When I first read Andy’s About me-page, I was amazed, because his story was so similar to my own. And we share the same mission of inspiring and empowering other sensitive and introverted creatives to live fulfilling lives.
Andy Mort is a songwriter, podcaster and leader of gentle rebels with his online community The Haven. He speaks with such warmth and honesty about the many aspects of being a sensitive introvert and a creative in a world that's often overwhelming and misunderstanding.
And today, I feel grateful to have him here and share his insights with you!
Hi Andy! When and how did you first realize you were “different”?
Haha, I don’t remember a moment thinking ‘I’m different’. It’s more like something that happens on a frequent basis every time my assumptions or expectations are challenged.
I remember times growing up when friends would be excited about occasions (weddings, birthday parties and house parties in general), and I would be thinking ‘urgh okay, if I have to’. Not because I was anti-social, but because I just didn’t get excited about it. I would rather do something else instead, especially hanging out with people one on one or in small groups.
I wondered if people were faking the excitement just because they thought they should. Turns out they weren’t. People do genuinely love that stuff. So moments like that, (they still happen), when my preferences are in conflict with the preferences of others, that's when I remember I'm different.
Art and creativity have also been big indicators of it. Noticing certain things and being moved by stuff that other people don’t really ‘get’ is always interesting. The things that feel normal to me are sometimes far from normal. And in that respect it’s kind of weird to consider the idea of being ‘different’ because you just kind of get on with life and don’t notice what might be weird about you until you come up against someone who thinks completely differently.
Then the question is…who is the weird one here?
How did you first find out about the HSP trait, and how did you react?
It was towards the end of 2013. I had read about introversion for a few years prior to that and found a lot of validation in that. I came out on the Myers Briggs test as INTJ, which, while contextualizing a fair amount for me, didn’t paint the whole picture. The profiles I was reading of archetypal INTJ’s seemed still to be quite alien to me.
Then I read an article about high processing sensitivity and had a huge “aha!” moment. It was the missing piece.
I was very much put off by the word ‘"sensitive". It carries so much baggage and imagery.
Reading Elaine Aron’s book was a real eye opener. It was freeing. I think the introvert label had carried a lot of weight for me and was penning me into certain characteristics and assumptions about what I ‘should’ like or how I ‘should’ react to stuff. The HSP label just blew all of that wide open and explained the foundations over which my personality grows, rather than dictating what my personality should be like.
What are you struggling with the most about your sensitivity?
I’d say the biggest struggle is communicating what it means to be a highly sensitive person.
As I say, the word "sensitive" is so heavily laden with pre-conceptions and assumptions that people switch off and draw conclusions about you when you talk about it. I suppose the fear of miscommunication and the potential judgement that comes from that is a struggle.
Knowing how to deal with and process negative feedback is also perpetual struggle. But I care deeply that this message makes it out into the world and is not sabotaged by people thinking high sensitivity is the same as hyper sensitivity, (a kind of unhinged lack of control of emotions, et.c).
True sensitivity is being aware of how we notice and process the subtitles in the world around us. It's about the response we make to delicacies and nuance (whether that’s in the environment, consumption, relationships etc). Awareness breeds control over how we respond to those things, and the development of positive and productive ways of processing the things around us.
Is there some challenge related to your sensitivity that you have overcome, and how did you do that?
I used to be incredibly sensitive to noise and sound. There is a photo of me as a child when I was completely conflicted: I sat playing a drum kit one handed, with my other arm covering my ears. I literally couldn’t stand the noise I was so desperate to make. It’s funny, albeit very ridiculous.
I used to hate going to the theatre because of sudden loud noises. Oh, and fireworks. You’d find me with your pets hiding under the bed!
But as a musician and songwriter it was something I needed to learn to cope with. So I’ve learned to work with my sensitivity to sound and use it in a positive way, to make music that is pulsing within me. It affects me deeply but it doesn’t ruin me anymore! Haha.
In what ways are your sensitivity a strength to you in your life and work?
Apart from in my work with music, I’ve also used my sensitivity to drive some of the stuff I do on the side.
I have had part time jobs and side-gigs for years. I spent three years looking after a friend with dementia and even though it was before I had come across the concept of high sensitivity, my sensitivity was clearly a strength when it came to communicating without words. There was a connection that meant I knew what he was saying even when he couldn’t say it. A real privilege.
Sensitivity is strength, and gentleness can be heroic.
I’m now also a part-time undertaker, which plays into the same drive within me that I have to be with people at the most difficult times. You’d think that sensitive people would not want to expose ourselves to those kinds of situations, but in my experience it’s quite the opposite.
Sensitivity is strength, and gentleness can be heroic.
What are 3 things you do regularly to feel good and take care of yourself physically and mentally?
I drink a green smoothie every morning. This is something I’ve done since the beginning of 2016 and it has been revolutionary for me.
I also make vegetable juice a few times a week which has been an incredible source of energy.
I took up running last year as well. 2016 was a bit of a big year for me when it came to my health. I wanted to run 10km so I set myself that goal. I also lost 3 stone. All without going on a diet.
On a non-nutritional/exercise level I like to clear my mind each morning by journalling. I try to keep a gratitude thing going on but not strictly so, I just write every day. Not only is it a therapeutic exercise, but it’s great to look back at in the future. I hadn’t realized how much I would otherwise forget.
What other people or books or resources have been the most inspiring and supportive to you in your journey?
I really like Paul Jarvis and his views on marketing and creativity. He’s very real about it and has some unique insights to share that really resonate with me.
And finally: What are you working on right now, and how can we support you?
I’m working up towards releasing a new EP this year. I’ve spent time sorting my website out and bringing a sense of cohesion between my blog and my music. I feel like I’ve got there now. You can follow the stuff I’m releasing throughout 2017 on my Soundcloud page.
I also run a membership site called The Haven, which is a great little community of introverted and sensitive creative people. I share ideas on certain topics and we get discussions going in a private Facebook group to help encourage, inspire and equip people with whatever projects and goals they’re working on. It’ll be open again in April. If you want to be notified when registration opens up the you can do so here!
Hope you have enjoyed getting to know Andy! 😊
I also really recommend joining The Haven. You’ll get access to a community of likeminded rebels and also lots of interviews with other inspiring sensitive creatives that we can learn from in our own journeys.