An Open Letter to the Highly Sensitive Introvert About Authenticity

Dear Introverted & Sensitive Soul,

Introversion combined with high sensitivity is beautiful, and beauty is sought after by others. When others pursue you, because you feel the need to make them happy, you decide to do things you don’t want to do and go places you don’t want to go. You say to yourself, “I only have to pretend for a little while and then I can retreat and recharge. I don’t want anyone to think I’m selfish.” Afterwards you feel drained and resentful of yourself and maybe the other person, but you dare not admit it, lest you come across as ungrateful or unwilling to compromise.

So what’s the problem here? The problem is not that you are an introvert; the problem is that because you are highly sensitive, you don’t like it when your introversion lets people down. So you continue to pretend. You don’t want people to be disappointed in you. But, my dear beautiful soul, to disappoint others for the sake of authenticity is an act of self-love.

Growing up was confusing for me and just about everyone else because people saw me as an enigma. Teachers saw that I was usually smiling or laughing; church members noticed that I could carry on mature conversations; friends knew that I could make anyone around me feel comfortable; and mom and dad knew that I had deep empathy for others. On the other hand, teachers wondered why I didn’t socialize more with classmates; church members wondered why I always went straight home after the service; friends wondered why I rarely went to parties; and my parents wondered why I spent so much time in my room (talking to my imaginary friends).

When you are sharply attuned to social cues and body language, as highly sensitive people are, you can’t help but notice when people are disappointed in you. Sometimes they even say it out loud. I remember a friend telling me, “You’re so independent,” and it wasn’t a compliment. Here are other examples:

“Why do you need so much time alone if you say that you love people?”

“Carla, you really need more friends.”

“Why are you so quiet?”

“I don’t understand why you respond to my texts but you won’t answer my calls.”

“Are your classmates being friendly to you? I’ve noticed that you’re by yourself a lot.”

“Carla, you are constantly withdrawing into your room. You might have a social problem.”

“Why won’t you come with me to the barbecue. I want to show you off!”

“You really need to get over yourself and get out of the house.”

“You’re an introvert? I’m surprised!”

It’s funny now but it wasn’t funny then! I’ve had to painstakingly process my introversion along with other aspects of myself that have been deemed socially unacceptable. Authenticity is a process. There are people such as Teal Swan who can explain the authenticity process much better than I can, but here’s my streamlined technique:

1. Get Fed Up

A desire for one thing usually arises from a desire to not have something else. My desire for authenticity arose from my desire to no longer be phony. I was exhausted. After a while, people pleasing literally made me sick. Headaches, stomach aches, sneezing attacks, you name it… these were all my body’s ways of trying to get me to stop pretending. I simply had to stop. At one point I remember hearing my heart ask me, “Why are you making yourself miserable so that everyone around you can be happy?”

2. Get Reacquainted

You would think that as introverts, we know ourselves well because we spend so much time alone, but that’s not necessarily the case. Sometimes it gets so hard dealing with people’s reactions to your complexity that you start to deny your complexity. We start to suppress the unacceptable aspects of ourselves so that we won’t have to deal with rejection. This only causes more fragmentation. So I encourage you to get reacquainted with those things you’ve abandoned. Is it weird that I’ll watch Star Trek: The Next Generation and The Real Housewives of New Jersey on the same day? Sure but who cares! The fact that I like those two shows is part of what makes me who I am. Besides, what you are is never all you are.

3. Get Romantic

You know what I realized? No one will ever know me like me and no one will ever understand me like me. I also realized that the cells in my body love me; they work hard for me every day! I started to whisper, “I love you,” to myself so that my heart, body, and mind know that I appreciate them. While I’m brushing my hair: “I love you.” While I’m driving to work: “I love you.” While I’m in the shower: “I love you.” This creates a nurturing environment in your body where authenticity can thrive.

4. Get Used to It

This is hard to say, but eventually dear one, you’re going to have to get used to letting people down. Your need for alone time will disappoint and your honesty will offend. You may even lose friends. So get ready for it. The path of authenticity is not one for the faint of heart but it is one that will preserve your heart. I make jokes about how I don’t socialize or answer my phone when I’m around others but I’m dead serious! You can be true to yourself without being rude, but disappointment is inevitable. Why is it inevitable? Because no one understands you like you. No one knows what you need like you. And no one will be with you throughout your whole life but you.

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Read this: 12 Things a Highly Sensitive Person Needs


Carla Calloway is a writer and podcaster who enjoys exploring spiritual concepts. “I am endlessly curious about life’s paradoxes.” Carla lives in Chicago with her husband Maurice. Check out her blog and podcast at Light Needs Dark.