Growing up in Austria, I often heard people making fun of the way people in the south of my province Styria, speak. In my mind, making fun of them separated us, believing that we Northerners are better and different. I never thought too much about it, until I moved to another province. Suddenly, I was the one with the weird accent, the one that was different, the one that stood out. During that time I became aware of how we Austrians make fun of how other Europeans spoke German.
Two years later I moved to Canada. Again I was the one who had a different accent. When I heard anyone who sounded like they spoke German, I would speak with them. This time I didn’t care if they were from Austria, Germany, Switzerland or Liechtenstein. I was just so happy to speak German. That got me thinking. First I had seen myself as someone from the North of my province, then as a Styrian, and Austrian and then a European.
Years later, I learned that I was a highly sensitive person. I suddenly felt like I had discovered a super power. I felt superior to non HSPs, I thought I was more sensitive, more aware of my environment, that I had a deeper understanding of the world, that I have a wider range of emotions. The funny thing is, that before I learned this and had a label for who I was, I always thought of those things as a negative. I felt too sensitive, too naive, too emotional. I had felt isolated, weird and different. Suddenly, I belonged to this exclusive group and that made me feel special, superior to people who were not as sensitive.
I had been made fun of, ridiculed and dismissed because I was very sensitive, emotional and opinionated. Later, I judged people who were different, who weren’t as sensitive. I couldn’t see that it was just a difference, that neither was better or worse. I separated myself in order to feel better about myself.
We artificially separate ourselves in our thinking from other people. We tend to put labels like HSP, extrovert or introvert on ourselves and others in order to name and understand who we are. There is nothing wrong with categorizing things in order to understand nuances and differences.
Learning more about being a highly sensitive person helps me to understand myself better. It explains why I react certain ways. It also helps me to understand my family and friends better. Sometimes I wish that I could shrug off things easily. However, when I experience overwhelming joy and delight, I am grateful for the depth of my feelings.