Are you a highly sensitive extrovert? Although it’s more common to be an introverted highly sensitive person (HSP), you are certainly not alone. I’m delighted to introduce you to Alison (The Little Blog Of Positivity), who’s guest blogging today to share her tips to help you find balance as a highly sensitive extrovert.
I only recently discovered that not only am I an extrovert but that I also have the traits of a highly sensitive person.
I’ve known that I’m an extrovert for some time. I trained to be a Myers Briggs practitioner a few years ago. As part of the training, you go deep into an exploration of your ‘type’ (I’m an ESFJ).
A number of times during this exploration, I questioned whether I was indeed an extrovert.
After much soul-searching, I concluded that I most definitely was. Let me tell you a few reasons why.
I have to restrain myself from jumping in too quickly and talking over you.
Although I gravitate towards one-to-one or small group conversations, equally I will the one dancing on the tables at a party!
I’m also fine with my own company, but after a day or so I need to chat with someone and share my experiences.
I identify strongly with the traits of being an extrovert, so it’s always confused me that I also find too long with people exhausting.
After discovering the work of Elaine Aron, at last it makes perfect sense to me!
We Are Rare
There’s an assumption that those with the traits of a highly sensitive person are also introverts.
A lot of what is written about HSPs reads this way. Elaine Aron points out that around 30% of HSPs are actually extroverts.
This makes us pretty rare! In fact, we make up less than 6% of the population.
The Benefits of Being A Highly Sensitive Extrovert
It’s a fine balancing act between social interaction and overwhelm and can sometimes feel like walking a tightrope! There are, however, many benefits of being a highly sensitive extrovert.
One of my personal favourites is I love travelling and going to places on my own!
Of course, I also enjoy visiting new places with family and friends, but I’m 100% at home doing this by myself.
I’ve never understood why none of my friends really get this. They’ll say things like “Oo, I could never do that, you’re very brave” or “won’t you be lonely?”
That’s if they aren’t looking at me like I have two heads when they ask “who did you go with?” and I answer “by myself”.
I do stuff like this all the time. For example, I recently went to Brighton for a weekend by myself. Ok, so I had a purpose for going as I was on a course (I’m training to become a Life Coach).
It was a beautiful sunny weekend and in the downtime from the course, I wandered along the seafront. I watched people, I sat in a bar by the sea and I went for dinner by myself.
I even went to this fabulous attraction, the upside-down house on my own.
The whole point of this particular experience was to take photos and then flip them the other way up. I simply asked the staff to do this for me with absolutely no qualms.
Other adventures I’ve been on in the past include going to the theatre by myself and a trip to Barcelona to immerse myself in learning Spanish.
I feel lucky and blessed to be able to do this!
Some of the other upsides to being a highly sensitive extrovert include:
- I’ll pick up on the person who is feeling uncomfortable in a group and help them to feel better
- I’m told that I’m warm and friendly
- I believe I’m caring and kind
- People come to me for advice
- I love working in a group or team
- Although I might interrupt you, I’m acutely aware that I’ve done it and will stop!
- I can talk to strangers easily (and they’ll tell me their life story!)
- I find that I can drop toxic relationships pretty easily (although I might feel a bit bad about it)
The Tough Bits
Elaine Aron talks about there being two different types of HSP – those who are in danger of being too inwards and those who are too ‘out’. I’m definitely in the out category!
The biggest challenge of being a highly sensitive extrovert is getting the balance right. Sometimes it can feel like walking on a tightrope.
Let me explain further from my own experience. Too little social interaction and I start to feel a bit antsy. Too much and I can quickly become overwhelmed and need to leave!
I’ve also questioned my stamina and resilience in the past. Why can’t I do the long hours that my colleagues do? (Actually, why would I want to? Life’s too short….)
Very often I will feel completely drained by the middle of the afternoon regardless of how much sleep I had the night before.
I’ve now realised that resilience is a very different thing to the exhaustion I feel through overstimulation. I am resilient and tough as I bounce back from setbacks quickly. It’s simply that I feel the emotion from setbacks and upsets extremely deeply!
I crave new experiences although I can find it hard. For example, although I enjoy travelling to new places, it also quickly exhausts me.
Putting myself out there is something I enjoy but also make me more prone to being hurt by criticism.
Ultimately though, I find that if I can push past the exhaustion then new experiences are incredibly rewarding
Another issue is being acutely aware of my extroversion. I worry that I’m too loud and that I’m annoying people!
OK so maybe I’m a bit paranoid, but I pick up signs that my loudness is grating on others sometimes! Or I will simply feel too loud and too much and get a bit self-conscious.
Finally, I have to be careful with the company I keep. It’s not always possible to avoid them, but being around negative people quickly drains me. Equally being around happy people can lift me up so high that I soar!
How To Cope
How do you reconcile being an extrovert with being an HSP?
I think acceptance is important. Accepting that you will become drained and tired relatively quickly and not beating yourself up about it is the first step.
I always have an escape plan from social situations and will rarely agree to attend something where I can’t come and go on my terms. For example, I will always make my own way to events and make sure I’m not relying on others to get me home.
It’s also important to build in plenty of self-care activity. Even if you can only manage 10 minutes here and there, plan in those 10-minute slots and what you are going to do during them.
Things I love include:
- Taking a hot bath
- Getting out in nature
- Reading a chapter of a book
I also find it important to eat and drink as healthily as I can. Sensitivity to sugar, caffeine or over-processed food can really affect my mood. It’s also important for all HSPs to try to get enough sleep.
Another thing I’ve found has helped me hugely recently is music.
Like many HSPs I feel the music deeply. It lifts my mood and is like a form of meditation for me. I never understood why my husband looked at me as if I was mad when I talked about ‘music goosebumps!’
Now I get it.
Being A Highly Sensitive Extrovert Is Fun But Exhausting!
In summary, being a highly sensitive extrovert can be exhausting and fun in equal measures!
Now I’m aware that I have this rare combination of traits I’m finding it easier to be a bit kinder and accepting of myself.
I love the benefits it brings, particularly finding solo travel pretty easy and that I can talk to people and make them feel comfortable.
I’d love to hear from other highly sensitive extroverts. Does any of what I’ve said resonate with you? Do you experience any benefits or issues I’ve not mentioned? What are your strategies for balancing on this tightrope?!
Guest Blogger: The Little Blog of Positivity
Alison is the founder of The Little Blog Of Positivity where she shares all she has learned on the topics of personal growth, self-improvement and health and well-being.
For tons of practical tips for living life to the full, visit Alison at littleblogofpositivity.com.