My entire life, I have never really understood why my emotions are experienced to the level in which I I feel them. Sure, people feel things all the time, but why are my reactions to people and situations so much more intense than everyone else around me? The littlest things could make me cry on a dime (that old man is carrying his wife’s purse and they’re holding hands as they’re crossing the street?! I cannot! Tears everywhere). My family’s motto to me growing up was “suck it up and deal with it”. When the tears start flowing from my own eyes, I start to look like Kim Kardashian when she cries and I realize how ridiculous I look. This causes a polar opposite reaction and I start laughing and it’s really just a sight you have to see to believe (some find this endearing, I find it to be a reason I have to carry extra mascara with me at all times).
Over the years, I have taken more personality tests than I could care to count. All of them have analyzed and categorized me as an extrovert. It was always conflicting for me. I need to take “time outs” by myself daily to recharge and process situations. This is traditionally described to be a more introverted quality, so I started believing I was more introverted than the tests led on. I loved being around people, but why did I feel the need to retreat soon after I was with them?
On another note, one of my biggest fears (and constant worries) is being able to please other people and if I am hurting their feelings. That sounds selfish, but I think that if I can constantly monitor my kindness and level of political correctness around others, it was for the greater good. People tell me not to care so much what other people think of me, but that’s not what this is. I don’t need it for their approval – its a genuine concern that my behavior could alter the outcome of someone else’s experience.
Finally, this past year, I took a personality test from my employer that told me I ranked in the 99th percentile of levels of empathy. This wasn’t a shocker – I constantly feel the pain or happiness of others around me (strangers and close relationships alike). It’s like I have a sixth sense of knowing when someone was having an “off day” or had great news they hadn’t shared with anyone yet.
All this tends to get me “in my head” and can affect certain relationships. My family calls me “too sensitive”. most friends can’t understand why I react certain ways in social situations, and I tend to be seen as a pushover in romantic relationships.
Then, one Friday morning, I woke to an email from my best friend. “READ THIS” was the subject line of the email and a single hyperlink was enclosed in the body. The articles she sends me are few and far between, so I opened it right away. Like a gift sent from a higher power, she stumbled upon what may finally describe my overly-emotional self: a condition experts have started using called HSP – Highly Sensitive People.
The condition was described with the DOES acronym:
D for depth of processing (why I felt so much so quickly)
O for overstimulation (which is brought on from D)
E for empathy and emotional reactivity
S for sensitive stimuli (the tendency to be overly sensitive to and aware of environment and people within a situation)
Suddenly, it all clicked and made sense. My Kim Kardashian crying a) wasn’t abnormal and b) was a commonly experienced phenomenon. While it may not be an exact description of yours truly, it certainly made it easier to conceptualize and accept my sensitivity for what it was.
Note – I use the word “condition” extremely lightly. HSP is not something that needs a diagnosis or cure. Compromise with others and awareness of oneself,, absolutely. But emotions are never to be seen in a negative light – they are what make us the living, breathing, complex creatures we are, and some of us just tend to feel them a little more. HSPs will always give you a hug when you need it (even when you think you don’t), will laugh at the joke you tell no one else quite understood, and will always be on your side. They’re the world’s cheerleaders.
So when you need a friend, call up an HSP. We will produce enough feelings for the both of us so you don’t have to.
For more reading on the logistics and understanding of HSP, click here.