Different by design…
It can be lonely to be in a minority and struggling to mimic the majority.
Many years ago, I was fortunate to be nourished by a friendship with a woman who was my opposite in numerous ways. Onlookers have wondered how on earth a friendship can survive our many differences. She was off the scale extrovert, fell asleep with boredom when she tried to read most books, and truly enjoyed over-stimulation in many parts of her life.
Her profound gift to me was that she saw my way of being (someone who could go days without human contact while reading several books at once and cries at the drop of a hat when ambushed by beauty) as valuable and fascinating.
All my years of trying to fit into a noisy, extroverted world, while feeling broken and somehow weird, did not make sense to her. She thought I had some rare superpowers!
Some are different by design.
That healing friendship led me back to a book I read in the late 1990s by Dr. Elaine Aron entitled The Highly Sensitive Person. Inside the covers, I found an explanation for my inner world and an accurate description of my struggles with the outer world. I could finally appreciate just being me.
It turns out Highly Sensitive Persons (HSPs) are a minority – studies report 15-20% of the population. About 70% are introverts, and this sensitivity is an innate trait. It is not something we learn over our lifetimes, and it is not something we can “fix” with willpower or lots of psychotherapy.
We are literally different by design in how our brains process information.
Highly sensitive individuals….
Enjoy a vibrant inner life – being alone is one way to get grounded and nourished.
They can spot conflict a mile away before others are even aware of it.
They are prepared and conscientious but sometimes freeze up if caught off guard.
Although they enjoy connecting with people, they prefer small groups or one-on-one and are not fans of large gatherings.
Sadness and happiness make them cry easily.
They tend to think about things very deeply and on multiple levels.
But here’s the rub….
In our culture, being labeled as “sensitive” is often seen as negative and a weakness.
Especially in the workplace, we are taught to believe that sensitivity will harm our performance and possibly our advancement.
Because of the definition of maleness in our culture, men have added layers of struggles as HSPs.
Being a highly sensitive person is not a flaw.
You are not broken. It is part of your original design and is built into your neurobiology.
As a therapist, my mission is to provide resources and information to HSPs that will enable you to manage yourself and your life in ways that allow you to thrive. It’s kind of like getting an instruction manual.
More importantly, please receive the gift given to me by my extroverted friend.
I want you to know that your design is indeed valuable, fascinating, and incredibly needed in our world. Your creativity, profound capacity for empathy, and ability to problem-solve are your superpowers. Unleash them!
Seeing below the surface is a gift.
Dr. Elaine Aron wrote in one of her blogs that Highly Sensitive Persons are “the pearl divers of humanity.”
They are willing to venture into deep and unknown territories where there aren’t any crowds.
But deep below the surface, they often find pearls that are priceless and bring them back to share with the rest of the world.
Time to learn about yourself.
Are you a highly sensitive person? I am a therapist with specialized training to work with HSPs in psychotherapy.
My specialty is connecting with pearl divers.
I get excited about helping people understand that they are “different by design.”
It can be lonely to be in the minority and struggling to mimic the majority.
Let me help you create a life that enhances your innate traits and leaves you with more energy and joy in being alive.