A dear friend just shared a Facebook post entitled “21 Things People Don’t Know You’re Doing Because You’re an Introvert”. I read it voraciously since I find that for the most part I do all the things listed and often feel very self-conscious about them. The article was validating and made me feel less alone. I’m also what is called an HSP – “highly sensitive person” – and an empath. These things often go together – being some version of an introvert, highly sensitive, and an empath. The triple threat so to speak. I’m that person and becoming more patient with myself as these types of articles come to light so that I can feel like less of an anomaly and more like a whole person who is not alone with this special temperamental triune. It’s a relief to know that others get the complexities of walking around in the skin I’m in.
So many times, I’ve felt like the odd one out, just wanting to stay quiet, not go running around filling every moment of every day with things to do, or places to be, or people to be around or better yet, to please. As a younger woman trying to figure out who I was, people often labeled me “over-sensitive”, “shy”, “not outgoing”, and other unflattering and judgmental descriptions. It’s not that I don’t love socializing. I do. It’s sort of up and down for me. Some days I feel gregarious and open, ready to play outdoors with others. Some days not so much. One day the vibration is high, another day it’s lower and another somewhere in the middle. Wintertime is especially challenging as I’ve shared often. During those months, the vibe is low and I feel the urge to hibernate, be still, and stay quiet. Generally, when it comes to situations involving large groups of people, noise, conversation, and socializing I prefer deep, meaningful conversations for the most part; and small groups, one on one relationships based on mutual interests and depth of feeling and experience, filled with laughter and humor of course. There are days when the thought of making small talk is so exhausting I’d rather just stay at home and read and I will choose to detach from the world. I love my alone time. And yet, I dearly love my friends and family and the time we spend together is so very precious to me. Sometimes the trick is finding ways to honor where I am and still make time and space for those I love.
An even bigger trick is the fact that my life often brings me to noisy crowded places. My husband is a musician. It goes with the territory. I love the music and especially our music family. It’s rare that I don’t look forward to dressing up for a gig and enjoying a night of rock and roll with people I love. And yet, when it comes to the part when the crowd has had enough to drink so that their lowered inhibitions have them dancing like crazy people and dragging others on the floor to do the same, I often head for the hills – looking for a place to hang along the fringe so that I can choose my time, if it comes, to step onto the dance floor with as much dignity as possible, on my terms.
I’ve reproached myself often for all my “rules of engagement” or as my husband Bob says, “the ABC’s of me”. But that’s the deal. I need to navigate my whereabouts emotionally and physically, assess where I am on my “triple threat” continuum and move accordingly. And, I need to be OK with that.
My work here is to make space and friendship with these temperamental variations, such as they are, and accept them as a loveable part of me instead of something to feel shame over or that I need to apologize for. I know in theory that self-acceptance is the key to making peace with this part of myself. And yet I still wonder if those around me can accept it and continue to love me without the judgement, spoken or unspoken (and when you’re an empath with strong intuition you can feel the unspoken judgement), and if I can love myself enough to accept these ABC’s of me fully. What I want to be able to say is, “This is me. Love me or leave me.”, but I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t share my fear that some would simply feel like it’s too much trouble and make the choice to leave. The fact is that it hasn’t happened yet that I know of, and for that I am so deeply grateful. There are probably some for whom it takes effort and patience to hang in there. And some understand it all and accept me with all the extra stuff that comes with the package.
What has become clear is that this is indeed a part of me that I cannot realistically change, part of my makeup, like my height or the color of my eyes. It may not be easy to manage, but that is exactly the task – to manage it rather than extinguish it. As difficult as it is, I know that those who truly see me and accept me will accept all of me as I am. And those who do not will eventually fall by the wayside and that will be OK in the long run. I do my best to manage my expectations of others based on who they are. It’s easy with some and less so with others, but it is my responsibility to see them and love them the way I hope they will me.
To those of you who share all or any part of the “triple threat”, I see you and I know how your day goes. Hang in there.
STRETCH: Take time to notice the qualities that make you unique and celebrate them. Look in the mirror and tell yourself, “I see you. I love you. I accept you.”