Living as a highly sensitive person (HSP)

Some time after I came across Susan Cain’s infamous TED Talk and realised I was an introvert, the notion of ‘high sensitivity’ came to my attention. Hmm, this sounds like me too, I thought. I think I came across some articles and blogs online which alluded to this ‘highly sensitive’ thing, before I stumbled across Dr. Elaine Aron, who is credited with beginning the study of the inate temperament trait of high sensitivity (in 1991).

 

HSP
credit: Zaimful

 

She also developed a test for high sensitivity, which seemed to confirm my hunch that I was, indeed, a highly sensitive person. You can find the test here.

I had always known that I was a pretty sensitive guy, to some extent. However, it seems that I’m learning more and more about this as time goes on. I’ve always been highly empathetic, can relate to anyone and know how to connect and put them at ease, and generally read people well. I get this hunch or intuitive feeling about people which I can’t logically explain.

During a family trip to rural Sweden, for about a week we were on the road visiting various places. This meant a lot of time spent together in close quarters in the car. Coupled with this, and the fact that the same couple of CDs were playing on loop the whole time (even when I mixed it up a little with my iPod), it just got too much for me. I think I yelled out or erupted or something, I can’t quite remember. My family lovingly refer to this incident as “the time Jas had a meltdown in Sweden”. Turns out I was just over-stimulated; it had been building and then couldn’t be held in any more.

I’ve also realised how my high sensitivity can come into play when I’m out and about in public. For example at the gym, where I go most days. Even after having gone for about 10 years, I still find myself constantly looking around me at the other guys and girls in my vicinity. Whether it’s comparing myself to other guys, or checking out other girls (hopefully with subtlety!), or just wanting to know who’s around. I’ve certainly gotten better at this, and just being present in my own space and focusing on my own workout. But it feels like I’m constantly alert. (I think my social anxiety and body-related issues also come into play here).

In some ways, perhaps this is quite a usual thing. To be on the treadmill or whatever machine, and just glance around. However, it can be exhausting and certainly isn’t always ideal to say the least.

(Also: look out for a ‘the people I avoid in the gym’ post which I should be uploading soon).

One of the things I’m aware of, and working on, is the judgement of others and the assumed judgement of others (i.e. the thoughts about myself that I project onto others, and therefore they think they have of me). Recently (at time of writing), for example, I’ve realised that I’ve been avoiding speaking to friends and family, for the fear that the ‘work question’ will come up in conversation, and that I will feel embarrassed and judged and sh*tty.

e.g. I spoke to one of my best friends on the phone last night, and I spent the whole call trying to be funny and entertaining, all the while trying to keep the conversation going and dictating it. I’ve felt bad at ignoring calls / not responding to his messages in the past (I’m actually supposed to be giving him a call as I write this!), and we had to cut the call short (which I was kinda pleased with),  I sent him a website link soon after and made a joke about it. It’s like I’m constantly trying to keep this facade up, and not direct any unwanted attention towards me.

I feel that all of this links in some way to my high sensitivity. Don’t get me wrong, I feel that there are benefits, too. The ability to feel deeply and connect so well/so much with others can be a wonderful gift, and I also feels it translates to my writing, too.

Also, I know that my body is also sensitive to things like gluten and alcohol. In a way I’m glad that I get/feel a response to these things, as it means I’m aware of my body trying to tell me something, rather than abusing my body slowly over time without my realising it.

Understand my sensitivity, and continuing to do so, has been key in learning how best to look after myself and be kinder towards myself. Thinking about it, I’m sure it also contributed to my actions/hyperactivity that I felt when I went a little crazy that weekend

What about you? 🤷🏽‍♂️
Are you a highly sensitive person, or do you suspect you might be ‘on the scale’? I’d love to hear how HSP-living is for you… 💙

41 thoughts on “Living as a highly sensitive person (HSP)

    1. After reading Ashley’s post on HSP a while ago I read a little about it online, a lot of the traits apply to me. My husband now refers to me as an HSP – in an affectionate way!

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  1. I think I am sensitive to an extent (because I usually have my headphones on for 80% of the time I’m out of my house). I can usually know what a person’s intentions are. I like emotional music that makes me feel something, and a lo of times my moods are shaped by listening to a certain artist. I am extremely aware of other’s judgements.

    But I do not avoid violent video games or movies, in fact I love them. I also feel and think introverted, so it’s possible that I’m not as sensitive as I like to be because I have a rich inner world to elude to.

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  2. I scored a 17 on the test. That seems accurate for me. As a child, I was sensitive in the typical way people usually think of when they imagine someone who is sensitive: a person who tends to cry easily. Such is not the case in my adult life, where over the course of years I’ve learned to refrain from crying or disassociating myself from my emotions to prevent an emotional reaction from manifesting.

    I was always sensitive to noise though. I used to need literal silence to be able to sleep and when that became unachievable, I had insomnia. Even now I am particular with how I need things to be for sleep. Like, I can’t have the window open if it’s the one nearest to my bed because I find noise travels in faster and is louder if I leave it open. I also wear earplugs to bed. They don’t drown out sound completely but it helps somewhat to muffle noises.

    Then there is a kind of agitation I feel when I have to occupy the same space as several people. I think it overlaps a little with my social anxiety and also depends on my comfort level around the person in addition to my present mood. If I could help it, I would much rather live alone. Some days I really just want to go about my day without having to hear other people shuffling about in another room or anything. I’ve had days where I can feel my mood going drastically down because someone else in the house is making a lot of noise and I usually end up retreating to my room or elsewhere to get away from it all.

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    1. Also, I made a sentence typo. I meant to say that I learned to refrain from crying AND I started to disassociate myself from my emotions to prevent an emotional reaction from manifesting.

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    2. That’s interesting, but I guess we do fluctuate over the course of our lives. Playing devil’s advocate, perhaps your sensitivity hasn’t changed, but you’re just more self-aware and know how to manage it more effectively… thanks for sharing 🙂 And *yes*, my room is totally my retreating space too.

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      1. Yes, it is possible I am more aware of myself now than I was as a child. When I grew up, I found myself thinking back on memories of things I experienced and having a clearer perception of what I felt then.

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      2. I think we learn more about ourselves as we grow. I definitely am doing more to manage my sensitivity/energy than before. Looking back, I used to just be super-hyper and give out my energy all the time and then just crash. Not good.

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  3. I am sensitive and also an anxiety sufferer. Not sure what came first but I need space from my neighbours and quiet and my house is so small and close it’s getting to me. I also work in a busy shop lol fun

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    1. Hey Jen, thanks for sharing this. I actually have my own issues with mental health/anxiety, so not sure where that factors into the equation 🤷🏽‍♂️ I had 5 years in sales and it was interesting to say the least!

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      1. I am always interested in how anxiety starts and what it causes. Maybe I might get around to read my psychology books one day to learn but right now I’m focusing on relaxing and trying to do more mindfulness and yoga. I want to be a stronger person not sure how except for that

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      2. I’ve gone through my devoting psych & self-help books (and even doing a Masters!)… right now I’m trying to just listen to my mind/body and do things that are good for me. Seems to be working thus far, on the whole 🤞🏽

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      3. That’s good. I’ve read a lot of self help books and they helped in the past. But I find that they don’t deliver what they promise, I think I have to make the changes. I have to learn to let worries go and try to be positive. Im trying ☺

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  4. This is the second post that I’ve seen today that mentioned people comparing themselves to others at the gym, and it makes me feel discouraged from joining a gym because these posts made me think of all the people who’d look at me and think, “I’m glad that I don’t look like her. I’m way better at exercising than she is. She’s ridiculous.”

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  5. My therapist just told me she thinks I am this as well … I can agree with that aside from the part about being able to deeply connect with others- I feel that is really hard for me too so you are definitely lucky with that one.

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  6. I really like to meet new blogs and read about other high sensitive persons, so thanks for sharing this personal blogpost! 🙂 Im also high sensitive and I can relate to most of the things you say, so I feel you! Hope to read more about you!

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  7. Hi, I’m HSP as well… I have a toddler and I stumbled upon the book for the highly sensitive child and wondered how my childhood would have changed if my parents knew about this. I’ve been treated anxiety pills and antidepresants since I was 18, today I only take the antideppresants, and I try to keep my anxiety in check. I’m currently reading Elaine’s book of HSPs.
    Anyway… Greetings from Guayaquil-Ecuador

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