Through years of self-discovery, and hours of googling, I’ve discovered that I am categorised as a ‘Highly Sensitive Person’.
Ouch – that quite literally (and logically) makes me feel even more sensitive than usual. I thought:
“Shit, do people see me as weak?”
“Do my friends have to watch what they say around me in case I burst out in tears?”
As Elena Herdieckerhoff quite comically puts it:
“the term sensitivity has a bad PR problem. When people think of sensitivity they think of toothache, irritated skin, wilted dandelions, and crying people”.
HSP’s are described as often having enhanced emotions, and a vivid inner world, which I totally connect with. As a bit of further context, Psychology Today say HSP’s are:
- Often overwhelmed when they have a lot to do [SO flipping true. As a Project Manager working in a busy agency, I have to really consciously make lists and tick them off one by one to remain calm about my workload]
- Often overwhelmed in noisy and chaotic environments [Growing up and going to University where the drinking culture is a 4/5 night occasion, I used to often feel out of place in a club with a big group of people downing shots. In hindsight, it was only until I was really drunk that the anxieties quietened down. What a way to live life ey?! With time I figured out what it was that made me feel overwhelmed and anxious in these situations and tailored my nights out to suit.]
- Often angry, when hungry. AKA ‘hangry’ [For anybody that knows me personally, I am the Queen of being hangry]
- Often deeply moved by arts and nature [This is a big one for me that’s certainly developed as I’ve grown older. At the moment, I am obsessed with being in parks/forests/gardens. I see the colours of nature through a super vivid lens – it’s mesmerizing]
- Often the first to recognise other people’s discomfort [I’d like to see this as a big advantage to being a HSP. I’ve always been good at identifying people’s emotions and I’m almost always compassionate/empathetic towards others, even when it’s nothing I can directly connect myself with]
- Often easily distressed by violent media [Scary films, violent films, Game of Thrones, even Jeremy Kyle… I can’t cope. I find myself getting really aggravated by the sounds and visual]
In light of this classification, I feel oddly comforted. I am able to give reasoning behind my feelings and actions.
Amongst the self-discovery, I’ve also been working on self-improvement. As a Project Manager a huge part of my role is being a professional ‘people person’. My day to day is about nurturing strong relationships with a huge range of personalities, which isn’t always easy. As such, I’ve become fascinated in Emotional Intelligence (EQ).
Intelligence quotient (IQ) is typically seen as the only measure of intelligence, but in recent studies suggestions have been made that state EQ might actually be more important.
As Daniel Goleman said:
“if your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.”
From all aspects of my life, I could not agree more.
Unlike IQ, EQ can be acquired and improved with practice. So for the past year I have been working hard using Travis Bradberry’s ‘Emotional Intelligence 2.0’ and other various EQ books to practice identifying my emotions and managing them accordingly.
EQ is divided up into 4 different competences:
- Social awareness
- Relationship management
As part of the ‘Emotional Intelligence 2.0’ book, you get instructed to do the EQ online test. This indicates how you’re currently doing with the above 4 competences. It then gives you bespoke instructions on how to improve in the different areas.
After working through the test I was surprised to see that I have slightly higher than average self-awareness and social awareness. But lower than average self-management and relationship management. Essentially, this means that I have clear awareness of myself and my surroundings. I am able to identify my emotions when they happen. However, the management of those feelings and my relationships need significant work.
In a nutshell, the practical advice to reflect my results were about learning to focus on my freedoms rather than my limitations. And to work on learning to breathe properly.
After time working on improving on my competences, I had to retake the test. This helped identify my progress on enhancing my EQ. I was then given updated advice to reflect my new results on how to keep developing and growing.
It feels almost too easy, right?
I thought so as well, until life happened. Situations arose where I felt overwhelmed, hangry, half way through watching the Pianist balling my eyes out, etc. etc.… A true HSP living up to the name. This is exactly how EQ 2.0 diagnosed me: great at the identification of my emotions, but a real struggle to manage them.
I started to make significant links between being a HSP and the struggle of managing my emotions and relationships. I saw people around me being awesome at managing their emotions. They could encounter a difficult situation, let it hit their limbic system (the emotional part of the brain) and wait (breathe…) and then define a beautifully rational reaction. But for me, I felt my strong emotional reaction to situations were often too intense to wait for the rational part of my brain to kick into action.
Which led me to question: Is it more difficult for HSP’s to have high EQ?
As already addressed, EQ is an exceptionally important skill to have in today’s world. It is a key ingredient for a successful personal and professional life. For HSP’s like myself, who suffer from overwhelm and overstimulation, handling emotions can be a challenge. However, I think addressing myself as a HSP has been a big step to recognizing its wonderful qualities and how I am able to use it to my advantage when it comes to improving on my overall EQ.
Us HSP’s nail being empathetic and understanding, and bring a sense of humanity and wisdom to social situations that other people can’t. It also means, because of the depth in our emotional range, we can find creative ways to create common ground with others – which is great when you’re a professional ‘people person’!
I wondered for a long time if people with lower levels of sensitivity benefited in distressing situations because they found it easier to switch off from their personal emotions, but now recognise that I can utalise what I’m good at and make it work to my advantage. I know I have so much more to gain from my EQ studies, and this is just the beginning of an exciting personal journey.
Can you identify yourself as a HSP? Or do you know anybody close to you that might be? Are you looking to improve on your emotional intelligence? I’d love to hear your thoughts! 🙂