Tuesday, August 02, 2022

HSPs, Responsibility, Conscientiousness... and Obligations

If you have ever completed Dr. Elaine Aron's "sensitivity self test," one of the items in the questionnaire reads "I am conscientious."

I suppose many people would like to think of themselves as conscientious, but HSPs seem to be especially so, sometimes to the point where it can start to feel like a burden, in some respects.

It is that burden aspect I want to touch on, today...

As part of ongoing self-awareness of what it means to be highly sensitive, we each have to learn where our potential "traps" exist. By traps, I mean the places where the attributes of our personality that feel natural to might end up causing us suffering in our engagement with the external world.

In looking back across my life, one of my "traps" has been my tendency to keep my promises and keep engaging in a certain activity even if it is no longer appreciated (or taken for granted), and it increasingly feels like a drag and obligation to keep going.

"Well, I promised I would... so I WILL keep  doing this, even though I wish I didn't have to!"

How often has that little voice spoken up, inside your head?

In time, I became aware that it is very easy for me to go from a place of happily volunteering to do something helpful — for another person, or an organization — to feeling like I have become trapped in something that now feels like an obligation... and offers me little of the joy I felt when I first got involved.

The "problem" is that there are many people in the greater world who discover that an HSP friend of theirs is super reliable and always does their best... something that can often be quite a rarity in our world!

And so, you might end up with a scenario like I have experienced a number of times, in which I was allegedly "temporary assistance" but because I have done an exemplary and efficient job — being "conscientious" — I seem to have become "permanented," without any conversation about it.

I volunteered to help out, not to take on a permanent obligation!

As I have aged, I have increasingly avoided responsibility, and tend to back away quietly, whenever someone needs help with some kind of project or problem. I do this because responsibility ends up feeling like an obligation pretty quickly, and in turn obligations soon enough leave me feeling overstimulated. 

In case you are wondering how and why... it's because the obligations feel frustrating, and frustration = overstimulation.

"But you used to be so nice and helpful!"

Sometimes I hear those words, and they definitely sting a bit! But then I also pause and consider the fact that when others classify me as "nice," what they are sometimes really saying is "you used to not have boundaries and I could walk all over you!"

It's no fun feeling like you are being used, and having healthy personal boundaries is an essential part of living a balanced life, as a highly sensitive person.

One of the better truisms I have heard along the way is this: "No is a complete sentence!"

Worth keeping in mind, as part of our self-awareness and setting of personal boundaries!

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