Highly Sensitive Person (Oh, that explains it!!)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


After posting My Introverted Child (which is by far my most popular post) I received quite a few suggestions to read The Highly Sensitive Person.  I put it off, choosing instead to read several books about the Holocaust (I'm such a downer lately!) But when my landscape designer said she could sense that I was a highly sensitive person (HSP) and that I should read the book, I took it as a sign!

An HSP is a person whose nervous system is extremely sensitive to stimuli and is therefore easily overwhelmed in stimulating situations.  Take this HSP self test and see if you are one of the 15-20% who are, too!  I took this test, and checked EVERY SINGLE item.  I'm HSP to the extreme.


Learning that I'm a HSP explains so many of my quirks.  Like these... 

1.  I fall asleep when I watch action movies (and I rarely watch action movies).  My high school boyfriend tried to show me The Matrix at least 2 times, and I fell asleep both times.  Just too stimulating, my body decided to shut down.

2.  I zone out a lot. I used to think this was because I'm an airhead (I do get accused of this, even though I was always a straight A student), but actually it's my brain's way of filtering out stimuli.  If you see a glazed look on my face, you now know what is going on.  Please don't be offended.  

3.  I love studying in coffee shops.  Perfect level of stimulation, not too much, not too little.  Very predictable environment, and usually no one talks to me unless I want them to.

4.  I'm one of the first to leave a party (even though I probably had a blast!)  

5.  I am irrationally afraid of getting in trouble.  Even in high school, I would burst into tears if a teacher reprimanded me.  

6.  I hate sitting at the sushi bar- I'd rather be at a table where I am not being watched.  Sucks for Joe, who loves talking directly to the sushi chef about what is fresh.

7.  I am really bad with names and faces.  Especially faces.  I know Mindy Kaling believes that this is B.S.:“I don’t think it should be socially acceptable for people to say they are “bad with names.” No one is bad with names. That is not a real thing. Not knowing people’s names isn’t a neurological condition; it’s a choice. You choose not to make learning people’s names a priority. It’s like saying, “Hey, a disclaimer about me: I’m rude.” 
― Mindy KalingIs Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

 I love Mindy, but I totally disagree with her assumption.  I am not rude, and I do care about people.  I just get so overwhelmed in situations where I have to meet new people, that it's hard to process and remember names and faces right away.  But once I get to know you a little better in a calmer situation, I'll never forget you.  You've got a friend for life.

8.  I have a strong aversion to speaking on the phone. This might be just an introvert thing. I read too much into the tone and subtleties of peoples' voices and I get overwhelmed. I'm receiving too much information, and it's especially disorienting because I can't triangulate what I'm hearing with the person's facial expressions. Also, the pace of phone conversations tends to be faster than face-to-face, requiring me to think and speak more quickly, which is sometimes hard for me.  I love face to face time, in a calm peaceful environment.

9.  I LOVE dancing (ballet and hip hop are my favorites) but dancing in a big crowd at a club or wedding is only fun for about 5 minutes.  Then I want to go home and read.  

10.  I never did well at dance auditions where I had to learn and perform a routine on the spot.  I always did great if I had just one night to go home to my familiar surroundings and practice on my own.

11.  Coffee makes me crazy!  I'm super sensitive to the effects of caffeine (mood swings, anxiety, digestive issues, jitters) and had to switch to decaf.  HSPs tend to be really sensitive to caffeine.

12. I was a HORRIBLE waitress.  For the two miserable weeks that I worked at Norms 24 Hour diner, I was a shaky mess who could never remember peoples' orders.  I quit, and felt ashamed that I, a straight A student, could not manage to survive a job at Norms.

13.  I think about my thinking a lot.  Which is pretty much what this entire post is!

Are you an HSP?  I'd especially love to hear from an HSP who is also an extravert (they do exist! It's just more rare.)  

10 comments:

Angel @ loveandsplendor.com/blog September 18, 2013 at 2:53 PM  

I love you, girl: highly sensitive, thoughtful, caring, generous, and full of quirks. I am so grateful for you in my life!! And sorry for making you sit at the sushi bar last time. ;-)

Kristin @ Petal and Thorn September 18, 2013 at 2:59 PM  

@angel- i didn't mind sitting at the sushi bar that time! i think i was so excited to be with you and olive that i didn't even care! thanks for understanding me. we are so different in this respect, and you've never made me feel like less of a person. love you so much!

Jenn Shepard September 18, 2013 at 3:09 PM  

Love your posts, lady! I always say to myself, "Yep, that's me." ;)

sk September 19, 2013 at 7:36 AM  

I'm a HSP too! I haven't read the book (my copy is collecting dust) but I already know that it's me. I like calm, quiet and peace. My husband, who is an extrovert, can hang out at parties and shows all night long, while I am ready to go home by 9:30! It's not that I don't enjoy it, I just get overwhelmed by all the noise and lights, etc.

Lacey September 21, 2013 at 2:36 AM  

!! So much of this rings true to me! I am an extrovert, but also highly sensitive -- if that test is accurate. I checked a ton of boxes :) I have never heard of the phrase or the book, but I might just order it.

I have struggled over the past few years with everyone talking about Myer Briggs etc and not knowing whether I am an extrovert (like everyone says I am) but also knowing some weird ticks that don't fit with that, like wanting to leave parties early, hating to talk on the phone, struggling with crowds and big rooms, not enjoying things like arriving at someone's place around dinner when chaos is reigning etc. I thought it meant I was a confused extrovert/introvert but this .... it makes sense!

Kim September 21, 2013 at 3:30 PM  

According to that quiz, I'm not an HSP but I can relate the majority of things you've listed here. Especially being highly sensitive to caffeine and having a dislike for phone conversations.. I don't do well when I can't read body language and take on social cues. But thanks for chatting with me in spite of that!

kimby September 26, 2013 at 10:13 PM  

lurker here... i'm HSP too. no wonder! anyway, i bought some of your floral hairpieces from your etsy shop for my wedding, and have been following your blog since. i'm a new mom (6-month-old baby boy), had a home birth, also went to Cal, am a stay-at-home-mom now and loving it, and changed careers from engineering to Education before that. i read "quiet" after your post, and wanted to say thank you. i've always tested INFJ and i just wanted to say thanks for keeping it real on the blog. thanks for the inspiration too!

Rachel September 27, 2013 at 4:45 PM  

I totally thought I would be an HSP too, but I'm not! Just introverted, I guess. Knowing more about yourself is so helpful. Makes it easier to accept yourself and work with what you are!

Kristin @ Petal and Thorn September 30, 2013 at 1:05 PM  

@kimby: thanks for coming out of the shadows and commenting! could you be my twin? well, except the engineering part. congrats on your new baby!

Tessa Valyou October 17, 2013 at 5:12 PM  

oh my gosh that Mindy part... number 7. So true! I loved her book but that part made me sad. I am the exact same way. I struggle with names so much. But yes, once I get to know the person a bit its easier. I agree with many of these, I guess I should read the book too! Even your quote in the beginning about reading Holocaust books instead is right up my alley. I just finished Life In A Jar, very good, you should check it out. Loved finding your blog through the Janet Lansbury Facebook page, so excited to read more!

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