I grew up thinking I am an introvert, when in fact I was a leader to my classmates and a leader to my circle of friends. I remember how after a day of actively helping my classmates to win a sport event, I would come home and cry that I wasn’t popular enough or that my friends didn’t trust me enough to be asking me for an advice/help that I thought I was ready to give.
Of course now I understand that what I really wanted was communication – something that extroverts need to recharge. I imagined myself as a grey and insecure mouse in my friend group, even though I was frequently performing on the stage, or was making decisions in team competitions. And hence my internal perception of my image materialised into not having many friends at all. Little I knew, that I am actually an extrovert, just a little quieter than others.
A ‘Normal’ Extrovert
What is a typical extrovert that we see in movies and books? A person with lots of energy, loud, a little witty, fun and reliable. A person who you want to follow. A strong character, who relies on the truth and their principles. And, more importantly, a person who talks plenty, and who thrives on socialising and discussing problems.
“In an extroverted society, the difference between an introvert and an extrovert is that an introvert is often unconsciously deemed guilty until proven innocent.”Criss Jami, Venus in Arms
It is viewed that being an extrovert is healthier or a better way of being. And no doubt, these extroverts are very valuable to the society. The world needs action and life is much easier when it is lived in an extra-verted way. So we have this whole society based on cultivating extroverted characters, leaving little space for introverts or just anyone who is a little less expressive.
Most of my childhood I spent trying to mimic the typical extroverted character, even though it rarely when worked. And there are many people who where or are in similar situation, and can relate to this. After all we just want to be ourselves and feel like that’s ok.
So, here I am , trying to shutter the mirror glass for you here – the ‘normal’ extrovert is not the only type of extroversion. Although, these other types are not easily spotted.
The Quiet Leadership
While the warrior kings jump into the battles and energetically lead their troops to the victory, the royal advisors spend a lot of their time serving others from the inside of their castle. This is what Elaine Aron calls ‘quiet leadership‘.
“Quiet leadership is rooted in servant leadership, not being servants in the sense of subordination, but in the sense of serving others through setting our egos aside and working to grow and develop the potential of other people.”Elaine Aron
The metaphor of warrior king and a royal adviser is where I draw my explanation for how HSP’s can be extroverted or introverted. If the warrior king is your typical extrovert, the royal adviser is an extrovert who chooses to lead in a slightly different way. Royal advisers evaluate and analyse, they’re cautious of every ‘what if’, and only after some observation they will make a calculated decision.
Highly Sensitive People are generally quite quiet overall because we process the world on a different level than other people. And hense some extroverted HSP might not look like your typical extrovert.
However, there are royal advisors who are also warrior kings. This is what we call ambiversion – being able to be both extroverted and introverted (in different situations). HSPs who are ambiverts a lot of the time count themselves as extroverted because the ways they live is not how your typical introvert would. It is like having lots of bursting energy in you, so you let it out by socialising, adventuring, exploring, having fun. But then after a short while you sense a tremendous tiredness and have to go home. This is basically how ambiverted HSPs live their whole life – balancing on the fine line between under-stimulation and overstimulation.
An extrovert is a person that looks outwards more than inwards. Which means that really, we all can be either of them depending on the situation. In the recent years the lines between extrovert, introvert and HSP has become quite blurred. And I think it makes sense. Our psychology and personalities cannot just be one or the other for ever because they are just so complex. It takes one person a whole lifetime to get anywhere close to understanding themselves fully. And yet here we are thinking that we can label ourselfes with a singular thing.
So just looking from this perspective, HSPs and every other person cannot just be introverted or just extroverted. There are plenty of truly energetic, warrior kings, among HSPs – as well as the quiet royal advisers. HSPs are more likely to be abiverts than not-so-sensitive people because we adapt to different personalities and take on their characteristics for some time. In my experience, I always thought that I am some sort of chameleon and that it is wrong to deceive people like that. But over time I realised that it is one of my strengths as an HSP.
So, dear world, please stop assuming every HSP is an introvert. There are plenty of extroverted HSPs, and they all are out there helping people how they find best – quietly, gently, with deep perception and intuition. They might not look like we are used to think about extroverts, but their actions speak for themselves.
Thank you for reading this post, and I’ll see you this Saturday for a flash fiction piece to illustrate the world from the view of an HSP.