Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Self-worth and the opinions of others

Small study, big results

As part of my life coaching course I was asked to create a questionnaire to test self-perception in terms of how this impacts on life satisfaction. The questionnaire had to have 20 statements and a scoring system for each statement from ‘strongly agree’ to ‘strongly disagree’. I then had to send out the questionnaire to five or more people and analyse the results.

I was a bit sceptical at first. Surely, in creating such a questionnaire one would need to do a certain amount of research beforehand, in order to develop questions that really focus on the area you wish to test? I felt like I was coming up with my statements pretty much at random and I wondered if they would work. Some of my question statements were:

  • When I have to do something in front of other people, I mess up.
  • A person should be able to figure out their own problems and not have to ask for help.
  • Some people are simply better off alone.
  • I’m nothing special, I don’t have much to offer someone.
  • When you reach a certain age, there’s not much you can do to change your life.
  • If you’re not born with natural talent, there really isn’t much point in trying to learn a new skill.
  • In the end, it really comes down to luck, whether you succeed in life.

Unexpected results

I was actually amazed by the results. I sent the questionnaire to friends and family, so I know the people who responded.

The thing that really struck me was, how those persons with the strong self-perceptions seemed to correlate directly with their personalities – the more extroverted and outgoing, the stronger the self-perception. Those with the lowest scores were the quiet, sensitive introverts. Even in this small sample it is evident that there is definite a link between personality/temperament/sensitivity and self-perception. The important note to make here, is that having a quiet/introvert/sensitive personality does not cause low self-image. The link I am pointing out, is the influence that, believing one has the 'wrong' personality type, has on self-image.

There have been many studies that show that those with introvert personalities, in an extroverted society tend to have a lower self-image. It is commonly known. Perhaps what surprised me, however, is just how strong this link is. I wasn’t expecting to see the parallel so evident in such a small sample. And this little exercise has turned out to be quite profound and serves to reinforce my reasons for writing this blog and for wanting to become a life coach to help introverts and highly sensitive people break their conditioning and see themselves as truly valid and valuable people.

Society influences self-image

Self-image comes from how one perceives oneself and how others perceive one. If the majority perceives an individual as weak, of low worth and flawed, then despite the individual’s inner self-esteem they may feel forced to lower their own self-image and this in turn becomes conditioned. So that even when others’ perception of them may have changed, they will still perceive themselves as weak, of low worth and flawed.

Our society is biased towards, praises and encourages the extroverts, the outgoing types, the A-type personalities and undervalues, belittles and even bullies the quiet, introverted minority. It’s no surprise then, that introverts/sensitives tend to have a lower self-image.

You can change your self-image with self-understanding – ‘different’ does not mean ‘not normal’

I completed my survey myself, just out of interest and as a ‘control’ study and was interested to see that my self-perception score was 73 – 21 being the lowest possible score and 105 being the highest. This was interesting because I consider myself as an ultra-introvert and highly sensitive person, so I would expect my score to have been much lower in line with the other introverts in my sample – if I had done the questionnaire in my teens/early twenties, it certainly would have been. However, I have spent the last 20 years essentially ‘self-coaching’ myself through reading about personality types, temperament and sensitivity and in the process came to understand why I’m different and improved my own self-perception in that I see myself as quite normal and not inferior or flawed.

It’s all just a matter of opinion

Eleanor Roosevelt said, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." I struggled with this statement when I was a teen – I tried to withhold my consent, but when everyone tells you that you’re inferior, it’s hard not to believe them.  So let me say this, "Inferiority is a matter of opinion, and opinion is exactly that – an opinion; there is no right or wrong opinion. Don’t let the opinion of others define you, no matter how many share that opinion."

The danger of believing the opinions of others

Not only am I an introvert and highly sensitive, but I also have a condition that causes me to suffer from headaches. I went all through my childhood and teens complaining about the headaches to my parents, teachers and various family doctors. They were always brushed off as 'just stress', 'hormone changes' 'being unfit' and simply 'all in the head'. And so I became conditioned to believe that I was over-reacting, that what I was experiencing was nothing out of the ordinary since 'everyone gets headaches', and so by the time I reached adulthood I stopped complaining and simply accepted chronic pain as normal.

Finally, when I was 35 after a particularly hard bang to the head when I knocked against a shelf, my headaches intensified to excruciating and I visited yet another doctor who finally took me seriously and sent me off to a specialist. I was quickly diagnosed and underwent minor brain surgery several months later. This condition is usually picked up in childhood, but because I was seen an 'overly sensitive' child, my pleas for help were seen as dramatic ploys for attention. So, again, I reiterate - believe in yourself - believing the opinions of others may not only damage your self-worth but may even put your health at risk.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

What an eventful fortnight

It started with Elaine Aron’s public lecture at The Paramount in Wellington on Saturday, 2nd November. From the initial 80 tickets that went on sale (and the organisers doubted they would sell even that many) over 400 people attended. What a fantastic turn-out! Elaine’s interview on Radio New Zealand certainly helped to get the word out.

A pity though, that the event didn’t run too smoothly. I am sure the sheer numbers overwhelmed everyone including the organisers and technical problems with the sound system didn’t help. Still, it was a very worthwhile event for getting people talking about sensitivity in New Zealand and I congratulate the organisers for making it happen.

Next, as I mentioned in my valuing quiet staff post, I attended Janine Ramsey’s Sensitivity Style workshop on Monday the 3rd. It was a fantastic morning. Being the overly-punctual person that I am, I arrived early and was lucky enough to get a place at the same table as Elaine. It was wonderful seeing her again, and she remembered me from my attendance at the 2006 Walker Creek gathering.

The Sensitivity Style model is still in its infancy and it was wonderful to be part of the test group and to provide feedback and ideas for further refining of the content. It was very useful to me as it added another layer to what I understand of temperament and personality as it explored the influence of the trait of sensation seeking.

A day later, I published my blog post 16 Things, which the Facebook group Introverts Are Awesome shared with their followers and led to it becoming something of a viral hit, well to me anyway – it’s had over 17,000 views so far, way more than I ever imagined it might get and a huge response for someone way down under in New Zealand! I’ve really been touched by the many heartfelt comments it received and encouraged to keep going on this path.

To that end, over the weekend I enrolled in an online life coaching course. I have come a long way on my own path of self-discovery and, from my many years of coming to terms with being bullied and searching for answers for what made me different, I want to help other people who struggle with the same issues. Simply understanding what makes you different and having someone to validate you that you ARE normal, can make all the difference.

Also, it’s time for me to change my own life. I’m tired of the corporate job, the noise, the stress and office politics. I’m now ready to pursue my calling and to develop a lifestyle that is more in tune with my quiet nature and boosts my well-being rather than diminishing it.

So I hope you will join me as I work towards a lifestyle that works for me, and I hope that you too, will be inspired to find a lifestyle that works for you.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

16 Things You Should Never Say to, or About an Introvert/Highly Sensitive Person

1.  She’s too quiet! This is really a matter of viewpoint, isn’t it?  From a quiet person’s viewpoint, most people are too loud! There are many cultures that prize quiet reserve and frown upon loud, outgoing, showy behaviour. If you think someone is too quiet, then perhaps you might consider that you simply drown out the quiet people around you. You might try shutting up and listening more.

2.  He’s so boring. Well, this again depends on your viewpoint. If you’re the kind of person who thrives on extreme sports and parties till the early hours, then someone who prefers to stay home and read a book is probably going to seem boring. However, to someone with an enquiring mind who thrives on deep conversation and learning about new things, the sports jock and party animal can seem just as boring.

3.  He needs to get out more. People seem to think that being quiet is something that needs to be cured and that getting out more is the remedy – as if that by dragging a person to nightclub after nightclub, he’ll miraculously change into the life of the party. Getting out more just makes a quiet person feel more miserable, more inadequate when they don’t enjoy themselves, and more desperate to go home and curl up with a book. Please, just leave us be.

4.  She’s just shy. This one can really piss us off. Just because we’re not saying much right now, doesn’t mean we’re afraid of saying something. Shyness is the fear of social judgement. Quiet people aren’t afraid of speaking, they’re simply more discerning about when and to whom they speak!

5.  He can’t be very smart (or the variation: he’s lazy) – he never says anything in class, meetings, workshops etc. Just because we don’t say a lot in group situations, doesn’t mean we’re dumb or not paying attention. While everyone else might be discussing the topic animatedly, we’re taking it all in, processing the points raised and thinking about solutions. We don’t talk for the sake of talking, and will only speak when we feel we have something useful to say.

6.  What did you say, I didn’t hear you?! Yes, we introverts/highly sensitive people do have a tendency to speak softly. This is often because it’s difficult to compete with the extroverts in the room who generally dominant discussions and sometimes we might feel it’s just not worth expending the energy to make ourselves heard above the racket. It’s wise to remember that the person with the loudest voice doesn’t always have the best ideas, so make an effort to listen to the quiet members of the group. You have just as much responsibility to listen to them, as they have to contribute to group discussions.

7.  She’s always alone, she has so few friends. Doesn’t mean she’s miserable! We like quality rather than quantity, so tend to prefer to have a few close friends than an addressbook full of contacts that are great for a party, but not for a heart-to-heart chat. And strange as it may seem, spending regular time alone is for us, both essential to recharge our energy and quite simply, bliss. Of course, sometimes we do feel lonely too – but no more so than anyone else.

8.  Is something wrong? Another question that can really annoy us. Just because we’re quiet and lost in our own thoughts instead of chatting away inanely with you, doesn’t mean we’re angry, sad or coming down with the flu! We simply find small talk tedious.

9.  Why are you mad at me? Oh boy, this is just another variation of the ‘is there something wrong’ question. Just because we’re lost in our own thoughts and not saying anything, doesn’t mean we’re ignoring you or giving you the cold shoulder.

10.  Why do you hate people so much? What?! Seriously?! We don’t hate people, if anything most of us are incredibly philanthropic, and are the first to help a stranger in distress.  We simply find crowded situations draining and having to extrovert ourselves and talk above the hubbub is exhausting. It's not so much that we hate people, it's more like we hate talking in crowded noisy situations.

11.  You’re going home already? You only just got here! Yup, sorry, we are likely to disappoint you on this one, and there’s not much we can do about this. We really appreciate the invitation to your parties but deep down most of us dread them – the noise, the crowded venue, the tiresome small talk, the distasteful spectacle of watching people drink themselves stupid. But we don’t want to hurt your feelings so make the effort to come along. So please don’t be offended when we need to leave early – it doesn’t mean we don’t value your friendship, we simply have only so much energy.

12.  What are you scared of? We’re not scared – we’re risk-adverse. We think more before we act, so while you’re carrying on about the awesomeness of your idea of jumping off a cliff with no clothes on, we’ve assessed that that is a very bad idea. Just because we’re not jumping off the cliff with you, doesn’t mean we’re scared. Just means we’re not stoopid!

13.  We need you to show initiative. If you think about it, the operative word here is ‘show’ not ‘initiative’. Most quiet people have heaps of initiative and use it all the time. They’re the person who sees something isn’t working and goes ahead and fixes it, or notices some vital component is running low and goes ahead and orders more, or goes ahead and sets up a new system or process, all in the background without anyone noticing. It’s not that quiet people don’t have initiaitve, it’s that quiet people don’t blow their own horns or seek attention for the crises they avert. Before you criticise an employee for ‘not showing initiative’, make sure you have your facts right. And if you’re the employee, don’t be afraid to keep notes of the times you do make problems go away unnoticed and bring these out in performance reviews – sometimes it is healthy and necessary to blow your own horn.

14. He’s not a team player – he never contributes to team activities or attends team functions. Let me get this right, you’re saying this person is not doing his job properly because he doesn’t say a lot at meetings and prefers not to join in for Friday drinks? You mean you’re rating his performance low because he’s an introvert? Be careful, be very careful.

Not everyone in your team is going to be able to contribute in the way you might want. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t valuable. They may be contributing in ways you don’t know about – by being the member of the team that listens to others’ problems and is there to bounce ideas off of, and is always supporting the more energetic members. Your quiet staff members may be far more valuable than you think.

Have you noticed how job description and performance rating capabilities these days seem to be heavily based on personality traits and not actually work ethic? Things like: ‘steps up to challenges, projects confidence, works well under pressure, is outgoing and shows enthusiasm, at ease working in an uncertain or ambiguous environment, can act and make decisions without having the full picture’. Sounds like they’re saying they believe only an extrovert can do the job, right? Sounds a lot like descrimination to me, and we don’t want to go there, do we?

15. You're antisocial. Well, I know I sometimes get mad when extroverts/non-sensitives don't respect my need for quiet and alone time, but I haven't the urge to get a machine gun and mow down a mall full of noisy people. 'Antisocial' is one of those words that has crept into common usage and is incorrectly used as a synonym for introverted, shy, quiet. It's true meaning is far stronger (from

    — adjective
  • unwilling or unable to associate in a normal or friendly way with other people
  • antagonistic, hostile, or unfriendly toward others; menacing; threatening: an antisocial act.
  • opposed or detrimental to social order or the principles on which society is constituted: antisocial behaviour.
  • Psychiatry: of or pertaining to a pattern of behavior in which social norms and the rights of others are persistently violated.
    — noun
  • a person exhibiting antisocial traits.

Introverts and Highly Sensitive People are none of the above, so please don't call us antisocial.

16. Little Johnie is so quiet, aren’t you worried about him? You should get him checked out by a specialist, he may be autistic or have aspergers. Don't you love it how people who have no idea what they're talking about can act the expert? Unless you're wanting to scar someone for life, please don't ever suggest that their quietness is any kind of condition. All sorts of emotional damage and self-esteem issues happen when people believe the labels others give to them, that there is something wrong with them.

There are some aspects of introversion and high sensitivity that can mimic aspects of autism and aspergers such as withdrawing into their own world, being easily disturbed by external stimuli etc but are in no way the same thing. If your child is introverted and/or highly sensitive, there is absolutely nothing wrong with them, they are perfectly normal, and don't ever let them believe otherwise.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Valuing the quiet members of staff

I love it when I stand up for what I believe in and it actually causes ripples – so often as a quiet person, even when we speak up, our voice is still not loud enough to be heard above the overwhelming noise around us.

Causing my blood to boil

A work colleague recently told me about an incident at a meeting he had attended. Someone in the team had complained about a woman in another team who was “so quiet”; “if she said three words in a day, it was a lot” and that when she had asked this colleague for feedback on an issue she was working on, the colleague had told her she needed to get back to her on that. Apparently the woman did admit, that when her quiet colleague did get back to her, her feedback was indeed very useful. “But, why couldn’t she just talk to me there and then!” the woman complained.

It’s a good thing I wasn’t at this meeting. If there is anything that can make my blood boil in an instant, it’s when I hear of someone being picked on because they’re quiet. It is so obvious that the person the woman was complaining about, is simply an introvert. My colleague said that he had pointed out at the meeting, that we are all different and work in different ways and some of us are not as vocal as others, but apparently this hadn’t been well received – just brushed off as an ‘excuse’ for not participating enough. Here we go again, I thought to myself.

An open forum

Our organisation has been through a lot of corporate restructuring lately and is still in a state of transition. To encourage open discussion from anybody within the organisation, the CEO set up a forum on our Intranet, inviting people to contact him directly with any concerns. No better time than the present then, to start changing attitudes so I sent him an email in which I highlighted the need for attitudes towards the quiet members of staff to change:

“It seems we are not immune to stereotypes. I’ve again been witness to the attitude that certain employees who go about their work quietly and don’t talk much are somehow “anti-social” or “poor team players.
“... We live in a society today that is biased towards, and praises the outspoken, the fast-to-act, the risk-takers and the ‘natural’ leaders.  Those of us who are quiet, who are sensitive, who think before we speak, who work better independently than in groups are so often overlooked as having little value to the team as a whole or in the worst case, bullied for not fitting in. The wonderful strengths we do possess, of observation and analysis, problem-solving, planning and risk assessment are brushed off and our opinions are trampled by those who dominate group discussions. It is wise to remember that those with the loudest voices, don’t always have the best ideas. It’s time to start respecting and listening to our introverts.

"... let’s be progressive in our attitude towards the thinkers and the heed-takers that are so often undervalued. Let’s encourage more on-line discussions where ideas can be submitted in a non-threatening way, and allow our thinkers time to do what they do best. ...”

Typical assumptions and unexpected repercussions

It didn’t take long for the message to filter down to my manager and team leader who called me into a meeting with serious concerns. Typical – the assumption had been made, that I was the ‘victim’ in the story and whining about unfair treatment that I had received!

After I reassured them that I had no grievance with anybody and that I was talking as a generalisation, we chatted informally; and more and more openly, about personality types and sensitivity. It was rather amusing actually – they suggested I might benefit from finding out about personality types (it is common for managers to learn this so that they can manage people better) and I ended up revealing that I’m something of an expert on the subject (naturally one doesn’t generally advertise this too openly since introversion and sensitivity are so often seen as a sign of weakness, particularly in a work environment, that mentioning this interest is like drawing a target on your forehead).

In the end, I took lead of the discussion, talking about some of the research that has been done on introversion and sensitivity and my team leader even asked me for some advice for a friend’s child she now suspected might be highly sensitive. We also thought it would be a good idea to do a personality workshop within our team, and I volunteered to host this.  What a wonderful result! At last the tide is changing...

What a stark contrast to an one company I worked for where the boss criticised me in my performance review, for not being a team player. He admitted he had no fault with my work, but was rating my performance poor because I didn’t talk enough in meetings, attend enough office drinks etc. I was stunned. He said he needed me to be “out on the field with the rest of the team”. I responded that not everyone is great at sports and that I saw myself as “the person who supported the team, who handed out the towels at the end of the game”. He dismissed this as not good enough.  Needless to say I didn’t stay there long after that and quit a few months later. What is telling though, is that after three years of no staff changes, within a year of my leaving, practically his entire staff left also. I often wonder if he later saw me differently after that – that perhaps I was the glue that kept the staff together. I was just the secretary granted, but I was the one everyone came to when they had a problem and needed advice – whether it was the photocopier that had jammed or what birthday gift to buy a girlfriend.

So, figure out who is the person in your team who hands out the towels and value them, they may be more important than you think.

Friday, 27 September 2013

How Working in an Open-plan Office with Poor Sound Insulation is Like Flying Every Day

But, without the Exotic Destination!

I was recently moved to a new project team at work, that is located a different building. As a highly sensitive introvert, I’m not particularly keen on change, but it’s not been too great an adjustment as far as the work and people go. However, since the move I have been coming home utterly exhausted each day with barely enough energy to make myself a sandwich for my evening meal. I can put some of this down to the extra work I’ve been having to do to extend myself as a 'pretend extrovert', to come across as outgoing and enthusiastic while I learn the ropes of the new position. It’s always easier to fade into the comfort of the background once the introductions have been made and the novelty of the ‘newbie in the office’ has worn off.

But there’s more going on here than that – I’m realising I’m in an environment that is not good for my high sensitivity. The building I am in now is old with poor sound-proofing and awfully loud air-conditioning and with its with low ceilings and small floors all extraneous noise is bounced around and amplified instead of absorbed. To most people, our floor is probably not all that noisy – I’m working with a group of software developers who are not terribly boisterous and this suits my introverted style perfectly.

However, because of my sensitivity, the noise level is loud enough  for me that I hear everything – great if you’re an antelope on the savannah listening for predators, but a pain in an office environment.  I’m constantly aware of the drone of the air-conditioning, the regular clickety-clack of the photocopier, computers whirring, doors opening and closing, the elevators moving up and down and the beep they make when they arrive at our floor, the beep of the microwave and clinking of dishes in the kitchen, people talking on the other side of the room (not just a murmur – but hearing every word of the conversation), someone clicking his pen while thinking about a problem, the tapping of fingers on keyboards, the clock ticking on the wall, the sound of someone hanging up their coat on the coat stand, pages being stacked and stapled several desks away, the rustle of food wrappers as people eat their lunch...

Others in the office don’t seem aware of the problem. They appear to tolerate a higher noise level and probably experience the noise as merely an indistinguishable background hum. They don’t notice what I notice. Unfortunately I can’t simply switch off to it. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had lids on our ears like we have on our eyes? I can force myself to ignore the noise, but doing so takes conscious effort and uses up energy.

And so I come home exhausted every day. It struck me that it’s the some head-throbbing, body-aching fatigue that I feel after a long-haul flight. This makes total sense. When flying, one is assaulted by the drone of the engines and cabin air-conditioning, conversations of people around you, various random sounds of the aircraft, people moving about, meals being distributed, children crying, overhead lockers opening and closing – all of which seem to reverberate around your head. (Added to this, there’s the dry stuffy air of the cabin, which is also common in many offices and you remain seated for long periods of time, just as you do at your office desk). We all know that these conditions on board aircraft contribute to fatigue, jetlag and even illness in many travellers, yet we see similar conditions in our workplaces as normal and acceptable.

It is known that chronic exposure to low-level noise leads to fatigue, irritableness and even depression. Yet, bring up the subject of troublesome noise levels in an office environment and people look at you as if you’re odd. "Really? I like background noise," they reply. They also probably enjoy listening to music in addition to the background noise. Of course they do – extroverts thrive on, and are energised, by stimulation. As much as I like music, this doesn’t help me – it does drown out some of the background noise to a point, but I find that music also tires me after a while – it’s still non-stop auditory input. And sensory overload is the highly sensitive’s enemy.

Earplugs to the rescue

So, my solution? Earplugs. I don’t care what I look like wearing them, my sanity is at stake - I’m tired of being tired and sleeping all my precious free-time away. I tried a pair of foam plugs to start with, and wow, what a difference! By turning down the volume of the background buzz, I immediately felt calmer, less stressed and more alert. The foam ones hurt a little from the pressure they exert on the ear canal by expanding back to their original shape, so I have ordered a pair of moulded plugs. It definitely works though, I’m already finding my energy levels are improving and I don’t feel so wiped out when I get home. Why? By blocking out all the extraneous noise that uses up so much of my subconscious attention, I have more energy to apply to things that I do want to pay attention to. Instead of processing every sound, that processing energy can now be diverted to the tasks at hand or stored up for use later. It’s that simple!

It’s not all bad

What do I like about my deep processing of sound? That I can walk along a busy city street and from out of the cacophony of traffic and people noise, I can pick out and zero in on the chirping of a tiny sparrow sitting on a window ledge six storeys above my head. It’s as if I’m the only one who knows he’s there and he’s singing just for me.

A final thought – why don’t people whisper anymore?

What happened to the courtesy of whispering? When I was a child, my parents taught me that it was rude to disturb people around me and that if I wanted to talk to someone when others were near, that I should whisper.  In the modern office, several conversations can be going on at once, all at normal-to-loud volume, sometimes by people standing right next to a person trying to get on with their work. Why is this okay? What happened to mutual respect and speaking in hushed tones around other people?

Monday, 16 September 2013

How a Quiet Person’s Need for Time and Space Alone Can Unwittingly Sabotage Potential Relationships.

I recently read an entry in an advice column from a woman who had already been cheated on by a previous boyfriend, and was upset that her new boyfriend was continuing to be active on dating sites.

The first part of the response to her letter came as no surprise, we’ve heard it all before: it seemed as if she was setting herself up to be hurt again and she should consider why she was attracted to partners who were likely to hurt her.

I can certainly relate to this – I always seem to end up with guys who are unavailable in some way and ultimately end up hurting me. But why would I want to be with someone I expect will hurt me? Do I like being a victim, being hurt? I don’t think so. Yet the statement seems true, I’ve dated players and even lived with guys I knew all along were wrong for me. I don’t think I was simply desperate; I think perhaps there was something more going on. Perhaps by somehow expecting it would end, I was safe in the knowledge that I wouldn’t have to give up my freedom for too long. Is my attraction to men who are unavailable and likely to hurt me, actually a failsafe method of protecting my own freedom and independence? Am I in fact really afraid of not having enough space and time to myself if I get involved in a long-term committed relationship? How does one balance the desire for companionship when you are the kind of person that needs to be alone more than you need to be with people?

The second part of the response, though, made me think: he may need a lot of attention from people where there is no risk of them getting close enough that he might be hurt by them. He may be quite vulnerable and afraid of committing and getting hurt himself.

There is a guy in my life who I get along really well with and care about a lot and the feeling is mutual, but whenever we approach moving things to a relationship, he says he isn’t ready and yet he’s active on dating sites. Am I being a fool? Is it just me he doesn’t want to be in a relationship with, but is being too polite to say so? He doesn’t strike me as a player, he has a gentle soul and I can sense that he has been hurt before. He is a private person, quiet like me, and I recognise that same need in him for alone time. So perhaps he is ‘keeping his options open’ indefinitely, not in the hopes of finding someone better, but instead so that he can protect his own need for space and time to himself?

And so as he refuses to commit to a relationship and I refuse to be anything more than being friends unless he commits, we keep each other at a distance and in turn protect our own needs for time and space alone. The sad thing is that in doing so we might be missing out on something that has the potential to be a very rewarding relationship in that we are being motivated by the same needs.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Joining the Quiet Revolution

In June 2006, I left a snow-covered Christchurch, New Zealand and travelled to Marin County, California to attend the annual United States HSP gathering. It was one of the most uplifting and inspiring events in my life. When I returned to New Zealand I was inspired to do something to help HSPs in New Zealand learn about their trait and to come together for support and friendship. 

I created a website and slowly built up a following and hosted a small gathering in Wellington in 2008. However, the time commitment, expense and pressure from my then-partner (he suspected me of being involved in a "cult") eventually led to me giving up the website. Fortunately one of my followers was keen to carry on what I had started and I transferred the site to her.  It has since become the HSP Network (Australia & New Zealand).

Life was pretty good for a while after that, I got a new job that I enjoyed immensely and suited my quiet persona, my partner and I moved into a bigger home together and we adopted two "children" - two Flemish giant rabbits. Everything seemed right. I felt I had finally succeeded in "beating" my quietness and blending in with the rest of the world.

But, you can't really change who you are at your core. Eventually my partner, though introverted himself, started to complain that I didn't talk enough and that he needed his freedom. Things at work changed and I was moved from a team of fellow quiet intellectuals, to a team of loud extroverted comms people. My partner left, I moved to a new house and my rabbits passed away.

I'm again facing the familiar work bias that I "won't be able to do the job because I'm not outgoing enough" and I simply can't face the singles scene again. But, I have the freedom to really be myself now. I love my new home - I spend many wonderful happy silent hours pottering in my garden, creating in my hobbies room and being single Mum to my new rabbit.

Back at the Walker Creek ranch in 2006, I remember talking to a woman called Susan. She was attending the gathering to research a book she was writing on introversion. We had some interesting discussions with others in the group about the battle for acceptance from peers, employers and life partners, we quiet people go through.

Just a few weeks ago, I came across an excellent talk on the power of introverts. It hit me a few moments after the talk ended that this was the same Susan I met in 2006! I immediately went out and bought her book, Quiet, which I highly recommend. And so I feel inspired again.

There is still very little information and understanding in New Zealand about sensitivity and introversion, so I hope that in some way, my blog might spread the word and help quiet New Zealanders find answers, acceptance and pride in themselves. 

I'm joining the Quiet Revolution.