By: Helen van Soest
Being a HSP
Some people don’t like labels, but at times, I find them comforting and reassuring. Like when I discovered I was a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), after reading Elaine Aron’s famous book, “The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You”. After I read that book, I felt relieved that my personality was not that unusual after all, given that apparently 15–20% of the population share this personality type.
I have often felt that my high levels of sensitivity were almost like a disability, not allowing me to live the carefree and relaxed life that I craved. I took things too personally, I cried too much and I was affected too much by my environment — crowded trains, people talking loudly around me and construction noise would irk me no end.
But when I realised I was a HSP, I accepted who I was and that my sensitivity was not going to change. The only thing I could change was how I reacted to my environment. I also needed to make some adjustments to achieve the calm I needed, so I moved into my own flat (no flatmates allowed), had quiet time every day and allowed myself as much sleep as I needed.
Introvert or extrovert?
You are probably already aware of how introverts and extroverts are defined but for me, the key difference is that introverts gain energy from being alone and extroverts gain energy from being with others.
I thought that being a HSP might mean I am also an introvert, but I like socialising too much and feel lonely if I spend too much time on my own. So I realised I am an extroverted HSP — I love being out and meeting people but have limits as I can get overstimulated easily.
Ambiverts are people that have both introverted and extroverted qualities. As well as being an extroverted HSP, I believe I am also an ambivert as I have a mixture of both personality types. For instance, my introverted side loves meditating, reading, journaling and listening to calming music. My extroverted side loves meeting friends, going out to restaurants, clubs and bars, travelling and even chatting to random strangers.
Who wants to be labelled?
Although I understand why people don’t necessarily like these personality type labels, sometimes I wish my family, friends and workmates knew and understood that I am an extraverted HSP and ambivert. Then they might not get upset if I don’t always answer their calls straight away. They might not get so annoyed at me when I take something they say personally. And when I cry for what seems like no reason at all, they might just let me cry with no judgment but simply with acceptance.
There are lots of resources available on these personality types through books and the internet if you wish to look into them further. I have found these books so helpful in my journey of discovering my unique personality type and I would highly recommend them: “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain, “Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come: One Introvert’s Year of Saying Yes” by Jessica Pan and “The Highly Sensitive Person’s Survival Guide: Essential Skills for Living Well in an Overstimulating World” by Teff Zeff PhD.
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