But being unusually sensitive and inner-directed means we are to an extent “misfits” in a culture like this that so values sociability, extroversion and quick action – all of which are, of course, also valid and valuable.
In an interview about her movie Autumn in New York, Winona Ryder expressed some feelings that perhaps many of us have had:
“There have been some traumatic experiences in my life that have resulted in my feeling that maybe I was going insane for a little while. The question is – how do you define insanity? And how do you ever explain the feelings of anxiety and paralysing fear?
“I can’t answer those questions. It’s just a feeling of ‘Am I crazy? Am I too sensitive to be in this world?’ A feeling that the world is just too complicated for me right now, and I don’t feel like I belong here. But it passes, and fortunately today I feel blessed for all the good things in my life.” [cinema.com]
In her book The Undervalued Self, Elaine Aron writes about some of the potentially deep impacts our trait of high sensitivity can have on our lives.
Here is an excerpt:
High Sensitivity and the Undervalued Self
Many people who are highly sensitive undervalue themselves, basically because they do not understand why they feel so different and think they have an invisible weakness or flaw.
High sensitivity is my term for what extensive research has found to be a completely normal innate trait found in 20% of the population as well as in most higher animals.
Why the Highly Sensitive Tend to Undervalue Themselves
Although this trait can be a great asset, most highly sensitive people do not feel good about themselves, for a number of reasons.
First, while no one performs well or feels good when overstimulated, the highly sensitive become overstimulated much more easily than others because of their greater awareness of everything going on around them.
Thus, in situations in which they are being observed or tested, they may do worse than others and worse than they themselves expect.
Unless they understand that they are highly sensitive, they will completely misunderstand these “failures.”
Further, the highly sensitive are more affected by feedback. They observe and learn from their mistakes more than others do, and this requires them to care about their mistakes more than others.
But sometimes they care so much that their overall self-worth drops drastically.
Also, being members of a numerical minority, the highly sensitive can be the targets of prejudice.
They often hear, “Why are you so super sensitive to everything?”
Unless they are raised to recognize their sensitivity is a gift, they absorb the culture’s often negative view of it.
Finally, high sensitivity increases the impact of all emotionally tinged events, making childhood trauma particularly scarring.
Being so affected by “so little” can be an additional source of shame. They often hear, “Why can’t you just get over all of that and put it behind you?”
But it is not so easy for them.
For more information on the Highly Sensitive trait, visit hsperson.com
Take a highly sensitive self-test.
Brief article “High Sensitivity and the Undervalued Self” copyright © 2010 Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D. – All rights reserved. Published here with permission.
From undervaluedself.com – site for Dr. Aron’s book The Undervalued Self: Restore Your Love/Power Balance, Transform the Inner Voice That Holds You Back, and Find Your True Self-Worth
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Ranking and Self-esteem
Elaine Aron writes in a post on her Psychology Today blog “Attending to the Undervalued Self”:
“Innate temperament cannot be the whole story, however. Research (and my own experience as a therapist) finds that low self-esteem underlies most depression, anxiety, and failed relationships.
“Yet in spite of our focus on raising self-esteem, we have had little success. In fact, research [indicates] low self-esteem is in a sense natural, one result of our instinct to rank ourselves among others…”
Read more in post: Ranking and Self-esteem.
Self concept / self esteem articles