When we talk about introverts, we can’t put them all in one big box — at all. There’s so many different types of introverts. Likewise, there are three of what I call, the facets of introversion — ambiversion, highly sensitive personality (HSP), and shyness.
You may have heard that close to 50% of the planet are introverts, but there’s another staggering number — 15-20% of the world are also considered highly sensitive people — or HSP’s, of which I am one. That means, with over 1 billion people on the planet, up to 200 million are highly sensitive.
As soon as you read this, and if you’ve never heard of this term before, you might think “oh, are those people who cry about everything? Oh gosh, I don’t want to be around them!” Actually, this isn’t the case at all, and it’s a gross misconception of the term. Being highly emotional is actually a small part (if ever any) of identifying as an HSP.
Honestly, our world couldn’t function without highly sensitive people, and here’s a few of the traits/reasons why not. They are:
- Extremely detail-oriented
- Hear, see, and usually feel things others miss or before they even occur
- Big-picture thinkers and process-based in their constructing of pretty much anything
- Processing very deeply (yes, sometimes to their detriment), and as a result, they can see a train-wreck coming long before most people. It can take a very long time to release one hurtful word said to them. Even if they don’t want to hold onto it, their nervous system will.
- Sensitive to light (have to wear sunglasses often or anytime they go out, even if it’s cloudy)
- Sensitive to smells in a heightened way, beyond what others might be (smell things others don’t smell or it takes them longer to pick up on)
- Sensitive to patterns — political, entrepreneurial, social, psychological, etc. They pick up on patterns everywhere — people’s behavior, decisions made by leadership, and patterns of success.
- Extremely empathic or capable of empathy (literally putting themselves in the place of another to the point of feeling what they feel is a gift they have)
- Sensitive to certain fabrics — really hate some and really love others (typically softer fabrics that are comfortable to the touch appeal to their skin more)
There are others, but these are most common.
These traits abused can make HSP’s uncomfortable or overwhelmed because their nervous system is literally more sensitive to stimuli than the next person, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you if you have these qualities.
It’s all about understanding your own body and how you can make better choices going forward, once you understand you’re an HSP. Ignoring it can cause chronic overstimulation and health problems to your nervous system. You can go years living in a culture that feels overwhelming, overstimulating, and harmful to your health.
“What this difference in arousability means is that you notice levels of stimulation that go unobserved by others. This is true whether we are talking about subtle sounds, sights, or physical sensations like pain…” Dr. Elaine Aron, The Highly Sensitive Person
There is nothing wrong with being a highly sensitive person, and I’m hoping our culture can become as proud to identify with this as it has recently become about introversion. It is still new though, and many people don’t self-identify with it yet, sometimes because they’re ashamed, and probably more often because they haven’t ever heard the term.
Through understanding and management of an HSP’s nervous system, we’re able to thrive in our environments quite well, surprise most people with our knack for holistic and process-based thinking, and lead quality, healthy lives. HSP’s are extremely talented entrepreneurs, creatives, visionaries, thinkers, and leaders in every industry, and are right-brained (holistic/process-based), living in a predominantly left-brained world (compartmentalizing).
Do you know anyone who is an HSP or do you think you could be one? Please share below…
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Tamisha is a writer and advisor helping people become more comfortable in their own skin. She specializes in clear communication, nuanced style & self-expression and healthy assertiveness. An introvert and highly sensitive person, she is gifted in helping others understand the world of paradox — teaching them how to embrace their inner and outer worlds with equal intensity and feel confident doing so. She’s a city-fied country girl who loves horses, frequent loud music and singing in her Jeep, baking, cooking, movies & sports.