Self Diagnosis

“You shouldn’t take things so personally.”

I’ve heard this phrase too many times in my lifetime. I always thought it was my fault for letting people get to me, maybe even a weakness that I had to work on. You see, I have this tendency to read the tiniest cues or facial expressions and sense someone’s emotions.

Happy? Great, I can make you happier.

Sad? Oh no! Let me help you in any way to make it better.

Annoyed, frustrated, angry? Okay, let me go into a dark room and cry because obviously I did something wrong.

“You’re reading too much into it,” they always tell me.

“They’re probably not angry at all. And definitely not at you.”

“Why would they hate you? You’re too sensitive. You’re just imagining it.”

And maybe I am imagining it. But maybe I’m not.

What I’ve been reading recently, however, has made me realize that I’m not the only one who is extremely sensitive. Apparently, it’s a thing.

Highly sensitive people, according to psychologist Elaine Aron, make up 20% of the population and have it in their genes to be highly aware and empathic. “The brains of HSPs actually work a little differently than others.”

No wonder “You’re weird,” is also a phrase I’ve heard over and over.

The more I read about the characteristics of these people, the more I discover I am most likely one of them.

1. You feel EVERYTHING.

Why, yes I do. Yesterday, I just so happened to cry watching a TV show where this girl gets attached to a dog she’s fostering and has trouble letting him go when a family wants to adopt him. I had to spend half an hour petting my cat to get over it.

2. You can often tell what someone’s feeling, or when something’s wrong with those you love.

Check. This is probably why I get frustrated when they can’t tell when something is wrong with me. You would think it would be mutual!

3. You tend to prefer exercising on your own.

YES. I can’t stand when people are there to watch me and judge me when I have to slow down or I can’t pick up that weight. The eyes. They’re everywhere!

4. Working on your own in general.

Yup. Ideally, I’d like to have my own office where I can work at my own pace and not have to deal with others who try to talk to me. Good thing I have this, for the most part.

5. You’re very polite.

Well, I do find myself saying thank you to everyone, even when they haven’t done anything. Telemarketers, thank you, even though you just called in the middle of my dinner. Friends and guests at a party, thank you, because you finally have started listening after twenty minutes of me trying to get you to please come over to the dinner table.

6. You’re a “people pleaser.”

Um, to the core. Is the thought of criticism terrible to me? Well, let’s think about that. Is the thought of being thrown into a pit of flesh-eating insects terrible? Well then.

I do things to make sure people don’t think I’m annoying, and then I go and ask them if I’m being annoying, which makes me wonder if I’m annoying them by asking.

7. It’s hard to say “no.”

You mean, that’s an option?

8. You take ages to make decisions, no matter how small.

“What do you want for dinner,” friends and family may ask. And I will start thinking over the question in my head, something like this.

Well, I don’t particularly want pizza, but I thought I heard so and so say she was craving pizza the other day. I sort of would like Mexican food, but I know so and so said he’s sick of eating burritos. I really don’t want Chinese food because I eat it every day, but everyone else seems to want to eat that, so okay, we’ll go with Chinese.

9. You’re incredibly observant.

If observing that someone’s lips curl derisively when I say I like Taylor Swift, or seeing someone else play with her nails in boredom as I start to talk about my week counts, then I guess so.

10. You’re a perfectionist.

The acne on my face from stress is evidence.

11. You tend to react more than most people.

I hate when the phone rings. So much so that sometimes, I will run to the next room to get away from it. No one else I know has this aversion.

12. You cry easily.

Now this one, I admit, is something I can hold back until I’m by myself. I don’t like crying in public because the thought of people asking if I’m all right stresses me out, and I don’t want to annoy or stress them out. But when I’m alone, yes, the tears, they fall like autumn leaves.

13. People often look down on you for your emotional tendencies and tell you not to take things so seriously.

See opening statement above.

14. But your loved ones take a different route.

So far, I don’t know what different route this speaks of.

15. You have a lower pain tolerance than most people you know.

The thought of a blood test is enough to make me faint.

16. You scare kind of easily.

NEVER tap me on the shoulder unless I know you’re there. I avoid scary or violent movies because I know I won’t sleep for weeks after I watch one. I also avoid watching the news.

17. No one really likes loud, annoying noises, but you hate them.

Well, does the phone ringing count?

18. You also hate bright, fluorescent lights.

I actually don’t mind them. I guess this is one that I managed to avoid.

19. You’re super creative.

Now, I don’t like to brag, but I have always preferred out of the box thinking. A pox on math, I say! If it were up to me, I’d spend all my hours writing and creating.

20. You’re not the only one in your family who’s highly sensitive.

It’s inherited?!! Well, I guess I can point a finger to my mom.

21. You struggle with taking care of your body.

Another one where I differ. I do go to the gym regularly. But I might skip meals if I’m too busy creating or writing. I just forget!

22. You tend to like things “before they’re cool.”

For the record, I fell in love with Taylor Swift in 2006.

Conclusion: Just because I appear to be a highly sensitive person doesn’t mean I’m trying to make excuses for myself. I know it’s an ongoing battle to develop some thicker skin and to stop caring so much what other people think.

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