How many times have you been told that you spend too much time alone? Do people wear you out, not just because of the endless socializing and “chatter” that seem to permeate the air, even when there’s not that many people talking?
Have you ever been told that you need to be more outgoing, more chatty, attend to more parties?
Do you find that, while you’re never really deathly ill–or even ill at all–you do often feel “off” most of the time? Your energy is just the tiniest bit low on a constant basis, or a wave of emotion hits you that throws you off for the rest of the day/week/month?
Does everything seem to overwhelm you?
Do you need more time to recover than most? Do people say that you are reclusive, “even for an introvert”?
You take much longer to feel comfortable with people and situations–so much longer, even you are looking at yourself and thinking, “What is my problem?”
It sounds like you may still be coming to terms with your true self–with what makes you comfortable in your own skin.
It also sounds like you may not be just an introvert, or just an empath, or just a highly sensitive person.
After being told by several professionals–and through observations of my self–that I am in fact sensitive on three fronts:
…I decided to explore these terms a little bit deeper and determine if I did, in fact, fall into all of these categories. After years of wondering why did I respond to situations more heavily than most–both in happy and depressed situations–and why was it that I could only handle an exact amount of time (*cough*Two hours*cough*) in large crowds before the stimulation literally shut me down…I wanted to find answers.
Answers–and a way to finally forgive myself for not being the rambunctious, extroverted social butterfly that I always admired in those around me?
An introvert is an individual who builds their mental and emotional energy by spending time alone. They are stimulated and enthused primarily by the internal environment: imaginations, thoughts and emotions. This is opposed to an extravert, who becomes energized by the environment outside him/herself: being around people; or ambiverts, who are a happy medium between the previous two.
Introverts are not shy by definition, nor are they anti-social/hate people (very common misconceptions). Just sometimes, a lot of social interaction can be exhausting. Most introverts like to think, and think deeply. It’s hard to do that when also focusing on the outside world’s words. We say what we want to say; then we’re done. Me + small talk that led to nothing more than…more small talk? Eurgh.
Besides, why say so much when saying less is more effective? I’ve measured my introversion so precisely, I know exactly the amount of time I can spend at a party before my energy is depleted (*cough* two hours).
For more information about different levels of -versions, I recommend visiting the 16personalities site and/or taking the Meier-Briggs personality test (don’t worry; it’s free–and fun!).
My Meier-Briggs personality is INFP-T: The Mediator. While I love people, I quickly tire from social interactions and environmental stimuli–which is exacerbated by my also being a highly sensitive person.
The Highly Sensitive Person
I can’t tell you how many people have leapt up and squeezed me tight, claiming, “I love hugs!” to which I immediately stiffen up. But I tighten up not because I hate the hug–quite the opposite. I feel everything when I receive hugs, including the weight of emotional connection that comes with it. And I know I would creep many a stranger out if I in turn went for the slow, full-body embrace.
Being highly sensitive is not just “some thing” that was made up without scientific backing. Nor should it be confused with hypersensitivity. Also known as sensory processing sensitivity, being highly sensitive is, according to Wikipedia,
“an increased sensitivity of the central nervous system and a deeper cognitive processing of physical, social and emotional stimuli”.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sensory_processing_sensitivity
Watching the news can shatter your concentration for days. A scent doesn’t just bring back memories; it also evokes a psychosomatic response mirroring the physical state of when you actually lived the moment. HSPs are immediately aware of a slight fray on a designer skirt or the light whistling on the other side of a busy, crowded room. And then, it stays in their head like a catchy tune.
Psychology Today summed it up best: they’re sensitive about themselves, they’re sensitive about others, and they’re sensitive about the environment around them. Always. All the time. This sensitivity can even extend to allergy-like symptoms, whether it be against seasonal allergies, pet dander, or even certain foods.
Now, we all know what most people think of when they hear the word “empath”. It’s either a scene like this from Star Trek:
Or, to keep from dating myself, it’s like the scene in Guardians of the Galaxy 2 where Mantis absorbs Drax’s amusement at Starlord’s expense and then has “no choice” but to join in on the hilarity. Ahh, good stuff.
However, being an empath is not some higher level, super mystical or spiritual power. Instead, think of it as being extremely, highly perceptive to the feelings of those around you.
As is generally known, empathy is the ability to feel what someone else is going through, even if the first person has never gone through it. Whelp, think of empathy, and personify it.
Empaths can sense other people’s moods–either through noting body language or a different “sense”–and suddenly they’re in that same mood. They don’t mean to be; it’s almost like placing a dry sponge or paper towel on a puddle of liquid. The sponge is going to soak up that liquid even without pressing or wiping at the sponge. According to Dr. Judith Orloff, empaths can even go so far as to feel physical pain or have panic attacks due to what they’re taking in.
I wish I had a funny story for this one. However, I’ve just noticed that…what I take in from a lot of people is…sadness. And most of them fake a smile so hard through the day, I’m surprised I don’t hear plaster crack. It’s those I sense the hardest, because many of them are not yet ready to admit their own pain. How do you think they’d feel if a stranger came up and told them on their behalf?
Are You 1, 2, 3 Any, or All?
While this blog is a chronicle of my thoughts as a super introvert and the feelings and situations I face as such…it’s also about connecting. It’s about connecting with those who identity as just a strong introvert, or a highly sensitive person, or empath.
Or maybe a highly sensitive empath–or even a highly sensitive introvert. or even and introverted empath.
There is no set trope when it comes to being a human being. There are some who seem brilliant at navigating what society deems successful–the meeting, the greeting, the socializing, the living. And there are some who seem to be fighting so hard, I wonder how they’re even upright.
I’m sure that there are many who go through life probably feeling like me–that they work so hard every day to take steps forward, only to fall back.
There is no shame in falling back. If you’re getting back up and continuing to step forward, you’ve already won.
Feel free to contact me with any questions of your own, or just to share your own experiences. I would love to hear from others who also associate with one, two, or all of these.
Also, if you’re ever looking for resources to learn more about any and all of these, try these other well-reputed sources:
- Highly Sensitive Refuge – A site for highly sensitive people, but also touches on empath topics too.
- Empaths Refuge – a YouTube Channel with videos on living as an empath.
- Quiet Revolution – a site founded by Susan Cain, the bestselling author of the books Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts, and Quiet: The Power of Introverts in A World That Can’t Stop Talking
- Tiny Buddha – A lovely site that provides stories and insights of people struggling to live their best life and their best relationships in the only way they know how. Founded by Lori Deschene.
Disclaimer: I am not a psychiatrist or licensed therapist. This blog is for informative and entertainment purposes only. So, if anything…I hope I can warrant a smile. 😊