The Intricacies of Introvert Time

Michelle Lynn (HSP SOS)

What Counts As “Quality Time” With An Introvert?

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I thought you were an introvert.  Why do you want to spend so much time together?

-A sincere question from an extrovert to his introverted companion-

There is probably no creature on this planet more misunderstood, stereotyped, and constantly questioned than the mystical introvert.  No, I don’t really believe that we are some rare, magical breed of human that exists as a sort of ticking time-bomb, but I do believe there are many people out there in the world that have this view of introverts. Introverts often feel most misunderstood by the people closest to them, which is both unfortunate and beautiful at the same time.  

Why is being blatantly misunderstood by someone close to you beautiful?  Well, when it’s obvious to you someone is misunderstanding you, there is at least some attempt being made on their part to understand you.  They are actively questioning you, trying to define you, figure you out, and in most cases, ultimately searching for a way that they can make you happy- or at least not tick you off so much of the time.  I’m sure all introverts have an extroverted family member, friend, or partner in their lives with good intentions.  Someone that tries to do things that he or she thinks an introvert would like, but often ends up missing the mark.  Introverts and extroverts are often portrayed in an oversimplified fashion.  As an introvert, I despise the assumption that I am shy, fragile, and anti-social.  Extroverts have to deal with their fair share of negative stereotypes as well.  They are not these loud insensitive beings put here on earth to torment us introverts, but problems can arise if introverts and extroverts don’t attempt to understand their unique differences.

One area that I have had a great deal of trouble with as an introvert in my interactions with extroverts has been explaining my need for “quality time” in relationships.  Not all time is equal in my introverted mind, and if I don’t get the required amount of “quality time” with people I want to connect with, then I get cranky and can come off as demanding and needy.  Just recently, for example, I have been spending an increased amount of time with my favorite extroverted companion.  We went to Las Vegas to meet up with friends.  I have gone to several of his performances.  There was a birthday party I planned and attended in his honor.  Time was spent with the children.  We recorded some podcasts, and we sat side-by-side on the couch together posting and writing.  At the end of this stretch of time, I found myself completely exhausted, yet I still told him that I really needed some “quality time” with him soon.  

If I had a camera ready, I would have snapped a portrait of his expression.  What do you mean?  We’ve spent every day together practically?  How could you possibly see me more?  I thought you were an introvert.  Why do you want to spend so much time together? I instantly felt defeated and sad when that was his reaction, because I swore he’d be craving the exact same thing.  He wasn’t, and I was just as confused with him as he was with me.  It took me a little bit to get over the fact that I had an extrovert telling me that we have had an adequate amount of social time together.  I mean, aren’t extroverts supposed to always want to be around people?  Am I that annoying that the extroverts now want nothing to do with me?

The truth, however, is that neither introverts, nor extroverts exist as stereotypical versions of themselves.  The reality is that introverts need time with people they care about.  They don’t just need time, but they need a special kind of introvert “quality time” to feel connected.  Extroverts are energized by people, but they also enjoy time to themselves.  Extroverts use alone time to regroup and reflect, and it is an important part of the balance they need to maintain in their lives as well. When introverts and extroverts don’t communicate about how time is spent, surely there is going to be a disconnect.  After thinking about my own personal experiences as an introvert, and my definition of quality time, I put together some truths for me that might apply to other introverts out there too  It’s by no means an all inclusive list, but perhaps it can help serve as talking points in your introvert/ extrovert relationships.

The Intricacies of Introvert “Quality Time”

  1. Group time does not get to replace Introvert “Quality Time”- I don’t care if I spend two weeks traveling Europe with you and five of your closest friends, this does not equate, in my mind, to spending quality time with you.  That may sound petty and ridiculous to an extrovert, but introverts often don’t feel comfortable, or able to fully connect, when there are a lot of people around.  I am miserable with conversation and maintaining focus once a group gets larger than three people.  I start feeling like I’m neglecting someone, and I end up feeling terrible about it.  I also don’t always get to talk as long with the people I’d like to in these settings.  I prefer to get into three hour, intimate conversations with people one-on-one when I care about them, and group events are not conducive to this type of connection.  I tried to make these connections last week at a birthday party I planned, but I ended up pulling people away one at a time off into a corner to talk privately.  I’m sure I appeared scattered, and I later realized I hadn’t even spoken to one woman at the party.  I had to message her apologizing a couple days later, because I was just so overwhelmed.  This is why we still need more time with people individually after such events.
  2. Daily tasks needed for survival do not count as Introvert “Quality Time”- Being in my space is not the same thing as spending time with me.  Now, I have to clarify, because introverts do like doing separate things with someone in the same space.  It’s just that I wouldn’t necessarily count this as deep, meaningful connection time.  This is more my time to be alone while sharing space at the same time.  If I am letting you share my space like this, you are definitely a trusted person in my life.  I’m letting you in on my recharging time, but understand I will not feel like I have spent any time with you after this.  I will want to connect with you probably even more after this.  If you are sleeping, eating, doing laundry, checking your email, or other routine day to day tasks in my presence, I am not necessarily going to be excited by this.  It’s not going to feel like we were present with one another.  I am going to want more connection than that.
  3. Watching movies together may or may not count as Introvert “Quality Time”- If you come to my place, turn on what you want, and don’t talk to me, then this does not count as introvert quality time.  If we pick out a movie together, and then one of us starts getting on our computer, phone, or leaves the room multiple times, then this does not count as introvert quality time.  If we select a movie together, or you suggest a movie you want me to see, and we sit there, watch it, and share our thoughts about it afterwards, then this is definitely introvert quality time.  It’s really about making meaningful connections for introverts, and not just merely about being together in the same room.  As a side note, bringing popcorn and candy to share over conversation, will definitely earn you some introvert bonus points.
  4. Working on projects together may or may not count as Introvert “Quality Time”- Introverts, and especially highly sensitive ones, bond over mutually shared goals and outcomes.  If the time working together is enjoyable and balanced, without one person being a control-freak or overly critical, then this is precious time spent together.  Conflict and negativity, however, can zap the fun and energy out of an introvert in these situations. Artistic projects, building things, and even home improvements can be rewarding time together if both parties are fully vested and share a mutual vision.  
  5. Car rides to social gatherings count as crucial Introvert “Quality Time”- It is a myth that introverts never want to socialize.  We love people just as much as any outgoing extrovert, but in general, being social requires more energy from us than it does from extroverts.  Introverts that put themselves in social environments, and allow beloved extroverts to take them out of their comfort zone, require buffer time.  Buffer time shared with one other person on a long car ride to a social event is very important to an introvert.  This is an opportunity to have some meaningful, intimate conversations before all “hell breaks loose” so to speak.  I have found that this is a simple area in a relationship many introverts and extroverts fail to discuss, which can lead to unnecessary conflict.  Extroverts want people entertained, and if they are focusing on driving, or thinking about being entertaining to a larger group of people, they may want to bring extra people along for the ride to take some of the pressure off.  The introvert, however, may have been looking forward to the car ride even more than the event itself, because he or she was counting on some quality time together. This time is viewed very differently often, and it’s definitely a point worth discussing.
  6. Pre-planned alone time together is sacred Introvert “Quality Time”- If you even mention doing something with an introvert in passing, and they don’t immediately make a bunch of excuses and run the other direction, then it is a done deal.   DO NOT alter the plan or think it will be no big deal to just do something else.  Because of how socializing impacts us, we carefully plan out the who, what, where, when, why, and how of all our social experiences.  We know we annoy our more spontaneous counterparts at times, but we are doing this out of love for the people we care about.  If we have three social engagements, a work project, and one special night with you, then we are carefully structuring our entire week to be the best version of ourselves in each of those moments.  We don’t always have the extrovert’s gift of easy energy with people.  We know we have to work harder in our interactions with people, and we definitely want our energy reserves piled high for a special night with someone we love.  It’s probably not the best idea to plan a dinner and movie with your introvert, and then at the last minute ask if you can invite a few of your friends.  Your introvert will gladly meet your friends, but at an agreed upon time.

This is all just my perspective on how I operate as an introvert.  I don’t think that I am 100% right, and I definitely don’t think my way is any better, or worse, than that of an extrovert.  I just know that I have a lot of extroverts in my life that are constantly trying to figure me out and make me happy.  I put this together as more of a way for introverts and extroverts to start conversations about preferences and needs in relationships.  I know that there are going to be times when my extroverted companion will want to pool together a group of friends for a car ride, or maybe he will forget that he promised to spend a quiet evening at home with me and end up doing something else instead.  I have to understand that extroverts operate and think differently than introverts, and we don’t have to be adversaries.  We are people, not labels.  Personality typing is really only useful if you are using it to be a better version of yourself and as a means to better understand and interact with others.  I think the saddest thing in the world is seeing a well-meaning extrovert suddenly realize that something has gone terribly wrong.  Whether we identify with being an introvert, extrovert, or even an ambivert, common ground can be found through open and honest conversation.  Bottom line is that introverts really do like people.  We want to spend time with people, but how that looks to us might not always look the same or make sense to everyone else.  

Author, Michelle Lynn, is a podcaster on The Captain’s Pod, and she creates content specifically for HSP’s, empaths, introverts, INFJ’s, and Myers-Briggs enthusiasts.  Her weekly podcast, HSP S.O.S. (Highly Sensitive Persons Supporting Our Sensitivity), can be found on The Captain’s Pod website, The HSP SOS website, and Facebook. Also connect with her on Twitter @hsp_sos.

Unspoken Word Poetry

Michelle Lynn (HSP SOS)

swing

swing set chains

palms discolored
wipe orange rust

swing set chains
rattle through
shuttered panes
cigarette-butt doves fly
beer glass starfish sparkle
my legs kick
against a dirt sky

Swing Set Chains, a poem I wrote in my twenties when I was still angry about my life, unfair circumstances, mainly addiction- angst ridden lines vaguely lost on a page. I wrote to forget. I wrote to occupy empty time. I wrote to be alone in a house caught between unpredictable chaos and unbearable silence. I wrote for myself.  

Volume after volume of fragmented childhood memories shoved on a shelf. My silent solace, a semblance of order and control if nothing else. My words have always been calculated, cautious, carefully mine. Left to yellow and harden over the passing of time.  

Two decades later, tattered and torn, this is my archeological find. The words sit static as I rush to make space in my cluttered mind, and I attempt to get the words out of her with the absence of mine.

Her sterile hospital room is a far cry from the swing set of my youth, but it is still a make-shift sanctuary. A place to keep from confrontation. A place to run and hide. We both avoid erasable words written in plain sight.

Water under the bridge? Something we say when we have lost the energy to fight, or we realize that some actions are not always a matter of choice.  

I AM still standing on that bridge- a gasoline soaked rag in one hand and polished skipping stones in the next.   

Should I set the fire, turn to ashes, and tumble into the troubled waters below?

Should I lie down, look up, and fly into the dirt sky reflection shining above?

I know that destruction and distraction are most people’s MOs, but silence and suspension have always been mine.

I am paralyzed, stuck on a drawstring bridge, a rusty swing set, not sure if I am human, fish, or bird?

Maybe just a version of my own unspoken word.

Author, Michelle Lynn, is a podcaster on The Captain’s Pod, and she creates content specifically for HSP’s, empaths, introverts, INFJ’s, and Myers-Briggs enthusiasts.  Her weekly podcast, HSP S.O.S. (Highly Sensitive Persons Supporting Our Sensitivity), can be found on The Captain’s Pod website, The HSP SOS website,  and  Facebook. Also connect with her on Twitter @hsp_sos .

6 Sensitivities for HSPs at Halloween

Michelle Lynn (HSP SOS)

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Can a Highly Sensitive Person Enjoy Halloween?

Originally described as innate sensitiveness by Carl Jung, and then called highly sensitive persons by Dr. Elaine Aron, about one-fifth of the population possesses the trait of high sensory processing sensitivity.  Individuals with this trait have a biological difference in their nervous system which heightens their awareness of sight, sound, taste, and touch. These individuals experience the world a little differently than others, which can be both rewarding and draining.  For HSPs, Halloween can definitely be a mixed bag of tricks and treats, but being aware of what impacts one’s internal and external world can truly help a highly sensitive person make the most out of any celebration. Here are six aspects of Halloween that may impact the sensitivity of an HSP.

1. Seasons Change- When Dr. Elaine Aron created the Highly Sensitive Person Self-Test in her 1997 study, one of the original questions she considered adding to the assessment was “Are you sensitive to seasonal or weather-related changes in the amount of daylight?”  This question didn’t make the final cut, but it is something to take into consideration.  Being sensitive to changes in the weather doesn’t necessarily mean you are suffering from Seasonal Affect Disorder, but it does mean you are more in-tune with the subtle differences in the changing of the seasons- good or bad.  For some, a new season is a welcome change of pace, but for others it’s a less anticipated, inevitable transition.  Depending on where you live, Halloween can signal the starting point of shorter days and colder temperatures.  If you are someone that does better in milder temperatures, even the thought of another cold Chicago winter is enough to send you spiraling into hibernation mode as early as October.  Don’t let the weather bring you down.  Each season has its own rewards, and perhaps making a list of what you enjoy about each season is an excellent way to remind yourself what you love about fall.  As an HSP, it’s also important not to get too ahead of yourself.  No one needs to spend time dreading winter before it’s even scheduled to arrive.

2. Sights and Sounds-  It is well documented that about 20 percent of people in the general population have a nervous system that amplifies the surrounding world, thus making individuals with high sensory processing sensitivity more aware of environmental subtleties. Even a seemingly ordinary day to a non-HSP can be overstimulating to a person with high sensitivities, so imagine what a day like Halloween can do to someone more influenced by the sights and sounds in the environment.  Children ringing doorbells to acquire candy, images of ghastly figures filling television screens, toy witches cackling throughout local shops, and gruesome haunts lurking around every corner… these are just some of the sights and sounds that accompany Halloween.  Aside from the expected overstimulation of this holiday, it can also stir up unpleasant and gory images that a lot of highly sensitive people find disturbing.  It’s important to know your limits as an HSP.  You might enjoy the festive nature of the season.  You might even enjoy a scary movie every now and again, but you don’t have to go with your friends to see the latest slasher film if you know it’s going to upset you in the end.

3. So Many Sweets- Cupcakes and candies start showing up at the office, and Twix bars and Kit-Kats adorn every grocery store aisle.  If you have a sweet tooth, Halloween is the start of the indulgences of the holiday season.  In HSP S.O.S. episode #1 “Food Sensitivities,” we discuss just how much diet can impact the physical and emotional well being of highly sensitive individuals.  Not eating enough can lead to irritation and the jitters, while eating too much of the wrong thing can result in mind fog.  Processed foods, artificial sweeteners, food dyes, and caffeine are just some of the things HSPs might want to limit or avoid during this time of year.  Natural, whole foods tend to be a good option, and remembering to eat regular meals instead of just munching on treats at parties can do wonders for one’s physical and mental health.  It’s not necessary to turn down every single goodie that comes your way, but pay close attention to how foods are impacting you. If you are aware of how certain foods impact your mind and body, then you can make more educated decisions about what you choose to enjoy and what you choose to pass up.

4. Selecting a Costume- Anyone that knows and loves a highly sensitive person is well aware of our tendency to overthink or overanalyze every decision.  The highly sensitive are typically concerned about how their actions and behaviors impact others.  To say HSPs pay attention to the details is a huge understatement.  This holds true for picking out a costume at Halloween as well.  As discussed in HSP S.O.S. episode #4 “Sensitive Superheroes,” individuals with sensitivity take their love of superheroes, and other fictional characters, seriously.  It can become a sort of therapy for those that have always felt a little misunderstood by larger society.  It’s no wonder then that we spend weeks perfecting our costume, matching every last detail to the character in the original comic book series or insuring that our shoes and handbag are historically accurate.  Attending a party with someone at Halloween can also add more to think about to the occasion.  You don’t want to show up in mismatched ensembles, but you don’t want to be too matchy-matchy either.  It’s a real struggle sometimes to find just the right costume for the ever creative HSP.  There is nothing wrong with wanting to wow family and friends with a clever costume, but like all things, if the highly sensitive person feels like the process of selecting a costume is adding too much unneeded stress to daily life, then it’s time to pause and reflect.  More important than the look of the costume is probably the feel.  HSPs definitely have preferred textures and fabrics.  A costume that represents a cool concept AND is comfortable to wear enhances the chances of a fun-filled night.

5. Sorting Through Memories-   When I was nine, I attended a Halloween birthday party for a friend.  At this party, guests were bobbing for apples.  There was a girl there that I knew from school dressed in a clown costume, and she was eagerly dunking her face in and out of the bucket of apples,.  When she couldn’t successfully grab an apple, she grew frustrated, began crying, and nearly drown herself in her attempts to retrieve that tempting piece of fruit.  Why do I mention this? I mention it, because not a Halloween goes by that I don’t get flashes of that moment sort of frozen in time.  I don’t think I could ever dress myself, or my child, as a clown because of this experience, and I certainly will never have a party that includes apple bobbing.  As we discussed in the “Letting Go” episode, emotions are closely tied to memories.  The highly sensitive person often “feels” for other people, and this can be both positive and negative.  When we recall a certain memory later in life, we also recall the way we, or the people around us, felt at that moment.  If it’s a good memory, then the trip down memory lane is rewarding.  If it is a bad memory, however, reminiscing about the past could impact our state of mind in the present.  The memories we associate with a given holiday can throw us off at times.  At a time when sights, sounds, and scents are amped up, it’s useful to remember that sensory input can trigger old memories.  Just being aware of this can help an HSP self-monitor reoccurring mood memories.  We may not be able to ever forget that one Halloween where the neighborhood bully stole our little brother’s candy, but we can choose to respond to it in a manner that doesn’t rob us of our present happiness.  It’s also useful to recall comforting memories around the holidays as well.  Take some time to sort through the chambers of your mind, and pull up some pleasant Halloween experiences to relish when feeling out of sorts.

6. Shifting Perspectives of Introverts & Extraverts– In our show IN/EX Adventures, my cohost and I share our unique perspectives of the world as an introvert (INFJ) and an extravert (ENFP).  A lot has been written about the differences between introverts and extraverts in recent years, yet many myths about the two traits still persist.  Introverts are often viewed as being shy or anti-social, and extraverts are frequently characterized as always wanting to be the life of the party.  Identifying oneself as an introvert or extravert doesn’t mean that you always function from that perspective.  Introverts typically get their energy from inner reflection, and extraverts feel energized in social environments.  That doesn’t mean introverts never enjoy going out, or extraverts never long for a little solitude.  At Halloween, for example, many introverts thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to don a mask and attend a party as someone else.  As an introvert, I can attest to the comfort of an evening where everyone is going to be wearing something out of the ordinary.  The expectation is to be a bit playful, and this is just the kind of permission and expectation that can help an introvert frame an experience for optimal enjoyment.  There is a sense of freedom in anonymity, and when everyone is wearing silly outfits, it helps level the playing field for the sometimes awkward feeling introvert.  The extravert on the other hand, may feel a need to up the ante a little bit during Halloween.  As my cohost and  I shared on our Highly Sensitive Halloween episode, the highly sensitive extravert may feel like there are unspoken expectations to be even more “out there” than usual.  They might feel pressured to make the party more extreme, or to produce a jaw dropping costume idea.  Again, remember that as an HSP it is often useful to check your perspective.  Are you putting this pressure on yourself?  Do your friends really expect you to show up dressed in a gorilla suit and swing from the chandeliers?  Probably not, so any time you are starting to feel too stressed out about any aspect of Halloween, just remember to pause and reflect.

Halloween can be fun for HSPs introverted and extraverted alike.  Even if there are aspects of Halloween you despise, take a minute to focus on what you do like about the season.  The holiday season can force highly sensitive people out of their comfort zones and expose them to even more sensory input, but being highly sensitive is not a condition or disability.  Knowing yourself, and knowing what you’re about to experience, can truly help you have a Happy Highly Sensitive Halloween!

Author, Michelle Lynn, is a podcaster on The Captain’s Pod, and she creates content specifically for HSP’s, empaths, introverts, INFJ’s, and Myers-Briggs enthusiasts.  Her weekly podcast, HSP S.O.S. (Highly Sensitive Persons Supporting Our Sensitivity), can be found on The Captain’s Pod website, The HSP SOS website,  and  Facebook. Also connect with her on Twitter @hsp_sos .

For When You Forget

Michelle Lynn (HSP SOS)
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To My Highly Sensitive Friends
  1. You hurt because you care.
  2. You cannot save the world alone, but it is kind of you to try.
  3. It is impossible to be anyone’s everything, but again, it is kind of you to try.
  4. Not everyone will make sacrifices for you the same way that you do for them.
  5. People that have been hurt don’t always play fair. 
  6. Other people’s outbursts, accusations, and manipulations rarely have anything to do with you.
  7. Wanting more love, affection, and connection does not mean your are out of line or “too needy.”
  8. You can ask for seconds, because you often give more than you get.
  9. We all let people down, so don’t stifle yourself for fear of disappointing someone else.
  10. If you don’t take care of yourself, then you definitely can’t take care of anyone else.
  11. “Bad people” don’t sit around worrying about whether or not they are “bad” all the time.
  12. What is an obvious feeling to you is not always as obvious to everybody else.
  13. There’s no such thing as  being “too much” for the right people.
  14. It takes incredible strength to walk the earth in your sensitive way.
  15. The world needs your empathetic nature now more than ever.
  16. You are part of a minority, but you are not alone.
  17. You are raw. 
  18. You are real.
  19. You are loved.
  20. Please keep this as a reminder for when you forget.

Author, Michelle Lynn, is a podcaster on The Captain’s Pod, and she creates content specifically for HSP’s, empaths, introverts, INFJ’s, and Myers-Briggs enthusiasts.  Her weekly podcast, HSP S.O.S. (Highly Sensitive Persons Supporting Our Sensitivity), can be found on The Captain’s Pod website, The HSP SOS website,  and  Facebook. Also connect with her on Twitter @hsp_sos .

 

Raising Sensitive Voices

Michelle Lynn (HSP SOS)

An Introvert’s Need to Gently Scream

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10363398_10203890700817511_3030007714151360131_nThe best gift I ever received as a child was a piece of technology called the Speak & Spell.  It was a hand-held, electronic device created by Texas Instruments that consisted of a speech synthesizer, keyboard, and visual display.  I’m sure most kids growing up in the late 1980’s owned a Speak & Spell at one point or another, but to me, this was more than just a toy.  This was a way to communicate without words, a way to speak without using my voice.

I used that device to talk to my brother, my parents, and I even tried to take it to school.  I was in 1st grade the Christmas I got my Speak & Spell, and at age 6, I was already painfully aware that my actual voice wasn’t something a lot of people were interested in hearing.  I was a quiet child.  I wasn’t aggressive or competitive like so many members of my immediate family.  I wasn’t keen on being the center of attention or surrounding myself with hordes of friends.  I liked to learn and listen.  I didn’t like unnecessary chatter, and I felt more comfortable on the outskirts of interaction than I did amidst the synergy of socializing.

I wanted to observe, take information in, process it, and speak only when I felt I had something meaningful to say.  When I did want to speak, it was important to me that people wanted to listen.  I wanted the same respect I gave others when I listened to them, but I found that it wasn’t always so easy obtaining the floor or securing a captive audience.  I wasn’t even sure how you went about gaining an audience’s attention.  Did you clear your throat and wait for everyone else in the room to stop talking?  Did you raise your hand and hope someone would notice you?  Did you go up and tap each individual on the shoulder and deliver your message in a series of one-on-one conversations?  I tried all of these methods, and sometimes I’d get my point across, but a lot of the time I was talked over, interrupted, or met with quizzical expressions.  Communication, and the casual conversation that seemed to be second nature to everyone else, felt exhausting to me.  I talked less and less, and there were days that I am certain I spoke a sentence or less to anyone.  

The year I got my Speak & Spell I learned that a robotic, imitation of voice was often more affective at gaining people’s attention than my own voice.  I used this information to my advantage, and I would type questions, requests, and general observations to anyone willing to listen.  My family and friends liked the novelty of it at first, but quickly that mode of communication wore on everyone’s nerves.  Eventually the battery died and was never replaced, and I had to rely on my own “timid” voice once again.

Throughout my childhood, I would find other “Speak & Spell” methods of expressing my words.  I discovered in 4th grade, that I had a knack for writing short stories.  My teachers and friends would beg me to write for them.  I would pen outrageous tales in the solace of my bedroom at night, and then bring them to school the next day for someone else to read aloud.  The stories were purely nonsensical at first, and I loved that I could make people laugh.  I became bored with writing nonsense, however, and I eventually started slipping messages and morals into my stories.  When I did this, I was told to go back to being funny, and some people stopped listening to my writing all together.  From this experience, I learned that if you want people to listen, then you better write about what they want to hear.  My perception was that people preferred entertainment to thinking, so from the age of nine to eleven, I wrote almost exclusively for myself.  My voice existed in the form of words on pages that only I read.

In my adolescent and teenage years, I wrote regularly, still keeping the pages all to myself.  In college and in my early adulthood years, I found myself a group of similarly “misunderstood” people to share my words with.  We would go to poetry readings, sit around and talk until the early morning hours, and sometimes quietly exchange our writing in tattered notebooks or via an email only to be digested when we were alone.  While this was was better than silence, there was still this feeling I lived with that most of the world didn’t really care about what I had to say, a notion that most of the world didn’t really want to hear my voice.  Because of this, I put up walls.  I didn’t want to take the risk of being ridiculed for my ideas, and it was easier to just stay inside myself.  

This “inside myself” feeling eventually carried over to all aspects of my life.  I didn’t share my voice at work.  I didn’t always speak my mind in personal relationships, and I always felt a bit like that quiet six-year-old walking around hoping to get someone to listen to my feelings in the form of fake, robotic voice.  I know that this fostered a sense of isolation for me, and it reinforced my belief that I was destined to be misunderstood by the masses.  It contributed to days of depression and heightened feelings of anxiety in social situations.

The misunderstood artistic type is kind of cliche, maybe cool sounding in your early twenties, but over time, that label wears on you.  Like most people, I have always had the desire to just be heard and understood.  I have never felt, however, like my voice was anything worthy of sharing.  I have never felt like my words really mattered to anyone but myself, so that’s were I let them live, inside myself.  

I went on like this for most of my life, and then one day I came across something that changed my perception of myself and others like me.  I picked up a copy of Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.  The title alone was an open invitation for someone like me, and I read the entire book in a weekend.  It literally changed my life.  I hadn’t really understood what the term introvert meant prior to reading her work, but everything about my communication style suddenly made sense.  I didn’t feel like I was fundamentally flawed for how I operated anymore, and I was anxious to talk with people about her ideas.  Some of the teachers I worked with had read the book also, and we formed a book study group.  We felt that as teachers it might benefit some of our introverted students to discuss incorporating what we learned about introverts into the classroom during these conversations.  I got discouraged though when I realized only introverts signed up for the group, and the people that could really benefit from hearing about how to respect and support introverts were high-fiving each other by the water cooler instead of sitting down and listening to our voice.s   Our little group slowly dissolved, but Susan Cain’s voice was permanently stuck inside my head.

After this, I independently researched and sought out additional information on topics discussed in the book.  Of particular interest to me was a woman she talked about by the name of Dr. Elaine Aron.  I started reading the research of Aron, and once again I found myself in tears thinking about the descriptions of people on her pages.  These were my people.  I internalized her words, and occasionally I would approach the topic of introversion and highly sensitive people with those that I felt would be receptive to the idea.  I still operated with my usual caution, and I never really went too far out on a limb when it came to sharing my voice.  It was my little secret.  It was what I would think about when the world overwhelmed me, or I felt like I really didn’t fit in.  I knew that somewhere out there people like me really did exist, and that somehow made it temporarily feel a little better.

Up until this year, I’d say my life has been pretty status-quo.  I’ve continued to write, and I’ve continued to desperately work on improving myself.  I’ve tried to open up more to people I trust, as I’ve seen the cost of pushing one’s voice beneath the surface for too long.  I’m still a very cautious person, and when good friends  have urged me to share my story or voice, I blush and assure them that no one would be interested in hearing what I have to say.  

A positive step I’ve made recently is trying to surround myself with people that take the time to know and appreciate my true nature.  One such person is Brian “The Captain” Kovacs, the reluctant leader of this podcast.  He’s not an introvert, but he is a highly sensitive person.  I’ve been impressed with his enthusiasm to make a difference, and as a professional singer and former radio announcer, he’s someone that has a lot more experience with voice than I do.  I’ve learned a lot from him about the importance of using one’s voice to promote positive change, and I respect his sensitive extroversion greatly.  There aren’t a lot of people like him in this world.

Perhaps that’s why I took one of the biggest risks of my life last May, and I sheepishly asked him if he’d let me talk to him about Elaine Aron’s book The Highly Sensitive Person on his podcast.  I’m pretty sure he thought I was joking, and he didn’t want to pressure me to do anything I didn’t want to do.  I reassured him that I wanted to talk, because I felt like it was a really important message.  I gave him Elaine Aron’s HSP assessment on Episode #25 of The Captain’s Pod, and that single night has been the catalyst for something greater.  The response to that episode was so positive that Brian immediately suggested I do my own segment.  I honestly was scared about the prospect of talking every week at first, and I did not want to accept his offer.  I thought about Susan Cain and Dr. Elaine Aron’s work, however, and I realized that their message wasn’t that introverts and HSP’s should shy away from what’s important to them.  

Introverts and sensitivebackground-paper-797284_640 people have a lot to say.  Even though our voice isn’t the majority, our voices need to be heard.  I am by no means a dynamic speaker.  I’m much better with written word than I am with spoken word.  I still get panic attacks sometimes prior to recording, and I break down in tears out of frustration when I feel my words recoiling or I struggle with making my point as I prepare for an episode.  There are times when I’d prefer not to talk, and I wish I still had that old Speak & Spell to communicate for me.  The difference now, however, is that I know it doesn’t matter if your voice shakes when you speak.  It doesn’t matter if you initially get everyone’s attention.  If you have a message, you have a voice.  I don’t want anyone to ever feel alone as that sad, silent six-year-old little girl using a Speak & Spell to talk for her, and that’s why I do this show.  Everyone’s voice matters, and sometimes all it takes is a gentle scream to shake the world.  I’m gently screaming, and it is liberating.

Thank you for finally being my audience.  I love you with all the feelz!

Here’s a link to episode #25 for those interested in listening to my first podcast! 

Author, Michelle Lynn, is a podcaster on The Captain’s Pod, and she creates content specifically for HSP’s, empaths, introverts, INFJ’s, and Myers-Briggs enthusiasts.  Her weekly podcast, HSP S.O.S. (Highly Sensitive Persons Supporting Our Sensitivity), can be found on The Captain’s Pod website, The HSP SOS website, and Facebook. Also connect with her on Twitter @hsp_sos.

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