5 Things I Was Ashamed of as a Highly Sensitive Person (and 3 That Still Embarrass Me)

IntrovertDear.com highly sensitive person

At times, my sensitivity has been a source of shame and embarrassment, especially before I found out that being a highly sensitive person (HSP) was a thing. I often felt misunderstood, frail, and out of place without being able to explain why.

But as I’ve learned more about this trait and gotten to know other HSPs online, I am no longer ashamed. I don’t shy away from telling people I’m highly sensitive. I no longer beat myself up about my weaknesses. And I’m more open about the aspects of my sensitivity that used to embarrass me. On that note, here are five things about my sensitive nature that once embarrassed me:

1. My dramatic mood swings

For the HSP, life can feel like a never-ending emotional rollercoaster. My mood can shift quicker than a summer thunderstorm. I can go from complete bliss to raging anger to weepy to apathetic and back to bliss in a matter of hours. But I’ve found that by getting to know and accept my sensitivity, my emotional ups and downs don’t bother me like they used to. I’ve learned to simply observe my emotions and not get caught up in them. Similarly, I’ve learned how to explain my behavior to family and friends so they don’t freak out when I act like a split-personality maniac. In the end, it’s just emotions, not the end of the world. And I believe that not taking your emotions so seriously all the time is healthy, especially if you experience a lot of intense ones, like many HSPs do.

2. My need to be boring

I’ve always been the most boring person in my circle of friends. The one with very few exciting stories to tell after a weekend or a summer vacation. The one who would always rather stay home than go out and party. And I used to feel really bad about it, like I wasn’t living fully and would regret it when I’m older.

But I’ve realized that there are different ideas about what constitutes “fun,” and there is no one right way to experience life to the fullest. Now I am boring and proud of it. Some people need to go to parties and festivals or even bungee jump in order to feel alive. I just need a long walk, a long bath, and the occasional long coffee date with a close friend. As a bonus, staying in is a lot cheaper. More money left for books, relaxing bath salts, and expensive teas.

3. My last-minute cancellations

Along with being highly sensitive, I’m also an introvert—and I’m well aware of that fact. And yet I continually overestimate my need for social activities. I make ambitious plans on the spur of the moment but then the occasion comes around and it dawns on me just how demanding the social event will be—and how I’d much rather do something else relaxing at home. Sometimes I suck it up and go, but occasionally I fake an illness and send my friend a last minute text message telling her I’m “so sad I can’t make it.” This is my biggest shame as a highly sensitive introvert: sometimes letting my friends down and telling a white lie as well!

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Why shouldn’t I be able to be completely honest with my friends? They know that I get cold feet and that I don’t like promising them anything too far in advance. By being more careful with scheduling future events, and more open about my last-minute cancellation tendencies, I’m slowly coming to terms with this shame and learning to work around it to maintain good relationships.

4. My diva attitude

This is what I used to call my sensitivity before I knew about HSPs. I simply felt like a diva. Little Princess and the Pea, always complaining about this and that. “The light is too bright in this part of the office. Can I switch desks?” “This restaurant is noisy. Can we go somewhere else?” “This blanket is too warm.” “This chair is too rigid.” And so on and so forth.

I wish I could just “suck it up” and be less of a diva. But that’s not how being highly sensitive works. Although I can do things to cope with the things that bother me, my sensitive nature will never really go away. So I’ve learned to accept the physical limitations that come with being highly sensitive. If I need to be somewhat of a diva to function at my best, so be it. And oftentimes, my pickiness and ability to plan for an optimal environment and experience ends up benefitting not just me but other people as well.

5. My need to please and keep the peace

It’s no secret that highly sensitive people tend to avoid conflict. And that we want to be liked and loved. This can make us quite vulnerable. Needing other people’s approval to be happy is a recipe for a miserable life. Combine that with being hurt by harsh words and criticism, and you’ll find yourself losing a never-ending battle.

But isn’t there also strength and courage in the will to uphold peace and mutual respect? I refuse to be ashamed of wanting to treat others well and be liked in return. I don’t apologize for my need to clear the air to avoid conflict. And I never enter into toxic arguments, because I’ve learned (the hard way) that they don’t produce good outcomes. They only waste my time and ruin my mood. We HSPs often have strong opinions and a need to communicate them, but direct confrontation is not the way for us to get our message across. Instead, we can use our diplomatic and empathic abilities to communicate in a more peaceful way. And often our people-pleasing, conflict-avoiding nature leads to a more positive environment for everyone.

I’ve come a long way in accepting and embracing my sensitivity, but there are still things that embarrass me on a daily basis. The difference is, these I can laugh about. And I often do. Here are three things that still embarrass me:

1. My tendency to be very easily startled

Seriously, I am so easily startled that it’s like something straight out of a comedy sketch. Loud sharp noises, sudden peripheral movement, even having a crisp bread sandwich break in my hand can make my heart jump out of my chest. My fiancé is now so well trained that he never enters the room without first making plenty of noise and waiting for me to acknowledge his presence. In fact, he often makes continuous sounds when he walks around the apartment so I’ll always know where he is. I feel ridiculous, but I love his thoughtfulness. Also, he would never in a million years intentionally scare or startle me or let anyone throw me a surprise party.

2. My dread of being watched

This is a common problem for highly sensitive introverts. We hate being observed. We want to be the observers. Just like my mom’s dog doesn’t like eating in public, so she grabs a few bites and hides under a table, I, too, get uncomfortable when other people watch me. Even when I’m doing something simple like watching a movie trailer or a cute animal video, I want to enjoy them in solitude. That way I can let my emotions run wild without judgement. This is a source of conflict between my fiancé and me, because he likes watching me react to stuff. You see, when he shows me things he knows I’ll like, his head goes back and forth between me and the screen like a ping pong ball. Which ultimately robs me of the pleasure of watching it alone while also annoying the hell out of me.

Likewise, my favorite TV shows are very intense and emotional. While I want to share these experiences with my fiancé, watching them in his presence is like eating candy with the wrapper on. And holding back tears is excruciating for a highly sensitive person. A form of torture, really.

3. When I involuntarily tear up for the slightest reason

Speaking of tears: I cry often, at a moment’s notice, and for any reason at all. A cheesy commercial, a little bird on the sidewalk, or a beautiful sunrise. Often this emotional response is involuntary and uncontrollable. It’s simply a bodily reaction. And similar to other bodily reactions like blushing, they’re not always welcome.

As a teenager and young adult, crying in front of other people was deeply embarrassing. But one of the perks of growing older is caring less about what other people think and making less of an effort to appear like someone you’re not. I am a lot more comfortable with displaying my emotions publicly now, but I still avoid it if I can. I prefer crying by myself, in a dimly lit room with a glass of wine and a romantic comedy.

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Read this: 12 Things a Highly Sensitive Person Needs

Louise Stigell is a writer and online entrepreneur from Sweden. After a long and hard struggle to find her place in the world as a highly sensitive introvert, she is now happily self-employed and living a peaceful small town life. She spends most of her free time reading, walking, and staring excitedly at birds. Her mission is to inspire and empower other highly sensitive and introverted creatives, which she does with her blog OhSoSensitive.com.