I don’t know if I could make it as a ‘normal’ person. I sincerely don’t think I could work a 40+ hour/week office job, raise kids, maintain my home, nurture a romantic relationship and keep up social ties. My nervous system begs for calm. I do everything so deeply and with such conscientiousness, I believe I would crack forcing myself to do what most others do.
This is where I struggle with my sensitivity and introversion. So many people place a high value on working with others, working hard, making money and achieving. Stress is a badge of honor that proves you are playing the part.
I should be able to do all of those things and deal with stress because most people do.
But I can’t.
How I am
Stress, in my opinion, comes from the relentless pursuit of rewards and accomplishments without space between objectives to rest, reflect and think of new possibilities.
The threshold for overwhelm is lower for sensitive people. Our inner worlds and nervous systems are so active that outer stimulation has to be moderated to prevent overloaded circuits. I easily get derailed from productivity by emotions, confrontation and stimulation.
For example, my emotions sabotaged five hours of my time today. Financial discussions with my former husband triggered old baggage. I had to work through the feelings, frustrations and finally actual dollars, before I could move on. Such loaded discussions and my reactions to them, use up valuable time I could be working (writing, reading, thinking, coaching, building relationships) and the psychological energy drain affects other vital relationships.
Confrontation goes against my core need to have good rapport within all of my relationships. Intellectually, I know that is an unrealistic goal and I should not base my happiness or identity on other’s feelings about me. I even know confrontation makes you grow, but my intuition and heart say my intellect is not as important as how I feel —which is shitty when there is disharmony in my life. Confrontation stultifies me to a degree that is beyond that of the average person.
I tried to be like everybody else but it didn’t work
I tried to lead the typical life. I worked in offices in administrative positions for almost ten years. This was fine overall because I met good people and had minimal responsibilities outside of work.
I juggled family, home, marriage and social obligations for ten years after that. I played the must be busy, must host dinner and birthday parties, must have the best swimming lessons, summer camps and lattes, game. I was as stereotypically suburban housewife as mini-vans and McMansions.
This pushed me over the tipping point. I began to flail as a partner and parent. I was anxiety-ridden and low energy. My nervous system and inner voice spoke loudly to me in the dark. “Nothing is feeding me, only feeding off of me.”
I had to exit the rat race and join the outsiders club. I had to rest away from people, reflect on what I was really accomplishing and think of ways I could be true to myself and love my family.
Relationship therapist Jayson Gaddis says, “Shoulds limit your alignment and progress. Shoulds are for those who do not want to put in the effort to know themselves and for those afraid to reject social norms.”
I was ready to live free of ‘shoulds’.
Not a typical job
I created my job. Now I write about introversion and high sensitivity, topics many don’t feel comfortable with or understand. I write from home by myself rather than go for another cubicle job with group conferences and thousands of daily interruptions. Some days I don’t leave my house and although it feels a little weird, I’m OK with that. I coach others similar to me about how to leverage their gifts and rise to their greatest potential. I don’t have a big salary but I feel aligned with myself when I coach and write. I prefer autonomy and alignment to security and widely-accepted.
Not a typical mom
I savor and enjoy the time to myself when the kids are with their dad. To ‘normal’ parents that might seem selfish or non-maternal. Unlike many moms who are sad when their kids are not with them, I need that time to become whole again. A bubble bath or nail appointment is not going to be enough for me. I need hours of nourishing alone or relationship time to get me back to center. My inner world has to be accessed and fed. I need kid-free time in order to be a ‘typical’ child-focused mom when they return.
I may not be a regular mom but I know I am a good mom. I parent my kids with love and extra doses of deep connection. I may not offer to be the snack parent for the football team or live to host mass sleepovers but I do spend real quality time listening and learning with my kids. I make them put down their electronics and tell me something good that happened that day. I get behind them when they share aspirations or disappointments. We watch “The Twilight Zone” together rather than shuttling back and forth between sports or activities. We linger around the family dinner table most nights.
I believe I have strong, positive relationships with my kids not based on achievement and constant doing, but more based on who we are. I want to know who they are on the inside. I make it a point to try to see things from each of their perspectives. I am learning to not take it personally when their views differ from mine. With my Myers Briggs knowledge, I strive to help them appreciate the varied personality types within our little clan.
This too shall pass
From experience, I am getting better at working through emotions. Frequent exposure to confrontation and exasperation has helped me become better at speaking more directly and assertively, which lends an element of closure to the emotional flood. I’ve had more practice naming and expressing my feelings and values. When you’ve used all your ‘nice language’ and you are at your wit’s end, you learn how to get to the point.
I’ve learned how to create and enforce boundaries that protect my relaxed state. I give myself time to think about things. I don’t feel the sense of urgency to respond to emotional vampires that I used to.
These practices were the only way I found to get through my negative feelings faster and move on to resolution and clarity. Growth is hard!
Despite the need to be atypical — and the alienated feeling that can cause, I am content most of the time. I love my job. It fulfills me. I love my kids. They offer meaningful experiences and relationships. I know I am not alone in my need to rest, reflect and dream between action steps. There is an outsiders club and I adore the other outsiders that make me feel at ease.
What do you trade in order to be relaxed and satisfied? Are you able to own your personality type? Do others accept your ‘abnormality’?
If you are interested in learning how to live freely and successfully as a sensitive introvert, contact me for personal encouragement, challenges and support.