I used to think I was incapable and defective.
I realize that sounds extreme, but let me tell you a story to illustrate why.
A number of years ago I was visiting a friend in Vancouver who was undeniably cool.
One morning we went to this totally hipster restaurant for breakfast. I felt frumpy just walking in the door, but it was one of my friend’s favorite spots.
The atmosphere was crazy—all assaultive bright colors and pulsing music. My food was tasty, but conversation was difficult because I couldn’t hear beyond the booming bass.
Finally we were done, but as we walked up to the front to pay, I was feeling overwhelmed. I just wanted to get out of there.
It was my turn to pick up the tab, so I reached into my purse to get my wallet and along with it came a grocery store veggie bag that I’d stashed for picking up dog poop when I was at home. Embarrassing. I quickly shoved it into my coat pocket hoping my friend and the cashier hadn't noticed.
Then I inserted my credit card and the directions were all in French. I don’t speak French, but even Canadians who don’t speak French have enough skills to do a transaction.
I was thrown for a loop though, plus the French was all blurry because I didn’t have my glasses on and didn’t want to dig in my bag to find them lest I pull out other crazy stuff.
I kind of checked out at that point. I think I just froze and stared blankly at the screen for a while.
I was jolted out of my stupor by my friend saying, Are you OKAY? in a tone that clearly indicated I was not acting okay. I mean, come on. I was simply paying for breakfast, not discovering a cure for cancer or something. It shouldn’t be this hard, I remember thinking.
How that ended, I don’t know. I’ve blocked the memory because I was mortified. I think my friend may have clicked the right things and pointed out where to sign like I was an idiot.
Maybe you can see how I felt incapable and defective.
What I know now is that everyone has an “optimal level of arousal”. This is the sweet spot where we’re mentally stimulated by external stuff in just the right amount to be to be engaged and at our best.
If there’s less stuff going on we’re bored and disconnected, and if there’s more then we feel overwhelmed, confused, out of control.
Each person has a unique arousal level that’s right for them. People who are highly sensitive, who take in more stimuli and process it more deeply, need much less stimulation than those who have a higher level of arousal and need more to be in their sweet spot.
Relishing a high level of arousal would describe my cool Canadian friend.
Going back to my story, you can see that as a Highly Sensitive Person my optimal level of arousal was doomed in the Vancouver breakfast joint.
Just walking in the place I channeled my dorky inner middle schooler and then the high level of noise and visual stimulation of the colors zapped me. I couldn’t even carry on a normal conversation because I couldn’t hear over the din.
I felt like a fool because everyone else seemed to be enjoying themselves just fine in there and then was further embarrassed by pulling out the poop bag and not being able to decipher the credit card screen. Highly Sensitives also are very tuned into what others think of them, so being judged as ‘not okay’ was another strike.
And so I did what every good HSP does when overwhelmed: I shut down and stopped functioning.
What I know now is that this doesn’t make me incapable and defective like I once thought. It means that in an environment that’s a good match for me I thrive. Now I know that choosing my surroundings to be a good fit is as essential as eating food or picking exercise that’s right for my body. (A three-cheese pasta-eating marathoner I am not!)
So, I’m not defective, but I am different than 80-85% of the population, since HSPs make up just 20% of all people. Add introversion to that and it’s more like 15% of us in that camp. What this means is that most of the world doesn't understand what you experience every day and that many public places are not designed for your optimal level of arousal.
What I help women in my Welcome Home to Your Self program do is understand that different doesn’t mean defective. That knowing how to make choices that are right for you is a strength, not a weakness.
Once you understand the ins and outs of the highly sensitive nervous system that you were born with you can begin setting your life up for success.
Without guilt. Without apologies. Without feeling like there’s something wrong with you.
Because there is NOTHING wrong with you.
You’ve just being trying to fit your nervous system into a world that caters to a different kind of nervous system. And it doesn’t work.
You’re always going to feel like you don’t fit in if you’re trying to live in that Vancouver breakfast hot spot. It’s just not your kind of place.
Come and find out how to create the kind of place that's just right for you. Start feeling like you fit in your life and your life fits you.
This doesn’t mean you have to move to an island and live by yourself. I’ll teach you how to make it work in your home with your family, in your workplace with your co-workers, in your social life with your friends. It’s all doable, you just need to have the skills, tools, and mindset to choose and set it up for success.
But listen, registration closes this weekend so we can begin together next week. I only offer this program once a year, September to May, so this is your opportunity to create a life over the next 9 months that works so well for you that you never feel like a nerd in a hipster joint.
I’m so excited to show you how to take the baby steps to do this! I love liberating Sensitive Introverts from feeling defective! Truly.
One of the participants from last year had this to say:
Before this program I rather thought something was wrong with me. I was constantly questioning myself, the overthinking, the need for solitude, the challenges in social contexts, etc. I gained a lot of knowledge and understanding about myself. Although I wouldn’t say I made complete and utter peace with myself, I am more aware of WHY I am who I am and HOW I can accept and support myself better. Also, I am more capable of seeing challenges and problems not so much as roadblocks anymore, but as a chance to grow. — Christine in Wilmette, IL
I invite you to click below to check out the program. Remember, registration closes this weekend and spaces are filling. You’ll need to quiet that voice that’s saying “I don’t know it this is a good idea!” and make a decision to support your well-being.
And I promise we’ll unpack and deal with that voice of caution and worry that’s always keeping you from doing things right away in the program!