A Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) and an Introvert– Are We One and the Same?

Understanding Highly Sensitive Persons

What Are Highly Sensitive Persons?

The question above is a bit misleading because the name literally creates the definition. Highly Sensitive Peerson (often shortened to HSP) are individuals who are thought to have a much higher sensitivity to stimuli of physical, emotional, and/or social natures. But it’s not just a choice for these individuals. It is believed that they’re different at the deeper levels of the central nervous system.

Are you a Highly Sensitive Person?

The term itself was coined by psychologists Elaine Aron and Arthur Aron during the course of their research into this phenomenon. The pair published a book in the mid-1990s entitled “The Highly Sensitive Person” that has gone on to form the backbone of biological and psychological research into this unique type of trait.

According the couple’s research, roughly 20% of people are thought to be in the Highly Sensitive category. While that number may seem a bit high, it’s likely that many people who are actually HSPs have not yet been classified as such or have even admitted it about themselves. That’s not surprising considering we’re living in a society that prizes loud, boisterous, colorful individuals over the shy, silent types. (Learn more about the Extrovert Bias and how it has affected your life whether you know it or not.)

However, we’re not alone. Scientists have identified high sensitivity in at least 100 other species on earth.

What Causes High Sensitivity in Humans?

Nobody has a definitive answer for that yet. Experts suggests that it’s likely a combination of factors including genetics, social education (especially during early childhood), and our environments.

Interestingly, scientists have pinpointed that children who are raised by parents who are cold or aloof, or those who have suffered a significant trauma are much more likely to become highly sensitive and carry those traits through to adulthood.

A Highly Sensitive Person can become overstimulated very easily, leading to emotional outbreaks, shutting down, and inability to function as normal.

However, it’s also been proven that you’re much more likely to be a Highly Sensitive Person if the traits run in your bloodline.

As with most things, the most likely explanation is that some people are born genetically primed for High Sensitivity and something in their early childhood experience triggers it or leads them down a path where these sensitivities are heightened.

How is a Highly Sensitive Person Different from an Introvert?

Strictly speaking, yes. While many an introvert will exhibit traits that are similar or identical to those of a Highly Sensitive Person, there is a major distinction. Introverts are overwhelmed almost exclusively by social stimuli—say being forced to attend a big party with dozens or hundreds of people. A Highly Sensitive Person, on the other hand, can be overstimulated by just about anything from social situations to loud noises to flashing lights.

However, there is an interesting correlation between ebing a Highly Sensitive Person and introverts. Research shows that 70% of those classified as a Highly Sensitive Person can be objectively classified as introverted (via personality tests like the Meyers-Briggs that we’re all familiar with.)

Are You a Highly Sensitive Person? You are Not Autistic

Another question that pops up often is whether or not a Highly Sensitive Person falls on the autism spectrum. Autistic people often struggle with sensory input issues. However, scientists who have studied both phenomena have found marked differences that lead them to believe a Highly Sensitive Person is not autistic.

How Can You Tell if You’re a Highly Sensitive Person and Not Just Introverted?

A Highly Sensitive Person may, according to VeryWellMind):

  • Cry when they experience something of profound beauty (such as a song or a photograph)
  • Become agitated when watching television shows or movies that feature a lot of actions, visual stimuli, or dialog
  • Be very centered around their inner life—living deeply within their own heads.
  • Experience anxiety when wearing uncomfortable clothing
  • Limit their social circles to just a handful of individuals with whom they develop very deep relationships
A beutiful photo like this may touch a Highly Sensitive PErson very deeply indeed.

As you can see, determining if you’re an HSP or introverted can be difficult. However, introverts are individuals that get overwhelmed easily in social situations. The key component is the social aspect of the overwhelming stimuli. Introverts don’t normally experience heightened anxiety or emotional instability when faced with cute puppy videos or tight jeans (unless they too are an HSP).

See if You’re an HSP

These days there is an online quiz for anything. Much like the Meyers-Briggs personality assessment which can tell you if you’re an introvert or extrovert (And what kind of either you are), there’s an online HSP test too!

Elaine Aron has created the test herself. It can be found here.

An Introvert’s Guide to a Wealthy Life is now available in Kindle, Paperback, and Hardcover editions!

The Struggles of an Introvert:  Your Life is Shaped by How People See You

It should come as no secret to you, my fellow introvert, that people’s opinions of you—of the things you do, the things you say, and the things you like—has a very real emotional impact on you. People that showcase a positive response to you almost always become friends (or at least a person we hold in high regard). Those who let slip even slightly negative impressions fall somewhere on a spectrum that spans between Minor Annoyance to Mortal Enemy.

man looking through thick glasses

While many of us learn to devalue other people’s opinions at a surface level and insulate ourselves from harmful negative energy, what we don’t often see is how that negativity insidiously inserts itself into our brains. Even as we tell ourselves that we don’t care what people think, we’re reevaluating ourselves at a deeper level and are much more likely to shield our true selves from people in the future.

But that’s not just a grumpy introvert talking. Science (specifically psychological studies) have shown that the opinions of others are massively important in our lives even if we don’t realize it.

“Humans and animals use the reactions of others to help determine what is valuable: what to eat, what is dangerous, what is attractive, and (for humans) what to wear, what medicine to take, and for whom to vote—to give but a few examples. Each object, from food to parliamentary candidate, has a perceived value, which can be changed through social influence. Consequently, understanding how our values are changed by social influence is of considerable importance. We have shown that, when effective, the opinions of others alter a very basic mechanism of the human brain that reflects an immediate change in our values. Social influence at such a basic level may contribute to the rapid learning and spread of values throughout a population. These values could range from the quality of food to race and gender stereotypes.”

How the Opinion of Others Affects Our Valuation of Objects – PMC (nih.gov)

Negativity Breeds Bad Results for the Introvert

This goes far beyond Herd Mentality (or The Law of Social Proofing). We’re talking about when a negative attitude or idea can literally reshape your future.

Some of this negative energy is couched in what is subjectively seen as positive reinforcement and often comes from our closest family and friends. In fact, these close relations often have the most impact on our own mental state and can—without knowing it—create life-altering crossroads at which we make decisions not with our own best interests at heart but with the advice of those other top of mind. (Want to read more about how friends and family teach you to fail?)

Indeed, sometimes the opinion of others about us affects us via proxy. The Extrovert Bias that Susan Cain writes about at length in her book Quiet:  The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking is essentially culturally-adopted stigmatism of introversion as a personality type and introverted people as members of society.

This stigma is founded on the belief that an introvert is somehow less important or valuable to society than an extrovert. This belief is erroneous. Objective studies have found that introverts perform just as well (or often better) than extroverts in important leadership roles. This, it is believed, stems from the fact that an introvert’s ego isn’t as big as that of an extrovert. Essentially, the quiet folks are pleased when we get results rather than when we get pats on the back.

Unfortunately, because this bias is so widespread, it impacts your life as an introvert at many levels.

  • It changes the dynamics of your relationships
  • It minimizes your chances of being promoted at work
  • It skews your pool of potential romantic partners
  • It makes you work harder to see the same sort of success
  • It equates to roughly $500,000 less in your pocket over the course of your lifetime

(Curious about how your introversion has affected your life? Many of the ways in which it has will shock you.)

But, if you are an introvert and you’re fighting this uphill battle just to be accepted as equal to an extrovert, what can you do to get any traction?

Three Ways to Crush the Stigma that Every Introvert is a Second-Class Citizen

Number one: Stop being shy

Not all introverts are shy. However, a good many of them are. And even if you aren’t chances are people will describe you that way. Why? Because your natural introverted personality traits like rejoicing in solitude, cherishing quiet moments, speaking only when you have something important to say, and either refusing to engage in confrontation of refusing to let that confrontation visibly raise your perceived emotional distress level makes you seem shy to everyone else.

Number Two:  Learn how to communicate better

Communication is a two-way street. Unfortunately, introverts and extroverts communicate differently. Extroverts tend to spout half-formed ideas from their mouths, looking for input to complete them. Introverts tend to wait until they’ve made a decision or formed a complete thought before speaking. Extroverts have a much harder time listening and digesting what anyone else has said. Introverts tend to be very analytical and do well at perceiving and remembering facts but often miss emotional clues to the meaning behind the words.

The easiest way to break free from this social stigma and be successful at work and happier in your personal life is to learn to communicate better. My book, An Introvert’s Guide to Wealth, has an entire section about communication skills including:

  • Active listening techniques
  • Tactical conversation tools you can use to guide communication
  • Non-verbal techniques that help extroverts understand the words coming out of your mouth better
  • Tips about perception that will help you understand how different types of people communicate and how you can shift your style to meet everyone’s needs

And there’s so much more.

Number Three:  Have faith in yourself

Like, unreasonable amounts of faith. Not to get too weird on you, but there may be evidence out there that the metaphysical realm can actually influence your life in very real ways (spotting synchronicity, and understanding the strange ways in which your mind actually creates its own subjective reality through perception).

When you understand that your thoughts may have very real and measurable effects on the outside world, then it’s not too far of a stretch to think that positivity begets positive results. Learning how to chase those negative thoughts away and replace them with faith that’s founded in understanding your own strengths and the power of the skills you possess can have amazing results!

Take Your Future In Your Hands

Your life won’t change unless you change it.

But change can be scary.

I created AnIntrovertsGuidetoaWealthyLife.com and wrote An Introvert’s Guide to Wealth to help you overcome those fears, take those steps to reshape yourself, your life, and your career in ways you previously would have thought impossible.

I did these things because I changed my life in very real ways—going from super-shy introvert to successful retail leader, doubling my salary in just three short years, earning promotion after promotion, accolade after accolade . . .

And I did it all without throwing away my introversion or forcing myself to fake being an extrovert. Instead, I embraced the very same (very quirky) traits that had set me apart from family, friends, and my peers all my life. I flipped them around and used them as tools to get the results I wanted. I know you can too!

Let’s do this, together.

Start here.

An Introvert’s Guide to a Wealthy Life is now available in Kindle, Paperback, and Hardcover editions!

How Has Your Introversion Affected Your Life?

Your Innate Personality Type Impacts Your Life at Every Level

Even If You Realize It or Not!

Introversion has been in the spotlight a lot recently. Mostly, the books, the blog posts, the websites, and such have been about how you too can succeed as an introvert! While that message is great (and completely true) it strikes me funny that it seems to miss the point. Why do introverts need to be told they’re good enough to do anything they want to do in life?

your introverted personality type can impact everything from your own perception of yourself to your paycheck.

The Extrovert Bias

The introduction of Susan Cain’s groundbreaking book Quiet:  The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking is all about how her life and the lives of other introverts she’s come across over the years have been molded and impacted by our society’s inherent extrovert bias. It’s something that we’ve all internalized as a result of overt and subconscious exposure over the course of our lives—starting at a very young age.

This extrovert bias essentially boils down to the idea that extroverts are basically better at more important things in the real world—leading companies, making money, managing people, running households, being role models, and so much more.

Cain points out not-so-subtle brainwashing that occurs even in children’s cartoons that lead us all to buy into this fallacy and (as introverts) subjugate ourselves automatically to the extroverts that run the world.

The Extrovert Bias Impacts Our Ideas About Success

Cain traces the birth of the extrovert bias to sometime around the Industrial Revolution and its infancy stretched into the 1920s and 30s. When our world’s societies changed from agrarian lifestyles of subsistence to industry-driven lives of relative luxury, we also elevated a certain type of person above all others. We’re talking about Men of Industry! Explorers! Radio and Movies Stars! Inventors (and people, like Edison, who stole from them)! Robber barons! Industrialists! The World’s First Millionaires!

These individuals (both men and women) had big personalities, took bold risks, made big moves. They invented new things. They changed cultural norms. They created new habits, hairstyles, and fashion. And how could they not? Our collective consciousness was obsessed with them. They were plastered all over newspapers. Everything they did made it into radio broadcasts. They were the Reality Entertainment Stars of their generations.

Woman walking toward the Hollywood Sign

The names that stick out to me are big ones in history:

  • Charles Lindberg
  • Teddy Roosevelt
  • Thomas Edison
  • J.P. Morgan
  • John Jacob Astor
  • Henry Ford
  • Douglas Fairbanks
  • Bonnie and Clyde

Because so much attention was focused on these audacious people, Western Society began to associate with their success (real or perceived) with their personality rather than their actions. This divorcing of success from action makes no logical sense as those successful people still had to put in hard work to get where they were. However, in our collective Zeitgeist, these individuals became celebrities. Hence, we have the first real modern rise of The Cult of Personality.

This is the point in history which created our modern views about how personality integrates with admirable traits like:

  • Innovativeness
  • Courage
  • Charisma
  • Intelligence
  • Power
  • Wealth

And, unfortunately, these connections persist today and impact us all in very real, very measurable ways.

“The Extrovert Ideal has been documented in many studies, though this research has never been grouped under a single name. Talkative people, for example, are rated as smarter, better-looking, more interesting, and more desirable as friends. Velocity of speech counts as well as volume:  we rank fast talkers as more competent and likeable than slow ones.”

–Susan Cain

The Extrovert Bias Impacts How People See Us

the bias against introversion can change how people feel about us--even if they don't know us.

Because of this inherent bias in how people perceive introversion and those of us who were born with these types of personalities, we’re often categorized as lesser citizens. Consciously or not, people will rate introverts as:

  • Weaker
  • Less intelligent
  • Less successful
  • Less attractive
  • Less interesting
  • Less desirable as friends

This skewed perception of introverted people has been spotted in anecdotal studies but also confirmed with experimentation. Researchers have devised ways of removing this bias or skewing people’s perception by priming their mental pumps in such a way that the end up rating introverts higher on these subjective scales of success.

Usually, such experiments involve showing participants photographs of an individual and creating descriptions of them with deliberately chosen words which subtly paint the individual as either introverted or extroverted. Participants are then asked to rate the individual based solely on the photo and the description they’ve been given. The ratings vary greatly depending on the description associated with the photo.

This clearly singles out the participants’ own preconceptions about introverts and extroverts as the deciding factors for the ratings they give.

The Extrovert Bias Impacts How We See Ourselves

Sadly, the extrovert bias present in our modern society doesn’t just impact how people see us introverts, it impacts how we see ourselves as well.

Cain points to a study conducted by psychologist Laurie Helgoe in which people who had been classified as introverts via standardized and accepted methods were asked to describe themselves. These individuals used objective identifiers (like “green-blue eyes” and “high cheekbones”), pointing to specific, verifiable physical attributes.

On the other hand, when those same people were asked to describe a “generic” introvert, they used negative, almost derogatory terms like “ungainly” and “skin problems.” There’s no possibility that those same introverts don’t internalize at least some of those negative impressions!

This stigmatization of the word introvert has impacts that reach far beyond our own emotional happiness. In fact, this negative bias can literally change our lives!

The Financial Impact of the Extrovert Bias

This bias against introversion can limit a person’s professional growth, colors their professional relationships, and even cuts into their paychecks.

Introverts will make one-half million dollars less in their lifteitme than extroverts will.

For example, one study found that extroverts fill an estimated 88% of all roles at the supervisor level or higher across various industries nationwide. That’s even more shocking when you realize that only 50%-66% of the population are extroverts. Why is there such a disparity? Several management studies have found that introverts are much less likely to be groomed for promotion that extroverts. Companies and leaders are engaging in this biased behavior even when it doesn’t make good business sense. Indeed, a study conducted at Wharton found that introverts are objectively better managers and outperform their extrovert counterparts on multiple measurable level of success.

So, there are far fewer introverts in leadership positions than there should be. That means that we’re also making much less than we should be. Indeed, a study conducted by The Ascent found that the average annual salary of an introvert is $12,600 less per year than that of an extrovert! That means an introvert will make, on average, one-half million dollars less over the course of their career than an extrovert does.

But what does this really mean for you and your family? Well, what could you do with 23% more money in your paycheck every week?

What Can You Do Crush the Stigma of Introversion and Take Back Your World?

You can get those promotions you’ve been passed over for. You can get the job of your dreams. You can make people look up to and respect you. You can make more money than you ever thought possible.

All these things are within your power even if you’re an introvert.

The first step is changing how you view your personality type. You need to shed those outdated ideas and attitudes about introversion that you’ve adopted, inherited, accepted, and internalized. Learn to recognize the power in your introverted personality traits and those habits that set you apart from friends, family, coworkers, and even your boss.

That’s what An Introvert’s Guide to Wealth is all about. Unlock the power of your personality and embrace a new life.

Video Trailer for An Introvert’s Guide to Wealthy

The video trailer for my new book (An Introvert’s Guide to Wealth) is now live on YouTube–just in time to celebrate the launch of the book in Kindle, Paperback, and Hardcover editions!

If you’ve ever wanted to hear what a formerly shy, seriously introverted author from Downeast Maine sounds like, now is your chance! (That’s my real voice–yikes!)

Look forward to more videos on that channel as time goes by–extended audio versions of blog posts, book excerpts, rants about introversion, maybe a little karaoke (not likely!)

The 4 Types of Introvert

How to Simplify the Myers-Briggs Personality Type chart of Identify Your Inner Introvert

You’ve heard do of the Myers-Briggs personality Type chart which uses personality traits like emotional connectedness, anxiety levels, and analytical behaviors to type people into one of 16 different categories (and people like us into one of 8 types of introvert). However, There’s a much simpler model I prefer that funnels the Myers-Briggs introvert personality types further, distilling them to their most basic elemental form. This chart denotes the four types of introvert that you’ll meet in everyday life.

The Social Introvert

The social introvert is the most gregarious of all introvert personality types. While they still shy away from large groups, they often engage deeply with a selected handful of very close friends and acquaintances. In contrast to the stereotypical introvert, they’re not shy at all and offer a quiet shoulder to cry on or a stable emotional rock for their extroverted friends.

The Thinking Introvert

The thinking introvert most often lives in their own head. These are the people that must analyze everything. They create in depth daydreams, fantasies, hypotheses, and then apply various mental tests to these creations to better understand the outside world. Many of the most famous introverted geniuses (like Einstein and Gandhi) fall into this category.

The Anxious Introvert

The anxious introvert is most-likely the personality type responsible for the stereotypical introvert you might see portrayed in movies and television. These are the super-shy folks with social anxiety that can reach crippling levels. They’re also often very self-aware of their bodies and overly critical about what other people might think about them. However, even people who deal with the struggles associated with this introvert personality type can carve out a very successful life for themselves if they understand how their own brain works.

The Restrained Introvert

The restrained introvert is typically closed off, doesn’t open up easily to strangers, and is reserved in their actions. However, once an outsider is allowed into a restrained introvert’s inner circle, they can very quickly and easily become that individual’s best friend and most-trusted ally. These folks create ride-or-die relationships that can last lifetimes.

But what makes someone an introvert? It’s not about being shy or preferring to be alone. Introversion is a syndrome caused by biological differences that appear before birth.

An Introvert’s Guide to a Wealthy Life is now available in Kindle, Paperback, and Hardcover editions!

Why Do Introvert People Think Too Much?

By Overthinking Introverts Can Often Isolate Themselves—Dwelling in Self-Doubt and Negative Self-Talk or Simply by Failing to Practice Timely Participation in Conversations

Do a quick Google search:  what is an introvert? You’ll find more smoke and hokum than you ever thought possible. People’s opinions of us range from “shy” and “quiet” through “thoughtful” to “intellectual” or even “cerebral,” These are all introvert personality traits that are—rightly or wrongly—applied to all of us across the board simply because people just don’t understand what an introvert really is.

Introversion isn’t a lifestyle we’ve chosen for ourselves.

Introversion isn’t a trendy buzzword we apply because we spotted it in a hashtag on Instagram.

Introversion isn’t shyness or a preference to be alone.

Introversion is a real biological difference that can be measured at very basic levels that run far deeper than the psychological differences that pop up.

However, one statement about introverts you’ll find floating around on the Internet is true:  we overthink things all the time.

Proponents of introversion—mostly those of us (like Susan Cain) who have used our introvert powers for good and have carved out a bit of the collective human attention for themselves—they call that being “analytical.” I don’t know about you but sometimes when my mind is on overdrive it feels like a hamster spinning on a squeaky wheel.

This happens most often at night. When I’m trying to sleep. Because I have something important to do the next day.

Continue reading “Why Do Introvert People Think Too Much?”

What is an Introvert? Understanding Introvert Personality Types

How to Spot the Signs of Introversion in Yourself and Others and Use Them to Make your Life Better

The term introvert has been bandied about a lot recently—as have other trendy psychological buzzwords (like hypocrite, triggered, narcissist, self-care, and mindfulness). And like many of those other words adopted by people who spend far too much time on scrolling various social feeds on their phones and digesting click-bait articles, introvert (or introversion) has been shorn of its original meaning. In fact, labelling someone as an introvert or stating that you yourself are “such an introvert” has become sort of cool, in a weird way. Why? Why do people adopt any of these self-imposed labels? Because it’s neat to be in on the minority (introverts only makeup an estimated 33% of the human population); because they don’t really understand what it means (like how being OCD doesn’t just mean you like things neat and tidy—let’s talk about intrusive thoughts and rituals for a while, shall we?); because they may possess some introvert traits—most people—even the biggest extroverts around—do. Regardless of the why behind this relatively recent popularity of the introvert, this particular personality type (Actually a group of various personality types which share common traits) has become a hot topic.

People with introverted persoanlity types can learn to break out of their shells and have very successful lives.

There have been major books written about how introverts can survive and even thrive in a world built by and for extroverts (Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain, creator of The Quiet Revolution). Learning how to use introvert personality types to their fullest potential in leadership positions has become a whole subset of the self-help publishing sector. Introversion has become a topic (and a title) for popular music and music videos from major rising stars like Little Simz. Introverted characters have even become a popular trope (though often misrepresented) in popular movies like The Avengers, Big Hero Six, and many more. “Introvert” has even become a popular target for internet marketers who need to drive traffic to their websites so they slap it in just about every title for an article or blog post they can think of.

For those of us who have been introverts all our lives, this new-found interest in how our brain works is exciting, validating, and—at the same time—a bit offensive. But, like the good introvert I am, I’m going to analyze this phenomenon a bit and (because I’m always trying to push myself out of my comfort zone) I’m taking you with me.

So, let’s dig into this a little bit and see what really makes an introvert an introvert.

What’s an Introvert, Really?

Continue reading “What is an Introvert? Understanding Introvert Personality Types”