Highly sensitive. A lot of people immediately associate the works with being touchy-feely, easily offended and delicate like a porcelain ballerina.
My own sensitivity has often been a source of shame and embarrassment for me, especially before I found out HSP was even a thing. I’ve often felt misunderstood, frail and out of place without being able to explain why.
But as I have read more about the trait, and gotten to know other HSPs online, I am no longer ashamed. I don’t shy away from telling people I’m highly sensitive, and explaining what it means. I don’t beat myself up about my weaknesses. And I can be more open about the aspects of my sensitivity that used to embarrass me…
On that note...
Here are 5 things I used to be ashamed of about my sensitivity:
1. My dramatic mood swings
For a HSP, life can feel like a never-ending emotional rollercoaster. My mood shifts quicker than a summer thunderstorm. I can go from complete bliss to raging anger to weepy to apathetic and back to bliss in a matter of hours.
But I’ve found that, by getting to know and accept my sensitivity, this doesn’t bother me like it used to. I have learned to simply observe my emotions and not get caught up in them. Similarly, I’ve learned how to explain my behavior to family and friends so that they don’t freak out when I act like a split-personality maniac.
In the end, it’s just emotions, it’s not the end of the world. And I believe not taking your emotions so seriously all the time is healthy, especially if you have a lot of them. 😂
2. My need to be boring
I have always been the most boring person in my circle of friends. The one with very few exciting stories to tell after a weekend or summer vacation. The one who would always rather stay at home. And I’ve felt really bad about it. Like I’m not living fully and will regret it when I’m older.
But I’ve realized that there are different ideas about what constitutes “fun”, and there is no one right way to experience life to the fullest.
I am boring and proud of it. Some people need to go to parties, festivals or even bungee jumping in order to feel alive. I just need a long walk, a long bath and the occasional long coffee date with a close friend.
As a bonus, it’s a lot cheaper. More money left for books, bath salts and expensive tea… 😍
3. My last-minute cancellations
I am an introvert and well aware of it. And yet I still over-estimate my need for social activities. I still love to make ambitious plans in the spur of the moment.
But then the occasion comes around and it dawns on me just how demanding it will be, and just how much I’d rather stay at home. By which I usually panic, fake an illness and send my friend a last minute text message telling her I’m “so sad I can’t make it”. This is probably my biggest shame as an introvert: constantly letting my friends down, and lying about it as well!
But why shouldn’t I be able to be completely honest with my friends? They know me, they know I get cold feet and that I can’t promise them anything that far in advance.
By being more careful with scheduling future events, and more open about my last-minute cancellation tendencies, I am slowly coming to terms with this shame and learning to work around it to maintain good relationships with my friends. Now, I often follow up my cancellation text with an invitation to something else that I feel more excited about.
4. My diva attitude
This is what I used to call my sensitivity trait before I knew about HSPs. I simply felt like a diva. Little Princess on the Pea, always complaining about this and that. “Light’s to bright in this part of the office, can I switch desks?”, “This restaurant is too noisy, can we go somewhere else?” “This bed is too warm”, “This chair is too rigid”, “This room is too crowded”, and so on and so forth.
I wish I could just “suck it up” and be less of a diva. Only problem is: I can’t suck it up. I can’t just stop being this sensitive, that’s not how it works.
So I’ve learned to accept the very physical limitations that come with being highly sensitive. If I need to be somewhat of a diva to function at my best, so be it. And oftentimes, my pickiness and ability to plan for an optimal environment and experience ends up benefitting not just me, but other people as well.
5. My need to please and keep the peace
It’s no secret that highly sensitive people tend to avoid conflict. And that we want to be liked and loved. This makes us quite vulnerable. Needing other people’s approval to be happy is a great recipe for a miserable life. Combine that with being easily offended and hurt by harsh words and you’ll find yourself in a never-ending losing battle.
But isn’t there also strength and courage in the will to uphold peace and mutual respect among people?
I refuse to be ashamed of wanting to treat others well, and be liked in return. I don’t apologize for my need to clear the air to avoid conflict. And I never enter into toxic arguments, because I’ve learned (the hard way) that they never produce good outcomes. They only waste my time and ruin my mood.
We highly sensitives often have very strong opinions and a need to communicate them, but direct confrontation is not the way for us to get our message across. We can use our diplomatic and empathic abilities to communicate in a more peaceful way. And we should be proud of our people-pleasing, conflict avoiding nature, as long as it leads to more a positive environment for everyone.
Even if I’ve come a long way in accepting and embracing my sensitivity and the more difficult aspects of it, there are still things that embarrass me on a daily basis.
The difference is, these I can laugh about. And I often do.
3 things about my sensitivity I’m still kinda embarrassed about:
1. My tendency to be (very) easily startled
Seriously, I am so easily startled that it’s like something straight out of a comedy sketch.
Loud sharp noises, sudden peripheral movement, even having a crisp bread sandwich break in my hand can make my heart jump out of my chest.
My fiancé is now so well trained that he never enters the room without first making plenty of noise and waiting for me to acknowledge his presence. In fact, he makes continuous sounds whenever he walks around in the apartment, so I’ll always know where he is. He would never in a million years intentionally scare or startle me. He would never let anyone throw me a surprise party.
I feel ridiculous, but I love his thoughtfulness.
2. My dread of being watched while watching stuff
This is common among introverts and especially highly sensitive ones: We hate being observed. We want to be the observers.
My mom’s dog doesn’t like eating in public so she usually grabs a few bites in her mouth and hides under a table to munch on them in private.
I am the same way with movie trailers, videos of cute animals and certain tv shows. I want to enjoy them in solitude, so that I can let my emotions run wild without judgement.
This is a source of conflict between me and my fiancé, since he likes watching me react to stuff. You see, when my boyfriend shows me things he knows I’ll like, his head goes back and forth between me and the screen like a ping pong ball. Which ultimately robs me of the pleasure while also annoying the hell out of me.
Some of my favorite tv shows contain a lot of romance (and steamy sex scenes), or are very intense and emotional. While I want to share these experiences with my fiancé, watching them in his presence is like eating candy with the wrapper on. And holding back tears is excruciating for a highly sensitive person. A form of torture, really.
3. My involuntary tearing-up for the slightest reason
Speaking of tears: I cry often, at a moment’s notice, and for virtually any reason at all. A cheesy commercial, a little bird on the sidewalk, or a beautiful sunrise.
Often, this emotional response is involuntary and uncontrollable. It’s simply a bodily reaction. And similar to other bodily reactions like blushing or getting a hard-on, they’re not always welcome or appropriate.
As a teenager and young adult, crying in front of other people was always deeply embarrassing to me. But one of the perks to growing older is caring less about what other people think and making less of an effort to appear like someone you’re not.
I am a lot more comfortable with displaying my emotions publicly now, but I still avoid it if I can. I prefer crying by myself, in a candle lit living room with a glass of wine in front of a romantic comedy… 😉