What It’s Like Being a Highly Sensitive Introvert

IntrovertDear.com highly sensitive introvert

Dear world,

I have an announcement to make. I am an introvert. I know you often see what you think is the opposite. Vivacious, bubbly, often prone to chattiness (ick), and not particularly shy at all. I know these things look far more extroverted than introverted. But, sweet world, I’m only like this about 15-20 percent of the time. When we part, I am left far emptier than when we met. Social interaction sucks the life out of me. I leave happy, but drained. Desperate for silence and to be alone.

I’m okay though. I’m not upset or angry (unless I’m completely drained). As an introvert, I just need space. Silence and alone time re-energizes me and makes me ready for the next time we meet.

Up until I was about 30 years old, I actually thought I was an extrovert. Ever the social butterfly and always up for a party. Eight years into my 30s, I’ve realized I’m almost completely the opposite (since introversion/extroversion is on a scale, I think of myself as about 75-80 percent introverted).

And through some further navel gazing, I’ve also discovered that I have lots of characteristics of a highly sensitive person (HSP). I know… when I first heard this term, I, too, thought it sounded like a big fat crock of crap. However, it’s an actual real life, scientifically validated, and fairly widely recognized personality trait.

If you haven’t come across this term before, here’s the lowdown:

  • Chaotic environments with lots of noise tend to overstimulate and overwhelm HSPs.
  • Too much going on at once is just downright yuck!
  • We love the status quo — changes in routine and new things often rock our boat.
  • It annoys the crap out of us when too many people want too many things — all at once. Our brains literally cannot compute and we go into lock-down. The other day, both my children were asking different things, the TV was on in the background, and the cat was meowing rather loudly for food. I had to close my eyes and cover my ears with my hands. Brain does not compute! It took all my strength to regain some kind of composure and adult myself out of that situation instead of throwing a tantrum like my inner girl really wanted to do.
  • Our nervous systems take a regular beating and we startle fairly easily.
  • We can be sensitive to smells, noise, and textures. Noise is always the biggie for me here, but I’ve also always had a super sleuth nose, and I’m prone to tactile sensitivity. Certain fabrics literally rub me the wrong way!
  • We have pretty complex inner lives. I could happily talk to myself for days on end (it might be a sign of getting older that I’m not even embarrassed to admit this), and have frequent “meetings” with myself to sort and file my thoughts.

There are other characteristics of the HSP, but the ones above are the most pertinent for me. Apparently, another characteristic is not liking violent movies. This is the only one I completely part ways with. You can’t beat a good zombie movie (I binge watched the Resident Evil trilogy when I was heavily pregnant with our first. Best. Trilogy. Ever.).

You Can Curate a Life That Respects Who You Are

Part having kids, part growing older, I’ve begun to get to know myself. Marrying into a big family, some extroverted, some not, made family get-togethers and holidays hard for awhile. I couldn’t figure out why I just wanted to escape after dinner, or sometimes after half an hour! I would literally sometimes just walk outside or to another room just for a few breaths. It was perplexing. I loved my family and I loved hanging out with them. Was something wrong with me? Long social get-togethers, like a weekend away, would sometimes leave me so drained that I felt physically and emotionally wrecked.

But, thankfully, I’ve figured out there’s nothing wrong. I’m just an introvert who also happens to be highly sensitive (about 70 percent of HSPs are introverts). And here’s the kicker: I’m totally okay with who I am. It means I’ll say no to social engagements more often. I know when I’ve had enough and need to retreat for a recharge. For me, this usually means recharging in silence, often in the company of the natural environment (forests are my thing). And silence is… well, let’s be honest, pure frickin’ GOLD.

I also suspect that these ingredients of my makeup — introversion and high sensitivity — are probably why a slower, simpler pace of life resonates so deeply with me. Knowing how you are wired and being brave enough to utilize that knowledge cuts a whole bunch of extraneous crap out of your life. You can curate and create a life that accepts and respects who you truly are.

Do you know where you sit on the introversion/extroversion scale? You can visit here to take a two-minute test (or you can take a deeper exploration of your personality type here).

Maybe you recognize some of the characteristics of the HSP in yourself? You might not like the idea of putting yourself in a box or labeling yourself, but I think boxes and labels can sometimes be helpful. I think these are valuable pieces of knowledge to have about yourself and will empower you to be the best version of yourself.

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Read this: 27 Things People Don’t Realize You’re Doing Because You’re an HSP  retina_favicon1

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  • Wendy

    Hi Emma S., first, what a great article. I have struggled with crowds, noise,parties, etc, for a long time, thinking something was wrong because I could not handle it. I picked a career that was (retired now) working with the public, it was very difficult at times, but I forced myself to deal with it and became quite good at it. Now I do pretty well socializing,( with two other people it used to be one) . It is all still hard but at least I know now I am not alone. I do not mind the label of Introvert/HSP I feel much better knowing there is a Scientific reason. Yes when I am in a forest with the breeze rustling the leaves and that’s all I hear it is ‘pure frickin GOLD’ Also I am so happy to hear another HSP likes Zombie and the Resident Evil movies. Thanks Emma S.

  • Emma Scheib

    Hi Wendy. Thanks for your comment 🙂 Wow that’s very courageous picking a career like that! But yes, you do get better at it. Isn’t it great connecting with other HSP zombie fans! Haha we need our own special sub-label :p

  • Nessie

    Articles are kind of being repeated. Most posts are about things that have already been written by others with just a couple differences and different authors. I’ve noticed that you also don’t accept articles by people who don’t already own blogs. What’s the point of accepting guest articles if you don’t take from independent individuals and visitors from your page too? Accepting articles only from people with blogs is like accepting only professional opinions or opinions of people who are already famous. Kind of cliche and posh. Introverts love sharing their views wherever they can and if you don’t give the chance to simple introverts to write something for you, then you don’t really give them a voice. I’m kind of tired of seeing the same old articles by different blog owners about things that the page keeps recycling over and over again. That’s what happens when you don’t accept a variety of opinions. Your page becomes a bit boring and predictable. If I don’t see anything different, I’m gonna have to stop visiting this website, I’m already disappointed.

    • introvertdear

      Hi Nessie, I’m sorry to hear that. We do accept many submissions from authors who don’t already have blogs. We simply look for high-quality writing and words that resonate!

      • Nessie

        Yeah..except you’ll never known if a reader has high quality writing unless you actually give them a chance to write for you. And I’m pretty sure that your website won’t give that chance to readers even if their writing is high quality. Also, there are a lot of people who don’t own blogs, who can write a little article, with the length of those written in this website, and make it perfectly fine for people to read it. It’s not that hard to write a small article/post about introversion. In any case, it’s your website, you do what you want with it. I’m just saying that some posts are recycled with the only difference being the names of the authors and the writing. More people writing for the website= bigger variety. That’s my opinion. For example there are very few articles for the majority of the introverted types..I’m pretty sure you have lots of readers from various types, you could benefit from hearing their stories and experiences about their personality.

        • introvertdear

          Nessie, we do give everyone a chance — anyone can submit a post to us. We read every single submission we get. If a submission is rejected, it could be for any number of a variety of reasons. (To see more details about what we’re looking for, go here: https://introvertdear.com/write-for-us/.) I think the writers of this site touch on similar themes at times (considering we are all introverts and/or HSPs), but posts are not “recycled.” We welcome variety and a diversity of experiences!

    • Mari D

      Absolutely right! There is so much more to talk about. I also wish people could contribute more and with a bigger variety of issues concerning the topic. Thanks.

      • Nessie

        People would be amazed by the number of topics that can be discussed by and for introverts. I’ve been to several forums and I’ve seen hundreds of different topics both on personality and mental health that are so interesting, it makes you wonder why no website or blog has caught up on them. In any case introverts need to have a voice, it’s enough that the world is forcing us to constantly shut up, we need to have a voice at least online and be able to discuss every little or major thing that concerns us.

  • Jayme Atchison-Wachtel

    This was such a well-written article and really resonated with me. As I’m writing these comments I’ve been thinking today how truly exhausted I am from working with a co-worker who totally drains me. It happens everytime it’s 2 days in a row…I still don’t know how to “fix” it, but at least I know it. Also today there is a bar-b-question going on right now where I live. There is absolutely no way I would go, even if I wanted to. A real conversation does not exist or I might be tempted just for that alone. Anyway, great article!!!

    • Emma Scheib

      Thanks Jayme!

  • Louise Seymour

    What a relief it is to hear all these sensitive introverts telling it how it is! I have reached 43, thinking I was a quiet extrovert (not at all quiet when drinking! ) . I took the 16 personalities test and what a revelation. I feel less of a need to put my ‘I’m really strong ‘ front on and seem to be finding it easier to connect to people and tell them I love standing in a field…. for as long as I need to….

  • Yes yes yes! 🙂

  • Carson Hall

    Hi Emma, I am highly sensitive and an INFP. I went to a new therapist because I was wondering if I was on the Autism Spectrum. I find it so confusing because there are so many places where being a HSP and having what used to be known as Asperger’s overlap. My husband thinks I have it, my son says that I don’t. Ultimately, I don’t think it really matters, but I just wanted to point out that they are so much alike. I do find though that I have zero energy. Doesn’t matter what time of day, or the situation, I am always tired. Do other HSPs find that to be the case, or is that more of an Autism thing?

    • Emma Scheib

      Hi Carson! I’ve never thought about it that way but yes, I agree, there are lots of similarities with HSP and Autism spectrum. I didn’t realise that Asperger’s has been renamed? I too struggle with tiredness and yes, I think this is part of being HSP. I’m just so glad I know myself much better now and know what to do to renew myself.

    • Tanya Brayer

      Hi Carson,
      I’m an INFJ HSP who spent many years thinking my constant exhaustion was due to my thyroid condition. It was only after my thyroid had been treated and I was still tired all the time that I started looking for other causes, and being an introverted HSP definitely seems to play a role in it for me.

  • Carson Hall

    Anyone else an INFP?

  • David Cranson

    Man, this is so me, it’s scarey. Even down to the action movies. I’m a man, and I used to think there was something wrong with me. I should be rough and tough and able to do stuff that men do. I shouldn’t cry or be a wimp. I’m also the older brother, so i should be this, that and the other . . . but I’m not. I hate socialising. I hate working int he open-plan office I have to attend Mon-Fri. I hate having to talk to others at church. I’m OK with family, because it is smallish, but that is my side. My wife’s side is a bit bigger and – well . . . Suffice it to say that am nigh on the opposite of what society says a (heterosexual) man should be; especially one growing up in the 70’s (!)

    Thank you very much for your post.