The Highly Sensitive Extrovert
I see a lot of articles and books these days geared to the HSP – highly sensitive person. Usually it’s assumed that these sensitive individuals are natural introverts.
Yet—I’ve had to wonder about that.
As a clear ENFJ on the Meyers Briggs scale, I know that I’m an extrovert. I don’t need a personality test to understand this. I get energized when I’m around people…. as long as it’s not too many people.
Put me in a small group, or even just one other person and my brain perks up. I get excited about sharing ideas, insights, and it seems I’m better at brainstorming. I become animated and vivacious, when I may have been dragging my butt around the house before I came out to this get-together. And I like parties. Although I prefer to go deep in conversations, small talk doesn’t bother me.
So, yeah. Extrovert.
And yet…all though childhood I’d hear the words, “You’re just too sensitive!”
Although I longed to join the groups of kids playing I was usually too shy to approach them. I talked about all this in another blog years ago, shortly after I took the Meyers Briggs test. But at that point I hadn’t considered the ‘highly sensitive’ aspect.
Five minutes in a shopping mall or a big box store and I begin to break a sweat. My breathing shallows and all the energy drains from my body. All I can think about is how soon can I get out of here.
As a teenager and young adult I thought there was something wrong with me because I’d get so uncomfortable at big concerts and music shows. The sheer volume of people with their accompanying emotions assaulted my psyche. The only way I could enjoy these was to medicate myself with the all-to-available mind altering substances. (I wonder if that’s why drugs are so popular at rock shows?)
I may be an extrovert, but I also fit many of the criteria for an HSP!
Is this possible? Yes!
It turns out that 30% of extroverts are highly sensitive! I was gratified to discover this article in Psychology Today, although it doesn’t offer that many coping tips. Yet it reassured me to realize that this combination of extroversion and sensitivity is not that unusual.
There’s a lot more to say on this. And a lot of questions.
Do highly sensitive extroverts share specific sensitivities? Do childhood experiences affect one’s sensitivity, or do we just come in this way? How close are highly sensitive extroverts to actually being introverts?
And—most importantly, what strategies can highly sensitive extroverts use to enjoy being out in the world and being their extroverted selves, without getting depleted to the point that they feel like they’ve been run over by a truck by the time they get home?
I’ll be gathering information and sharing any solutions I find in a future post.
Do YOU feel like you’re a highly sensitive extrovert? Or, are you an HSP that tends toward extroversion? How do you handle it? What questions do you have about this unique personality combination?
Please share in the comments!