Highly Sensitive Person & Introvert

The Highly Sensitive Person and Me

Imagine this: One fine weekend you meet up with a friend for a day in the shopping mall for [insert purpose here]. You’d much rather stay at home and [insert preferred hobby here], but for social and friendship purpose, you decide to go along with the plan. As you arrive at the mall, the floors are already filled with the lunch crowd – you weave between the crowd to get to your appointed location like a car changing lanes, constantly looking around so that you won’t bump into anyone, as the chatter fill your ears. Huge colourful (and sometimes shining!) signs scream, “70% HOLIDAY SALE!!” and “BUY 1 GET 1 FREE!!” and “SALE SALE SALE SAAAAAALE!!” The credit card people badger you, trying to get you to register for one, filling your ears with more chatter. You sigh and wave one away, only for another to come for you – you start to wonder, why are you such a salesperson magnet?

When you finally reach the appointed location, dread fills your heart. Your friend’s face is scrunched up into a scowl, her arms crossed, her body tense, and her frustration is gushing into you – that can’t be good. After profusely apologising for being late and all is well again with your friend, you head into a restaurant for lunch. But, the moment you enter, you realise the picture frames on the wall are crooked, and your hands itch to right them. The moment you sit down, a small kid from the next table shrieks, the shrill sound stabbing into your head, but the mother is doing nothing to appease / correct / console / scold the child. By the time your order arrive, you’re too worn out to even enjoy the meal… and you still have your [shopping mall purpose] to do.

Sounds like you? Well, that’s me! That’s why I hate going to the super huge, super crowded mall 5 minutes from my house, and I prefer to go to the way quieter, way less crowded one some 20 minutes away. 😅

For many years I thought I was just a plain old introvert who disliked social frequent social outings. But when I realised I’m sensitive to loads of stuff – bright lights, noise, smell, temperature – I thought it had be something more.

Eventually I found the term that gave me an “Aha!” moment: highly sensitive person (HSP)!

What is a Highly Sensitive Person?

I won’t pretend I’m an expert, so instead I’ll post a quote + link here from an actual expert’s site:

In her national bestseller, The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You, author Elaine Aron defines a distinct personality trait that affects as many as one out of every five people. According to Dr. Aron’s definition, the highly sensitive person (HSP) has a sensitive nervous system, is aware of subtleties in his/her surroundings, and is more easily overwhelmed when in a highly stimulating environment.
~From The Highly Sensitive Person

Yep, you read that right; that’s one of five people, a whole 20% of the population are highly sensitive people!

Wondering if you’re one? The following are the traits of a HSP:

  • Are you easily overwhelmed by such things as bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or sirens nearby?
  • Do you get rattled when you have a lot to do in a short amount of time?
  • Do you make a point of avoiding violent movies and TV shows?
  • Do you need to withdraw during busy days, into bed or a darkened room or some other place where you can have privacy and relief from the situation?
  • Do you make it a high priority to arrange your life to avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations?
  • Do you notice or enjoy delicate or fine scents, tastes, sounds, or works of art?
    Do you have a rich and complex inner life?
  • When you were a child, did your parents or teachers see you as sensitive or shy?

Click here to take the self-test.
~From The Highly Sensitive Person

My answer to most of the above is: yes! I scored a pretty high 24 out of 27 questions on the self-test, so I’ve no doubt that I’m a HSP. 🙂

Traits of a HSP (and How I Fit into Most)

For a week or two after finding out about the term HSP, I went around reading loads and loads of online articles about HSPs, especially about the traits – I wanted to be sure I was one before I label myself as a HSP. I went through the below list (and its equivalent from other sites) many times, reaching into my memories to confirm I had the trait.

And now, this is the result of my ‘analysis’! 😀

1. Change is unsettling. You have a routine and you like to stick to it.
~From Introvert, Dear: 12 Signs You’re a Highly Sensitive Person

Definitely me; I really dislike change, especially major ones like getting a new job and moving to a new house… sometimes minor ones like the end of a one-week vacation before the next working day!

2. You get stressed when there’s too much going on.
~From Introvert, Dear: 12 Signs You’re a Highly Sensitive Person

Yep, that’s me too! When I married a couple years ago, having to organise my wedding and my new house renovation + furniture (at the same time period!) was pretty stressful for me… but luckily I didn’t turn into a bridezilla; I confirmed this with my husband at the time of writing. 😀

3. You’ve been called shy, reserved or introverted.
~From Introvert, Dear: 12 Signs You’re a Highly Sensitive Person

Not really. From my childhood, I knew I was an introvert – I prefer to spend more of my time quietly at home – but I was also super talkative outside the house. I’d talk with the school canteen sellers, the bookshop lady, the teachers, the students… but during Chinese New Year visits to my relatives, I don’t usually talk much and prefer to let my parents talk. I guess it depends on the people?

4. You notice details others miss.
~From Introvert, Dear: 12 Signs You’re a Highly Sensitive Person

Haha! I laugh at the memory of the last time this happened. My husband, my sister and I went to this cute little cafe that my mum and aforementioned sister recommended for brunch, and we sat at the corner table. The moment I sat down and looked up… I noticed the picture frame on the wall was crooked. We went on chatting without me bringing it up, but my eyes kept going to it. Eventually I tapped my sister (who sat beside me) on the arm, and when I caught her eye, I pointed. She laughed. A few more times of this, she cried, “Now look at what you’ve done! Now I keep looking at it!”

5. You become overwhelmed in situations that many people regard as normal. Large crowds, sudden sounds, bright lights and strong smells may bother you.
~From Introvert, Dear: 12 Signs You’re a Highly Sensitive Person

Sensitive to bright lights? Check. Even on a not-so-sunny day, I put down the sun visor when I drive to block out the sky.

Sensitive to to loud sounds? Check. I get headaches when my apartment neighbour drills for an hour straight…

Sensitive to sudden sounds? Check. My heart will LEAP right out at the sound, but I don’t usually react so people think I’m inflappable (and not fun to go to a theme partk’s haunted house with). 🙂

Sensitive to smell? Check. I’m usually all right with certain level of scents (a Korean BBQ restaurant, a passing lady with perfume), though I really dislike the smell of fresh paint and overpowering perfume (usually the one at certain giftshops in malls). But the one thing I can’t stand is cigarette smoke, not even a bit!

Sensitive to large crowds? Check. A few months ago I went to a car expo with my husband, my mum and my sister, and I suddenly realised how much I disliked being in one. The crowd drives me nuts and I usually end up tired and irritable. 😦

6. You reflect on your experiences. At the end of the day, you replay conversations or events in your mind.
~From Introvert, Dear: 12 Signs You’re a Highly Sensitive Person

Yep, I tend to go round and round and round on the same topic / conversation / incident if it’s negative, wondering if it’s the right thing to do / if I did it well / if there was a better way / etc. Positive ones will keep me happy for a while, though it doesn’t stick as long.

7. Your body is sensitive. You’re more sensitive to pain than the average person. When you get hungry, you have to eat right now or you can’t function. Some highly sensitive people are strongly affected by caffeine—just a little makes them jittery and shaky.
~From Introvert, Dear: 12 Signs You’re a Highly Sensitive Person

Not sure about being more sensitive to pain (how do one even measure that without me telling them?), but I definitely have ‘hangry’ issues!

Interestingly, I think I have a tolerance level for caffeine. Tea with caffeine (like earl grey tea or Japenese green tea) don’t have much of an effect on me; I can drink green tea at 12am and still sleep 5 minutes later. But with coffee, I tend to talk a lot and become excited for a while… then I’d feel the crash within 30 minutes – 3 hours.

8. You avoid overly violent or gross movies, TV shows and images. They’re hard for you to deal with.
~From Introvert, Dear: 12 Signs You’re a Highly Sensitive Person

True for me. I can’t stand overly violent or gory ones… there was once I watched a modern warfare movie that had a lot of shooting and bombing (can’t remember what it was), and I eventually had to stop because I felt there was waaaaay too much testosterone in it. I do have a certain tolerance level (I’ve played all kinds of video games after all!) so I could watch movies like The Avengers, but if there’s an option to turn off blood and gore in a video game, I’d make full use of it.

Also, while I grew up watching Mr. Bean series, as I get older it gets harder for me to watch all the embarrassing moments. I just cringe every time. 😦

9. You feel emotions deeply.
~From Introvert, Dear: 12 Signs You’re a Highly Sensitive Person

I think I do have a tolerance level for this as well, but when I do feel the emotions, I feel it deeply. If you hear someone sniffing in the movie seat behind you during a touching scene, it’s probably me. 🙂

10. Other people’s moods affect you. (…) If your spouse or co-worker is in a bad mood, suddenly you are too.
~From Introvert, Dear: 12 Signs You’re a Highly Sensitive Person

Definitely! I hate it when people are in a bad mood, it feels like their bad feelings are seeping into me and I get nervous because of it.

11. You need alone time. (…) If you don’t get enough downtime, you feel stressed and exhausted.
~From Introvert, Dear: 12 Signs You’re a Highly Sensitive Person

That’s me all the way. I need my peace and quiet and hobbies to function, and I could go a day or two without (like busy days at work), but don’t touch my weekends! I won’t bite though, I’ll probably just wilt in silence. 🙂

12. You’re unusually creative or intellectually gifted. You learn new things quickly. You’re intuitive, and sometimes you just “know” things without knowing how or why you know them. You have a complex inner world, a rich imagination and vivid dreams.
~From Introvert, Dear: 12 Signs You’re a Highly Sensitive Person

I have a pretty rich imagination, and it even seeps into my dreams! I get fantasy-themed dreams all the time, but sadly neither my imagination nor dreams are vivid. I once took a free IQ test before and it placed my IQ at around 120 (I’d say that’s pretty high!), though that was many, many years ago and it was free, so it may not be accurate. Maybe I should take another IQ test now!

End Note

And that’s how I reached the conclusion that I’m a HSP. 🙂

If you’d like to know more about HSPs, I suggest visiting the links I quoted from; they have a lot of related articles that will suck your time away if you’re an ooh-I-gotta-read-that person like me! I have added the links below so that you don’t have to scroll up:

And if you’re a fellow HSP as well, holler in the comments! 😀

~Nicolle ❤️

Today’s Self-Compassionate Letter:

Dear Self,

They say the first step towards change is awareness, and this shows how aware you are about your own traits and limits! Now you can make changes to better improve your daily life so that you have less stress.

But don’t feel like being a highly sensitive person is a flaw! You are who you are, the only unique person among billiions on this planet, high sensitivities and everything! Being highly sensitive is a gift – observant of the world, appreciating the beauty of art and music, gentle and kind.

Be a highly sensitive person who is proud of it!

10 thoughts on “The Highly Sensitive Person and Me

  1. Interesting. A few years ago I realized I’m an empath, recently I recognized that I’m an INFJ, and now I learn that I’m an HSP. I wonder if they’re related?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wonder too! It’ll be interesting if they are. 😀

      While I’m not an empath (I can’t feel other people’s emotions intensely but I can pick up emotional cues pretty well), I’m an INFJ as well. 😀😀

      Liked by 1 person

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