I have always had this instinct that I was born to be seen. That may just seem odd, because of course, nobody should go through life unnoticed. I realize in broader terms, I have always felt I am here for a bigger purpose.
It seems ironic, though, because I wasn't at all near those expectations.
Growing up, I was hardly seen, but when you live inside your head I guess it sure does feel that way. I could sit in a room full of people and not make a sound, or meet eyes with anyone. Still, my head would throb, and my face would feel warm as I instinctively felt eyes upon me. It was never the "seen" I had hoped for.
My bedroom was my center stage. I would stand in front of the mirror and confidently sing, or create this imaginary world where I was the leader, and it felt so much more like, me. My imagination would often battle with the 'real world.' At age 10 I approached my mother and asked what it would take for her to find me an agent. I wanted to be an actress. I was obsessed with the movies, and acting to me- would be living my imagination, and that was all I could hope for. My mom didn't laugh, or shut down my crazy idea, but she did tell me that I couldn't just jump in front of a camera. I needed experience. She suggested I try out for plays at a theater near my home. This terrified me. Hello, real world. I'm not sure what I was thinking about how the process would work aha, but the idea of being on a stage scared me much more than the thought of being on television.
Let's just say, I let that fear be a sign. I decided to search for a new dream.
Tonight, I am thinking back to that time, as I am all cozy in my college dorm room bed. I just left an event at my campus where the actor, Matt Damon (!!!), was speaking in a panel after sharing a documentary he had narrated. It was a once in a lifetime experience. I felt empowered to be there, and to listen in. After a couple hours, though, I felt dizzy in my chair. I got that feeling again, that eyes were on me, even though the spotlight was not at all on me. I had to force myself to blink more, and remind myself to take deep breaths as I walked out of the auditorium merged in the crowd. I'm sure that people who don't feel this way in a public setting, can not imagine that others do. I'm sure not everyone observes as intently as I do. It takes a lot for me to be in a room full of people, whether the room is big or small. I go, because I crave it as much as it can drain me. I want to be around people, to learn from people, to get to know people, even if my body fights against it.
I was back in my room, standing with my head buried in my bed. Just breathe, you're ok, just breathe. I tried to look at myself through a different viewpoint. I changed that voice in my head, and I praised myself for even the tiny steps it took to get there; to stay there. Instead of getting annoyed with myself, analyzing why I am this way, or searching for a meaning that will tell me what is "wrong" here- I put the spotlight back on my story. My story has different battles. My story has different things to praise, even if they seem 'smaller' compared to others.
As a writer, I have recognized that even in my younger years where I wrote fiction stories, my main character was always a version of myself. Maybe it was a part I didn't like, but most often it was who I wanted to be.
My main character was always:
- highly admired
- courageous; a fighter, a risk taker.
- assertive, and outspoken
- different. She stood out from the rest, but she didn't mind.
- always fighting a physical battle
Who I have wanted to be, is the reason I feel I should be seen, and the reason these things don't quite add up.
I can feel fire inside me, that leaps in my heart, and the fact that I explain this- does probably make me different. I don't see many of my peers going around sharing in depth about the feelings within their body, or even just what makes them different. I guess that if someone were to be that person, it can be me.
I am not very assertive, but I would like to work on that. I want to smash that idea that the quiet ones go unnoticed, or unseen. I can still fulfill my purpose. I can still strive to be seen. I can lead, even if it is in a quieter way.
A quality I have picked up on, and a fault that I have, is my sensitivity to the reactions of others.
In social situations, I easily pick up on everything, if I sense a change in a person's facial expressions or tone of voice I am quick to internalize it. "Did I say something weird? Do they think I am annoying?" "Am I bothering them?"
Though, I do have the mindfulness to know not everything is directed towards me, and from my own experience, facial expressions do not always match what a person is feeling on the inside. They may just be thinking of something else, but aren't saying so because they are trying to be attentive.
Picking up on social clues can be a gift at times. I am aware of subtleties that others miss. I reflect deeply on what I observe. These can be referred to as "healing" qualities, so I feel good about that.
The majority of the time, I forget to think of this as a "superpower." I find it damaging to my self esteem and I assume the negative from these subtleties. Only, towards me.
"How long have you been doing this for?"
As long as I can remember. I was very sensitive to the emotions, reactions of others. As a 4 year old I remember being hard on myself, always assuming I did something wrong.
"Growing up did your parents praise you enough? Did you hear "good job, Haley?" "Do you believe your parents are proud of you?"
Yes, and I know they are.
Did something happen in your early years where you felt overly embarrassed, humiliated, after making a mistake? Something that might have contributed to this?
No..I don't think so.
With a psychological perspective, there is a reason for everything. People may expect these things are self-taught from an initial experience. Maybe it was, but there is also the chance that this quality of mine is inborn. And that- isn't considered to be "normal." It's not that it is abnormal, only it is hard for some to understand.
An article on FactHacker states:
You are not alone, but you are in the minority. There is a specific gene related to sensitivity carried by 15 to 20 percent of people. Also referred to as “empaths,” highly sensitive people often carry a big load of emotions and it can be tough for them. Really tough. If this is you, it does not mean you are a mess. It just means you are highly sensitive.
"That's interesting." my campus counselor said, after trying to find connections.
It was weird talking about these things because they have always been a part of my life, but It's not something I talk about. I think for moment I felt uncomfortable, it made me feel different. I know enough sensitive folk to tell me I'm not alone, but in today's world it's hard to find people who think that way. Many just don't talk about it, or normalize it, and that makes sensitivity feel like a weakness.
Now sharing the fun *sarcasm* piece of my past Monday:
After opening up about this self esteem fault, and intuitive sensitivity, I found myself absorbed in anxiety. Of course, it didn't hit me until after I left counseling. (my life)
My roommate walked in to find me having a breakdown that had been going on for almost an hour. Chest pounding, body shaking, and just waiting for the feeling to subside.
It wasn't that the appointment went badly. I don't think my body (I) liked being that vulnerable. I don't think I liked to admit how I can get overwhelmed easily, and often worry what others think of me.
I spoke of it using a lot of humor and sarcasm and made light of it, and I realize now how much of that was me coping. I suppose I left, and my body went, "ok, so can we throw the walls down..now?"
I have been blessed with the community I have found through blogging.
I have been emailing a new found blogger friend, and social worker from Canada; Robin. Just from reading each other's words, we have formed a connection among our personalities. It is amazing how you can get to know a person through their writing. I admire her gentle soul, and her offered support towards me, without even really knowing me as well.
Perks of sharing your story! Finding your voice, forming connections, and reaching others!
Like me, Robin has an interest in learning about her true self, how she fits in this world, and accepting herself for who she is.
She resonates with the empath title; her sensitive self, drawn to energy, intuition.
Empath or not, we all can benefit from this.
I reached out for her to help me, or offer some words that would spark something in me to help myself.
"I have trouble in therapy deciding in my head if the problem is how I'm feeling, or if it's the fact that I am not accepting myself." I wrote last week.
I struggled to explain my thoughts to the best of my ability, so I was given the task to send to a piece of my writing about the topic for my next appointment. Still, I found it complicated to find a "why." I just knew that I wasn't happy with some aspect of me that needed "fixing."
I messaged Robin, and was surprised by her quick response. We set up a time to chat.
We talked about labels, and how all it is social construction.
When it comes to mental illness, I find this incredibly frustrating. We are believing that we "are" these labels or we "have" these labels. How do we truly know what we need help with when all that these problems are, are labels? They are constructed by society.
R; We forget that we have choice. If being labelled as having social anxiety works for you, then that's great! If you feel like you are just shy. Then that's great too. If you resonate with the empath label, that's wonderful. If you don't, again, great.
What labels resonate with me?
I thought about it.
H; "Social anxiety; INFJ (Such a fitting description of me)
depression resonates with me too, however the label itself doesn't include all the factors that contribute to it for me. and I believe I resonate with the empath label, I'm still learning about it though!"
"Maybe it's a difficult question to answer because I've been using those labels as a safety net in order to explain how I feel easier."
R; Hey, using those things as a safety net is what they are meant for. Labels are meant to
a) build community and connection and
b) get people the right resources and supports.
It is all a social construction. If it helps to use the labels, then use them. If not, you don't have to.
I related it to an issue I have dealt with before:
Letting labels or feelings define me as a whole.
As much as I need to avoid allowing these labels to define me, I find that I am also searching for a label to define me. I'm looking for a "reason" or a "category" or some place that just makes sense for me to be in.
Maybe then I would be happier? I wouldn't feel so alone? I wouldn't be too hard on myself? This would make more sense?
Robin helped me realize something, that was hard for me to accept, but does help to know.
R; It's hard when you don't fit it to the 'norm' (be it race, religion, gender, personality, ability). An invisible hierarchy exists and we are taught young that being 'human' means being a certain way. And when we don't fit into that, we can get really down on ourselves.
Empaths and empath ability isn't very well known... so it makes it even harder to exist in the world. To those who aren't as sensitive, energy is invisible. It doesn't exist to them. So even when we try to explain ourselves to the world, the majority of the world can't hear us. Over time I've developed ways of being in the world that are supportive of who I am as a sensitive person. I always stay close to exits at malls, I don't go out in crowds, I listen to music on the bus, I date really stable, grounded guys. But I've had to learn all of that on my own, because the world doesn't get it yet. But it will! When people like you and I continue to blog, and reach out and share our experience.
Being an empath is a gift. "When you are born into a world you don't fit into, it means you are here to create a new one" so maybe part of why you are feeling incredibly confused about yourself has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with a society that isn't made for you to accept yourself.
I needed time to process everything she said, but when I did, I could feel my perspective growing wider and I was reaching a new insight.
Some people might go cross-eyed by attempting to think this way. Why spend so much time overthinking and overanalyzing?
I know that overanalyzing is not good for your health. It's exhausting.
However, this is how I live. Overthinking is a weakness of my personality.
I am not sure how to stop it all together, but I am sure I can better control it.
I can treat it like a filter. I need to have awareness.
I need to work on removing the negative overthinking from my life. The worries, the "what ifs."
Right now, I feel like I need this far more than it could hurt me. I'm analyzing myself, because I know I don't fully accept/have faith in myself, but I'll get there.
INFJ: (introversion, intuition, feeling, judging)
Ambivert: a person whose personality has a balance of extrovert and introvert features.
Empath: (chiefly in science fiction) a person with the paranormal ability to apprehend the mental or emotional state of another individual.
Growing up, and even still, my biggest flaw was that I believed there was something wrong with me. Why do I shut down so easily? Why does the energy around me make me so sad sometimes when others are having fun? Am I an introvert or an extrovert? I am social, but I can also be shy depending on who I am with.
At this point in my life I am just beginning to educate myself ON myself.
I am often asked in therapy, "What are your triggers?"
I have to pause for a while. I have no idea. I know that I have triggers, I just become so absorbed in such complex things that I cannot explain.
This past year I became extremely interested in learning about why I act the way I do, and why I am the way I am.
I was diagnosed with an anxiety and depression disorder; okay that makes sense It's not just me, something isn't biologically right.
I took a personality test and discovered I was an INFJ; I have never read a description so accurate to myself.
I also tend to fit the "ambivert" description. One who has a balance of introvert and extrovert features.
Other things I have recognized about myself:
There is nothing wrong with me. I am a little complex. My needs may be different than the needs of others. I can get easily overwhelmed. I have a gift of an incredible intuition. I am able to see the world on a deeper level.
I am learning how to be the best me I can be, while knowing all of these factors about myself.
I feel like that is a reason why so many people go unhappy. They deny their true feelings, they try to be something they are not, and they don't take the time to learn how to live the best life as the person they already are.
I grew up living in my head. I would go outside in my backyard by myself, and spend hours back there doing absolutely nothing but exploring my mind. I would write fiction stories for fun, I had imaginary friends longer than I would like to admit, and can still picture to this day. I would convince myself that the imaginary was real, and I could get myself truly upset over false memories or my own creations.
My flaws, can have incredible benefits for me as well.
There is a lot going on constantly in this head of mine. I have trouble focusing, eye contact is a struggle of mine, and I can dissociate almost anywhere. My face doesn't always fit my thoughts. I often hear, "Are you okay Haley?" "You look sad, Haley." "You look pissed off Haley." Oh my god that's what I look like??? No I'm fine I promise! When inside I am in another world probably thinking of kittens or what my future home will look like. And sometimes I appear to be okay, when inside I am struggling.
Maybe my past traumas and struggles were contributors to my anxiety and depression. But..maybe I was prone to them anyway, just because of the way I am.
So, That Happened.. !!!
Note: Trigger warning this post.
About a week ago, I posted this picture on my blog instagram @hctblog. I participated in the #PerfectlyMe campaign by Seventeen Magazine to help promote positive body image. Little did I know, SEVENTEEN was going to regram my picture later that week, and my message would reach far over 1,000 people!! Whaaaaaat?
It is unbelievable to me that all of these good things keep coming one after the other. Each time I leave my comfort zone, I am rewarded in some way.
So here's the thing..
Left: Me, July 2016.
I told myself that with recovery, I was not going to be the girl who wore long sleeved shirts in the summertime.
One, because I love the summertime.
Two, because by protecting myself, I would be shaming myself as well.
If I was going to work on treating myself with care, I was going to have to learn to accept myself as I am.
It wasn't immediately, because it was very new. It pained my family to see those marks, even though I was doing better.
The weather got warmer, and I wanted to wear short sleeves. I started with 3/4 length sleeves, and passed the school halls with little attention on me. I soon gained the strength to wear short sleeves and tank tops. I sat in my classes. I was aware that some people would stare, but I just continued to act as me.
Some of my friends would say, "What happened to your arm?" I just looked at them, and they said, "Oh, I'm sorry."
Now this is it. This is how I would respond:
"Don't be sorry. I'm better now." I would smile, despite how hard it was. Eventually it got easier. The "I'm better now" showed me that these marks were a symbol of what I have survived, and a reminder that I am still here. A "yeah, shit happened" "but I'm not gonna hide because of it."
I find that college is so much different than high school. People notice, but they don't ask. They've had their own shit. They are more understanding, respectful, educated, and less judgmental. They don't treat me any different, or express sympathy for me. I carry myself with a "yes I have my battles" attitude, and use that confidence to show others I have no shame, and we should not stigmatize those who do.
I do not condone self-harm.
I have made mistakes.
I need to be my friend again.
To be my friend again, I shall make up for it by treating myself with love and self-care.
People stare. Let them. People talk. Don't listen to them.
I have found that you do not own anyone an explanation for your own journey.
It is yours for a reason.
5 examples of how I show myself that I love myself:
- I listen to my body, and meet its needs
- I surround myself with positive people
- I do what makes me happy
- I move. Some days I do yoga, or go for a run, and some days my only exercise is walking outside. And that's okay.
- I make sure that each day, I laugh really hard, and smile very big.
I recall wanting to be an actress at age 10 and asking my mother to get me an agent (unsuccessful) but at the same time what on earth was I thinking because I had severe stage fright. I also remember wanting to be an author. I would still love to be an author but I find it more of a hobby than a career. Throughout my Criminal Minds obsession I wanted to be an F.B.I. agent. Like, JJ, and Derek Morgan. The second I closed my eyes and actually pictured myself with a gun I immediately changed my mind. Then with my Grey’s Anatomy and HOUSE obsession I wanted to be a registered nurse. My longest career plan. 3 years of high school that was what I had told everyone I was going to do after high school. With my gpa not being where I wanted it to be, and realizing I was not good under too much pressure, or at Chemistry (or most sciences) I questioned my plan.
For years I told myself that I understood. I understood it would be hard. I was going to stick with it anyways, and I was going to prove to myself I could do it. The moment I realized I was mainly in it for the “helping” aspect I drew myself out. There are so many jobs that allow you to “help” people. Was nursing really my top choice? I eventually narrowed it down to fit in the medical field, but became interested in cardiovascular technology as an ultrasound technician. (Due to experience with heart problems) but that interest also faded away.
With my constant venting to my aunt and grandparents about my issues with my household in 2014, they were also amazed when I told them how I was handling the issues. “Haley, you should be a counselor. You are amazing with words.” Then I would make a sour face and shake my head. “Ew no. No way, I can’t deal with other people’s problems.”
I can not count the amount of times my family has suggested a counseling career for me. “Haley, you should be a guidance counselor. You know so much about colleges.” “Yes, mom but I do this for my own knowledge so I can get into college!!”
To be completely honest- I do not recall the exact moment I thought of being a social worker. I do know why-
My experience with mental health has gotten me fired up. So many of my friends have experienced depression, anxiety, bullying, self-harm. I have watched these things tear people apart, and the more stories I hear I find it frustrating to accept how much this goes on. With my anxiety experience, I know what it is like to need help, or to struggle with asking for help. I want to continue on this pathway to discovering the routes to these problems so that in the future I can do something about it!! These issues will never disappear. One person can not make a change. However, one person can help to make a difference in a small community or large. I would like to be one of those people.
My family strongly supports my plan at this point. My Papa-my best friend, who passed away almost a year ago- had always spoken with me about my future and I thoroughly enjoyed our talks. My Nana tells me often that “Papa will be very proud” at my wish to be a social worker. Maybe that is where I’m meant to be?
As much as DCF social workers are needed, or the right type of people for that job are needed..I am finding my heart leaning towards school social work. Sometimes kids need more than just a friend, family member, guardian, or teacher to guide them. From experience, your mental state can have a huge impact on school performance, and I would love to work with kids going through that!
Again, my mind changes too often. I may find different routes within time. For now, I have a plan of achieving serenity and optimism in my life. It is great to have goals. This is mine for now. We shall see what the future holds.
- feel a deep need to make a difference in the world
- very good at reading between the lines
- intensely introspective, INFJs tend to overthink
- prone to burnout and overwhelm because they put others first
- empathetic and compassionate
- take criticism to heart
- feel anxious about future “unknowns”
- be too hard on themselves
- find it difficult to stay focused on the present moment
- can be hard to get to know depending on the other person (reciprocity)
- may find it easier to express their deepest feelings and sentiments non-verbally or in writing
- rarely get into conflict, but when it erupts, can be very bitter.
- while introverted, appear extroverted due to their strong interest in people and society
- often live in their heads. They do not pick up on all of the same sensory details that others do. “Wait what?”
- rarest of all personality types
- intuitively “know” things without being able to pinpoint exactly why and without even a thorough knowledge of the subject at hand
- extremely insightful about people and situations
- gifted at reading others
- prone to depression
- rarely at complete peace with themselves, believe they are not living up to their full potential.
- you feel people’s pain as it is yours
- concern with feelings of others
- private about their (often complex) thoughts and feelings
- mentally lives in the future
- needs private time to recharge
- thinks before doing
INFJs are intensely moved by live performances, which are often exhilarating, and emotionally overwhelming for them. They prefer small intimate gatherings.
Many INFJs struggle with bouts of depression, which may relate to any number of things. Mostly because of their otherworldliness, they may struggle with feeling deeply alone and misunderstood.
Namely, INFJs are usually not looking for others to solve their problem, but only to offer support, empathy, and reassurance. Without such an outlet, INFJS can begin to feel isolated and depressed, turning to their inner fantasy world as a means of escape. And while fantasizing may seem helpful in the short-term, it usually makes the real world seem even less tolerable and can exacerbate existing frustrations toward life.
“I get way too sensitive when I get attached to someone. I can detect the slightest change in the tone of their voice, and suddenly I’m spending all day trying to figure out what i did wrong.”
Often feel happiest and most fulfilled when helping others understand themselves and their problems
- anyone desperately seeking attention
- INFJs are highly attuned to spotting “fake” people. Though, they are able to see both the mask and the person beneath it.
- you made them feel like their emotions were invalid
- Want to be noticed and appreciated, yet we hate attention.
- We like to be alone and are very independent, yet we yearn for companionship.
- We are able to think very logically, yet are willing to disregard logic if our intuition tells us something different.
- Aggressively cares about you, but doesn’t want to be clingy about it
- We see the big picture, but it’s easy for us to get wrapped up in it and it becomes too much
- strong but fragile
- “Always seems to be either deadly quiet and ‘not quite present’, or is going on a monologue and asking a million questions, very expressively and passionately.
Perspective is key.
I just need to work on the self hatred so i can not attach my overall personality to my mental illness.
This is going to be work.
Here' s a look into the life of a living contradiction! Welcome Welcome! Just a college girl trying to create a peaceful life while managing irrational anxiousness. :-)
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