As HSPs we know that speaking up about being HSP (and all it entails) can be a slippery slope. Beyond the obvious cultural stigma against being sensitive (with sensitivity being associated with weakness and bursting into tears every other minute or being an easily offended narcissist) there is a deeper fear that often bullies us into hiding who we are.
Sensitivity is a slippery slope because it gets a lot of people wondering “what else is wrong with/different about you?”. The moment you are identified as an outsider or minority, you know you’re bound to become the scapegoat for something, or at the very least be taken less seriously. Furthermore, you have direct and painful experiences of what happened when you spoke up for your minority truth before. Painful experiences. You don’t want to experience that again.
So a part of you clams up. Your body clams up. Everything is internally put into motion to make sure that your truth doesn’t come out. It seems like a necessary and unavoidable measure to take -and in some cases it is-. When this defense mechanism becomes chronic however, something else starts to go awry.
You might freely speak about certain topics, yet clam up about others. And you’ve probably spoken up successfully on numerous occasions, but those are not the times our surival-primed body remembers. We remember the scary times and we decide to shut down to “stay safe”.
For many of us HSPs, the expression no-go areas are often intimately linked to our sensitivity: sensitivity to our environment, sensitivity to energy and a bigger than average need for alone time to recharge. It’s hard to explain these things to non-HSPs.
So many of us learned to quiet ourselves and blend in. Breaking that habit, when it comes to the things about ourselves that we fear opening up about most, is scary business.
When I first started writing about HSP topics online, I was terrified. I was terrified of being seen, of not being able to take back what I said, of not having any control over who would come across my blog and what they’d think. I remember watching a Monty Python sketch on how not to be seen, and not thinking it was funny, because it was how I felt (Don’t stand up, it’s dangerous!)
Historical Sensitive: intuitive types were considered hysterical/ crazy/witches. Your desire to hide has historical roots.
— CarolinevanKimmenade (@IDSensitivity) July 27, 2014
Yet, there is a reason why some people were willing (and internally motivated) to die for what they believed in. Why they fought for what was important to them. These people knew that the alternative, to deny yourself the expression of who you are, is to die a slow and painful death inside, that never quite ends.
It never ends because there is always a little flame that stays alive, that cannot be shushed. This is the flame we reconnect with when we start walking our own path again. This is also the flame that burns us when we quiet ourselves.
The Speak-Shush Cycle
Yet, even when you start walking and talking your own path, there will be times when you feel stuck. At these times, the part of you that is for expressing yourself is equally strong as the part that is against expressing yourself. At this clashing point, you have a choice. Either you find a way to feed & encourage your trust or you agree with the fear and stay where you are. You can stay stuck in fear a loooooong time. At a certain point though, the pain of staying stuck will outweigh the pain of moving forward, and this is when you find new energy and motivation to break out of previously unscalable walls.
This expression of who we are is in many ways a solitary road. Only you know what you need to do and say. Only you know what is holding you back. Yet, there is strength and comfort to be found in numbers. There is validation in hearing other people experience things similarly to the way you do.
The Comfort of Connecting with other HSPs
According to psychologist and HSP pioneer Elaine Aron, about 20% of the population is HSP. That means that you will know someone already who is facing these issues too. Only thing is, if they don’t speak up about it, you’ll never know. Similarly, if you don’t speak up about it, others like you won’t be able to find you.
To break the HSP-invisibility hold, some of us need to stand up. To make the HSPs in your social environment visible, someone will need to stand up and say something. Why not you?
I had friends in highschool -and beyond- that I never realised were HSP. We never talked about it, because none of us knew what “HSP” was. As a result, there were plenty of things we kept to ourselves, for fear of being weird. Now that I am a public HSP so to say, numerous people from my past have contacted me to say “OMG, I’m HSP too!”. It makes a lot of conversations a lot easier and clearer.
This doesn’t mean that I go around in my private life saying “Hi, I’m Caroline and I’m HSP”. It just means that I’m not afraid to bring it up when it fits the conversation. I’ve noticed that when I do, certain topics that were previously swept under the table now are put on the table. It can be as little as acknowledging a colleague’s need for quiet or acknowledging your own ability to cry easily when something moves you.
When you’re the first to say or demonstrate that “it’s o.k.” then this gives other people permission to be o.k. with their HSP traits too.
Ready for Change?
We have a much bigger say in our life than we realize. The key however is to worry less about what others are or aren’t doing, and look more deeply at how the resistance we experience outside of us is already present inside of us. If you struggle to find other HSPs, it’s not because they’re not out there. And if you feel uncomfortable about being HSP, it’s not because “that’s just the way things are”:
- How are you holding back from speaking your truth?
- Do you worry that being HSP makes you weird?
- Are you hiding who you are in attempt to blend in, but feeling lonely in the process?
- How does this affect your relationships?
Showing people who you are can be scary. Being seen can be nerve-wracking, but it also brings true connection. The people who like you exactly as you are can’t find you when you are hiding and keeping quiet.
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