Being a highly sensitive person comes with both positives and negatives.
And I’m sure most of you are intimately familiar with the negatives. The sickening impact of chemical smells, bright lights, and irritating sounds. The fact that your stress response is triggered over a pin dropping. The burden of feeling other people’s feelings in your own body.
I could go on and on.
But the weird thing is that none of these most obvious negatives are the reason why my life as a highly sensitive person was going to hell in a handbasket.
My life was off kilter thanks to an HSP characteristic that gets talked about a lot less than our adverse reactions to wind up alarm clocks or scented garbage bags.
The HSP characteristic that has held me back and hurt me the most over the years is conscientiousness.
The penchant to do the right thing. To follow the rules. To cause no trouble. To please.
Conscientiousness may sound like a desirable quality, but that sucker has pretty near destroyed me.
How Being Highly Conscientious Has Hurt Me
1. Because I Was Conscientious, I Took On An Unreasonable Amount Of Responsibility At Work
I wanted so badly to do a good job that I went way beyond what was reasonable. Somehow I held myself responsible for the success of a whole company even though I was neither the owner nor the sole employee of said company. Putting in the over time and picking up other people’s slack got me the promotions and raises, but it also burned me out and majorly impaired my mental and physical health.
2. Because I Was Conscientious, I Went Along With Social Requests I Didn’t Have The Capacity For
I tried, oh, so hard to follow all the rules in my social life too.
Always be nice to people. Always accept invitations. Always be willing to help.
Never upset anyone.
Never say no.
Even if you’re tired. Even if you’re not feeling like it. Even if you’re an introvert and you can’t remember the last time you had a moment to yourself.
Never. Say. No.
3. Because I Was Conscientious, I Followed other people’s Advice Even When It Didn’t Make Me Feel Better
By the time I’d been following All The Rules for working and socializing long enough that my health was in the gutter, I kept up the rule following at the doctor’s office.
Always showed up for my appointments on time. Always filled the prescriptions.
Never questioned their expertise. Never sought second opinions. Never asked what the point was of taking all these medications if they weren’t actually making me feel better me.
All This Rule Following Kept Me From Giving Myself What I Needed As A Sensitive Person
You know what? Even though I’m as sensitive as I’ve ever been, my life doesn’t feel like non-stop struggle anymore.
And that’s because I went against my nature in one area, so that I could live in alignment with my nature in others.
I quit the rule following so that I could create the kind of life that a highly sensitive person can thrive in. Conscientious no more!
I still work and try to do a good job, but I don’t adhere to other people’s unrealistic schedules or pick up anybody else’s slack anymore.
I still socialize, but only with people I authentically connect with and only when I feel up to it.
I still seek health advice, but from a much broader field of experts and I only stick with the advice if it actually makes me feel better.
And in general, I do what I need to do to accommodate my sensitive self.
Unbound by other people’s rules, expectations, or “the way it’s always been done”.
I avoid the shit out of all the overstimulating irritants that the non-HSP world tries to shove in my face (scented trash bags!). I avoid the shit out of aggressive and inconsiderate people. I avoid the shit out of busyness and overcommitment and unreasonable deadlines.
In the inevitable cases when stress really can’t be avoided, I have learned what to do to calm my nervous system.
And with that, the whole sensitivity thing just becomes kind of a non-issue.
Something I am.
Something I can reap the benefits of.
But not that big of a deal.
Because I follow my own rules only.
The ones that help me feel well. 🙂