Being a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) certainly feels tough some days.
Like today, for example. The whole female population is currently posting pictures of themselves on Facebook without make-up, to support and raise awareness for cancer. I can think of nothing worse than showing my bare face for all to see; which is good, because nobody has “nominated” me.
I am sure that most people wouldn’t have given this another thought, other than possibly to feel relief that they haven’t been recruited to do it. However, I am not most people. I actually feel hurt. I’ve seen so many friends post their au natural look today, all giggly with girlie camaraderie over who they are going to force to go naked. But no-one has included me.
I am guessing that for the non-highly sensitive people reading this, your first thought may be somewhere along the lines of “get a life!” Only, as a HSP, this is my life. At times, it is hard being this way. Every conversation (especially my part) is scrutinised and re-hashed; every reaction from others is observed and analysed; and every decision is questioned a million times, and then some. I am so aware of others, and their reaction to me, that it sometimes makes social interaction incredibly difficult; to make matters worse, HSPs are intensely intuitive, and I am rarely wrong when interpreting a reaction invisible to others. I know when people don’t like me; even if their words are to the contrary. And I always knew when boyfriends were cheating on me, even without any tangible evidence.
Thankfully, life-experience allows me to throw reason into the mix sometimes: in the scenario above, I know that it doesn’t mean people hate me, or even dislike me. I am sure that my closest friends probably aren’t participating, and that’s why I have been missed. I know all of this to be true; however, that doesn’t stop the evil whispering voice in my ear saying: “They don’t like you. They don’t like you”. Which, to a HSP, is simply devastating. Our inherent need to be liked, accepted and praised over-shadows everything else.
Over the years, I am sure many friends have mistaken my behaviour for self-absorption; that my need to be liked is vanity. It’s not that at all. It goes no deeper than a fundamental need to fit in; to be the same as everyone else; not to feel that there is something just a little skewed. Research has discovered that the HSP trait is only found in around 15-20% of humans, which makes us a minority group. Therefore, when we feel different, it is because we are different.
The most noticeable thing about a HSP is our ability to feel; every emotion we experience is on a grand scale. We don’t ever feel slightly angry, or mildly happy. Neither do we laugh demurely; it’s a full-on bull’s bellow, or nothing at all. We are the ones that cry at soppy adverts, feel the pain of a bereaved parent, and become enraged at social injustice. There are just no half measures; our dial is cranked up to maximum all the time. This is a mixed blessing. I love my empathy, the ability to really feel the emotions of someone else; I love the deep connection, and understanding I have with my children; I love my kind heart and generous spirit; and I love that I always take other people’s feelings into consideration. However, I don’t love how criticism feels like a knife through my heart; I don’t love how people can trample on my feelings without noticing; and I don’t love that it takes me forever to decide on something, only to regret my decision as soon as it is made.
Things have come a long way since I was a child; back then, I was miss-labelled shy. HSPs are not shy; we are wary and careful, finding our way gently. We are not over-emotional or highly-strung either; names that were (and still are) pinned on us, screaming negativity. If anyone ever described you as highly-strung, it was not being used as a compliment. Yet, researchers say that HSP is a necessary trait factored into evolution, and that it plays a vital part in the success of our species. To survive, all animals need members of the group that are sensitive, cautious, and intuitive; those that deeply feel their surroundings.
Sometimes living as a HSP is a curse; life would be easier caring just that little bit less about what people thought about me. And although I know I would be happier if I could move through life without doubting every single move I make; deep down, I know that I would not want to be any other way.
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