“I think being different, being against the grain of society, is the greatest thing in the world.”
That’s actor Elijah Wood (“Lord of the Rings”), quoted in my post Exceptional and out of bounds – eccentrics and society.
Being unusual and eccentric in public ways seems to be easier for some people, and may not be so easy for many of us who are different on account of being highly sensitive and introverted.
But we can choose to embrace our eccentric, unusual qualities as valuable.
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In her post Why it’s hard to be a highly sensitive (HSP) introvert, Susan Biali, M.D. writes about feelings many of us can relate to:
“A handful of years ago I was so relieved to discover that there’s a name (Highly Sensitive Person, aka HSP) for what I thought were uniquely weird sensitivities.
“I also finally understand and now even celebrate the fact that I’m highly introverted.
“Thanks to these new insights into my personality, I’ve come to appreciate that the traits that make me seem ‘strange’ are also the reasons that I’m an effective personal coach and a successful writer and author.”
Dr. Biali is author of books including Live a Life You Love: 7 Steps to a Healthier, Happier, More Passionate You.
See link to another article of hers on high sensitivity in her comment about this post at the bottom.
Also see my article Susan Biali and Nancy Andreasen on Nurturing Our Creative Nature.
Being different is not a disorder
Dr. Biali adds, “For most of my life I felt that if people knew what I was really like, they’d write me off as strange or different. What a thrill to discover I’m not alone: 15-20% of the population are thought to be highly sensitive (according to HSP expert Dr. Elaine Aron), and around 20% of all people tend towards introversion. Of the 15-20% who are HSPs, 70% are introverts.”
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As an HSP and introvert, I fit into that group – and have often felt “wrong” or “weird” during many periods of my life – and at least uncomfortable, if not downright anxious, on account of being so different than mainstream, extroverted society.
From many comments I have read in multiple groups on Facebook, for example, it is clear many sensitive people share the kinds of beliefs and feelings that Biali is addressing – but those feelings can hold us back from being authentic.
Also, it’s important to distinguish introversion and high sensitivity from shyness, or its more extreme ‘cousin’ social anxiety – see my post Shyness, Introversion, Sensitivity – What’s the Difference?
Also see the article How about a new approach towards Social Anxiety?, By Rob Shapiro, AnxietySecrets.
Learning to celebrate being an HSP
Jenna Avery, CLC, MCP, MLA, is a Creativity Coach who counsels and offers programs for writers and highly sensitive people.
She describes her Self-Study Classes for Sensitive Souls as “the product of my many efforts to find ways to be a happy, healthy, highly sensitive soul.
“I have investigated everything I could get my hands on about energy skills, energetic boundary strengthening, interpersonal boundaries, flower essences for sensitive souls, empathy, intuitive development and more.
“I wanted to find out everything I could about how to feel happy about my life without feeling so assaulted by it — other people’s energy, emotions, and criticisms, and the life stresses and challenges that go along with day-to-day life.”
Find out about her programs and resources at her site JennaAvery.com.
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Respecting our quirks
Columnist Sandy Banks writes about a Starbucks manager telling Tina Levine that other customers had complained about her being in the store. Levine commented in an email to Banks: “I hit the mental illness trifecta” (Levine “was diagnosed years ago with depression, generalized anxiety disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.”)
Banks adds, “She has trouble with boundaries, can’t read social cues, gets fixated on irrational fears. When she’s feeling good, she might seem manic. When she’s feeling bad, she can come off as obnoxious and rude.
“Levine holds three university degrees — a bachelor’s in Spanish literature, and masters from NYU and USC — and worked intermittently as a legal secretary and writer for the game shows “Jeopardy” and “Hollywood Squares.” But she hasn’t held a job since 2006.”
Banks notes, “There’s a thin line, after all, between being a perfectionist and being obsessive, between being amusing and being annoying, between proffering an opinion and browbeating a stranger.
“Maybe we’d all be better off if we more openly acknowledged our flaws and eccentricities, instead of trying to steer clear of people we find uncomfortably odd.”
From Admitting our own quirks may lead us to accept others by Sandy Banks, Los Angeles Times, May 23, 2014.
The photo is actor Thomas Horn in the powerful movie “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” as Oskar, a “nine-year-old amateur inventor, Francophile, and pacifist who searches New York City for the lock that matches a mysterious key left behind by his father, who died in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001? [imdb.com].
His behavior can be called single-minded and obsessive – just like people behave in real life.
From my article Creativity and Asperger’s.
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Heeding your call to be authentic
David Howitt, founder & CEO of Meriwether Group, is a teacher in the Transformational Author Experience series.
“If you’ve ever felt your authentic voice squelched because of the impressions of your parents, teachers, religion, culture, academic programming or society… this class is for you.
“In today’s world we sadly aren’t raised to be our fabulous, unique selves. Traditional schooling teaches us how to be like everybody else and ‘sit in our row with our #2 pencil.’
“As a result we are faced with the challenge of learning how to hear our own inner truth… our own call. Fortunately, no matter where you are in your journey, you can always break from the confines of your “known” world to live your most authentic life and share your most authentic self.”
On his site is a call for many people to be leaders:
“The planet really needs successful people, CEOs, influencers, entrepreneurs, and those in commerce who are peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of all kinds.”
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Being exceptional is not a disease
In the movie “X-Men: The Last Stand” (2006), a “cure” is found to treat the genetic mutations that give residents of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters their unique powers.
From a scene in the film:
Dr. Hank McCoy: A major pharmaceutical company has developed a mutant antibody – a way to suppress the mutant “X” gene.
Dr. Hank McCoy: Permanently. They’re calling it a cure.
Marie: Is it true? Can they cure us?
Prof. Charles Xavier: Yes, Rogue. It appears to be true.
Ororo Munroe: No, Professor. They can’t cure us. You want to know why? Because there’s nothin’ to cure. Nothing’s wrong with you. Or any of us, for that matter. … Since when did we become a disease?
[Photo: Halle Berry as Ororo Munroe/Storm]
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So, celebrate being exceptional, one of the unusual people who have a highly sensitive nervous system, but also take care of your emotional needs – such as relieving anxiety, impostor feelings, overwhelm and other issues – see multiple articles on the TalentDevelop sites, and the page:
Emotional Health Resources: Programs, books, articles and sites to improve your emotional wellbeing.