The internet has been inundated with personality quizzes lately. In the last month alone I've discovered which kind of pizza I am, how I would die on Game of Thrones, which European country I belong in, the kind of potato I'm meant to be, and, most importantly, that the coat hanger is the inanimate object I most represent.
This is life changing stuff.
I'm also most like Hagrid from the Harry Potter series, which makes sense seeing as though I'm a large, hairy half-giant.
Needless to say, I tend to take most personality explanations with a grain of salt. Except pepperoni pizza. I am definitely pepperoni pizza. Though, a while back I dug around in the 16 Personalities website to discover I'm considered an "ISFJ," which is quite accurate and an interesting look at yourself, if you've got time to go through the quiz process.
I like to learn about myself and take a deeper look at what makes me tick, other than pajamas and cats. Some things are hard to look at. I have flaws. Everyone has flaws. I guess it's just that more recently I've been trying to understand them and improve them, if they're worth improving. Sometimes it's hard to look at yourself and do a mental checklist of what's "wrong" with you. Because who's to say those things are wrong?
Today I came across an article that stuck itself to my core. It's about highly sensitive people and their habits. It's no secret I'm sensitive. Ask anyone who's ever gotten to know me. It's easy to shrug off a delicate personality with, "Oh, whatever. I'm just sensitive." But this article broke it down in a way that made me understand a bit more about what it means, down the the smallest, peculiar habits. Most importantly, it reiterated that being this way isn't a bad thing, contrary to everyone in the world.
"Why are you so sensitive?"
"Stop being so sensitive."
"Why do you take everything so personally?"
Why are these questions always asked in such an accusatory way? As if being sensitive is a disgrace. You're asking me why I'm so sensitive as if you're asking me why I'm so racist. (To clarify, I'm not racist.) As if I should stop the behavior immediately and fix it. And the thing is, do you think we have an answer to the question? It's like asking why the sky is blue. Or why you're such a jerk.
Here's the thing -- I don't know why I'm so sensitive. I don't have an explanation to my personality. What I do have is an awareness of it. A knowledge. A desire to understand it and learn to manage it in a healthy way. Do I like being sensitive? God no. But can I stop being completely sensitive? No. Can you stop breathing?
Though I can't stop being sensitive, I can certainly work on the personification of it. My reactions. The way I behave when I'm sensitive to something. I'm always going to be sensitive to things, but I don't have to lash out or shut down or go on the defensive. But I'll tell you what I will always do -- cry. No way around that one, world. Sorry.
So next time you're frustrated with someone for being sensitive, stop for a second. For one, you're mad at someone who's deeply sensitive to the fact that you're now mad at them. Two, rather than spitting out the usual, "Stop being so sensitive," maybe try, "Help me understand this." Or, "What can we do to avoid this moving forward?" You don't have to apologize. Hell, even I'll admit that 72 percent of the things I get sensitive about don't require apologies. No one did anything wrong. But making a person feel bad about being sensitive, when I can nearly guarantee they already feel bad about being sensitive, isn't helpful.
The article says that highly sensitive people feel more deeply, are more emotionally reactive, prefer to exercise solo (running, for example, over team sports), take longer to make a decision and are more upset by making the "wrong" decision. We're said to be more detail oriented and more prone to anxiety and depression, cry more easily and have above-average manners. That one stuck out to me:
"Because of this, they're more likely to be considerate and exhibit good manners -- and are also more likely to notice when someone else isn't being conscientious. For instance, highly sensitive people may be more aware of where their cart is at the grocery store -- not because they're afraid someone will steal something out of it, but because they don't want to be rude and have their cart blocking another person's way."
I am that person. I'm so weirdly affected when I witness bad manners. Almost disgusted, in a way. The way I best judge someone's character is how they treat their server at a restaurant. And that person in the grocery store worried about being in the way? Me. I'm also paralyzed by the idea of hurting someone's feelings, but in such a backwards way that I inadvertently end up hurting feelings in my process of avoiding it. I avoid confrontation. I avoid situations that require me to say no. I absolutely can't, no way, no how, be the person to call a company to gripe about their service. Even if I win in the end, even if it gets me what I need. I can't be purposely mean. I can't even be stern. All bets are off if I'm in the middle of a real world, actual argument, don't get me wrong. But when it comes to taking the initiative to be directly rude to a person, I just can't do it. I'm too afraid of the reaction.
The other piece of this that blew my mind was a bit about how annoying sounds are significantly worse for highly sensitive people. I kind of thought this was a joke at first because, really? I am an absolute insane person when it comes to sound sensitivity. So much so that I've very seriously considered therapy until I realized there is no way out and I'm trapped in my own personal hell for the rest of my life:
"While it's hard to say anyone is a fan of annoying noises, highly sensitive people are on a whole more, well, sensitive to chaos and noise. That's because they tend to be more easily overwhelmed and overstimulated by too much activity."
It almost seems like a cruel twist of fate that these two characteristics would be linked. Can you make me any more of a neurotic human being, universe? Of all my personality traits, these are the two that have affected (always negatively) every aspect of my life.
There is no one who knows me who enjoys eating with me because I physically cannot handle listening to the sounds of eating. Not the chewing, not the biting of utensils, not the swallowing, not the scraping of plates. I have an actual physical reaction. I get panicked. My heart races. It's feels like fight or flight. This whole other emotion takes over, and all I want to do is scream.
Try dealing with that every meal time. It's terrible, and I'm not lying when I say I would fight for a cure for that before I'd fight for world peace. Or literally any other cure for anything that exists on planet earth. That is how terribly it affects me, and how much I wish it wasn't a thing.
So consider these things next time someone's too sensitive for you. Consider their struggle. Sure, not every sensitive person is as aware or as open or as willing to accept and understand its effects, but some are.
I don't love these things about myself, but I like learning about them. I've spent the better part of the last year in a relationship with someone who inadvertently has helped me grow and learn to love, improve and understand parts of myself I never cared to think about. It's a powerful thing wanting to be a better person. It's even more powerful when someone else brings that out in you.
And now that I've rambled, and everyone has already stopped reading, my message is this: be kinder. To yourself and to others. Maybe we'll cure things with it one day.
And stop being so sensitive.
(See what I did there?)