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The Double Life of a Highly Sensitive Extrovert

·480 words·3 mins
Psychology Relationships Research

I read a book about a decade ago that changed a lot of how I view myself and others. It’s very popular, and I’ve been meaning to write about it for some time. It’s called The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You, and it’s by researcher Elaine Aron.

The book is a great read, and I recommend it. Here are a few key takeaways from the book (and Aron’s research):

  • About 15% to 20% of people are highly sensitive. This means it’s not the norm — but it’s not rare.
  • Highly sensitive people are easily overwhelmed by stimuli but also more aware of nuances because their brains process information a little differently.
  • The personality trait seems to be innate. It’s been found not just in humans but in many other animal species.
  • Depending on the culture, being highly sensitive can be prized or something that holds you back — as others are quick to tell you “don’t be so sensitive.”
  • As would be expected, most highly sensitive people are introverts. But 30% of highly sensitive people are extroverts.

I am an extroverted highly sensitive person. My entire life, I have been quick to tears, moved easily by things I find beautiful or wondrous, and obsessed with small nuances and intricacies in a way that sometimes confounds other people.

I’m also outgoing, friendly, and talkative.

The Double Life of a Highly Sensitive Extrovert

How does this work? Well, it’s really freaking stressful sometimes. Because my natural way of dealing with the world is putting myself out there and being socially brave and taking risks — however, if and when things go sideways, I get my feelings hurt quite easily.

And like practically every other highly sensitive person with a trauma history, I have anxiety.

My major life quest has been learning how to balance these two sides of myself. The bold, outgoing half that strives to connect with other people — and the inner half that has such a tender heart.

It is a double life, for sure. Never quite sure how well I do. But I have good people in my life and a lot I’m grateful for, so the overall general trend has been up.

Part of how I’ve made meaning out of it is trying to write work that resonates most powerfully with other sensitive people. I do that every day here on my blog of course. But it’s also something I’m doing as I’ve started writing fiction (all three of the detectives in my slipstream mystery Psychic City are highly sensitive — but show it and deal with it in different ways).

But it’s there in all of my work. Kind of like my secret mission, what drives me. I’m always trying to let other sensitive people know that even though some days it feels like it — you aren’t alone.


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