I’ll be honest. My sensitivity used to be a perpetual source of shame and embarrassment, before I discovered that being a highly sensitive person (HSP) was a real thing. I felt misunderstood, frail, and out of place without being able to explain why.
But as I’ve learned more about the trait and gotten to know other HSPs online, I am no longer ashamed. Now I don’t shy away from telling people I’m highly sensitive, and I no longer beat myself up about my limitations. I’m more open about the aspects of my sensitivity that used to embarrass me.
(Not sure if you’re a highly sensitive person? Here are 21 signs that you are.)
On that note, here are five things about my HSP nature that used to embarrass me. Can you relate?
5 HSP Things That No Longer Embarrass Me
1. My dramatic mood swings
For the HSP, life can feel like a never-ending emotional rollercoaster. Some days my mood shifts quicker than a summer thunderstorm. I can go from bliss to anger to tears to apathy, then back to bliss in a matter of hours. Life ain’t easy for the deep-feeling HSP, to say the least.
I found that when I embraced my sensitivity — instead of being ashamed of it — my emotional ups and downs didn’t bother me like they used to. Now I’m learning to simply observe my emotions and not get caught up in them. To quote Pema Chödrön, author and Buddhist nun, “You are the sky. Everything else is just the weather.”
Similarly, I’m learning how to explain my needs to family and friends so they don’t freak out when it suddenly seems my personality has split. In the end, it’s just emotions, not the end of the world. Not taking your emotions so seriously all the time is healthy, especially if you experience the intense ones that 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 vacation. The one who would rather stay home than go out and party. I used to feel really bad about it, like I wasn’t living fully and would regret it when I was older.
But as an HSP, I simply cannot tolerate the “fun” environments — bars, parties, and clubs — that thrill my less sensitive friends. The noise, the constant buzz of activity, the exhausting thrum of people, are just too much for my deep-processing nervous system.
Now I’ve realized there is no one right way to experience life to the fullest, so I am boring and proud of it. Some people need to go to parties and music 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 my best 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. 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 event will be — and how I’d much rather do something relaxing at home.
Sometimes I suck it up and go, but occasionally I fake an illness and send my friend a last minute “so sad I can’t make it” text. This is my biggest shame as a highly sensitive introvert: letting my friends down and telling a white lie as well!
Why shouldn’t I be completely honest with my friends? They know that I get cold feet and 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 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.
Truth be told, I wish I could “suck it up” and be less of a diva. But that’s not how being highly sensitive works. Our brains our wired to process everything deeply, so that chair really does feel very hard to us and that restaurant very loud.
Although I can cope with the things that bother me, my sensitive nature will never really go away — it’s in my genes. 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. Often, my pickiness and ability to plan for an optimal environment and experience benefits not just me but others as well. You’re welcome!
5. My need to please and keep the peace
Like anyone else, HSPs want to be loved and accepted. There’s just one tiny problem: We run from conflict like it’s a hornet nest. Unfortunately, this can make us vulnerable. Needing other people’s approval to be happy is a recipe for a miserable life. Combine that with being easily hurt by harsh words and criticism, as many HSPs are, and you’ll find yourself on the losing side of a never-ending battle.
But isn’t there also strength and courage in the will to uphold peace and mutual respect? Now 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 nothing good follows. They only waste my time and ruin my (delicate) mood.
We HSPs often have strong opinions and a need to communicate them, but direct confrontation is usually not the way for us to get our message across. Instead, we can use our diplomatic and empathetic abilities to communicate in a peaceful way. Our people-pleasing, conflict-avoiding nature can actually lead to a more positive environment for everyone, if channeled in a healthy way.
3 HSP Things That Still Embarrass Me
I’ve come a long way in embracing my sensitivity, but there are still things that embarrass me on a daily basis. The difference is, now I can laugh about these things. So, here they are. Do you see yourself in these three things, too?
1. My tendency to be easily startled
Seriously, I am so easily startled that I’m basically the woman in this Catherine Tate comedy sketch who screams at her own Rice Krispies crackling. 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! It’s all part of my HSP nature, which includes a highly-tuned nervous system that’s “turned up” a little more than other people’s.
My fiancé is now so well trained that he never enters the room without first making a noise and waiting for me to acknowledge his presence. In fact, he often makes continuous sounds as 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 HSPs. 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 people watch me. Eyes on me are simply more stimulation, and the world is stimulating enough for highly sensitive people on a good day.
Even when I’m doing something simple like watching a movie trailer or cute animal video, I want to enjoy them in solitude, so 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. 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. I hold back my tears, because I still get embarrassed that I cry so easily.
Which brings me to my last point…
Join the introvert revolution. When you subscribe to our emails, you’ll get weekly tips and relatable stories to help you embrace your introversion or sensitivity — and thrive. Feel empowered and finally see your nature as a good thing. Click here to subscribe.
3. Uncontrollably tearing up for the slightest reason
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 20-something, crying in front of 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 more comfortable 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 good romantic comedy.
HSP, what would you add to this list? Let me know in the comments below.