Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength.
My greatest struggle as an HSP was definitely in trying to overcome the ‘sensitive stigma’. It meant choosing to see comments such as ‘You’re so quiet’, ‘shy’ – ‘gentle’ or ‘soft’ – as neutral remarks, and not veiled barbs. For the longest time, I was never fond of hearing those comments – I definitely picked up on the fact that some people use those words as synonyms for weak, and less than, even though I know that it couldn’t be further from the truth.
Last night, C asked me why I was being quiet. He had been excitedly jumping up and down watching American Ninja Warrior, and being not as into it, I was quiet. I saw it as him just letting off steam, enjoying himself – and admittedly, he can be loud while excited. It was a little overstimulating for me, which also contributed to my being quiet – but I wasn’t irritated or annoyed. However, he thought my quietness was annoyance or some form of passive aggression. I felt sad that my quietness was being construed negatively – and told him so.
The whole episode culminated in him apologizing for jumping to conclusions, and for me, a pause to reflect upon the baggage that this term and state of being – quiet – has brought me. I’m not a saint – before I understood what being an HSP meant, I let my overstimulation by loud noises (whether his or otherwise), escalate into snark and sniping and general annoyance. So while there’s definitely precedence for me acting cranky, we’ve since moved on from that: which was why I was surprised at his assumption. Plus, factor in a general touchiness from him having a tough week – and yup, misunderstanding central! Luckily, a pretty small one.
But in my teen years, those ‘quiet’ comments were what spurred me on for years to push myself to get out there more, to be a little more vocal, to become comfortable with my own voice. And in doing so, I realized what it takes to achieve things, and experienced the satisfaction that comes with having a goal and attaining it. But part of that drive was also fueled by a stubborn desire to prove that I am NOT weak, urged on from a sense of hurt pride. That I had to prove that I AM strong, just you see. As there definitely weren’t any mature adult conversations to work out what people’s remarks actually meant, I let those misconceptions build up enough steam to drive me on for YEARS.
That persona also came with a guarded self, a brittle defense that was built up day by day to shelter myself from any perceived slights, to live up to an accepted standard or appearance of ‘strength’ and to keep my vulnerability hidden from view.
Those teen days are over (thank god!), and I now find that there’s really no more steam left from all those past hurts. No one to prove myself to. That trying to prove myself for so long was actually exhausting and counterproductive, because it had been coming from a place of lack. Because when I was trying so hard to prove myself to god knows who and their mom, it just showed a sense that I didn’t think I was good enough. But the truth is, when you come from a place of wholeness – there is nothing to prove. We are all already whole, already perfect, no matter which traits society deems valuable at the moment.
Luckily, it’s been years and my ability to give a shit about what strangers say about me has dropped drastically since I was 18. But just because I’ve worked through those tough emotions, doesn’t mean it doesn’t get triggered now and then, or come up for me again – like how it did last night!
So I’m still learning to put down my sword, and to remove some (but perhaps not all!) layers of defense. I’m showing my vulnerability to the world because I believe now that the cost of putting on a false front to the world far outweighs the risk that comes with showing vulnerability and being honest with your struggle. This has been the key to unlocking my acceptance of HSP, and ultimately of myself.
To me, being sensitive and strong, gentle and firm starts with just being me, staying true to who I am, and just – being cool with it. For better or worse. (And yes, I am quiet, sometimes. Most times. But I like it… Silence is sacred – I only break it when I feel there’s a real need to!)
And now… I would like to balance out this post with the awesomeness of being an HSP. Because there are awesome things too.
- Being an HSP means I have a richer internal world. Sometimes what goes on inside my head seems more real than whatever’s going on outside it. I can be entertained for hours by things that I love. Reading, music, good company fills me up and keeps me satisfied for a long while.
- Sensory pleasures – color, contour, texture, scent – anything that appeals to me becomes intensely pleasurable and doesn’t get old quickly. I can appreciate subtlety of beautiful things for a long time.
- I love my ability to perceive subtle cues in people, and the environment. For example, I am able to sense the mood of a room immediately and be able to adjust my body language and tone of voice accordingly. It works well when you want to seem unobtrusive in foreign countries/places and don’t want to draw too much unwanted attention.
- I love being alone. I can eat alone, shop alone, sit at a cafe alone, people-watch alone…The list goes on. I enjoy my own company and don’t need (or want!) to be constantly around people. Though I do like social activities too – I’m just more selective.
- I think sensitivity is definitely linked to creativity. I gain inspiration by looking at things around me and sensing their shapes, textures, histories and emotions… Gives me plenty to work with!
I would love to know – what are your HSP stories? Whichever stage you’re at – recent awakening, experienced, struggling, totally owning it – it’ll be great if you could share!