often it is difficult to ignore those messages that we received growing up that we are “too sensitive”, that we “cry too much” and that “it’s not normal”. Especially when those messages come from close family members like grandparents. I’m currently on an overseas exchange and have found that the time alone has given me a lot of time for reflection, which has been very helpful. I am also pleasantly surprised at how many people that I have met who have instantly accepted me for who I am. Sometimes it can be a little disheartening as a sensitive introvert; we notice too much. That’s why I tend to avoid the news now, it’s too heavily focused on all of the worst aspects of the world. Anyway just wanted to say thank you for the article. Also sorry about the essay, I’m a writer and communicate best with words 🙂
Thank you so much Michaela, for so many years I really hate myself and my own personality,, and have a hard time expressing myself,, and I have so many confusion about my own personality.Your thoughtful messages gives me a lot of comfort and enligthment..that all I can say right now,, and iam simply so thankful to God and to you that I came across your messages about introvert and looking forward to read more about your writings about introvert