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).
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… 💙
When I was at primary school, the boys who were a couple of years ahead of me seemed way bigger, taller and older. I thought, that’s what I’ll be like in a couple of years. I wasn’t.
I got to secondary school and thought, by the time I’ll done here I’ll feel like a proper, responsible, mature adult ready to go off to university. I didn’t.
Throughout these childhood and teen years, I thought, by the time I’m in my 20s, BOY will I be well on my way to being a fully-functioning adult. Settled in a job that I really like (just like dad), earning good money (just like dad), living in my own place with a lovely wife and thinking about having kids – maybe even having had one already. That’s hasn’t happened.
I haven’t done any of those things, and I’m 28, just about to come out of a career break (hopefully), and I’m sat in bed writing this. I worry that, in living at home, – though I know it’s not so uncommon these days (thank you, ridiculous property/rental prices and low salaries) – I’m getting too comfortable and not going through the adulting and independence that I otherwise would. I mean, it didn’t happen to me at university (that was a difficult time, another story there).
To this day, I can get very wrapped up in my thoughts and/or absorbed in what I am doing. Sometimes, I even forget to eat. If I spend too much time on my own, I can get low. My family also know this, and my already-anxious mother is constantly thinking about this in the back of her mind. My dad and my brother, too, though they don’t show it as obviously. I can cook basic meals, I’m lazy when it comes to household stuff. I suppose weekly vacuuming can be therapeutic, depending on my mood – though certainly not a task I look forward too (whacking music or a podcast on can help). Shamefully, it is only recently that I have been conscious of the money I am spending, rather than spending what I want and when I want.
Part of all of this is a comparison thing. My parents got married in their early-mid 20s, soon had a mortgage, and I think my dad was 27 (mum 24?) when I was born. My mum is a trojan and seems to be able to juggle a million things all at once. I’m not like that.
Most of the people of my kinda age seem to be living in a flat with other housemates or other-halves. Most, though not all – and it’s still more common for Asian (at least, Indian) families to live together for longer. I think the parent-child to adult-adult transition can be a lot trickier, especially when you have lived at home almost your whole life – and have a dominant mother!
A lot of this comes down to societal and cultural expectations, and the pressure we put on ourselves based on what we see in the world around us. Whether it’s ‘in real life’ or online. And, of course, the online world means we see all sorts of amazing, shiny lives aka apparently fully-grown adults who seem to have it all. The ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ effect is, in the digital age, more profound than ever.
I try not to dwell too much on this feeling of inadequacy and, instead, am trying to focus on myself and acknowledge even the smallest of steps. Slow growth in my own time. I think it’s been easy for me to be complacent whilst living at home and, if I want to be the man I want to be, there’s more development to come. I suppose that’ll always be the case, though.
“Run your own race” a friend once told me. That’s exactly what I’m trying to do. Run my own race.
PS.After a busy end-of-working-week, and a course all-day Saturday and Sunday, I missed Friday’s post last week. I still try to post on Tuesday and Friday each week, with a poem on Sunday.