Sunday, October 13, 2013

HSPs and Healing: What we Support and Believe in

Recently, I've been reading about HSPs and values... and what it means to walk our talk, even though it may be a difficult path to stay true to ourselves, in the face of a world that often wants to diminish or invalidate anyone who calls themselves "sensitive."

In this case, I am not just referring to personal values like "do not steal" or "do not hurt someone," but staying true to ourselves in the sense of honestly pursuing our interests and passions (and not hiding them!) even though it seems like almost nobody else seems even remotely aware of-- or interested in-- those interests.

It seems to me that one of the things that often cause us to abandon our truth is the tendency to compare our choices with things and people outside ourselves. We compare ourselves to others, or to ideals, or even to societal stereotypes and our genuine preferences suddenly seem so far away from the norm that we start to question ourselves.

Metaphorically speaking, it's like everyone else's favorite foods are things like "steak" or "ice cream" or "garlic bread" and our favorite food is the slivered dried root of some plant nobody has ever heard of. And whereas that is our genuine and authentic preference, we might start saying that our favorite food is "ice cream" just so we won't feel quite so alienated from those around us, and to perhaps avoid awkward blank stares and potential eyerolls.

As a writer, I tend to write for fairly esoteric specialty fields. Suffice it to say that writing articles about HSPs and life as a highly sensitive person is the most mainstream writing I do. Most of my other writing goes to niche hobby fields where the entire potential global audience might number fewer than 10,000 people. For example, I write about collecting sea glass. I also write about labyrinths and I write about stamp collecting. One topic/interest I write about has a potential global audience of perhaps no more than 200-300 people.

At times, I have felt pressured-- and this is pressure I largely have put on myself-- to write more mainstream things, in service of feeling more like I fit in. But writing reviews of smartphones, or travel guides to Cancun is not my truth and I would be abandoning my essential values if I were to choose to choose that path. But it's tempting-- in a not very healthy way-- because people seem excited when I tell them I am a writer, but then seem disappointed when I share what I write about.

The "staying true" dilemma can have other wrinkles, as well. From time to time, I have considered writing more mainstream articles because I wrestle with the issue of money: Do I write something "normal" and get paid for it, or do I write "my truth" and remain uncompensated because such writing may have spiritual value or practical value, but no commercial value? Which path must I take?

It is a common issue among HSPs that we struggle to feel good about ourselves if we don't live authentic lives yet-- for many of us-- true authenticity involves a substantial element of "being different." As such, authenticity can be a double-edged sword because we feel good for being authentic, but less good because that authenticity is sometimes-- or often-- met with skepticism and resistance.

Even if the words are not spoken directly, the feedback we get from the world sometimes contains a hidden subtext of "Oh, I'd sort of hoped you were doing something more normal."

Ouch.

Many HSPs-- whether we openly acknowledge it, or not-- carry around an assortment of "wounds" we're trying to heal. These wounds often are some variation on the theme of feeling marginalized because of who we are.

My experience has been that standing up for our true selves, our true beliefs and the ideas and projects we truly believe in can offer tremendous healing when it comes to past hurts, even if our choices are-- perhaps-- not always welcomed in the greater sense of the term. Stated simply, the healing benefits of true authenticity outweigh the negatives of occasionally feeling like we're terribly misunderstood.

Some folks bring up the issue of self-esteem in this context... and it took me many years to understand that the core of self-esteem is the word "self." Certainly, we can't help by be influenced by the world around us... but it is SELF-esteem, not "what others think of me esteem" we're needing to develop. That was a difficult lesson for me, and I believe it is difficult for most HSPs.

In the end, though, we must stay true to what we support and believe in, if we truly wish to heal. That much needed self-esteem comes when we embrace the Inner Knowing that WE are doing "the right thing," regardless of what everyone else thinks.

So the Question of the Week becomes this: Do you stay true to what you believe in? Do you openly support the "causes" that matter to you, or do you hide them, in service of "not sticking out?" For starters, are you open about being an HSP? If "no," why are you hiding?

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