For as long as I can remember, I have always considered myself to be somewhat of an ambivert.
When I first took the Myers Briggs back in middle school, I came out as an INFJ. A few years later, when I took it in high school, I came out as an ENFJ, and have consistently come out as an ENFJ ever since. However, I have always possessed traits of both an introvert and an extrovert. I am energized by being in a large crowd, yet need to retreat to solitude soon thereafter. I enjoy both outings with friends and nights alone with a good book. I process my thoughts and feelings internally, and later express them externally. About half of my friends think I’m an extrovert, and the other half think I’m an introvert. However, recently, I’ve discovered a term that might be the answer to my dilemma: Highly Sensitive Person (Or, HSP).
According to various articles that I have read thus far on this topic, a highly sensitive person is a person who feels things more intensely, and is more sensitive to external stimuli (lights, loud noises, smells, etc.). They are also highly intuitive and can be either introverts or extroverts. According to an article in Psychology Today*, 30% of HSPs are extroverts. HSPs who are extroverts, as it turns out, display many of the same traits as introverts, and may need time alone after being around a lot of people for an extended period of time. HSPs are also more likely to have been highly imaginative as children, and tend to avoid extremely graphic or violent movies and TV shows. All of these traits, if I really take the time to think about it, describe me to a T.
After I discovered this term, sort of by accident as I was researching introvert/extrovert/ambivert stuff online, I began thinking back to various points in my life that suddenly made more sense. For years, I have been more affected by the loud noises and thumps of the bass at concerts than those around me, and when placed in a room with a lot of bright lights for an extended period of time, I start to get a mild headache.
Furthermore, I am extremely intuitive and can often pick up on subtleties in people’s expressions and emotions that others might miss. I soak up every ounce of my environment until eventually, I need time to retreat, and process it all. I’m not necessarily more ‘sensitive’ or outwardly emotional than the average person, but I take in life a lot more intensely, which can cause me to display traits slightly different than the average person. Movies, music, and books, for instance, affect me a lot. Way more than most people that I know. I can literally remember a particular scene in a book years later, and just hearing a line in a song that relates to me on a personal level can stir up more emotions than I know what to do with. I experience life fully, in the good, the bad, and the ugly. On one hand, it can be a positive—enriching my writing and my ability to connect with the reader on an emotional level. On the other hand, it can be a little overwhelming, especially when I am faced with a new situation that I don’t know how to handle. Being HSP means that you live life in a full range of emotions—whether or not you chose to vocalize them to those around you.
So, what does all of this mean exactly? How does being HSP make me different than any other human being that walks the face of this planet? The truth is, it doesn’t. Being HSP is simply one way of existing in this world as a human being, and part of the unique way that God created me, when He formed me in my mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13-14). Being a Highly Sensitive Person is no different than being an introvert, or someone who likes cleaning. It is no different than getting a certain number on the Enneagram test or a certain combination of letters on the Myers Briggs. It is simply one strand of my being; a small portion of my existence in my sphere of influence and in the world at large. Though sensitivity is often devalued in the modern world, I am learning to see it as something valuable, and something that connects us to those around us. Without sensitivity, we wouldn’t be able to flourish in community with other human beings, or create the art that is so much a part of the world we live in today. Without sensitivity, we wouldn’t be able to relate to another’s emotions, or understand how another person is feeling. Thus, I am learning to not only accept that I may be HSP, but appreciate it, and appreciate the way that God has created me for His purpose in my life. We are each created artfully, with unique DNA and personality patterns that color the spaces of who we are. We are each like a snowflake, different and the same, each adding something beautiful to the story of our life and the story of humanity at large.
We are each fearfully and wonderfully made.
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.” – Psalm 139:14-15 (NIV).